Some people try to make the claim that there is either two Gods, one depicted in the Old Testament, and another in the New Testament, or God is somehow schizophrenic. I would like to say that that the Bible is true when it says that there is only one God and He does not change.
If you have spent any time at all reading the Old Testament, you'll quickly realize that when it comes to sin, God does not play around. He judges people for their sin, and the consequences are very serious. We read about God flooding the earth and all but eight people are saved. We read about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. We see God dealing quite severely with people in regards to their disobedience. Even David, a man after God's own heart, is disciplined severely in regards to his actions of murder and adultery with Bathsheba. Reading through the Old Testament you may come away thinking that God is very strict, impatient, angry and wrathful. In the New Testament you may get the impression that God is a God of love and grace. So, which is it? Is God a God of judgment and wrath or a God of love and grace? He's both. Yes, there is much bloodshed in the Old Testament. What we also see is this one phrase repeated over and over again, it's this...The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
We find this exact description of God in the following verses: (All from the Old Testament)
Let's look at some other Old Testament verses:
I will make an everlasting covenant with them (the Israelites): I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.
The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
God is a God of love. He is, and always was. At the same time, He is not all-loving, to the exclusion of everything else. He has other attributes as well. He is a God of justice, a God of righteousness, and yes, a God of wrath. I know we don't like to hear about that, but it's true. We want justice and punishment for those who do wrong to us, but when we are the offender, we don't like it so much. Is God's punishment severe? Yes. It's because that's how much He hates sin.
At this point, I think a distinction must be made. God does punish sin. Throughout the Bible, Old and New Testament God judges people for their sin. For those of us who have repented and placed our trust in Jesus Christ, we are not under God's judgment. The judgment we deserve was taken upon Christ on the cross. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 That doesn't mean that God will not discipline us for our disobedience. Any good father must discipline his children, otherwise he shows that he doesn't care for their well-being; he doesn't love them enough to protect them from things that will harm them. God is a good father.
In the Old Testament, we see God's holy hatred of sin, and we see His righteous judgment of everything that goes against His character. However, He doesn't administer His wrath in a blood-thirsty manner. God punishes sin with reluctance.
For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!
As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.
We sometimes fail to realize that the people God is dealing severely within the Old Testament, were wicked, wicked people. They were very primitive in their dealings with each other and they consistently shook their fist at their Creator and worshipped false gods. If indeed the true God, the one and only God who created them, desires to take their life, he certainly has the right to. God is the only giver of life, therefore He has the right to take it, in any manner that He sees fit.
Let's keep in mind too that the individual who gives us the most information about hell is Jesus Himself. Hell is typically considered to be a New Testament doctrine. I think it's interesting that some will say that the God of the New Testament (Jesus) is not wrath-filled, yet He is the one who lays out for us the horrific details regarding eternal, conscious torment in hell, for those who die in their sins. I'm pretty sure that people who make this argument haven't read much of the book of Revelation, which is in the New Testament. In fact if you read through the Book of Revelation, you will see more of God's wrath poured out upon unrepentant sinners than anywhere else in the entire Old Testament. Throughout the Bible, God is portrayed as not only loving and long-suffering, but also a righteous judge who will come to punish the unrepentant.
I admit, God commanding violence in the Old Testament can be difficult to read. However, we must remember that God sees things from an eternal perspective, and He sees and knows all the stuff that we don't. I think the Apostle Paul sums it up best when he says that God is both kind and severe. (Romans 11:22)
The bottom line is this: God's holy character demands that sin be punished. At the same time, he offers grace and mercy to those who are willing to repent and believe. Let's keep those two thoughts in mind as we read all of Scripture. God is a God of grace and mercy, yet He is also a God of holiness and wrath.