I'm trying to understand how the same god that is the god of love can be the same god as the one that kills first borns. I want to understand how the the god of love can order that all people that work on the sabbath should be put to death.
There is no diff between the images of God presented in the Old and New Testaments. It's like two sides of a coin. God is loving and compassionate but he's also a God of Justice. Jesus is no more loving than his Father as He represents the Father in the NT. The Father is no more wrathful or judgmental than the son. Three points need to be made.
1. There is love in the OT
2. There is judgment in the NT
3. The main diff between #1 & #2 is one is judgment shown within history and the other judgment at the end of history. If you read Revelation Christ the lamb comes back as a lion.
The God of the OT presents himself first and foremost as the God of Love..not judgment. God proclaimed himself to Moses in this way:
"And as he passed in front of Moses proclaiming, The LORD the LORD the compassionate and gracious God is slow to anger abounding in love and faithfulness maintaing love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation." Ex 34:6-7
Noce how he first states his compassion, grace, love faithfulness and forgiveness. He then says that this is not to be taken advantage of, for those who do not respond to his love will not escape. He is loving, but is not an indulgent parent and HE will bring justice. He has to.
God is both a God of love and a God of justice. That's who he is. His holiness demands it. All thru the OT God continually told the people that he chose Israel out of love not because they were deserving. When his people rebelled at that love he continually reached out to them thru the prophets. When they continued to rebel HE threatened and then eventually sent judgment but not before giving them plenty of warnings which they scoffed at. But even then God is always anguished over this. On one hand justice demands that he act in judgment but on the other his loving heart is broken over his people. He canot bear to see them hurting and destroyed. He wants to gather them in his arms but His Holiness will not allow Him to ignore their behavior.
Ultimate judgment always has, in the back of it, the idea of restoration. That's what discipline is all about. Jonah is a great example. God sent Jonah to warn Nineveh that in 40 days he will destroy her for her wickedness. They repented and God relented. Restoration happened.
Every good parent knows that they must eventually punish a rebellious child but no parent enjoys doing it. It must be done for the sake and well being of the family.
I have a friend going thru cancer right now. She had a mastectomy. Now if a Puritan of the 1600's awoke from the grave right now and looked into my friend's operating room he would be agast to see a surgeon cutting away my friend's breast and surrounding tissue. He would think my friend was being brutally assaulted by a mean man with a knife. This Puritan would not understand that this is necessary for the life of my friend. So too it is with God. He's all knowing, sovereign and knows exactly what must be done to preserve his people. Sometimes a little cutting away has to be done in order to save them so they can live.
Nobody wants to have a leg or foot cut off that is rapidly spreading an uncontrolled disease. It's not an easy decision. But sometimes it's needed in order to preserve the body. That's why Jesus later said if your eye or hand offends you (causes you to sin) it's actually better to cut it out or off. It's better to enter heaven maimed or crippled than for your whole body to go to hell.
Hope that helps Basmas.
Israel was very revolutionary compared to other Ancient cultures.
yes, and they were supposed to be a light to the Gentile nations on how to behave and how to worship the God of Heaven. They were set apart for the purpose of reflecting God's image and representing Him in the best possible way but failed miserably most of the time. But just like today there was always a remnant that stayed true to God's mission in the face of an ungodly ever changing culture.