When we read Leviticus 24:20: “…eye for eye, tooth for tooth.” We don’t realise this as a statement of grace. In the culture it was written, it was customary for people to retaliate tenfold. Retaliating only once showed grace.

This is just one of many examples of God’s grace in the Old Testament. Often we don’t see God’s grace because we come to the text with our cultural perspective and preconceived ideas. This leads people to being disturbed by the violence in the Old Testament, yet they often overlook the Bible’s own explanation. It was because of the wickedness of the people in Canaan that God authorized Joshua to dispossess these nations. This was a one-off. This incident was an exception and not God’s usually way of dealing with people. Jonah is a good example of this.

Later God was to dispossess his own people because of their wickedness. God doesn’t play favourites. These incidents remind us that God, while being gracious and compassionate, is also our Judge.

“After the Lord your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, ‘The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.’ No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations” (Deuteronomy 9:4-5).

Currently we live in a time of grace. We live under the New Testament—the New Covenant. When we read the Old Testament we need to bear this in mind. One day Jesus will come to bring justice to the earth then, we will realise just how patience and gracious he has been with his creation.