It's interesting, isn't it? For years sitting under Catholic teaching I barely ever remember having heard a word mentioned out of the Old Testament. And for the past five years or so all I've heard out of the evangelical camp (I use that term loosely because my experience with this term is based upon my experiences with various charismatics and AoG people) is that the general impression concerning the Old Testament was one of drudgery, one seemingly of bondage, of a burden. People often contrast the way God is depicted in the Old Testament with Him in the New Testament. Inevitably people seem to think there was such a burden in the Old and that freedom is only found in the New. And yes, our freedom is found in the New, it was purchased on the cross at Calvary. Do not mistake my intent, it is not to diminish the work accomplished that day.
Yet, I believe to speak of the Old Testament in a way that diminishes God's wonderful patience and mercy...Well, it grieves my heart to hear how common this view of Him is. Christ's sacrifice on that cross freed us from our sin, from the bondage we put ourselves in. To make it seem as though before Christ came the Father enslaved and forced the Israelites to serve and sacrifice to Him is to speak in a way that disparages His character. The Israelites, just as we do today, had a choice to serve. And a choice to disobey. We see this very fact throughout Scripture.
Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD's side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. (Exodus 32:26)
Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the LORD, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock. If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD. And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. (Leviticus 1:2-4, emphasis mine)
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)
God loves a cheerful giver. He always has. Even under the law the Israelites still had a choice. Yes, there were consequences to be paid for disobedience, but this does not remove the fact that they had a choice. The very fact that so many have chosen from the time of the fall to walk a different path, a rebellious path shows us that we have a choice.
To imply that they didn't have a choice then, but once Christ came they had a choice is to imply that God changed. He did not. He is the same as He was when He lead the Israelites out of Egypt, He is the same as when He created man in the garden, and He is the same as He was on the day He poured out His wrath on His Son who willingly sacrificed Himself for the sins of many. He is the same, and He does not change. So, why then do we like to create such a stark contrast between the Old and New Testaments? If we truly believe His is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow - why do we act as if He isn't? Why do so many people put forth this idea that God was content with mindless drones serving Him in the Old Testament, that they just did it because they had to but their hearts weren't in it but all of a sudden Jesus comes along and God changes His mind and says "Hey! Wait, I've decided you have to love me!" Come on guys. Either He is the same or He isn't. And if He is the same, shouldn't His message be the same all the way through? Truly it is. His message has been, and will always be:
And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. (Matthew 22:37)
The Old through the New, He is always the same.