For many years, I mistakenly believed grace is a New Testament—or New Covenant—concept. In my mind, it was almost as if Jesus’ death and resurrection unleashed God’s grace on mankind for the very first time.
How very wrong I was!
The concept of grace—unmerited favor—is woven throughout the entirety of Scripture.
I’m not sure how I’ve missed it all these years, but I know that I cannot be the only person living with this misconception.
Why do we erroneously believe grace is a New Testament concept?
The most illuminating scripture on this subject is John 1:17 where it says, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
A logical conclusion after reading this passage would be: the Old Testament is about law and the New Testament is about grace.
And to some extent, that is an accurate assumption.
The Old Testament is definitely “law-focused” and the New Testament is absolutely “grace-filled.”
But the bigger question is: Has God always been gracious? Or did Jesus death and resurrection somehow alter his character?
2 Timothy 1:9 sheds some valuable light on this topic, “He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.”
God’s grace is the foundation upon which the Gospel message is built.
Without God’s grace, salvation is impossible!
As a New Covenant believer, this is a truth I hold close to my heart. I owe my life and all that I am to the grace of God, the sacrifice of Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit.
But we mustn’t skim over the last four words of the passage above—before the beginning of time.
Before God created mankind, He knew of our need to be rescued from sin.
The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ was not God’s back up plan. His last resort. His “get out of jail free card.”
Absolutely EVERYTHING that happened between Adam’s first breath and Jesus’ death was part of God’s gracious plan to redeem mankind.
Including the Old Testament.
Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been reading my way through the Old Testament on a daily Bible reading plan from YouVersion.
The concept of God’s grace—unmerited favor shown to unworthy men and women—is woven throughout the entirety of the Old Testament.
7 Examples of God’s Grace in the Old Testament:
1. God’s grace infuses Noah’s Story.
“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen 6:8).
Wickedness and evil were so rampant in the hearts of men that God actually regretted creating them. Wow! He was ready to wipe them out entirely, but there was ONE man who was righteous, faithful, and committed to walking with God. Noah was not a perfect man, yet God chose to save his family from destruction. That’s grace!
2. God’s grace endures in spite of Abraham and Sarah’s unbelief.
“And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3b).
Did you know that Abraham’s fear and sense of self-preservation led him to distort the truth by saying Sarah was his sister (to save his own hide)? Did you know that Sarah laughed at God when he said she would give birth to a son in her old age? And then, after laughing at God, she encouraged her husband to sleep with another woman to fulfill the promise? Abraham and Sarah’s lives were marked with disbelief and disobedience, yet God remained faithful to His promise. That’s grace!
3. God’s grace for Joseph gave him strength to persevere.
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Gen 50:20).
As Joseph’s story unfolds, it’s difficult to see God’s grace in it all—despised by his brothers, sold into slavery, wrongly accused, left to rot in prison. But that’s not at all how Joseph saw things. He reveals his perspective in Gen. 45:7, “ But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.” God used difficult and trying circumstances to position Joseph as the savior of his people. That’s grace!
4. Moses doubted God at every turn, yet God graciously guided him.
“But Moses said, ‘Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else’ (Ex 4: 13).”
Moses was as flawed as they come—arrogant, stubborn, doubtful. Yet God faithfully walked with him, and as time passed, Moses’ learned how to faithfully obey. God used this blemished shepherd to lead his wayward sheep out of captivity. God chose to listen to and walk with a man who, in his youth, killed another with his bare hands. That’s grace!
5. The Israelites repeatedly rebelled against God, yet He graciously rescued them.
“And he could bear Israel’s misery no longer (Judges 10:16).”
I tried to keep track of how often the Israelites grumbled against God, broke His commands, worshiped false idols, etc—but I quickly lost count. Time and again they turned away from God, did whatever they wanted, lost God’s protection, suffered great consequences, returned to God, and begged Him to rescue them. Over and over and over again! Sometimes there were lasting consequences for their poor decisions, but God showed more grace than was deserved (over and over and over again).
6. Rahab bravely asked God to save her (in spite of her past sins) and He did!
“The Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below (Josh. 2:11b).”
Rahab is referred to as “the harlot” three times over in scripture. She was a prostitute—a sinner unworthy of God’s grace. But somewhere along the way, she heard tales of this God of Israel. So when the two spies sought shelter in her home, she bravely bargained for her life. She confessed her belief in their God and asked for their mercy. And they gave it willingly, to her and all of her family. In fact, she dwelled with the Israelites and faithfully served God the rest of her days. That’s grace!
7. David lusted, stole, fornicated, lied, and killed—yet God saw his heart and loved him.
“Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin (Ps. 51:1)”
Ok, I saved my favorite for last. David is the ultimate example of God’s unmerited favor. But I’ve got to start by mentioning all of his merits. Because there are many. Just open up the book of Psalms, and you will be astounded by how deeply he loved God. In his heart of hearts, I don’t think David ever strayed from his love for God. He just made some pretty terrible decisions along the way (haven’t we all?). The key is he always turned from his sin and repented. And God forgave. That’s grace!
The Bible is packed with examples of humans who sin and a God who forgives.
Humans who run and a God who pursues. Humans who don’t deserve grace and a God who gives it anyway.
If you’ve ever felt unworthy of God’s grace, just spend some time reading the Old Testament.
God’s grace in the Old Testament is unavoidable, so long as you are looking for it.
You will soon discover that no one is worthy of God’s grace: not Noah, not Abraham, not Joseph, not Moses, not the Israelites, not Rahab, not David, not me, and not you.
That, sweet friend, is what makes it grace.
Can you think of any other examples of God’s grace in the Old Testament? I’d love to chat about it in the comments.
This article has been shared at my favorite Faith & Family Linkups.