While the faithful remnant of the Old Testament worshiped YHWH1, a great number of Israelites were compelled to serve Baal and other Ancient Near Eastern gods. As seen throughout the narrative of the Old Testament, idolatry (i.e. substitute worship) was the fundamental problem from the beginning of not only Israel, but of mankind in general.2
The reality of idolatry even within ancient Israel should lead us to conclude that not every member of the nation worshipped YHWH.3 Not all Jews feared and revered the God of Abraham. This recognition becomes critical in a conversation on modern Judaism.
The New Testament unambiguously states that those who truly worshiped YHWH would have seen and responded to the gospel of Christ. This is why Jesus does not condemn His fellow Jews for believing in the God of Abraham and Moses, but rather for rejecting the very One to Whom Abraham and Moses pointed.
A couple of references make this point clear:
John 5:37-47 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from people. 42But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 45Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”
John 8:39-59 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
48The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 52The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ 55But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
According to these texts, true belief in the God of Abraham and Moses responds to the Christ of Whom they spoke and in Whom they hoped. The fundamental problem with Judaism then and now is not the reverence of the God of the Old Testament, but instead the failure to faithfully fear the God revealed in the Old Testament.
YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David, has eternally existed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The God of the Scriptures, Old and New, is triune. Whereas in the Old Testament, the trinity was implied in shadowed form, the New Testament revelation of Christ shines forth with greater brilliance and clarity. Simply put, one who worships a non-triune god is not worshipping the one God Who is triune. This is the point developed further in the blog, What if I Believe in ‘God,’ but not in Jesus?. To deny the Son is to deny the Father Who sent Him, which is to deny the God of the Scriptures, Old and New.
Christianity considers modern Judaism to be errant not because they worship the God of the Old Testament, but precisely because they do not do so. This realization is no justification for the evil of historic anti-Semitism, but rather is a compelling call for mission. Like Christ and His apostles, we should have a heart to see Jews reconciled – not to a new God, but to the God of their fathers.
Romans 10:1-3 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
1 The theme of a faithful remnant is common throughout the Old Testament narrative (1 Kings 19:18;Jeremiah 23:3-4; Joel 2:32; Micah 2:12; Zephaniah 3:11-13; et al) and relates to the concept of the elect as used in the New (Mark 13:20, 27; Luke 18:7; Romans 8:33; 1 Peter 1:1, 2:9; et al).
2 This is not to imply that mankind was created to be idolaters, but rather that idolatry entered into our nature in the very first generation through Adam and Eve’s disobedience. How long after their creation this occurred is not revealed in the Scriptures.
3 The combination of these 4 letters (typically pronounced Yahweh) is referred to as the tetragrammaton (four letters) by scholars and is the name by which God revealed Himself to Moses particularly in Exodus 3:15. It appears in English texts as “the LORD” where LORD is in all capital letters to distinguish it from adonai (Hebrew for “lord”) and kyrios (Greek for “lord”).