Bible in one year and the trauma of leviticus and numbers

One of my new year resolutions in 2011 has been to read the Bible in one year, straight though from beginning to end. I am nearing the end of Numbers, and what a challenge it has been.

All I know of God is his deep mercy and faithfulness, so how to square some of the frankly, awful things I have read in Leviticus and Numbers.
How can the God who is the same yesterday, today and forever, ask people to be stoned to death for collecting firewood on the Sabbath or sanction the genocide of an entire nation be the same God who said love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you?
If God really is the same, and I believe he is, then there must be something else at work here, some piece of the story missing. There is. I find it here is Jesus words:
  “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 
Matthew 5:17-18 (New Living Translation)
It seems to me that although those who lived in old testament times saw the things around them in terms of vengeance and judgement, standing this side of  the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we can see them as consequences. 

Not so much sent by what looks like a hateful god, but permitted by an unchanging God who has always been slow to anger and abounding in love – because this horror is the true consequence of sin, more than that, the final consequence is death, which he has held back on.

And then the true wonder of it all. The purpose of the law was always to make people holy so that they could be with God, and Jesus came to fulfill that law. When you see the true consequence of sin, you begin to get an understanding of what Christ’s sacrifice is.
In reading the old testament, in the middle of my bewilderment over some of the things I have read, I have found a deep gratitude for the love of God expressed in the  utter beauty of the life and work of Jesus.
My reading of the new testament will be enriched by all I have read in the old. 

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