Conflicting Character or Skewed Perception? Understanding the God of the Old Covenant.
The Old Testament has a way of making me feel completely inept. I’ve read the New Testament backwards and forwards many times, but every once in awhile I’m convicted about my avoidance of the Old Testament with all it’s Law, it’s genealogies, it’s prophets, and it’s scandalous stories. The Sunday school answer is that Jesus is just as much in the Old Testament as the New, but I as the reader still struggle to find Him there sometimes.
Recently, actually for the entirety of 2017 thus far, I’ve been nearly daily reading the prophets of the Old Testament. I started by reading Hosea and I’ve just finished Isaiah. I’ve been reading them through a popular app that gives you a daily scripture reading and then has a brief devotional piece that expands on the text a bit and attempts to make application of the passage more accessible for us in 2017.
As I’ve been reading, it has felt like there’s a tennis match in my head. On one side of the net is this incredibly loving, patient, pursuing, compassionate God who runs after his wayward people unceasingly. On the other side of the net is a seemingly volatile God who gets so angry with his peoples’ disobedience that he calls entire nations to wage war and take captive and destroy his people as an act of punishment, in the hopes that they will once again revere him and crush their idols.
As someone who has long struggled with REALLY believing that God actually loves me and wants relationship with me even on my worst days, this has been an incredibly challenging few months.
Maybe I should have been adding in some New Testament readings with these texts from the prophets to balance me out a bit. I’m not really sure, but what I would say is this: I spent a fair amount of time over the past few months feeling quite far from God. I have felt daily like I’m not measuring up, like God is far away, and that my attempted obedience to Him is laughable and not worthy of any affection at all because even when I do manage to “do” the right thing, I know my heart and it’s often full of pride and self-congratulations.
I guess that’s part of the point of studying Isaiah during the season of Lent; to show us how great our need for a savior is. Let’s face it; we are not good people. Our hearts are at their very core, quite bad. To dwell on how bad we are and how righteous God is can feel very defeating.
Once again I’ve realized that my faith in WHO God is, is not nearly as sturdy as I thought. Give me just a few months of reading scripture that primarily talks about God the Father, in the context of His relationship to His people in the Old Covenant, and I feel like I’m back to square one as far as feeling like He is impossible to please and probably so sick of me by now.
One day as I was driving somewhere I was mulling all of this over, and thinking about how God says he is the same yesterday, today, and forever, as well as the fact that in the doctrine of the Trinity we are to believe that Father, Son, & Spirit are inexorably linked and completely One and share the same character. I just couldn’t reconcile these things in my mind. Jesus just seems so much NICER than God the Father. And yet…I’ve been in church long enough to have heard so many times how they are one in the same. I cried out to God and said “you’re just going to have to tell me what this means and how to understand this!” Immediately after I said that out loud, this verse popped into my head: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all Creation.” Colossians 1:19.
He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God.
And He came to earth so that we could see in the flesh the exact image of the invisible God. We who are alive today did not get to see Him, but we have scripture, and the Holy Spirit living inside of us to bring to life the words on the pages that describe the exquisite character of the eternal God-become-man who redeemed us out of his sheer love for us.
That’s something we can take to the bank every time our sin debt feels like it will forever keep us out of the House of the Perfect, Holy Father. HE was the initiator.
And His love for us? It’s not conditional on our obedience to Him. At the cross Jesus paid the debt of our sin in FULL. That means the lie you told last week, the gossip you gleefully shared yesterday, the words you screamed at your husband last night, the porn you looked at yet again today, the joint you swore you would never smoke again that passed your lips tonight, the brief sexual escapade that you never thought you were capable of that happened over the weekend…none of those things have any bearing on God’s love for you.
Because Jesus stood in your place, you are forever set free from guilt, shame, and separation from God and instead you are welcomed into His unchanging love & transforming grace. Step into it and be with Him!
Romans 5:8 The Message
6-8 Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.