Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mean God, Nice God

Do we serve a mean God? It's a question we all ask, whether we think of it consciously or not. So many people have expressed to me that they believe the God of the Old Testament is wrathful, whereas the God of the New is loving and stuff.

But the truth is God's got to cohere both in the Old and the New, since guess what, he's the same God in both testaments! Argh, people make me so mad! Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), Bart Erman (Jesus Interrupted), Philip Pullman (The Golden Compass), Dan Brown (The Davinci Code) and all the other crazies out there that totally pull scripture out of context are attempting to pull the wool over our eyes (Isn't wool really scratchy! I'd hate to have that pulled over my eyeballs!!!).

One of my professors when I was in the cemetery (I mean seminary) made the bold statement that if we really study the Bible (you know read that old crusty book on our shelves) we'd find that's there's not really anything "new" in the New Testament. Of course there's more specific revelation in the person and work of Jesus, but the character of God that's behind it all is the exact same personal, loving, holy and righteous God.

I noticed this again today as I was reading Ezekiel (What kind of dork reads Ezekiel?). Well let me tell you, my top was blown (not really) once again by God's character that comes jumping off the page. Read Ezekiel 33:10-20. Tell me that it doesn't reveal a perspective on righteousness that is totally novel to the human mind.

The reason I believe it's novel is that "righteousness" in this passage is totally focused on repentance and right standing before God. Turning to God is the theme. It's that that brings righteousness. It's totally New Testament stuff, smack dab in the middle of the ancient Hebrew scriptures (I don't know how practicing Jews get around this sort of stuff. And I'd love to learn more and see if they do or not.)!

God says "Though I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, yet if he trusts in his righteousness and does injustice, none of his righteousness deeds shall be remembered..." Did you hear that? Or did you miss it? The danger is not simple unrighteousness but man trusting in his righteousness and conversely (not like the shoes) not trusting in God and his righteousness.

I could end this post now. It's enough to chew on. Tim Keller talks a lot about it in his thoughts on glory, so check them out. Of course I won't stop, because I like to write and because I think this debunks the idea of a mean and exacting God that we all sometimes think lies behind the Old Testament.

Here we have pictured a compassionate God. A God that in the same passage says "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live." God's desire is first and foremost for his glory (thank you John Piper). His glory is most clearly revealed when humans live in right relationship to him. His righteousness then becomes there's. If they begin to trust in the righteousness itself, then boom, the bottom falls out, since they are called to trust in God.

So anyhow, if you meet someone today who says something silly like "I believe in Jesus, but I don't believe in the God of the Old Testament, the God who killed people and stuff." Take them to this passage in Ezekiel, and show them God's heart. Heck, take them anywhere in the OT. For as the Jesus Storybook Bible, which I've been reading to my daughter, states over and over, "every story whispers his name." Jesus is God's crowning revelation! And he's seen throughout the OT. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

We don't serve a mean God or I guess even a nice God, we serve the God who says he is love. He knows what he's talking about. Let's lean on it and swat of the dust and gnats of our Old Testaments and start to combat the silly voices in our culture that keep saying God's a meanie. He's not. We're the meanies.

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