I have spent time over the past two months thinking through the general flow of the Old Testament, trying to make sense of the perspective presented of God and humanity. The Old Testament can be troubling for some to read. From the early Christian heresies that categorized the Old Testament into a completely different religion with a different God from the gracious God of the New Testament, to Thomas Jefferson who clipped together his own version of the Bible, to skeptics today who can’t believe that God would send a flood or order Israel to attack the Canaanites.
I don’t have easy answers, but I think I understand a little bit better what is going on, though I must begin with a rather large disclaimer. No one should ever think he/she has God figured out. Also, scripture repeatedly cautions us from taking the position of interrogator of God. We can try to figure things out provided that we realize we’re trying to understand the infinite God and that we are his creation. God is certainly personal, but we have to remember our place in any kind of theology.
I’d like to begin with some usual lines of thinking about God…
I call this the “If only God did…” line of reasoning. People speak this way all of the time and have done so throughout scripture. We hear people say if only God would do a miracle, speak in an audible voice, or come down to earth among us, we would surely listen.
History tells us otherwise. The Old Testament is in fact filled with stories with God speaking directly to people and doing incredible miracles: moving oceans, sending plagues, and guiding Israel with pillars of cloud and fire. God speaks to lots of people directly throughout the Old Testament. Doesn’t that sound rather definitive? In the New Testament Jesus shows up as God on earth. He does miracles, but the religious leaders don’t buy it.
Would we really respond any differently? Couldn’t we always find reasons to doubt? Unfortunately we will always find a way to doubt God. The Old Testament starts to make a little more sense if we see it as God’s constant struggle to reach out to a doubting humanity, people who place all manner of obstacles in the way of worshipping God. God is trying to break through the religious and cultural norms in order to rescue humanity from itself.
Things end up becoming rather difficult as the people fail to recognize God’s overtures, and that is what we’ll look at next.