It does occur to me that this would have been the perfect project to undertake around Father’s Day, but that would be far to cliche for my tastes. Anyway, how about we get started?
I was at Barnes and Noble recently for a bit of question and answer/ Bible study time with a friend of mine and as we were discussing different things the notion of the God of the Old Testament being different, or at least seeming different than the God of the New Testament came up. This comes up a lot, especially with unbelievers and new converts, and while I know it is indeed the same God I have found it difficult to explain it in a way that someone who doesn’t necessarily believe will understand. Well, I sat and thought for a minute or so before telling my friend something along these lines:
The “wrathful” God of the O.T. is probably best pictured as a Father stewarding, and at times disciplining His child while they are still in their infancy or are still a toddler, so that when the child grows up they will do right because their Father has shown them the difference between right and wrong.
I realize this may not be the best explanation, or the most profound way of describing God, but my friend seemed to understand as I explained that sometimes I feel like I am mean because I am constantly telling my two small children they can’t do certain things, have certain things, or watch certain things. But in all actuality I am not a mean mom, but a loving one. I want what is best for my children and I know that I have to steward them in the way they are to go. And in order to do that I can’t let them run around and do whatever they want. They need boundaries, they need to be told no. And sometimes they need to sit in the corner when they have disobeyed. The words “no” and “stop that” seem to be on my lips quite a bit these days, but I know...Or hope....that won’t always be the case. I see it already in my son. I don’t have to tell him to stop as much as I used to, I see that he is understanding that he cannot do certain things, and he is beginning to understand that when he hurts someone, or gets hurt because he has disobeyed that it probably would just be best to heed my words the next time.
And as I look at God in the Old Testament that is what I see. I don’t see an overly angry God, a wrathful God; rather I see a concerned Parent whose beloved child is dragging their Name through the mud while endangering themselves. If an earthly father can weep at what their children are doing to themselves while being publicly embarrassed at their disobedience, how much more should God weep at our constant state of rebellion? No wonder He was angry, He provided for them and protected them and they spit in His face for it. No, God was not overly angry in the Old Testament, He was righteously angry with His children whom He called by name.
It is easy to forget that sometimes, it is easy to think of God as this force that is far off, it can be easy to think of Him as an impartial Creator who sits back with near disinterest as the world spins. And perhaps if you or I were God then that is how God would be. But you and I are not God. Your father is not God. Your grandfather is not God. God, as revealed through the Bible, is the only God. And He is not some disinterested, neglectful Father but He is a Father who is actively and lovingly calling His children back to His saving grace. Our God is our Father when we accept His Son’s sacrifice for our sins. We become His adopted children in that moment. And this doesn’t mean His love for us is inferior because we are not His “natural” children, rather I think it exemplifies His character, His overwhelming love that goes beyond what any of us could hope for in a Father. He calls us, chastens us as needed, and willfully puts aside any remembrance of who we were before His adoption because His Son bore the penalty for our sin. He is more than God. He is our Father who loves us dearly...and righteously.
There is much more to come, so I hope you will join me for this peak into the God we call Father.