Monday, March 7, 2011

Going Old Testament

Isaiah 1:15-20:
15When you spread out your hands,
   I will hide my eyes from you;
 even though you make many prayers,
   I will not listen;
    your hands are full of blood.
16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
   remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
   cease to do evil,
 17learn to do good;
     seek justice,
   correct oppression;
      bring justice to the fatherless,
   plead the widow’s cause.
 18"Come now, let us reason (dispute) together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet,
   they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
   they shall become like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
   you shall eat the good of the land;
20but if you refuse and rebel,
   you shall be eaten by the sword;
      for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

As is normally my custom this scripture has something to do with my favorite band: U2  :D

I was reading an interview of Bono the other day: when asked about his understanding of Scripture in said interview, Bono brings up the central Christian teaching of love; how it is crucial to the person of God as well as the entirety of the New Testament.

After Bono finished his comment on the issues, interviewer Michka Assayas brings up the issue of God’s person as exhibited in the Old Testament saying:

Assayas: What about the God of the Old Testament? He wasn't so "peace and love"?

I am not too sure about your experience, but I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen this argument used against the church: the paradox of jumping from complete vindictiveness and cruelty to love and peace.

We as humans are so swift to divide God between the Old Testament and the New Testament. We discount his unchanging, steadfast, and ultimately just nature.

This provides numerous problems; people discount God’s nature viewing him as fickle associating the attributes like anger, wrath, and justice and ascribing to them our own human shortcomings in these areas of emotion.

Anger becomes impulsive and uncontrolled. Justice becomes slanted and vindictive. Wrath becomes unjust and cruel.

We say that God has no mercy. We say God has no compassion. We say that God has had no love. We entitle ourselves to salvation and become indignant at the lack of tolerance.

The main problem comes to be that we forget that our own emotions are after God’s own emotions but contorted by sin, and lesser shadows of God’s emotions. We ascribe all these negative attributes of emotion to God. God’s justice demands actions against injustice and sin. He created right and wrong, he created us to choose right. We choose to wrong and as a result our wrong-doing must be repaid with death. We fail to remember that we provoked God. Justice is not slanted we all have sinned and we all deserve death.

We claim that God does not show us mercy. If we all died a horribly painful death right now, that would be just. Every breath we have is grace: something good that we do not deserve. Whether our lives are miserable or marvelous. People who follow Jesus and people who do not.

God’s anger is not impulsive. It is the God’s natural emotion to the violation of justice. It is measured and it only lasts for but a moment.

We claim that God shows us no compassion. In Genesis 6, he sends a flood to wipe out all of humankind. They had sinned and were deserving of death. They had violated the one who created them. He had the right. However, he chose one man and his family for no other purpose than he had compassion. Noah was said to be blameless, however still human and as such still sinful.

God’s wrath is not unjust, it is not cruel, it is the satisfaction of God’s anger; payment for the violation of God’s justice.

We fail to remember the very beginning: Genesis 12. Man is fallen and sinful, God has spared humankind once before but God makes a promise to Abraham (one who merely had the faith to believe in God and obey, and he was considered righteous for doing so,) that all nations would be saved through him and his line. God here demonstrates his compassion mercy and grace: He has compassion one who would obey him, he gives grace by promising to bless him with many offspring and making them his (God’s) people; he does this to be a blessing the world to the effect of showing them mercy, first through sacrifice but then through Christ.  

We claim that the Old Testament was devoid of any Godly love and mercy. This where Isaiah 1 comes in: In verses 15 God shows that the many sacrifices of Israel do not please him (violation of God: injustice-anger). In verses 16-17: He offers them second chance by telling them to turn from their ways (mercy). However, in verses 18-19 Isaiah relates God’s grace saying:

Come now, let us reason (dispute) together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet,
   they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
   they shall become like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
   you shall eat the good of the land;

In context: Isaiah is referring to the forgiveness of sins through sacrifice. Israel’s sacrifices will become pleasing to the LORDS once more. Israel will prosper under the blessing of God once again, despite Israel’s sin. There is also a second undertone: this scripture is used once again in the New Testament referring to Christ. The ultimate form of grace and compassion; we deserved death, God loved, in and of itself a gracious act, so he did all the work by mercy.

How little we realize how right God was for acting on his anger, but in the Old Testament he unleashed his wrath to satisfy his righteous anger only as a last resort. That is why we see the prophets, these turn or burn sort of folks. We view them as being sort of spiritual terrorists sent by God to scare people into obeying a cruel god. But they were messengers sent to warn a rebellious and ungrateful people (whom God loved!) so God might have mercy on them once more. We fail to see the prophets as a lovers pleading intervention, although not wavering on the consequences of un-broken rebellion.

This scripture is so very much a reminder to me who God is how unchanging he has been and why Christians need to share the Gospel. I hope that this is helpful to non-believers that they might see how God loves and how dire our situations truly. As Christians, I hope that this might inspire you to see the attributes of God better and see how his love is manifest throughout scripture and that you might share and read the prophets, as they are intended.

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