From the beginning of time, it's been His story. We walk into it. He doesn't adjust His story for our entrance. We've been a part of it from the beginning.
Some of you know that I've been participating in a Bible study called "The Bible in 90 Days." Obviously, the idea being that you read through the Bible in 90 days, which breaks down to 12 pages a day. It's a bit of challenge, but has proven to be well worth my time, and, well . . . amazing!
In regards to this study, I hear many comments about "this God" of the Old Testament. I hear comments like, "I'm having a hard time reconciling this God of the Old Testament with the God I know," and, "How can a loving God annihilate entire nations?" or, "The Israelites were supposed to kill the women and children, too?" All good questions. Questions worth asking. Unfortunately, as seems to be the case in many portions of scripture, there just aren't enough good answers. But, there are some.
Here's some things I've come up with (for whatever it's worth). God is a mighty big God. There is so much about Him to learn. It's taken millenniums to know what little we do know about Him. But, just as the New Testament gives a larger picture of God's grace, I think the Old Testament gives us a larger picture of God's holiness. Sin is sin and there is certainly nothing new under the sun. However, reading the Old Testament the way that I have (in very large chunks) has given me a clearer snapshot of the blatant sin of idol worship going on at the time. The world was still rather new, relatively speaking. Nations were still new. God was introducing Himself to those He put on the earth, and it was Israel's job to help the other nations know who the one true living God was. It's not that God cared nothing for the other nations. On the contrary, He made His works known to the other nations through the miracles He performed on behalf of the Israelites. Through the Israelites, He wanted the other nations to see that He was not like the other "so-called gods." He was not a golden calf or any other handmade sculpture that had eyes but could not see, a nose but could not smell, ears but could not hear, a mouth but could speak. Through the miracles and the devastations He was making it known loud and clear, "I AM the God of Universe and you will have no other gods before Me!" Commandment #1! It's His story.
"And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord." (Ezekiel 38:23, NIV)
"Joshua said to the people: 'You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; He is a jealous God. He will not forgie your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, He will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after He has been good to you.' " (Joshua 24:19-20, NIV)
It was a harsh time. And, it's hard to take it all in. For those of us who have entered His story during this present time of grace find it very difficult to adjust to this holy God. Well, be assured! God has not changed! He is the same holy God today that He was then. The difference is that Jesus came and stepped into the middle of the story. God's gift to human beings! Grace! God is still angered by our idolatry, but instead of me being annihilated Jesus paid the price for it. So when God looks at me, He sees Jesus (the picture of holiness and righteousness!) because Jesus lives in me!
It's always been about grace. The God of grace of the New Testament is the same holy God of the Old Testament. But what is also true is that this same God of grace ia alive and well in the Old Testament. In Isaiah we read how God sent prophet after prophet to the other nations in order to give them opportunity to repent and turn to Him. We read the same in Jonah with the city of Nineveh. God is a God of grace. Except for a few instances like Rahab, we're not told of countless souls who repented and chose to trust God and were saved from the annihilation. Anytime it's written how someone did in fact turn towards the Living God we see that God was compassionate and merciful and gracious to that person and saved them from destruction. Just like today! When reading the Old Testament, and you come across things that seem harsh on God's part and difficult to understand or reconcile, it's always safe to weigh it against the rest of His character. Don't stop at His holiness --begin with it and end with His grace!
This is His story! We are invited in. More than that, we were planned for! You and me! Since the beginning of time, God planned for our entrance at this particular time and place in His story. "From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would see Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us." (Acts 17:26-27, NIV) What's more, His story is His responsibility. He bears the weight of history! He is a big God! Full of grace! Full of mercy! Full of compassion! Very Holy! Justice is His name!
'Don't let the wise brag of their wisdom.
Don't let heroes brag of their exploits.
Don't let the rich brag of their riches.
If you brag, brag of this and this only:
That you understand and know me.
I'm God, and I act in loyal love.
I do what's right and set things right and fair,
and delight in those who do the same things.
These are my trademarks.'
(Jeremiah 9:23-24, The Message)
It's HiStory! You have been invited in! Trust in His full character at all times!