Monday, September 20, 2010

O.T. God Reveals Himself So Explicitly..

The question goes something like this:
In the Old Testament, it seems like God revealed Himself all the time to people in scary and very explicit ways. How come He doesn't do that in the N.T.? In the Old Testament, God judges people and is quite scary. But the New Testament God doesn't seem to do that.. Are we talking about different Gods here?

1 comment:

Daniel Kim said...

Regarding the difference between OT and NT God, the SHORT answer to this is to just say that let’s not confuse God’s temporary era of grace as some sort of a “change” in God’s character. God is still holy, and it is a frightening thing to be in the hands of a Holy God. If I were to expand on this a little more…
• It helps to note that much of the OT are written records of what was happening during days of judgment, when God was judging Israel for their departure from the covenant. In formulating this society through which Jesus would eventually come, God implemented sometimes very blatant expressions of His holiness. If He didn’t do that, if He let them be, then what would be the ramification of that on the coming of Christ? Would Israel have been molded enough for the coming of Christ to make any sense? The ramifications of Israel not being set apart from the surrounding nations is long-reaching beyond our imagination.
• Also, one can see these drastic actions upon the “beginning” of all new societies or cultures in the Bible. When God forms Israel from Exodus.. when God molds them into His people through the Mosaic laws (remember Aaron’s sons), and when God forms the early church (Ananias and Saphira).. The seed group is extremely important, so it seems like God expressed His holiness during those special times.
• Another thing to observe: When my daughter is 5 and she lies or hurts another kid, I give her a spanking and a timeout. When she is 24, and she does the same, I don’t do that. Does that mean I have changed? One could look at those 2 pictures and say that the picture of Daniel is very different. However, I would argue that I have not changed – I’m simply responding to what she would understand. So perhaps we need to appreciate more the kind of world and worldview that the Ancient Near Eastern cultures lived in in order to understand how God dealt with them.
• One more thing to observe: Remember that the Bible (esp. the Old Testament) is thousands and thousands of years compressed into one book, whereas the NT is not. When we read the newspaper, sometimes you can’t believe all the stuff that happened in one week.. How many murders, how many crimes, how many world-changing things… Well, but you understand, because the whole forum of newspapers is that it reports only those kinds of things. That’s the case with the Bible, also. We have to remember that in between these stories of God revealing himself in such-and-such way, tens of years, even hundreds of years sometimes pass by. That means there are whole generations of people who go by without God speaking to them in a significant (or scary) way. So we can get this skewed picture of God’s involvement with His people if we forget that fact. It turns out that when people say that they get a different picture of God in the OT, they are not talking about His walk with Joseph or Abraham or David. They are talking about the Prophets, they are talking about times of judgment through wars, through the flood, etc. But how many can you count, and how many years went by in between? These issues of “scale” is what we lose focus of when reading the Old Testament, because we forget that OT compresses thousands (and even millions, if you count the creation account) of years.
• Finally, I ask which book has the scariest picture of God’s judgment. It would be Revelation, in the NT. So again, we are being a bit short-sighted when we think of OT God and NT God being different. We are in this time of grace after Christ – we are in that in-between generation, so it’s easy for us to conceive of God in a short-term kind of way, but we can’t forget that God and the realities of God will finally assert itself in the future, as Jesus himself talked about regarding the last days.