This week I participate in a congregation-wide Bible Study on the Old Testament, beginning with of the course the book of Genesis. The presenter and author are not Lutheran and do not approach the texts in the way I would, so I have a part in the study, where I present a “Lutheran Perspective”. I have thought about this a lot lately and have expanded my study on Genesis and how the Son (Jesus) is present at the time of creation. Honestly, I don’t see Jesus there. But God the Father Creator and the Spirit of God are very much in the Creation story.
Yet I cannot but help but see the Old Testament from the perspective of the New Testament. Martin Luther would say ones look at the Old Testament from the person of Christ. In other words, how is the character of God in the Old Testament understood through Jesus the Christ? Jesus says if you want to know the Father you look at me.
The Old Testament can be very hard to understand, particularly in terms of culture and how language and certain words change in usage. But the biggest issue for many, as if God is so loving in Jesus, how come God is so judgmental and condemning in the stories from the Old Testament?
Well here goes! I really do believe that if you want to know what God is like, you do have to look at Jesus. From creations stories (two of them), thru Noah (God is mad and flushes most of humanity down the drain), Plagues of Egypt, destruction of Jericho and its people, the genocide of the Canaanites, hey the list can go on. But would Jesus endorse this or would he be so violent and death-dealing with so many people? This is the guy who healed the pagan woman’s daughter, who healed the heretic leper, who ask God to forgive the ones crucifying him?
The stories and writers of the Old Testament were surrounded by cultures, religions, and gods who operated in such a violent and dreadful manner. By the way, the stories of the Old Testament are much more compassionate than those of the other religions at that time. Jesus is the one who turns the traditional understanding of God on its head. He shows the true face of God and shows how truly loving God is by dying for us.
It is my hope that those attending this Bible Study will see God the Father in a different light, the light of Christ. For me, Jesus reminds me that is by pure grace that I am saved, not by my ability to be good enough. That was an Old Testament viewpoint, obey the law and live, disobey and die. Hellfire and brimstone sermons can be great entertainment if pointed at the other guy, but very tough to hear when directed at us.
God is the God of both the Old and New Testament, to understand the character of God, look at the Son, Jesus the one who saves us, by dying for us and rising so we may be with him as well. Praise be to God!!!