Is the God of the New Testament really that different from the God of the Old? This is the claim of many people today. The central idea that was made in the previous post was the fact that, when we read a little more carefully, we see that, in the whole Bible, God is a God of grace. The story of God’s relationship with the Israeli people highlights over and over the central reality of his grace and mercy as the one and only reason for all that they had. This is coupled with the fact that the main command of the Old Testament is not that people obey a long list of moralistic laws and rituals. Rather the heart of God’s message to the people is that he be the central object of their love and affection. Making anything outside of him the object of their worship inevitably sends them tumbling down a destructive life of self centeredness.
What was the response of the people? If you have read any segment of the Old Testament, you know it wasn’t good. “God’s people” would obey and be faithful to God for a season, and then regress to various forms of idolatry and faithlessness. Wether it be the wealth of other nations, new religious ideas, or military support from others – Israel always found a way to put their faith and hope in things that failed to deliver.
Having noticed this, we start to see a deeper and darker side to the rebellion of these people who have seen and experienced God grace so abundantly. They did not reject potential blessings. They rejected actual ones. God had literally carried them through those 40 years, and then on into the promised land. And yet, despite all this, they still rebelled. They still chose to love other things above him. They still gave their worship to things that are infinitely less than worthy of it.
Their history was replete with God’s mercies and calls to repent and return their hearts to the one who gives them life. And yet, the truth never really sank deep enough into their hearts to make a true and lasting change. No matter how vivid God’s love towards them was, they still found ways for their hearts to be captivated by something else.
This is indeed a powerful picture of the fallenness of the human heart. The issue is not that God sets a moral standard before us and demands that we meet it, sending to hell all who fall short. God gives us himself. He is the reason that we live and breath and taste the many goodnesses of life. Everywhere we look, the world screams to the attestation of a mighty and wonderful Creator.
The default response of the human heart is to run the other way. C. S. Lewis’ once made the statement that the doors of hell are locked from the inside. The point here is that even if you were to put the person who is in rebellion against God into heaven itself, he would hate it. This is what God did with Israel and that was indeed their response.
The most ultimate manifestation of this heart-blindness came when Jesus showed up. God himself comes into their world as a man. He speaks truth, he does good, he gives himself to the people. He reminds them of all the things they new too well.
Their response? They murdered him.
And yet that is precisely the reason for which he came. Despite man’s total and ultimate rejection of the greatest gift, God gives himself nevertheless. Jesus faced rejection, not only from the Jews, but ultimately from God himself. He faced it in our place so that we wouldn’t have to bear the weight of our own rebellion. He gave his life so that we could have it anew.