God in the Old Testament and Kids Growing Up
Hello. I’m back from my blogging break.
What an eventful eight weeks! So many issues to think about. I assumed I would return to talk about Korea, or Charlottesville, or Nashville, or worldwide fires and flooding . . . but, although I have many thoughts and opinions on these matters and they are important to discuss, great minds are already skillfully expounding on those topics and, for now, I am compelled to share more simply the work of God in my life.
Another Kid Grown
Lately, as our middle daughter begins to spread her wings and experiment with adulthood, I’ve been thinking about the differences in how we relate compared to a few years ago . . . and that got me noticing some similarities with the transition from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Yeah, I know, I’m a weirdo . . . but hear me out.
Our family rules were intended for protection and training – preparing Eliza to make her own (hopefully) wise decisions. I don’t expect her to continue following rules about what she can watch on TV or where she can go. She doesn’t require adult supervision any more. Those regulations no longer make sense.
Many rules (getting adequate sleep, healthy eating, standards of cleanliness) would be beneficial for her to retain, but she’ll have to figure that out on her own. We won’t enforce them anymore.
Our primary aim, though, was to instill a love of God, respect for parents, concern for others, and responsibility to community. Rules were involved, but only as tools – they never defined our relationship but reflected our values and intentions for our daughter.
God in the Old Testament
Observing these transitions has caused me to read my Old Testament with a different pair of eyes. The Old Testament usually seems like some interesting historical stories – along the lines of cautionary tales – but I tend to dismiss seemingly difficult truths about God because everything was just different before Christ arrived on the scene.
But, as our family traditions, routines, and rules reflect us, maybe God’s relationship with Israel expresses His character too – even the stuff we don’t like and don’t follow anymore.
I once heard a speaker suggest any time something in scripture rubs you the wrong way, stop and grapple with it . . . this practice will increase our faith and understanding. I probably only follow this advice while exploring the New Testament . . . usually. I can’t tell you how often I read a verse and think, “Hmm, don’t like that,” and just keep moving along . . . especially if it is in the Old Testament.
So, I have started to consider unreasonable and harsh and just unpleasant things God seems to say about himself in the Old Testament, to see if I can discover what they reveal about His unchanging nature.
Can We Really Understand God?
The task is no picnic, because really, everything we know and understand is murky, and sometimes I just have to accept that I don’t grasp some things . . . and that’s ok.
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1Co 13:12
And sometimes I gain a little glimmer of God’s privileged position as Creator! The book of Job really achieves that purpose big time.
I find Job a bit long and tedious with the same types of concepts repeated over and over, but to take a stab at summarizing:
Basically God allows Satan to do a bunch of really terrible things to Job, and Job says, “That’s okay. God is God, so He can do what He wants . . . but this isn’t fair and I wish God had let me never be born instead of treating me like this.” Job’s friends are like, “No, God is always fair. You must have done something wrong.” And Job is like, “No, I didn’t do anything to deserve this, so you should just shut-up.” And the friends are like, “No, you shut-up. We know more about God than you do and you should just repent and get this mess over with.” And Job is like, “No, I know more about God than all of you. I didn’t do anything, and God should come and tell my why he’s doing this to me.” And then God is like, “No, all of you shut-up. Who do you think you are questioning me? I don’t explain myself to you! I made everything and you weren’t even there – how dare you demand anything from me?” and Job is like, “Woah, you are right! Sorry!” And God is like, “Yeah, ok. You friends should just leave Job alone. You don’t understand anything. And Job, here’s all your stuff back.”
All the theologians in my family are cringing right now, but I think this is a fair representation of the 42 chapters. But, bottom line, there wasn’t really a reason for Job’s suffering. God simply allowed it as a test of Job’s faith. And the point is, God doesn’t need a reason or have to explain himself to Job or to anyone else. We humans really hate that! I know I definitely do. . . I have wasted a lot of time telling God how my life should have gone.
On a very small scale I can see many things I did as a parent which might have seemed as capricious to my kids. Although, I usually had reasons. Sometimes I explained my reasons for teaching purposes. Sometimes I did not explain because the kids were too young to understand. Sometimes I did not explain because I knew it would cause an argument and I don’t answer to them!
Sometimes I allowed things to happen I could have prevented – again, usually for their benefit (like shots) but sometimes to allow growth. None of my situations compares to the death and destruction Job experienced simply as a test, but God’s messages throughout the Old Testament are not unlike mine to my kids; I love you more than anything. I am in charge, not you. I do not answer to you. You need to listen, trust, and obey me for your own benefit. We will get along so much better if you obey. Did I mention I love you? I would even die for you. I will always come back. Quit your whining. (wait, no . . . well . . . maybe . . . God might have actually said that!)
God in the New Testament
We have now transitioned into the “grown-up” Church of the New Testament, and our relationship with God has moved from slavery under the Law to freedom by grace.
What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. . . . So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. Gal 4:1, 7
But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. Rom 7:6
Does that change in relationship change the nature of God?
I don’t believe this side of the cross God must now make sure His followers always understand and agree with everything He does. God did not set aside His deity or subject himself to human reasoning.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Rom 1:20-21
For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 1Co 1:25
Even Jesus, the law-buster, refused to answer to his followers;
Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Jhn 21:22
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” Act 1:7
What’s This Got to do With Anything?
I find all this significant and relevant to my own tendency toward self-importance, as well as many topics of controversy and discussion in our society. While many toss the Bible out as not truly the inerrant Word of God to mankind, even those who continue to hold to the truth of Scripture seem to subject it to comfort (I don’t think I can do that), feelings (that doesn’t sound loving), and culture (The God I serve would never . . . insert whatever unpopular thing the Bible says).
But the God of the Bible is the One who created all things and sets the standards of right and wrong, good and evil, critical requirement and optional preference.
While he cares about my welfare, my comfort is expendable. He doesn’t submit to my feelings or bow to culture. Feelings are a created gift from God and He chooses for mankind to operate in the context of culture, but both are subjects in God’s universe, not the other way around.
Learning who God is affects my understanding of His words and message. Trusting Him with what I don’t understand and accepting what I don’t like informs my everyday decisions.
“If your god never disagrees with you, you might just be worshipping an idealized version of yourself.” – Timothy Keller
So, maybe I did end up writing about Korea, Charlottesville, Nashville, and the worldwide fires and flooding. Huh. Didn’t see that coming!
On an informational note, my blogging break revealed a need to scale back my writing goals for now. My for-profit businesses need more attention. For the near future – I will post once a month on the 15th.