moments of mercy

In the Old Testament, there are frequent instances where God commands His chosen people Israel to conquer the surrounding nations, often quite violently and brutally. In the New Testament, Jesus comes along and tells us to love our enemies and be peacemakers, inviting all people to follow him. What is up with that?

This is just one of many questions that has popped into my head through recent Bible reading. Again, why are the Old and New Testaments so different, and how do I reconcile what seems to be different divine natures? A call to arms to fight the nations juxtaposed with a call to make peace with our enemies and love one another as neighbours. Perhaps some may say these are Sunday School questions, things I should have figured out at Tyndale. Others barely ever ready the O.T. to begin with, never mind seriously asking these questions. So here I am, the almost 27 year old Christian male asking some fundamental yet foundational questions about the Bible, my faith and my understanding of the triune God.

My wise wife shed some much needed light on all this the other day. She told me that part of the solution is in how we read the text; indeed, it’s all a matter of perspective. The O.T. should be read in such a way that the reader is actively looking for glimpses of God’s grace and faithfulness. His chosen people [yes, all of creation] certainly were flawed and unfaithful, deserving of God’s wrath and anger. They are exposed to war, exile, punishment. And yet, if you look closely, the O.T. is full of these tender moments of mercy that point to Christ and His coming Kingdom.

The questions are still there, and I can’t expect that they will ever necessarily go away; we are limited in our ability to understand God’s ways, and that’s fine. This small yet huge shift in perspective does, however, help to unify the Word of God in a way that allows the great story to be read and understood in meaningful, transforming ways.

May I never become so familiar with the stories of the Bible that I leave myself unable to grasp what is really going on.

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    • jasonlocke
    • November 2nd, 2007

    Hey Ian

    I too have been thinking about the Old Testament and I think I have stumbled upon something which is a new thought for me. I’m sure someone smarter and more learned has already published this and made their millions – – but let me throw out the basic premise.

    Throughout Jewish history, I think that God had a one-track mind. His goal was to preserve his own true covenant people so that all mankind might, eventually, be reconciled to him through the subsequent life of Jesus. I think that God does a lot of interesting things in the name of preserving his people – like forbidding the Jews to intermarry…something which we would see as silly in this age would have been of vast importance for God.

    In the same way, I think that the war of the Old Testament was God’s one-track mind acting in ways which he deemed necessary in order for big picture salvation to work out.

    This is only scratching the surface on my general idea, but it is a start. When you start to read the Old Testament through the lens of God’s concern with redeeming humanity, you realize that while Jesus teaches us principles for day to day living, God is not bound to these principals and acts in opposition to them when it is for the purpose of fulfilling his plan. After all, even the seemingly anti-violent Jesus gave himself over to brutal violence = = this was a part of God’s plan as well…

    So – – I might be a heretic…but I’m trying here…I like Sunday School questions, Ian.

  1. Jay,

    Great stuff, friend. I see what you are saying. My initial reaction is to say that it must have stunk to have been a member of the non-chosen people groups. I see how it all pointed to Christ, that all people may be saved, but is that retroactive?

    Sometimes it just seems wierd that a God set on redeeming a fallen humanity would destroy in order to save – but if Christ himself was given over to that violence and brutality, who’s to say that the rest of us are safe?

    Even in thinking about all that, I tie it back to what I was trying to say in my post, those moments of mercy where even those on the ‘outside’ were spared and shown grace upon displays of faithfulness to the God of Israel. Truly, it’s quite an astouding act of mercy that God would have spared Israel after all their shenanigans.

    Complicated – my head is spinning. Hope this makes sense. Thanks for joining the conversation, Jay. Always enjoy dialoguing, even from far away.\

    ps. you are putting a whooping on me in the hockey pool!

  1. November 18th, 2007

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