This last blog will focus on the topic of God. God? This was the last theme of the class. The question was, what do we learn about God by reading through the Old Testament? As I started this process, I have to admit that my exposure to the Old Testament was limited. I hadn’t heard too many sermons or had done that many bible studies on the Old Testament. Even when I had exposure to the Old Testament, it was usually the same few texts whether it was the story of the creation/fall, the exodus/Moses, David, Jonah, and Esther. Why don’t we have more exposure to the stories that confuse or scare us? What about the story in Exodus 4 where God wants to kill Moses and his wife has to circumcise their son to save him? What about God’s call to Joshua to wipe out whole nations as they take over the Promised Land? What about the sexual assault on women like Tamar and Dinah? What about the tribe of Benjamin who are allowed to abduct the women of a neighboring tribe as their wives in Judges 21? What about Moses “changing” the mind of God in Exodus 32?
There are many more questions we can ask about the Old Testament. Comedian Bill Maher has stated that the story of Noah shows God as a “psychotic mass murderer”. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens along with other members of the New Atheism movement have attacked God as a petulant and patriarchal deity who arbitrarily kills humans as he pleases based on the Old Testament. Of course, I would vehemently disagree with this assessment and I won’t go into detail about why I think their views are wrong and skewed. However, if I’m honest, there are ways I can see how other people could perceive God in not so nice terms based on reading certain parts of the Old Testament. The Old Testament is raw. It doesn’t hold back. But that’s what I love about it. It’s not sanitized. It’s not trying to gloss over the difficult stuff. It’s all there for all of us to see. However, people tend to neglect God’s grace and love that is also sprinkled throughout the Old Testament. He repeats this mantra of “you are my people and I am your God”. Even though the people of Israel keep breaking their covenant with God, God is still with them. God still loves them.
Sometimes we as Christians can be Marcionites or people who want to get rid of the Old Testament. We all relate to the language of love and grace in the New Testament. However, we may subconsciously dismiss the Old Testament because it shows God’s anger and wrath. We’d rather deal with grace rather than judgment. However, there is a language of grace in the Old Testament and a language of judgment in the New Testament. Also, as Christians we must believe that the God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament. Scripture gives us a wholistic picture of God. We can’t pick and choose which parts we like and don’t like. Moreover, you can’t understand the New Testament without knowing the Old Testament. There are so many Old Testament references by Jesus and Paul that what they talk about won’t be comprehensible without referring back to the Old Testament. The Old Testament is a beautiful yet challenging text. There are still so many questions I still don’t have answers to. Yet, I still believe in the goodness of God. There is nothing else I can hold onto but to the hope that is given to us by God.