Thai Seventh-day Adventist Church of Sourthern California
14. AFRAID OF THE OLD TESTAMENT GOD
“WHO’S AFRAID OF THE OLD TESTAMENT GOD?”
GODTALK #14, 7/21/16
A. Welcome back to GODTALK! I’m _________________, and we are doing a series of quick 10-minute talks, talking about God, on some of the hardest questions about God!
B. One of the hardest questions I have personally struggled with is, what to do with this so-called Old Testament God? This God who used thunder, smoke, and lightning on top of Mt. Sinai when He was giving the Ten Commandments. The people were so scared they ran away from God! They said to Moses, “Let God talk to you, and you talk to us—but don’t let God talk to us directly any more, or we will die!” How do you fit that in with the Jesus of the New Testament, the baby in the manger, the Jesus hanging on the Cross-, dying for us?
C. How are we supposed to understand these stories?
· UZZAH reaches up and touches the Ark to keep it from falling over—and he is struck dead.
· KORAH DATHAN AND ABIRAM—they criticize the “church leadership”, and the ground opens up and swallows and buries them alive—but not just them—their wives and their children, 200 altogether? What did they do?
· AMALEKITES—God tells them to destroy the Amalekites—the men, the women, the children, the animals, burn everything down to the ground—don’t leave anything alive. Why—what did they all do?
· LOT’S WIFE—God says, “Don’t look back at Sodom and Gomorrah”, she looks back—instantly she’s a pillar of salt.
· What about the FLOOD? Why can’t God just put to sleep the bad people? Why everybody, every animal, the whole world?
D. And read some of the OT PROPHETS—yes, there are fantastic passages about God and love and grace and mercy. But there are also passages where God sounds pretty mad, and He talks about the terrible things He’s going to do to these people because they keep leaving Him, cheating on Him, hurting poor people—going to roll them off cliffs, burn them in melted silver. Is that who God really is?
E. And it’s not just in the OLD TESTAMENT! ACTS 5--Two people sell their land, promise to bring in all the money, then they decide to keep back some of it. They get to church and give their money. “Is this all of it?” “YES”—boom, they’re dead. REVELATION 14—3rd angel’s message—people who get the Mark of the Beast are going to burn, and the smoke of their torment is going to go up day and night forever and ever!
F. But then the Bible says—God is a God of love. When Jesus was born, the angels said, “Be not afraid.” 1 John 4:18 says, “Perfect love casts out fear.” So which is the true picture of God?
G. And people like us, who do these Godtalks and think that God is only good, all the time—they accuse us of only keeping the texts we like, and leaving out the texts that don’t fit our nice picture of God. They don’t think it’s fair. So what should we do? The Bible says, “All Scripture is inspired.”
I. JESUS IS ALWAYS THE LAST WORD
A. We believe the whole Bible is inspired. But we also believe that, if we are struggling with what “appears” to be two, conflicting pictures of God, the Last Word is always Jesus. He is God Himself.
John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God, except the One who has been at the Father’s side.” The prophets were down here, getting their picture of God through the Holy Spirit, through dreams, visions, whispers of God during the night. Jesus is God Himself, clear, pure, straight from heaven.
· “I am the Way, the Truth, the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
· “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father.” And the clearest verse—
· HEBREWS 1—“In the olden days, God spoke through the prophets. But in these last days, He has spoken through His Son, the radiance of His glory, and the EXACT representation of His Being.”
· If Jesus is the exact representation of God, then the prophets must not have been quite exact. Fantastic. Inspired. Truthful. But not exact. Not the fullest picture of God.
· “In Jesus was the fullness of God.” (Col. 1:15ff)
II. GOD IS ALWAYS LOVE
A. Whatever else we say about God, God is love. That is one anchor-point we have to put down, and we’ll die for that. Every other hard story has to somehow fit in with that. I am not giving that up. And it says,
· HEBREWS 13:8 “He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
· MALACHI 3:6 “I CHANGE NOT.”
· 1 CORINTHIANS 13:13 “The greatest of these is love.” That’s the default.
III. GOD SPEAKS TO PEOPLE AT THE LEVEL WHERE THEY’RE AT
A. A psychologist named KOHLBERG watched his children growing up, and saw that they went through different stages growing up, and sought to understand why they did what they did. The first stage - Punishment. If you do that, I’ll have to spank you. 2nd stage - Reward, If you mow the yard, I’ll buy you ice cream. Levels 5 and 6, you begin to do things, because you believe in it yourself. You’re not doing it for other people, for your parents or your boss or teacher or to keep from going to jail. And here’s the BIG IDEA—God speaks to people at whatever level they’re at. If they’re at LEVEL 1, He bends down and speaks to them eye-to-eye, at their level. If punishment is all they understand, He uses thunder and lightning. They’ve been slaves for 400 years, not going to understand Level 6. He takes people where they are, and then brings them to the higher levels.
B. Then He finally sends Jesus, and we get to see Level 7, Love God with all your heart, Love your neighbor and Love your enemies. So when you read the hard stories, you have to write in the margin—God is having to deal with a messy world, and with tears streaming down His Face, He has to do some hard things. But they are EMERGENCY MEASURES. They are not who He really is. Just like we, as parents have to talk pretty strong to our little kids—If you go into the street—we will have to hurt you. But we don’t want that to be the Last Word. Now we say—Drive safe.
So we believe—that we can believe in the whole Bible—and still say—God is good—all the time. All the time—God is good. God is only love. This is GODTALK—come back next time!
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