A lot of people I’ve talked to over the years have said “I don’t like God in the Old Testament. He’s so full of anger and wrath. I like Him better in the New Testament: after Jesus came, He seemed to calm down a bit.” While this may not be each conversation verbatim, it all amounts to the same thing: we sure don’t understand God. At times, we read a page or verse or chapter that span days, weeks, or months of rebellion, and say “God sure was impatient, wasn’t He?” while we often get upset when someone cuts in front of us in line at the grocery store, we curse someone out on the road, or we get impatient with our own life situations. Yet if I look at those verses, chapters and pages, I see just how patient God is! His people promise to be faithful and follow, but it doesn’t take long for them to chase after false gods or violate His covenant, or complain. I see God begging His people, time and again, through the prophets to turn His wrath from them by returning, and giving them chance after chance. And it all builds to the cross, where God’s wrath wasn’t calmed, but put on hold. I look to revelation, when God judges the world, and the world still does not turn back to Him. God is the epitome of patience.
No, what happens when we judge God the way we do (the arrogance, am I right?), is that we take our finite place in the History of the cosmos, consider our society, culture and circumstances, and place ourselves upon the throne…just like we did when we disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, just like Israel did over and over (and over and over), just like the early church did in the New Testament (hence all the books being written to correct bad behaviors and self-centered habits of worship). We don’t understand God at all, and the closest we can come is by reading and obeying His word, by modeling ourselves after Jesus, and by hearing and following the commands in the Bible. We won’t understand it all this side of heaven, but there is freedom in submission, and our love for Him is proved by our obedience. We may not understand God, but He has told us, over and again, what He desires; we just have to choose to listen and obey.
1 Corinthians 10:1-22
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?