Lately I have been wrestling with the Old Testament and in some ways wrestling with God, as the early Hebrews described Him. I read Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy and often come away from my readings thinking this God is a God of contradictions, shifting moods, changing attitudes, and apparent paradoxes. An all-loving God decides to harden the heart of Pharaoh, decides to send plagues upon the people of Egypt, and lastly kill all their first born children as punishment for Pharaoh’s enslavement of the Hebrews. Makes me wonder just how all of Egypt suffered because of a few who oppressed the Hebrews and how in God’s judgment, even the children of Egypt who had no stake in the situation, were killed for the sins of their ruler.
I also fail to understand how an all-loving and most merciful God, who is also all-knowing of the hearts of men and women, would impose the Mosaic Law knowing full well humanity’s inability to live up to these laws and restrictions. Then this same God would punish most severely those who could not live up to the ideals God wishes to see in those entrusted with His Tabernacle and the Holy of Holies. I understand the need for His chosen to be sanctified and holy and pure… but I don’t see the love behind the Law. I do not see the mercy in it either.
The language often used to describe God is also contradictory. He is a loving God, but also a jealous and angry God prone to wrath. He is a merciful God, yet He will impose the death penalty upon those who cannot follow particular restrictions within the Mosaic Law.
I see a God of contrasts and ebbs and flows and rising and falling tides– a turbulent God. He wants things a certain way and in a certain order but when His Creations fail to meet His desires and plan, He reacts with vengeance and anger. Yet He knows our hearts and our actions and knows what is coming before even we do? Yet why should He be angry or even surprised at our actions? I fail to understand.
Clarity however, comes in the New Testament, where Jesus makes obsolete the old Mosaic Laws. He pays the sacrifices God would expect of us for our sins and inabilities to live up to the Law. Jesus establishes a new relationship between us and God as he becomes our advocate and mediator. Jesus as healer and teacher becomes our personal connection to everything God could have been, should have been, and now is through Jesus. Jesus becomes the Hand of God. Jesus becomes the instrument of God’s plan.
The Old Testament then would seem to serve as a reminder of what was and an illustration of what Jesus is looking to change and fulfill and move humanity forward from. We no longer hold ourselves to the ways of the twelve tribes of Israel. We have been ultimately liberated from bondage, from oppressive Law, and from the guilt of sin. We have a path to righteousness made possible by Jesus’ sacrifice and by his willingness to forgive us when we come forward and receive him. By sending Jesus into our lives, I believe God has renewed something that had been broken or corrupted from the past– perhaps since the Fall of Man, as illustrated in the story of Adam and Eve and the taking of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.