God Against God


02, September, 2020Posted by :Zach Ellsworth

There are few things I enjoy more than a good plot twist. To “see” the story developing, sure that the action is heading in a certain direction, only to be jarred from the course I’ve been imagining and placed instead on the true course is the work of a brilliant storyteller. J.K Rowling did this with Harry Potter. Andrew Peterson did this with The Wingfeather Saga. Plot twists are a rare case where people like to be fooled!

Being fooled adds to the entertainment value of a good story. In a sense, you get to enjoy the story twice! You enjoy it the first time, as it builds to its “inevitable” conclusion. Then, when the twist comes, you get to revisit and reimagine the entire story—enjoying it for a second time in a new light.

When it comes to reading the Bible, there’s a wrong understanding that many good, God-fearing Christians carry with them. And it completely changes how we experience “the Story of Everything”. Like a plot twist sheds light on a story, we need light to be shed on the nature of God.

God is not characterized by wrath and judgment in the Old Testament and love and mercy in the New Testament. God is not a bloodthirsty deity seeking vengeance who then pivots into our Heavenly Father at the coming of Christ.

In fact, the most quoted verse within the Bible (that is, the most cited verse within the pages of Scripture itself) is Exodus 34:6, which reads:

The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “the LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

When God speaks of himself, this is what he says. His defining attributes, in both the Old and New Testaments, are mercy, grace, and loyal, unfailing love. We have rightly come to expect this of Jesus in the New Testament, but we easily miss it in the setting of the Old Testament.

One practical aspect of this realization is that the Old Testament opens up to us in ways it may have previously seemed closed off. We don’t have to be afraid—or even embarrassed—of the God we find there! It is the same God, merciful and gracious, slow to anger and steadfast in his love. While we may still scratch our heads and wonder at the works of God, there must be no doubt as to what is motivating God. God has been, is, and will always be driven—not by anger and wrath—but by his compassion and love.

God is not against God. He is not fighting himself, changing course as he works towards a solution that had previously escaped him. God has always been in the business of mercy and grace. Yes, he becomes angry, and yes, he acts in wrath and vengeance and judgment, but only ever in service to his love. God’s desire is for Creation to be restored.

Which makes the climax of the Bible all the more spectacular. It is not that God has been angry and judgmental and has finally come up with a solution for the cosmos. All along, the Bible has been laying out God’s work for blessing the whole world. The Bible does contain the greatest plot twist of all time. But it’s not that God, once angry and vengeful, has become compassionate.

God became man and suffered death at the hands of men in order to save mankind.

God became man and suffered death at the hands of men in order to save mankind.

This is an utterly radical claim if we are able to shed ourselves of our familiarity with it. And it is the story that God—in his love AND mercy AND wrath AND justice—has been working toward since before time began.

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