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The God of the Old Testament

Query for the Month

of

December 2017

Next up-date: January 1st 2018 (God willing).

Previous "Queries" are available. Click here to access.

 

This article is available as a PDF file here.    Or as a WORD doc.

Some perpetual questions ....

Is there really an immortal soul?

Do you know the difference between the "love" that is of Christianity
and the "love" that is of the world?
Click here to find out!
 

Click on the link for a good book on the character of our God which you can download and share amongst your friends.   It's called "Light through Darkness" and is one of the best books on this subject that I have ever read! 

In the meantime, try this site.   

 

Here's another great site on the character of God written in a way that's very easy to understand.

In this reply the old-fashioned words of the KJV have been modernised, and in some instances, the man-made punctuation has been altered for greater understanding.  Some of the comments are adapted from books in my library.  No recognition is given because they are not intended as authorities, but are used because they express my understanding clearly.  All the ideas expressed in this article, right or wrong, are my own.   


Query:

I read recently that someone described the God of the Old Testament as a hard, unforgiving deity; one who punishes at the slightest provocation (and that often with death by stoning; i.e. gluttony, Deuteronomy 21:18-21), and who judges His enemies severely.  And others have said even harder words against Him.  But the next verses in the law show that they could hang a criminal, so stoning was a deliberate choice!  Deuteronomy 21:22-23.

 How do I reply to that accusation?

Response:

I can’t answer that for myself as I don’t know God personally, for He is described in the Bible as “invisible” Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 1:17; and “unsearchable” in Psalm 145:3.  Yet Moses is said to have been “seeing Him who is invisible” which means, continually, not occasionally. Hebrews 11:27.

How did he do that?

All we can do is search the words of the Bible itself for the answer.

Let me first respond with the words of Someone who does know God firsthand and who has told us about Him in a parable.  Someone who was being led by the Holy Spirit, and was listening to His every word.  He told us, “I can of My own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and My judgment is just; because I seek not My own will, but the will of the Father which has sent Me [and what I do is what the Father would do]”.  John 5:30. 

    Luke 15:

11 And He said, A certain man had two sons:

12 And the younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the portion of goods that fall to me [when you die]”.  And he divided to them his living.

13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.

14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave to him [and he wouldn’t steal from his employer or the pigs].

17 And when he came to himself, he said, “How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before you, 19 and am no more worthy to be called your son: make me as one of your hired servants”.

20 And he arose, and came to his father. 

But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

21 And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight, and am no more worthy to be called your son”. 22 But the father said to his servants, “Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 23 and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: 24 for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found”. 

And they began to be merry. 

Let’s reread that story with a critical [spiritual] eye. 

Who is the man, the father? 

He obviously represents our heavenly Father, the God of the Bible. 

Who are the two sons?

The younger could be all of mankind and the older represent the people of the universe, or, we could say that the younger is Lucifer and the older is the Son of God.

We could even apply it to the new branch of the church which was forming in Christ’s time, that is, the Christians, with the old branch being the Jews.  How about the youngest representing the Christians and the older the great bulk of humanity who have stayed put and never openly rebelled against God, mainly because THEY ARE INDIFFERENT to Him?  Using men’s methods we have multiple choices.  So let’s read on while the Spirit unpacks it for us.

What did the Father do when the young son asked for control of his life and substance?  He divided His “living”, all that He had in the universe, and gave one portion to His selfish son who could not wait for Him to die (or abdicate, for God cannot die), and the other He gave to His obedient Son to manage. 

In the same manner He repeated this action when Adam sinned and wanted his own way, for He doesn’t change.  (Malachi 3:6.)

Then the son left home after many verbal attempts to dissuade him.  He was not pushed out! (Jude 1:6 and Revelation 12:4 and 9.)

He then wasted the inheritance until a great hunger arose in him and he realised how stupid he had been!  I don’t think that Satan (as Lucifer had become), will ever see himself as stupid, at least not until it is too late, like Esau!  (Hebrews 12:16-17.)  But others of mankind certainly have and are looking forward to returning “home” to “Paradise” the land of plenty.  (Hebrews 11:14-16.)  That “change of mind or heart” is necessary before the return can begin.  (Matthew 9:16-17; 2 Corinthians 5:17.)

So, in the story the Father does not change, but the son does, “when he came to himself”.  He first has a change of heart and then calls himself “a sinner”. 

So he makes up a confession to say to his father on his return and sets off on the homecoming journey.

But, and here we get the real view of the God of the Old Testament, the Father has been keeping a watch out every day for He never knew when, or even, if, this would happen.  But He recognised His son “when he was yet a great way off” and ran out to meet him!  He is described as having “compassion”, a word that is more than our usual description of love.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compassion   [The red emphasis has been added.]

Compassion motivates people to go out of their way to help the physical, spiritual, or emotional hurts and pains of another.  Compassion is often regarded as having sensitivity, an emotional aspect to suffering, though when based on cerebral [mental] notions such as fairness, justice, and interdependence, it may be considered rational in nature and its application understood as an activity based on sound judgment. 

There is also an aspect of compassion which regards a quantitative [measurable] dimension, such that individual's compassion is often given a property of “depth”, “vigour”, or “passion“.  The etymology [background] of “compassion” is Latin, meaning “co-suffering.”  Compassion involves “feeling for another” and is a precursor [forerunner] to empathy, the “feeling as another” capacity for better person-centered acts of active compassion, in common parlance active compassion is the desire to alleviate another's suffering.[1]. . . Ranked a great virtue in numerous philosophies, compassion is considered in almost all the major religious traditions as among the greatest of virtues . . . Expression of compassion is prone to be hierarchical, paternalistic and controlling in responses. [citation needed] In ethical terms, the expressions down the ages of the so-called Golden Rule often embodies by implication the principle of compassion: Do to others what you would have them do to you.[4][original research?]

Would you like to be stoned for a breach of the law?

 

Definition of compassionate

1.       1 :  having or showing compassion sympathetic a compassionate friend a compassionate smile

2.       2 :  granted because of unusual distressing circumstances affecting an individual —used of some military privileges (such as leave) The soldier was granted compassionate leave following the death of his father.

Synonyms

beneficent, benevolent, benignant, humane, good-hearted, kind, kindhearted, kindly, softhearted, sympathetic, tender, tenderhearted, warmhearted [all of which describe the character of Jesus Christ.]

Antonyms

atrocious, barbaric, barbarous, bestial, brutal, brute, brutish, callous, cold-blooded, cruel, fiendish, hard-hearted, heartless, inhuman, inhumane, insensate, sadistic, savage, truculent, uncompassionate, unfeeling, unkind, unkindly, unsympathetic, vicious, wanton  [all of which have been applied to the God of the Old Testament.]

Related Words [to compassionate]

attentive, considerate, solicitous, thoughtful; affable, amicable, benign, companionable, comradely, cordial, friendly, genial, gentle, good, good-natured, good-tempered, gracious, mild, neighborly, nice, pleasant, sweet, warm; clement, forbearing, forgiving, lenient, merciful, soft; patient, pitying, tolerant, understanding; altruistic, brotherly, charitable, freehanded, generous, greathearted, humanitarian, liberal, magnanimous, munificent, noble, openhearted, philanthropic (also philanthropical), selfless, unselfish, unsparing; anticruelty, cruelty-free

Examples of compassionate in a Sentence

1.       a gentle soul who could compassionate even the most reprobate of scoundrels and villains

Back to the parable:

When the son gave his rehearsed speech, what did the Father say?  “Forget all that, let’s get you dressed as My son, and have a party!  I forgive (and forget) all that you have done”.  (Psalm 103:11-14.)

It seems that Moses had the same understanding of God for he wrote the following words, the first, as a part of the Ten Commandments given by God, and the second, a description of an experience he had had with his Saviour.

    Exodus 20:

3 You shall have no other gods before Me. 

4 You shall not make to you any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5 you shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God [wanting you to Myself for I alone can save], visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me [I am slow to allow bad actions to have their outcome]; 6 and showing mercy to thousands of them that love Me, and keep My commandments [but having a quick reaction to those who accept help] . . .

    Exodus 34:

4 And he hewed two tables of stone like to the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up to mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone [to replace those he had destroyed].

5 And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name [character] of the LORD.

6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, “The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, 7 keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin [before it is confessed], and [yet] that will by no means clear the guilty [if they hang on to, and continue it]; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, to the third and to the fourth generation”.

8 And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped. 9 And he said, “If now I have found grace in your sight, O LORD, let my LORD, I pray you, go among [come with] us; for it [Israel] is a stiffnecked [proud and independent] people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for Your inheritance”. 

Now where did Jesus get the knowledge which is expressed in this parable?  Not from His own memory, for while on earth He was dependent on the Spirit for guidance and knowledge as all Christians are, so He must have seen that picture in the words of the only Bible He had, the Old Testament.

But that is not the image we normally get from a surface reading of that portion of the Scriptures!  Therefore, unless we too, allow the Spirit who knows God well to show us we will never find it either.  (1 Corinthians 2:11.)

Why are those actions which depict Him as hard-hearted and vengeful etc., written in the Old Testament section anyway?  Why is the chosen method of execution so often by stoning and not by hanging or a sword thrust?

We need to remember always that the Bible is a co-operative series of books, written by men over a long period of time.  It contains historical items chosen by God, and stories chosen by God and men, giving the facts, without emotion.  When the men had a wrong understanding of the events, unless He was going to contradict them in front of their readers (or listeners, because the original words were spoken, 2 Peter 1:21) God was in a quandary. The only good way was to explain the truth in another place or through another writer if He could, or, better still, if He was asked directly, to explain it as the original was read. (For that is the way the Spirit uses, if there had of been a better one then He would have used that.)

Stoning meant that the accuser(s) had to be prepared to kill their victims, for the accusers were required to throw the first stones!  (John 8:7.)  Then it was mandatory for all the witnesses to join in, and even the spectators, so that the death was at the hands of a large number of people and not just a solitary executioner.  (Acts 7:56-60.)

Why?

After Adam’s choice to sin the nature of natural man became vindictive and evil and stupid (Genesis 6:6), and yet God hoped that common sense would prevail and that some of the people would appeal to Him for a different solution.  (See 1 Samuel 14:26-46 noting particularly verse 45.)  Are we to give blind obedience to any law or authority, or are we to reason with them?

But so often the bloodthirsty among them wanted a death penalty. (Maybe we should be more careful when we accuse someone of a sin for we are actually proclaiming that we want them dead?)

So why have a death penalty at all? (They did not have jails.)  Because it was a picture and totally the opposite of what God really wants and yet it’s what He gets in the end.   

For it is written:

“Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law [or, transgression of the law is sin]”.  1 John 3:4 and  “For the wages [result] of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life [through a new birth] through Jesus Christ our LORD”.  Romans 6:23.  Such a one was already “dead” in “trespasses and sins”, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, has He quickened [made alive] together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses . . .” Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13.

If God forgives freely why have a death penalty? 

          Because men used one for other reasons.

    Psalm 59:

1To the chief Musician, Altaschith, Michtam of David; when Saul sent, and they watched the house to kill him. 

“Deliver me from my enemies, O my God: defend me from them that rise up against me. 2 Deliver me from the workers of iniquity, and save me from bloody [thirsty] men. 3 For, lo, they lie in wait for my soul: the mighty are gathered against me; not for my transgression, nor for my sin, O LORD. 4 They run and prepare themselves without [i.e. despite] my fault: awake to help me, and behold.

5 “You therefore, O LORD God of hosts, the God of Israel, awake to visit all the heathen: be not merciful to any wicked transgressors.  Selah”. 

 [“selah” means stop and think prayerfully on what you have just read!] 

David also prayed,        “Grant not, O LORD, the desires of the wicked: further not his wicked device; lest they exalt themselves, Selah”, Psalm 140:8, but that is exactly what God has to do if He cannot use force against them!  In His demonstration all must eventually show their true colours, for He does not favour one side against another as David says in another place: 

    Psalm 37:

3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shall you dwell in the land, and verily you shall be fed. 4 Delight yourself also in the LORD; and He shall give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass. 6 And He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your judgment as the noonday. 

As an extra, I believe that the LORD God of Genesis 2 and onwards, was actually the Son of God, for it is written of Him that He was the one who spoke the words of the creating.

    Ephesians 3:

9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world has been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: 10 to the intent that now to the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our LORD . . .

[“Let all the earth fear [respect] the LORD:

let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.

For He spoke, and it was done;

He commanded, and it stood fast”.  Psalm 33:8-9.

    Colossians 1:

12 Giving thanks to the Father, which has made us meet [fit] to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated [transported] us into the kingdom of His dear Son: 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

15 Who is the image [the likeness] of the invisible God, the firstborn [foremost] of every creature: 16 for by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him:

17 and He is before [above] all things, and by Him all things consist [continue]. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning [beginner], the firstborn [foremost] from the dead [not in numbers, for there were others before Him]; that in all things He might have the pre-eminence. 

We have just read that the Son of God is the visible God of the Old Testament in verse 15!  He therefore cannot have done those evil things that many (even some of the prophets) claim that the God of the Old Testament did.  But the god men call “Baal” does them, and persuades men and women to do them.  And because humans have always, and still do, read the Bible without asking to be told what it means by the Spirit, and because they are so sure are they that they have the right understanding of the meaning of the words used.

He shares the same names and titles as the Father.

    Isaiah 9:

6 For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. 

    Isaiah 63:

8 For He said, “Surely they are My people, children that will not lie”:

so He was their Saviour. 9 In all their affliction He was afflicted [He felt what they felt], and [He as] the Angel of His [the Father’s] presence saved them: in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bare them, and carried them all the days of old [as the God of the Old Testament].

10 But they rebelled, and vexed His holy Spirit [Psalm 78:40; Ephesians 4:30]: therefore He was turned to be their enemy [could no longer protect them], and He [apparently] fought against them.

11 Then He remembered the days of old, Moses and his people [who so often spoke], saying, “Where is He that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of His flock?  Where is He that put His holy Spirit within him? 12 That led them by the right hand of Moses with His glorious arm, dividing the water before them, to make Himself an everlasting name?

13 That led them through the deep, as a horse in the wilderness, that they should not stumble? [Because, often unwittingly, they were following the gods of force, Baal and Baalim, by their belief that God destroys in some way and they had lost sight of Him.  Judges 2:11-16 and notice verses 17-19.]

14 “As a beast goes down into the valley [of death,  Ecclesiastes 3:19], the Spirit of the LORD caused him [Moses] to rest [die, Deuteronomy 34:5-6]:

so did You [personally] lead Your people, to make Yourself a glorious name [to reveal the Father’s character.  Moses had told them,  Deuteronomy 18:15;  Acts 3:22-23;  7:37 etc.]

15 “Look down from heaven, and behold from the habitation of Your holiness and of Your glory: where is Your zeal and Your strength, the sounding of Your bowels [the exercising of Your emotions] and of Your mercies toward me?  Are they restrained?

16 “Doubtless You are our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel [Jacob] acknowledge us not [but we are their descendants]: You, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer; Your name is from everlasting”. 

So as we read of those actions in the Old Testament we need to apply the character of His Son to them and ask for the true understanding of what happened.  Baal worship involves thinking of God as our natural nature indicates!

However, if we read on in the parable, and we should, for we are to live by every word from God, we get a surprise!  The elder son is not happy!  In fact, he complains to his father and hates his brother.

       Luke 15: [Jesus continued]

25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, “Your brother is come; and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound”.

28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated [begged] him. 29 And he answering said to his father, “Lo, these many years do I serve you, neither transgressed I at any time your commandment: and yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: 30 but as soon as this your son was come [he’s not my brother], which has devoured your living with harlots, you have killed for him the fatted calf”.

31 And he said to him, “Son, you are ever with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was meet [fit] that we should make merry, and be glad: for this your brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found”. 

Jesus stopped at that point and did not complete the story.  Why?  So that we should ask the question.  What question?

Who does this elder brother symbolize?

It can’t be Satan because he is represented by the younger brother. 

It can’t be Christ for He is not like that and He is standing in for the Father. 

It can’t be the angels who remained loyal in heaven for they have God-like feelings and will welcome the Christians into their home.

So who could it be?  It could be the Jews, and it is a fact that they did hate the Christians and persecuted them unmercifully.  (Acts 7:59; 26:11.)  And they are likely to claim that they have obeyed their Father’s commandments and deserve their reward.  No filial (family) love there – just legal obedience!

But haven’t we been told that this parable is a picture of the redeemed coming home?  Consider verses 1-10 in Luke 15.

So maybe we have two ways of reading the ending?

One which covers the unrepentant and those who work for salvation,

AND

one which is the opposite of the attitude of the people of the universe. 

One which we can understand for ourselves,

OR

one which the Spirit will use to show us a deeper understanding of how God sometimes works through a negative statement which should make us query it.

The reaction of the elder brother is what natural humanity would do, but would God, or His people??  We have to dig for the truth, not just find it lying on the surface. (Matthew 13:34.)

This latter way of revelation will make known to us that the “one God” whom no man has ever seen of the Old Testament Israelites, was actually the Son of God, for it is written of the Father, “No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared [revealed] Him”.  John 1:18.   

With Christ as the Father, and the angels representing the elder brother, if we listen to the Spirit we can reread the ending with a positive (not negative) understanding in the same way we can read all the horror stories of the God of the Old Testament. 

 

Here are a couple: you can search out others, and ASK.

                        1 Chronicles 10:8-14 contrasted with 1 Samuel 31:14-15.

Jesus Himself told us in a parable that God destroyed Jerusalem: Matthew  22:1-14 (note verse 7), but who actually did it?  The Roman armies in 70AD

Conclusion:

The God of the Old Testament is not as first impressions appear to show Him, but is truly a Person whom we can call, “Father” without disrespect as Paul wrote, for both of the Father and the Son are “Father” to us, and neither of Them “punish, hurt, or destroy any one at any time for any reason”.

    Romans 8:

13 For if you live after the [ways of the] flesh, you shall [spiritually] die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify [put aside] the deeds of the body, you shall live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

15 For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, “Abba, Father”.

16 The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.

 18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 

 

 

 Who wants to add (or subtract!) from these thoughts? I won't argue as I have stated, but I will publish your Scriptures so that we may review all the words of God on the subject.

 

Next query. To be discussed from 1st January, 2018.

 There is no doubt that the dinosaurs lived, but where did they come from and why did they die out?

 

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