Skip to main content

The Oath-Bringer God of the Old Testament

I've been going through the Old Testament with my kids. We've finished Genesis and Exodus, skimmed through Leviticus, and now we're on Numbers. And let me tell you, this God of the Old Testament is no joke. At one point Rose turned to me and said, "This is not God!"

It definitely doesn't seem like he's gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. This Old Testament God strikes the Israelites with plagues for disobedience. He commands his people to stone someone for collecting wood on the Sabbath. He gives Mariam a skin disease when she undermines Moses authority. 

I've come to three conclusions.

One: My sin is much worse than I realize.

Two: I can't survive in the presence of a Holy God.

Three: I need protection from him.

The trouble comes when I think God must be like me.

For example, when the Israelites grew sick of manna, they complained to Moses (Numbers 11: 4-6 NIV). So God gives them quail and then strikes them with a plague. 

I can relate to God a bit here. I give my children good food to eat. And when they complain about it, I get really mad at them. But I don't strike them dead. 

Often, this is how we translate God: based on our own experiences. So in a case like this, God seems unnecessarily brutal. However, likening God to ourselves doesn't work. Here's why.

First, I and my children are both humans. As humans, we can live with all sorts of contradictions within us. God isn't human. God can't do that. 

Second, my children's complaints are not making it impossible for me to live with them. Unpleasant, yes. Impossible, no. Israel's sin was making it impossible for God to live with them. Not because the complaining was unpleasant,—although I suppose it was—but because God is an oath-fulfiller, an upholder of actions, the bringer about of all natural consequence. 

If a human exercises his or her power in anyway—through words, actions, or desires—God is the one who makes that power manifest itself in the world. He makes sure all our words, actions, and desires have weight in this world. We cannot be in his presence and say things like "I want candy everyday!" without those words having actual consequences.

I hate to use this analogy but bear with me for a sec. It's like God is a genie and every time someone makes a wish, God makes that wish come true. No one can say a wish around him and not have it come true. It's his nature. Okay, now forget that analogy. 

God is the enforcer, the truth-upholder, the actualization of all we as human do. If we say, "God's food is nasty. I don't want to eat manna another day! Take me back to Egypt!" He must hold us to that. He can't just let it go without someone paying the price for the rebellion or the lie. Actually, another option is for God to let that person go back to Egypt, which is basically Hell.

The only way a person can continue living with this oath-bringing God, is to always choose God's way. We can't live with God and simultaneously be living like a rebel. Likewise, Adam and Eve couldn't eat the forbidden fruit and continue living in the garden of Eden. The Israelites couldn't continue living with God and also say, "I don't want you, God. I want my Egyptian ways." 

God didn't want to abandon his people nor did he want to send them back to Egypt. So, God gave them what they asked for: a horrible plague for wanting Egypt's food more than God's food, non-entry into Canaan when they said they wanted to go back to Egypt, a plague on those who incited the people against Moses, defeat in battle for those who tried to conquer Canaan without God, and stoning of someone who worked when God said rest.

It should be very evident by now, that it was virtually impossible for the Israelites to live in the presence of an oath-bringing God. The Israelites very natures—rebels fresh from the jailhouse—made it impossible for them to want God's way.

Thus, the Israelites and, I should now say, Americans too need protection from the Oath-Bringer who must see to it that our decisions, desires, and words actualize themselves in his eternal kingdom.

God's protection for us was first priests and animal sacrifice. However, the priests and sacrifices couldn't spare the Israelites from the direct consequences of their rebellion while God himself was in their midst. So, God's ultimate protection for us was and is the person of Jesus Christ. 

The Oath-Bringer God of the Old Testament is very real and very dangerous. But we have protection to stand in his presence as rebels through Jesus' blood. Thus, let us work out our salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in us to will and to act according to his good purpose.

More on the Oath-Bringer God: (Lemmings, Cliffs, & Gravity)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Eyes Up. Head Down.

Nose to the grindstone. Eyes on the task at hand. Administer consequences. Hold. Comfort. Listen. Teach. What if I was too harsh? What if I was too lenient? What if I ruined them? What if I repeat history? Eyes up. Up ahead. See the net of God's grace All around you, inside and out. The net to catch me, The net to catch them, Made by faith  Not my efforts But what Christ has done. Back to the grind. Stay afloat. Achieve success. Schedule. Budget. Economize. Write lists. Clean. Return calls. Catch my breath with other moms  And suddenly see a difference. One mom prays over her four each night. Another is outrageously spontaneous. That one's house is disgustingly tidy. And that one has published a book. I'm quite sure I'm not enough Not nearly as glorious or good. Head down. Eyes on my own hands. What is it to me If they march to a different beat? I must follow Christ. Nose to the grindstone To God's task for me here, And praise him who doesn't repeat. Back to jug

My Mother: A Flurry of Grand Activities!

For as long as I can remember, my mother has always been making and doing stuff. I think she must have an extra set of hands hidden somewhere because I can't for the life of me think how she got so much done on top of feeding, clothing, and bathing us four kids. There's no doubt about it. The Taylor house was a flurry of grand activities. She ran church programs, taught Women of the Word Bible studies, housed foreign exchange students, shuttled us around to friends' houses and summer sports programs, held all the major celebrations at her house, allowed us to have sleepovers (which is huge in my mind), hosted kids from the African Children's Choir to stay with us, and planned themed birthday parties where she lead all the games and baked the cake herself. Even when attending meetings and bible studies her hands were busy with one project or another. In the summer, she planned clay days and art days and museum days and theme-park days. We kids had no reason whatsoever to

Wanting the Ends Without the Means

I want my children to learn to get along, But I don't want to work with them through their fights. I want them to feel and understand their emotions, But I don't want them to slam doors or cry for too long. I want them to be respectful to adults, But I don't want to be embarrassed when they're learning. I want them to choose to obey, But I don't want to come up with consequences when they don't. I want them to creatively fill their own time, But I don't want to clean up the mess when they put stickers on the walls or throw tomatoes over the neighbor's fence or cut through the upholstery with scissors. I want them to be good. But I don't want to suffer through their becoming good I want a rich and seasoned relationship with my husband, But I don't want to endure seasons of dryness or coldness or disinterestedness. I want to have friends who are different than me, But I don't want to hear their threatening opinions. I want to have mutually supp