If you’re like me, you grew up under the impression that the God of the Old Testament and Jesus of the New Testament were not very much alike. OT God was angry and steadily slinging thou shalt not’s at His ill-behaved children. Conversely, NT Jesus was much nicer, talked a lot about love and grace, and He hugged sick people.
I suppose I thought God was a little bit schizophrenic, and throughout time He was progressively less angry and became more loving. Or, maybe He was just a little bit like us and the OT was just a long season of waking up on the wrong side of the bed, and thankfully Jesus was regularly getting a good night’s sleep. Maybe He just changed? I don’t know. What do I know about God?
Trying to get your head around what God is like is hard work. It’s easy to get lost in separate versions of the same stories, all the history, lists of crazy names and locations, and everyone I know talks about Him differently. There’s just so much. It’s easy to get impressions, but hard to know the right ones from the wrong ones.
Life is messy. My life often feels broken, like I can’t win. I want to win, and maybe even try to do so, but fail. I always think about Paul saying that which he wants, he doesn’t do; and that which he hates, he does (Romans 7:15). It’s easy to assume that God is disappointed in me, too. That’s a familiar experience with people. But it can be a slippery slope to think too much about God being like us. He’s not, after all. And, if I’m not careful, I’ll start to think that God is not just disappointed with me, but that He’s angry and maybe He’s had enough and is ready to give up on me.
Praise the LORD, all you nations;
praise him, all you peoples.
For his loyal love is great toward us,
and the truth of the LORD endures forever.
Praise the Lord! ~ Psalm 117
If, in the back of my mind, God is hacked off and ready to drop the hammer, it becomes hard to trust that His love (Hebrew: hesed) is great toward me, much less loyal. Other translations will say lovingkindness, merciful kindness, and steadfast love. The next line is about the enduring faithfulness of God. There are two different words nearly all translations use here: truth and faithfulness (Hebrew: ‘emet). This isn’t a word about facts. This is a word about unwavering loyalty and reliability, being trustworthy and true.
These are encouraging thoughts (from the OT grumpy God side of my Bible, no less). They enable me to turn and praise Him because my messes don’t compare to His loyal love and enduring faithfulness.
Grace to you,