Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Finding Jesus in the Old Testament

Some think God was angry (and still is) and that the old testament stories are proof of His wrath and vengence yet to come.

The Jesus who indwells me (and you) is not mean nor vengeful. Jesus said if we have seen Him we have seen the Father. It also says Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. Jesus is the most complete and illustrative revelation of the Father. While He did get verbally angry with some very self-righteous people on occasion I don't recall Him doing any smiting, flooding or tossing lightening bolts at people.

From the September issue of The Adopted Life:

So from the very beginning, the Church has struggled with the Old Testament and sought to understand it more fully in the light of who Jesus is. Here are some basic points that we should keep in mind as we read the Bible of Israel:

1. Jesus is the Word. God the Son, in the flesh as the man Jesus Christ, is the revelation of God. Therefore, all other descriptions and revelations of God - including the Bible itself - must be interpreted in the light of what Jesus reveals about God’s nature. Jesus reveals God to be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We cannot ever allow any statement in scripture, including the Old Testament, to undermine or undo what Jesus shows us about God. If a scripture seems to tell us something that contradicts the nature of God as revealed in Jesus then we need to ask the Holy Spirit to help us see the meaning of scripture that fits with who Jesus is and who he reveals the Father to be.

2. When we look back on human history, especially as it is reflected in Israel’s experience, we realize what profound blindness has enveloped our human nature in Adam’s fall. We have believed that God is a blood-thirsty ogre demanding his pound of flesh before he will grant forgiveness. But God did not need the sacrifices.

He was accommodating our blindness because he knew that we could not imagine ourselves as loved and welcomed in his presence unless we came bearing such gifts.Even when God was welcoming sacrifice because of our hardened hearts, it was not the sacrifices that made humanity acceptable but the Son of God who made us acceptable.

3. We know that Adam’s fall plunged humanity into blindness; we also know that the Holy Spirit has been patiently educating the human race about the truth of who God is. This has been a process that has been worked out over thousands of years and finds its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus, the light of the world and the healer of our blindness.

Therefore we should not be surprised if those who lived before Jesus sometimes expressed darkened and blinded perspectives on God. Just because their words are to be found in the inspired pages of the Old Testament doesn’t mean their words represent God as accurately as Jesus does.

When the Psalmist prays that the infants of Babylon will be smashed against rocks (Psalm 137:9), we know that the Holy Spirit did not dictate those words to the Psalmist. Those words are found in the inspired scripture, but the Holy Spirit did not whisper in the Psalmist’s ear “and now I want you to wish for the murder of babies.” How do we know the Holy Spirit did not dictate those words? Because we know Jesus, and that is not who Jesus reveals God to be!

In Psalm 137, as in some other places in the Old Testament, we are seeing the blindness and fallenness of humanity. These words are inspired in the sense that the Holy Spirit has preserved them as a faithful record of Israel’s pain and of her blind and fallen response to that pain.

Based on all of this, we have to conclude that every verse of the Old Testament must be filtered through the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. We have to look at each passage and ask ourselves “Do these words express the fallen human perspective on God’s nature, or do they foreshadow and express the truth that would be later revealed in Jesus?” What does the process of answering this question look like? ~ Jonathan Stepp

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