Mar 20 2022 - Reconciling the God of the Old Testament with Jesus
20th March 2022
Joel 2: Blow a trumpet in Zion,
And sound an alarm on My holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
For the day of the Lord is coming;
Indeed, it is near,
2 A day of darkness and gloom,
A day of clouds and thick darkness.
As dawn is spread over the mountains,
So there is a great and mighty people;
There has never been anything like it,
Nor will there be again after it
To the years of many generations.
3 A fire consumes before them,
And behind them a flame devours.
The land is like the Garden of Eden before them,
But a desolate wilderness behind them,
And nothing at all escapes them.
4 Their appearance is like the appearance of horses;
And like war horses, so they run.
5 [a]With a noise as of chariots
They leap about on the tops of the mountains,
Like the [b]crackling of a flame of fire consuming the stubble,
Like a mighty people drawn up for battle.
6 Before them the people are in anguish;
All faces [c]turn pale.
7 They run like warriors,
They climb the wall like soldiers;
And each of them marches [d]in line,
Nor do they lose their way.
8 They do not crowd each other,
Every warrior of them marches in his path;
When they [e]burst through the [f]defenses,
They do not break ranks.
9 They storm the city,
They run on the wall;
They climb into the houses,
They enter through the windows like a thief.
10 Before them the earth quakes,
The heavens tremble,
The sun and the moon become dark,
And the stars lose their brightness.
11 The Lord utters His voice before His army;
His camp is indeed very great,
For mighty is one who carries out His word.
The day of the Lord is indeed great and very awesome,
And who can endure it?
This is a passionate section – and I had Joan read it, because she is better at it than I am!
Joel 2:1 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm signal on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land shake with fear, for the day of the LORD is about to come. Indeed, it is near! 2 It will be a day of dreadful darkness, a day of foreboding storm clouds, like blackness spread over the mountains. It is a huge and powerful army– there has never been anything like it ever before, and there will not be anything like it for many generations to come!
A few weeks ago, we talked about the Day of the Lord and His judgment. Joel is writing about this army of locusts coming and destroying everything in their wake
Joel 2: 10 The earth quakes before them; the sky reverberates. The sun and the moon grow dark; the stars refuse to shine.
This is language of apocalyptic judgment – you get the same language in Revelation – Daniel – like the end of the world judgment coming upon Israel. In verse 11, there is a turning point. Up until now, all it has been about is the locusts coming in and there is this picture of a devastating locust plague.
11 The voice of the LORD thunders as He leads His army. Indeed, His warriors are innumerable; Surely His command is carried out! Yes, the day of the LORD is awesome and very terrifying– who can survive it?
All of a sudden, Joel makes clear that this is God and His work – He is leading the whole thing – He is bringing the judgment upon the people of Israel.
That can be a very difficult thing to hear for some – especially in our time, people struggle with this view of God – moving locusts through this nation. One thing it leads us to – Is God doing this today? When conflicts erupt like they do, is God somehow involved? That is a question that can come to people’s minds. Judgment – and our view of God
Three things to understand about Judgment – We cannot read the Bible without concluding that God judges people, nations, and the world.
We cannot escape that. That is why it is difficult for many.
Second – in the Old Testament and in the Book of Revelation – this judgment causes tremendous suffering and death and is often extremely violent. That is how it reads.
Third, there seems to be a contradiction between the God we see in Jesus and the Old Testament portrait of a violent judging God. These three things have caused many to have a crisis of faith.
How could God be like that?
This is really prevalent amongst young people - but it is also becoming prevalent among those not as young. It is a reality we need to understand – if we want to be ministering to our world, this is one of the most significant issues on many people’s minds.
Just a big of a concern is the people who go to the church – they struggle with them! But this is an issue – we cannot just brush it to the side.
The question goes like this – if God is love, why does he allow so much suffering in the world? Why doesn’t he stop Russia from killing innocent women and children (and men can be innocent too)! -Why didn’t he stop the Holocaust or people shooting up schools.
Cindy is good at responding to this – “All those things bother me too, about God.”
There is an answer that can be found, and it can only be found in Jesus.
There will never be a human answer we can give to people that will satisfy the concern that these things bring up.
First, don’t try to give a simple answer. You can’t just pick a verse and say it solves the issue.
When Jesus was addressed with these issues (what about that tower falling on those people – they deserved it, right?) – Huh? You don’t know what you are talking about, and then He pointed to them.
Judgment is in the realm of God. That is why the Bible tells us, do not judge. Why does it say that? It is God’s realm.
We might say – I don’t know the answer to that, but we need to trust in the goodness of God – and that is true – but the problem with that? That is the person’s problem. They think, how can I trust the goodness of God if this type of stuff happens.
I think a big part of the problem is the way people understand and have been taught the Bible. I think that is enormous. Here is what we need to learn – for ourselves and to be able to teach it this way.
We need to learn to read and understand the Bible in the way that the Bible wants to be read and understood.
See, what we want, and I was taught this -and I learned it and taught it – that the Bible is this book that gives all the correct answers to all the issues of humankind -and all you had to do was find the right verse, and problem solved. It is almost like we see the Bible as Google – what about violence in the Bible? And the Bible gives an answer to that.
Last year I did a Zoom discussion about violence in the Bible – and it was fun – lively debate. But I had an armful’s width of books on my bookshelf addressing the Bible.
Dan Hawk – The Violence of the Biblical God
“While I have gained valuable insights from recent studies on the topic of divine violence, I remain generally dissatisfied – the reason, I have come to the conclusion that the Bible does not offer any clear-cut definitive template on the question of divine violence and how it should inform Christian faith and practice.”
That’s why I think he is getting closest! Because he doesn’t think there is an answer. Then he says this:
“I want to suggest instead that it may be more important to think Biblically than to seek Biblical answers – to learn how to think the way the Bible thinks.”
The question we have to ask – what is the Bible – and I kind of ripped off and expanded from the Bible Project guys, just to give credit where credit is due – but I like mine better than theirs, just to let you know!
The Bible is an ancient book written over thousands of years by many Holy Spirit inspired authors, using many forms of literature of language, and it tells the story of God in the world and His relationship with His people and it all points to Jesus.
That is very different from an answer book or a book on how to live your best life now.
I saw something new this week – the Old Testament – first half – is the story of God in ancient times. Then we go into explanations and living out all of that and how it was lived out by the people.
The New Testament – the first half – the gospels and the book of Acts – the story of Jesus. And the second half – how it is to be lived out.
This is so important – because so many of people’s questions come up with the wrong understanding of what God is doing in His word.
We learn theology from the Bible – but it is not a theology book. It is the story of God and His love for people.
We make up all these categories, and then get mixed up thinking that is what the Bible is.
For those who are struggling – and have serious questions about faith and God – there are two ways. It is okay to have questions about Bible and the God
I’ve been talking about songs of Lament – that is exactly what they are – questioning God – How could you do this? How could He say this?
First there is the bad way – found in Genesis 3 – the snake comes to Eve and brings up the question – has God said you shall not eat from any tree of the garden –
Oh, we can eat of any except the one in the middle – or we will die.
You shall surely not die – He knows that when you eat of it you will be like Him. He does not have your best in mind.
That is the number one tool of the serpent – to make us believe that God does not love us. We don’t want our questioning to lead that way.
Here is the flip side- the good way to ask questions – and it comes up in a humorous way in the beginning of the New Testament – that is Jesus in Matthew 5 – numerous times He says – You have heard it said… at least 4 times – and He quotes a Bible verse. An eye for an eye – a tooth for a tooth… that is in the Bible, that is there – but I say to you – love your enemy – pray for them, bless them, do good to them.
He does this with several passages – you have been taught a certain way to understand My word – and it is not exactly right…
We all have some things that we have been taught and we believe and have strong convictions on – that if Jesus were here – He would say – You have heard it said… but I say to you…
That does not mean that all we have heard is bad – but there are things that you hold dearly to – and argue on Twitter – that Jesus would say – “You have tweeted this often – but I tweet to you…” – and we have our verses for it!
I’m going to go back to judgment – contextually
This contrast we think is there between the God of the Old Testament and Jesus – the one foundational truth we must keep in mind as we try to understand the Bible.
We do not know and understand God correctly unless we know and understand God through Jesus. The only way to understand the God of the Old Testament – (Jesus was the God of the Old Testament) – is through Jesus.
Go to Hebrews 1
Hebrews 1: In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.
The writer is comparing how God wrote in the past – how He was revealed in the past – with how He is revealed in the Son. The Old Testament is wholly true – but it is also wholly inadequate without Jesus. It can only be clearly understood through the four gospels.
. 3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.
Jesus is the superior revelation of God in every way.
We had 3 beautiful days this week – you know how you soak up the sun, like that one lady sang…
That is what God looks and feel like: Jesus.
Jesus is the light and heat, all else is a shadow.
He is the exact representation.
God is, in every way, seen in Jesus.
Everything about God is seen in Jesus. We need nothing else.
John 1: 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 18 No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
Our true explanation of God can only be found in Jesus. Jesus explained God.
CS Lewis – Jesus is the total content of what God has to say to us.
A few weeks back – I talked about two kinds of Judgment.
First punitive – punishment of evil and sin – the Flood, Plagues, and other places in the Old Testament. It is condemnation of sin – and for us – SIN was judged and condemned IN Jesus on the cross. There is now NO condemnation for those who in Jesus.
No guilt. No punitive judgment.
The second is restorative judgment. That is what it is - not the judgment of destruction, but of transformation – a judgment that transforms and saves.
1 Peter 4:17 For it is time for judgment to begin (and we think, YES! About time! – but Peter kept writing – much to our chagrin), starting with the house of God. (And this is restorative judgment for us. Yes, God will judge the world, but it starts here – start with us – the Church – and to be able to ask, what needs to be restored and renewed?) And if it starts with us, what will be the fate of those who are disobedient to the gospel of God?
Lament – search me and know my heart – try me and know my anxious thoughts – lead me in the everlasting way – it is restorative. Do a restorative search of me - let’s pray.