Do you like the God of the Old Testament? Now, I know that some of my acquaintances are sitting with a stunned look on their faces! Wondering how I could even ask a question like that. But it is a very real thought in the minds of some people, Christian people!
About four years ago, when our congregation worked its way through the Old Testament in “The Story”, the statement was made several times, “If the God of the Old Testament was the only One that I knew, I don’t think that I would like Him.” Have you ever wrestled with that feeling? It might have been while you were reading the Old Testament, or sitting in a Bible class. I confess that growing up I believed that the God of the Old Testament was demanding, stern, judgmental, ready to punish for the slightest disobedience; and He changed into a loving, forgiving, understanding, grace-giving God in the New Testament. It may have been because I knew very little about the Old Testament. We were New Testament Christians, some just carried New Testaments to services, and many did not want to study anything but the New Testament Scripture and subjects. I may have been the only one that ever thought that, but that was my perception and understanding from what I saw and heard.
The very first graduate course I took at Abilene Christian University, was Doctrinal Studies in the Old Testament taught by Dr. Tom Olbricht. Looking back, I’m not quite sure what I expected; but it was not what I got. In my mind, “doctrinal studies” would be learning how to make and defend doctrinal points from the Old Testament. What it really was, was a class on the theology of the Old Testament — examining what we learn about God from the overall message. First of all, he had us buy and read a book that he had written, He Loves Forever (not quite what I thought I would read for a class on the Old Testament study of doctrines). Secondly, we started more than one class with the song, The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Ceases — which I learned was based on Lamentations 3:22-26. Everything we did in that class challenged some of my basic beliefs about the Old Testament.
Part of my reading in Psalms this morning, was Psalm 136. I will not include the text in this devotional, but I will tell you that all 26 verses end with the phrase — His love endures forever (NIV). You would be blessed to take the time to read the psalm, and, then, ponder and meditate over it. I have used it several times as a responsive reading in the congregations where I preach. In fact, thanks to Dr. Olbricht, every time that I read the Psalms, I am impressed with how much the steadfast love of the Lord is stressed — even in times of suffering, discipline, and doubt.
I would like to be able to tell you that all of the stories in the Old Testament make perfect sense to me, and that I can see the loving hand of God in all of them — but I can’t! When I get to heaven, there are some questions that I would like to have explained. BUT, I can tell you, that I now see that the God of the Old Testament was (and is) a loving, forgiving, understanding, grace-giving God — and that His love endures forever. Peace.
(This devotional first appeared on Facebook on July 1, 2016. It has been updated, and posted on this site, as a part of our “Psalms for Saturday.” It is my prayer that it is a blessing and encouragement to you. Bill.)