Did God Really Say…?

Many Christians read the Bible literally. Therefore, whenever it says “God said…”, these Christians take what follows as the literal words out of God’s mouth. As I blogged through the Bible looking for Jesus last year, I found that even Christians who are moving away from reading the Bible literally still have a hard time understanding passages that say “God said…”

Most Christians struggle with questioning what God supposedly said in the Bible. However, we should ask the question “Did God really say…?” when we realize that men (and perhaps women), just like you and me, wrote the Bible. I think all of us today could find many instances in our lives when we thought we heard God but in retrospect it was our own self that we heard. Therefore, the men (and perhaps women) that wrote the Bible often heard there own their own voices when they thought they heard God.

Asking the question “Did God really say?” is hard for so many people because of their conception of God. He’s all powerful and all knowing. Therefore, if this perfect book says this is what the all powerful and all knowing God said, then that is what he said. The problem is the term God is too nebulous. It is not concrete enough for us.

So, what is a possible solution to make God more concrete so that we can better discern if what God supposedly said in the Bible is something that he would really say?

Simply substitute the word “love” for “God.” We can do this because love is not simply an action that God takes or an emotion that God feels. God is love. Love is God’s very essence, his very being.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was manifest among us, and that God sent his only Son into the world, so that he might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abide in God, and God abides in him.” – 1 John 4.7-16

God is love. This was revealed to us in Jesus Christ when he died for our sins on the cross. This supreme example of God as love is much easier to get one’s mind around than the amorphous, nebulous term God.

So, let’s look at a few examples from the Bible where we replace “God” with “love” and see if we think it is still something that God really said.

“And Love said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” – Genesis 6.13

Does destroying all flesh on the earth sound like the love that Christ displayed on the cross?

“So Moses said, ‘Thus says Love: “About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on the throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle.”‘” – Exodus 11.4-5

Does killing all the firstborn in a land sound like the love Christ displayed on the cross?

“But Love said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book?'” – Exodus 32.33

Does blotting out sinners, in effect annihilating them from existence, sound like the love that Christ displayed on the cross and in his life?

“And Love said to Moses, ‘The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.'” – Numbers 15.35

Does stoning someone to death sound like the love Christ displayed on the cross?

“And Love said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid of them, for tomorrow at this time I will give over all of them, slain to Israel. You shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire.” – Joshua 11.6

Does killing all the people in a city or land, which is an act of genocide, sound like the love Christ displayed on the cross?

“Moreover, is it without Love that I have come up against this land to destroy it? Love said to me, ‘Go up against this land and destroy it.” – Isaiah 36.10

Does destroying an entire land really sound like the love Christ displayed on the cross?

In addition to what God supposedly said, we replace “love” for “God” in passages that claim God did or will do certain acts to see if those reported acts are really something God would do.

“Love will send on you curses, confusion, and frustration in all that you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken me. Love will make the pestilence stick t you until he has consumed you off the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Love will strike you with wasting disease and with fever, inflammation and fiery heat, and with drought and with blight and with mildew. They shall pursue you until you perish. And the heavens over your head shall be bronze, and the earth under you shall be iron. Love will make the rain of your land powder. From heaven dust shall come down on you until you are destroyed.” – Deuteronomy 28.20-24

Keep reading all of the curses God will supposedly bring on you for disobeying you and ask if yourself if that sounds like the love Christ displayed on the cross.

We could go on and on with verse after verse of things that are attributed to God that make no sense when we think of them coming from love. If you still think love could do these things, then I have to question your understanding of love and your understanding of God, perhaps even your sanity. Frankly, if you love does these things, then it is quite likely you have been brainwashed, which simply means to make someone adopt radically different beliefs by using systematic and often forcible pressure or a bring controlled by a method of systematic indoctrination. By the way, when being brainwashed, the one thing that system of indoctrination strictly forbids is asking questions such as “Did God really say…?”

To be clear…

God is love.

Love does not kill anyone.

Love does not stone someone to death.

Love does not commit genocide.

Love does not heap curse upon curse upon curse on someone.

God, or Love, does not do many of things mankind claims he does.

Is God’s Love Balanced by His Justice?

Deuteronomy 16.19, 20 says, “You shall not pervert justice…Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”

As I read this verse the other day, I thought it was a very accurate description of how many Christians today view God. For these Christians, the thinking seems to be that God is just. Therefore, justice is going to be served by God, whether in this life or in the next. Justice is someone being punished, getting what they deserved, for their sins. In other words, justice sounds like, “Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”

I see two reasons many western Christians think this way about justice. The first is our legal system. The system is designed to exact some sort of punishment, not restitution and reconciliation, for crimes committed. We fail to recognize how much this influences our thinking about God and Jesus and how they act in the world. Second, much of western Christianity is dominated by the thinking of John Calvin. Calvin was a lawyer. Not coincidentally, whether Calvin himself intended it or not, we have made Calvin out to make a big deal about justice.

As a result, many Christians set God’s justice on an equal footing with God’s love. For these Christians, when someone says that God is love, a typical retort is to say that God is just too.

But, is that true?

Are we to know God as love and as justice?

Is God’s justice like our justice?

Or, is God’s justice moderated by his love because God’s love supersedes any justice he brings about?

My answers would be no, no, no, and yes.

For starters, 1 John 4.8 and 16 both say, “God is love.” Nowhere in the Bible does it say God is just. God’s very nature, his very being, is love. But, we must know that God’s very nature, his very being, is not just – at least in the sense that almost all of us think of justice.

God’s actions flow out of love not out of justice.

Consider the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 8.1-11. Yes, this woman was being treated unfairly by the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus pointed out that they were sinners just like the woman was. But, have you stopped to consider that there was an unmentioned wife in the story? Was it just that the woman (and the man by the way) caught in adultery got away unscathed, unpunished? Should not there been some sort of justice for the wife who was cheated on?

Or, consider the parable of the workers in Matthew 20.1-16. The workers started at different times during the time, but they all got the same pay. Some of these workers clearly did not think this was just. But, it did reveal God’s love.

We can see that love supersedes justice in other ways too.

Jesus’ two great commandments that the all the law hangs on are about love, not justice.

God so loved, not wanted justice for, the world that he sent Jesus.

Jesus said he gave us a new commandment to love one another as he loved us. That’s how we are to love one another, not do justice.

God showed his love, not justice, for us in that while we were still sinners, Jesus died for us.

Nothing can separate us from God’s love, not justice.

Love, not justice, is the fulfilling of the law.

Love, not justice, is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not arrogant, is not rude, does not insist on its way, is not irritable, is not resentful, does not rejoice at wrongdoing, rejoices at the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, and never ends.

We are to pursue love, not justice.

We are controlled by the love, not justice, of Christ.

The only thing that counts is faith working through love, not justice.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Justice is not mentioned.

God is rich in mercy because of the great love, not justice, with which he loved us.

We are to be rooted and grounded in love, not justice.

We are to know the love, not justice, of Christ that surpasses knowledge.

We are to walk in love, not justice.

Yet, there are Christians that would say I have been brainwashed by love. They would argue that God’s love is balanced by his justice.

However, God, Jesus, the scriptures, are all about love, not justice. The scale is decisively tipped in favor of love. Everyone of the love, not justice statements above is straight from scripture. And, there are a whole lot more to go with them.

Love will bring about reconciliation, not punishment. Reconciliation is God’s justice.

 

We will never be able to lay down our own lives and pick up our own cross if we continue to insist that justice is on equal footing with love.

Am I Supposed to Love Someone Enough to Tell Them the Truth?

“I love them enough to tell them the truth.”

I put these words in quotes because they were spoken by Anita Bryant in a television interview in the 1970s. I had never heard of Ms. Bryant until I saw a clip of her interview in a movie. Ms. Bryant was a Christian political activist known for opposing gay rights.

The “them” that Ms. Bryant loved enough to tell the truth to were homosexuals. The truth she was willing to tell them was that Jesus loved homosexuals, but if they did not repent from sinning, from being homosexual, they were going to hell. Presumably, Ms. Bryant found it tough to say these words, but she loved homosexuals enough to tell homosexuals this truth.

However, I have learned that this statement – “I love them enough to tell them the truth” – is, in reality, the whitewashing of an inner hatred by the one who says them. These words reveal the inner hatred of the speaker because the speaker is willing to cast the hearer into hell if the hearer does not obey whatever law, rule, principle, or moral standard the speaker believes the hearer is violating. The speaker couches these words in love, but in reality the words are accusatory and designed to cast out from the speaker’s presence or community the individual they deem offensive, abominable, repulsive, or reprehensible.

So, after hearing Ms. Bryant say these words, I was not surprised to learn that she also loved homosexuals enough to tell them they were “human garbage.”

But, Anita Bryant is not the only, and likely not the first, Christian to use these words. I have heard quite a few Christians say, “I love them enough to tell them the truth.” And, I have heard these words applied to all sorts of people, not just homosexuals. I have even seen these words directed at people that someone  has never met but simply disagreed with in an online discussion. And, while most Christians may not be so bold as tell others they are “human garbage,” the message is received nonetheless.

After hearing Ms. Bryant say these words, I asked myself if they were true.

As a Christian, am I supposed to love someone enough to tell them the truth?

Having thought about it, my answer is no.

A resounding no, actually.

As a Christian, I am not supposed to love someone enough to tell them truth.

I am not supposed to love someone to tell them the supposedly difficult words that if they do not stop sinning then they are going to die and spend eternity in hell.

First, that is not the truth that Christians are to preach. Christians preach the gospel, which is Jesus, the word of God, was born a man, suffered, was crucified, died, and rose from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Repentance is about changing our minds about who God is not who we are. When our mind is changed about who God is, then we know and receive his complete and total forgiveness for being God’s enemy even though God did nothing but love us. That’s good news, gospel.

Second, scripture shows that Jesus placed far more emphasis on loving someone enough to show them the truth. Jesus spent three and a half years telling people the truth about what God is like. But, Jesus showed them the truth on the cross in a far greater way than the truth could ever be told. In fact, Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross was so powerful that “when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!'” (Mark 15.39) Do not gloss over what Mark is telling us. A Roman centurion, the enemy of the Jews,  who Jesus never told the truth to, saw this innocent man unjustly suffering and dying and was recorded as the first to say that Jesus was the son of God.

Luke 24.44-47 says, “Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.'”

The Christ should suffer and rise from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

That is the truth.

The scripture told the truth.

And, the truth was missed.

Jesus showed the truth.

And, the truth was received.

So, as a Christian, if I am not supposed to love someone enough to tell them the truth, then what I am supposed to do?

I am to love someone, anyone, everyone, enough to show them the truth.

How do I show someone the truth?

The same way Jesus did.

Suffer.

Die.

“God is love.” (1 John 4.8)

Love is not just merely an action God does. God is love. God’s very being, his very essence, is love.

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4.9-10)

The love of God was manifest. God’s love was made to appear. It was shown.

How?

Because Jesus was sent so that we might live through him. This is the repentance spoken of in Luke 24.47. Seeing Jesus’ suffering and death changes our minds about God so that we can truly live in him. We repent so that we can live through Jesus.

Because Jesus was sent to be the propitiation for our sins. This is the forgiveness of sins spoken of in Luke 24.47. Seeing Jesus’ suffering and death, that was caused by our own hands, yet hearing him say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” causes us to be propitiated, which means within ourselves we have regained the favor or goodwill that God has always had toward us.

This is the love that Jesus showed, not told, us on the cross. Therefore, Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12.32)

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4.11-12)

If you know that God showed you his love in Christ’s suffering and death, then you should show that love in the same way.

Why?

Because no one has ever seen God. But, if you show love, by suffering and dying as Christ did, then God will abide in you. If God abides in you, then others will see God in you through your love.

Therefore Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13.34-35)

You show God’s love not tell it.

You show God’s love by suffering and dying.

This is why Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”(Luke 9.23)

Contemplate 1 Corinthians 13, which is considered by some the greatest statement about love. Notice how the chapter starts.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy going or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13.1)

You can speak in any and every earthly and heavenly language, but if there is not love, if there is not suffering and dying with and for another, then you are just noise, an irritating, grating, annoying, ear-piercing noise.

In reality, this is the very definition of “I love them enough to tell them the truth.” When you say those words, you are heard as a noisy going or a clanging cymbal.

Paul continued, “And If I have prophetic powers…but have not love, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13.2)

Prophetic power is a God-given ability to reveal the will of God in heaven by speaking so that things on the earth are changed and conformed to the will of God. But, if that prophetic power, that speaking, is without love, you are nothing.

Then Paul defined love.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13.4-8)

It does not come across well in English, but, in the Greek, all the things that love “is” are actually verbs. Paul is not describing what love is but what love does.

Love doesn’t tell.

Love shows.

And, love shows by suffering and dying with and for another.

Paul stated this clearly in Philippians 2.1-11. We are to be “of the same mind, having the same love” as Jesus. We are to “have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” This same mind, this same love is “becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

As Christians, the love of Christ controls us. Christ’s love controls us when we suffer and die for others just as he did. We show the truth – that God is love – when we enter into another’s suffering. We suffer with them. We bear their burden with them. This is the message and ministry of reconciliation that Christians have been given. But, we don’t count their trespasses against them. In other words, we don’t “love them enough to tell them the truth.” (2 Corinthians 5.11-21)

In Romans 12.9-21, Paul paraphrased the sermon on the mount. “Let love be genuine.” Love should be sincere, without hypocrisy. You can’t tell someone you love them but threaten them with eternal torment in hell if they don’t stop sinning. That type of telling is not love-based but fear-based. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4.18) Paul then wrote that genuine love is shown by living out all that Jesus said in the sermon on the mount. He concluded with “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Enemies are not converted by loving them enough to tell them the truth.

Enemies are converted by showing them love, entering their suffering, meeting their needs. If they are thirsty, then give them a drink. If they are hungry, then feed them. If they are homeless, then house them. If they are broken, then comfort them.

Therefore, the real question, the real test, for a Christian is this – do I love you enough to show you, through my own suffering and death, literal death if necessary, the truth that God loves you?

Jesus Proclaimed God Is Light, Love, and Life

TODAY’S READING: 1 JOHN

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1.1-3)

John is writing this letter to testify and to proclaim the eternal life. Eternal as in of God. The life of God.

John says that the eternal life was with God and made manifest to him and the other disciples. They heard and saw him. They looked at and touched him.

The one they saw and heard John calls the word of life. The logos of life. This is none other than the word, the logos, of God.

The word of life is the word of God.

John is clearly speaking of Jesus.

The word of life is Jesus.

The word of God is Jesus.

After this introduction to his letter, John goes on to testify and to proclaim three things of Jesus. In order (and that is important), John testifies and proclaims light, love, and life.

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1.5)

God is light.

There is no darkness at all in God.

Therefore, if there is no darkness in God, then he cannot create darkness. Darkness is not of or from God.

Jesus proclaimed this revelation of God. Therefore, he contradicts Isaiah 45.7, which says, “I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things.”

Isaiah had a partial and obscured view of God. He saw through a veil. Therefore, he said God both formed light and created darkness.

Jesus alone has seen God. Jesus gives the clear view of God. Jesus gives the perfect revelation of God.

God is light. And, there is no darkness at all in him.

John then ties light with truth.

“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1.6-10)

Light is truth.

Darkness is lies and deception.

“God is not man, that he should lie.” (Numbers 23.19)

“There was no deceit in his mouth.” (Isaiah 53.9)

“I am…the truth.” (John 14.6)

John says that God is light was declared from the beginning.

“Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” (1 John 2.7-8)

We may not understand it as a commandment, but indeed from the beginning the darkness was passing away and the true light was shining.

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1.3-4)

God is light.

God is truth.

It was so from the beginning.

But, darkness, lies, and deception are of the devil.

“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He…does not stand in the truth, because there is not truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8.44)

Having testified and proclaimed God is light, then John speaks of love.

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” (1 John 3.4)

Sin is lawlessness. Lawlessness is simply being without law.

Jesus summed up the law as love for God and love for your neighbor.

To be without law is to be without love for God and without love for your neighbor.

This is sin – not loving God and not loving your neighbor.

“You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps in sinning has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3.5-6)

Jesus came to take away every word and deed that is not rooted and grounded in love. He never sinned, which means never said or did anything that was not from love.

“He committed no sin.” (1 Peter 2.22)

“He committed no lawlessness.” (Isaiah 53.9, Lexham English Septuagint)

“Although he had done no violence.” (Isaiah 53.9)

Jesus committed no sin, no lawlessness, no violence.

“Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” (1 John 3.8)

“You are of your father the devil, and our will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning.” (John 8.44)

“For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” (1 John 3.11)

Did we hear this message from the beginning, in the creation?

“And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ And God mad the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so.” (Genesis 1.6-7)

The separation of waters is a picture of baptism.

Baptism is a picture of dying. More than dying, baptism is a picture of choosing to lay down your life.

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.” (1 John 3.16)

The separation of waters on day of creation is a picture of love – Jesus laying his life down for us.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4.7-10)

“God is love.”

“I am the way.” (John 14.6)

Having testified and proclaimed God is light and God is love, John speaks of life.

“If we receive the testimony of mean, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” (1 John 5.9-11)

John does not explicitly say it hear, but this testimony of God has been heard from the beginning too.

“And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so.” (Genesis 1.9)

The land coming out of the waters is a picture of life rising out of death – resurrection. It was from this risen land that all life flowed in the rest of the creation story.

God is life.

“I am…the life.” (John 14.6)

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands.” (1 John 1.1)

“From the beginning.”

Jesus.

He declared:

  • God is light and there is no darkness at all in him
  • God is love and there is no sin, lawlessness (without love), and violence (killing) at all in him
  • God is life and there is no death in him

Therefore, Jesus declared “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14.6)

He said, “I am love, light, and life.”

The first three days of creation.

When the light of God shines on the love of God you have the life of God.

This is you becoming a new creation in Christ.

What Love Is or What Love Does?

TODAY’S READING: 1 CORINTHIANS 10-13

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Can you go to a wedding and not hear this passage of scripture?

Perhaps there’s a good reason for that.

Throughout the Bible, the picture of marriage is a man leaving his father and mother so that the two can become one flesh, one body. Quoting Genesis 2:24, Paul says, “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

Therefore, marriage is a picture of two becoming one. But, two becoming one is a mystery. It is a mystery because two becoming one is not about flesh merging with flesh – man and woman becoming one – but about spirit merging with flesh – God and man becoming one.

So, we read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 at a marriage ceremony because we instinctively know that the only possible way for two to become one is love. Love is the power, the capability, the capacity, potential for two becoming one.

Love brings God and mankind together in perfect union, perfect harmony, perfect relationship.

However, what gets too easily forgotten in this is that God is love (1 John 4:8, 16).

Therefore, I have written previously that

“God is patient and kind; God does not envy or boast; God is not arrogant or rude. God does not insist on his own; God is not irritable or resentful; God does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. God bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. God never ends.”

This is an entirely different picture of God than what most people have, including Christians. We struggle with our view of God because people, including Christians, take the Old Testament description of God as authoritative. Then, we try to shoehorn what we know about love into the Old Testament description of God even though we all know that love – the love we all want to base our marriages on – is not like that Old Testament description of God.

In the Old Testament, God reportedly destroyed all people everywhere with a flood, committed genocide, commanded the burning of everyone – men, women, children, babies – in numerous cities, inflicted multiple nations with earthquakes, plagues, diseases, and wars, ordered the rape of women and abortion of babies.

And, somehow Christians use that description as the authoritative description of God that we somehow squeeze into the silly little notion that God is love. The same type of love we so desire in our most intimate of human relationships.

Talk about cognitive dissonance.

Or, maybe not for so many, many Christians because the conflict between the description of God in the Old Testament and God is love seemingly causes no discomfort for them.

God is love is a simple, clear, direct statement. Perhaps we should take that as authoritative. Then anything, anywhere, whether it is written in the Bible or not that conflicts with

God is patient and kind; God does not envy or boast; God is not arrogant or rude. God does not insist on his own; God is not irritable or resentful; God does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. God bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. God never ends

should immediately get tossed aside as a lie, an untruth, a fiction.

But, apparently people would rather worship what a book says about God than God himself.

However, even all of this – “God is patient and kind…” – doesn’t give us the full picture.

Just take the statement “God is patient.” God is the subject. Is is the verb. Patient is an adjective, a noun that describes a quality, a characteristic of God. And, when we read the English translation of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, this is basically true of kind, envy, boast, arrogant, rude, irritable, and resentful. In English these are all nouns, adjectives.

So, we read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 as description of what love is, what God is. However, the Greek word for is is not found one time in the passage.

That’s because in the Greek everyone of these words is a verb. Paul is not describing what love is but what love does. In English, it is not so easy to say love patients.

Paul is telling us how love acts and behaves. Therefore, this is a description of what God does and how God behaves. Knowing this drives home the point that God take these actions, and he is doing so to make himself one with us.

Further, the English translation loses the fact that some of these verbs are active, meaning love and God do them, and some are passive, meaning that love and God are the recipient of the action. The Greek words for kind, boast, arrogant, irritable, resentful are all verbs in the passive voice. Therefore, love and God are the recipients of these actions, not the ones that do these actions.

The word for kind also means make use of. Paul is not saying that love kinds or love is kind. Rather, it’s more like love makes use of itself for other or love is made use of for others.

Paul is not saying that love does not boast. Rather, it’s more like love is not boasted about. Love is not the recipient of boasting.

The Greek word for arrogant also means made proud or puffed up. Paul is saying that love cannot be made proud or puffed. Therefore, God cannot be made proud. In other words, your actions cannot make God proud. God loves you for you.

Paul is saying that love cannot be irritated. Think about that. God is not the recipient of irritation. You cannot irritate God.

Finally, resentful is actually several words in Greek. Those words actually mean speaking evil. Paul is not saying that love does not speak evil. Rather, Paul is saying that love cannot be spoken evil of.

This is really, really important.

Love does not receive being spoken evil of.

Therefore, God does not receive being spoke evil of.

In other words, we should never speak evil of God.

Yet, when we take the Old Testament description of God as authoritative, when believe God to be a mass murderer, inflicter of plagues and diseases, commander of rape and abortion, we are speaking evil of God.

Let it never be so.

God is love.

Love is not what God is. Love is what God does.

And, simply based on the love everyone desires in marriage, we know that God does not kill, hurt, maim, curse, sicken, or wound us.

Let the Lord God Be a Witness Against You?

TODAY’S READING: MICAH 1-4

“Hear, you peoples, all of you; pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it, and let the Lord God be a witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple.” – Micah 1:2

“Let the Lord God be a witness against you.”

This sounds rather ominous because of the word against. Many hear the word witness and immediately take this to be a courtroom setting where God is testifying against those that have done wrong. In this context, against means:

  • in opposition or hostility to
  • contrary to
  • in competition with
  • as a basis for disapproval of

But, is God against you?

In Romans 8:31, Paul asks the question, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The answer to the rhetorical question is nothing can be against because God is for us, for you. For Paul, it wasn’t even possible to ask the question “Is God against me?” for his presumption was that God is for you and therefore nothing can be against you.

I check quite a few English translations of Micah 1:2. All of them but one translate the Hebrew word that is the letter beyt as against. But, this is by far not the most common translation of this preposition. I think another translation for this Hebrew preposition is far more likely.

Why?

We have to remember that all scripture is a witness to Jesus (Luke 24:27, 44-45 and John 5:39-40). So, we need to interpret every book, every verse, and every word in the light of Jesus.

So, the context of Jesus and the context of this verse through the inspiration of the Spirit tells that me against is not the correct translation of this Hebrew preposition in this case.

Notice that this word from Micah is addressed to “you peoples, all of you,” which is more likely “you peoples, all of them.”

Who are “peoples” and “all of them?”

Not just the Jews because the next line says, “Pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it.” Therefore, this word is addressed to all peoples, all nations, every person in the earth.

Another clue that the Hebrew preposition should not be translated against is that the witness of the Lord God comes from “the Lord from his holy temple.”

The witness comes from the temple, which is not a courtroom. So, the typical understanding of this word being a scene in a courtroom is wrong.

But, could this mean that the Lord is witnessing against us from the temple?

Well, what do we mean by the temple?

John 2:19-21 says, “Jesus answered them , ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking about the temple of his body.” When we read all scripture in the context of Jesus and as a witness to him, we understand Micah as saying that the witness “against is coming from the Lord’s temple, which is the body of Jesus.

Now, where was Jesus? Where was the Lord’s temple?

John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The Greek word for dwelt is literally tabernacle. So, the Word became flesh in Jesus, and God’s tabernacle or temple was among us. The temple was among us not against us.

So, the Septuagint translation of Micah 1:2 says, “And the Lord God will be among you for a testimony.”

What was Jesus, the Word made flesh, tabernacling among us for a testimony of?

According to John 1:15-18, Jesus’ testimony was the glory of God, full of grace and truth and that from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. Only Jesus could give this testimony because only Jesus had ever seen God. Not even Moses had seen God the way that Jesus did.

So, if we changed all of those English translations that used the word against to “and let the Lord God be a witness among you” then it doesn’t sound quite so ominous. Now it sounds more like God is for us as Paul says.

But, there is one English translation that doesn’t use the word against. According to the Douay-Rheims Bible, Micah 2:1 says, “And let the Lord God be a witness to you.”

In John 1:15-18, we already saw that the Jesus’ witness to us was of God’s glory from which we have all received grace upon grace. But, John gives us other perspectives as to what Jesus witnessed to in 1 John.

1 John 1:5 says, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” Jesus’ message, his witness, his testimony, to us is that God is light. God is good. And, because God is good there is no evil or wickedness in him at all. Therefore, God is not and cannot be against us.

1 John 4:7-8 says, “Beloved, let us love another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”This is another aspect of Jesus’ testimony to us. Jesus witnessed to us that God is love.

How, when, did he do this?

On the cross, from the holy temple that is body.

1 John 4:9-10 says, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

But, Jesus isn’t just the propitiation of sins for those who believe. 1 John 2:2 says, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” The our in this verse refers to the believer. But, John says Jesus’ love and work on the cross is effective beyond the sins of  the believer. Rather, Jesus’ love and work on the cross is effective to remove the sons of the whole world, everyone that is in the earth.

And, this brings us back to the original setting of Micah 1:2. For, Micah told all peoples, all of them, everyone that was in the earth to pay attention. They were to pay attention because the Lord’s witness among us and to us would come from his temple, the body of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, in John 12:32, Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

Jesus tells us that we have to read everything in his light, according to his witness. When we do, we understand the true meaning, the inspired meaning of the Old Testament, regardless of what the Old Testament authors meant and regardless of how modern day translators interpret the text in their translations.

God is not a witness against you. God is not coming to smite you. Nor is God coming to destroy you or anyone else.

God is a witness among you. And, as Jesus showed, he is among the poor, the hurting, the lame, the blind, the weak, the oppressed, the sick, the widow, the orphan, the stranger, the prostitute, the drunkard, and on and on.

God is a witness to you. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Corinthians 5:19). God was on the cross with Jesus. And, God was witnessing his love to you, his goodness to you despite whatever you have done to him or others.

God is for you.

How Does God Act for the Sake of His Name that Was Profaned?

TODAY’S READING: EZEKIEL 36-38

“But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that people said of them, ‘These are the people of the Lord, and yet they had to go out of his land.’ But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came. ‘Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.'” – Ezekiel 36:21-23

Israel was to be a light to the nations. They were to be a people that revealed the glory of God to the nations around them.

But, when Israel went to the nations, instead of being a light, revealing the glory of God, Israel had profaned the holy name of God.

How did they profane the name of God?

Ezekiel 37:17-18 says, “When the house  of Israel lived in their own land, they defiled it be their ways and their deeds. Their ways before me were like the uncleanness of a woman in her menstrual impurity…for the blood that the had shed in the land.”

Ezekiel uses the metaphor of woman in her menstrual impurity to show that Israel had profaned the name of God by shedding blood.

What does it mean to profane something?

The Hebrew word translated profane means to be defiled, to profane, to desecrate, to render unholy, to put into use. According to the Lexham Theological Workbook, this Hebrew word describes the act of defiling something holy by treating it as common.

In English, the word profane means to treat (something sacred) with abuse, irreverence, or contempt; to debase by a wrong, unworthy, or vulgar use.

Israel took the name of God, which was holy, and made it common. They treated the name of God with abuse, irreverence, contempt. They debased the name of God by putting it to use in a wrong, unworthy, and vulgar manner.

How did they profane the name, the character, of God? How did they make God’s name, his character, unholy?

Israel made God’s name and character unholy by shedding blood, by warring, by killing their enemies.

But, God said he was going to act. He was not going to act for the sake of Israel. No, he was going to act for the sake of his holy name, his holy character. God was going to restore, to vindicate, the holiness of his name. And, when the nations saw the vindication of his holy name they would know that he is Lord.

What is the holiness of God, of God’s name?

1 Peter 1:14-16 says, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'”

We are to be holy in the same way that God is holy.

Jesus said this another way in Matthew 5:48, which says, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” To be perfect is to be spiritually mature, to be complete, to be holy. Therefore,, Jesus is saying to be holy as God is holy.

In verses 5:46-47, Jesus tells us what being perfect, being holy, as God is holy is not like. He says, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?”

The Gentiles love as the world loves. They love their own and hate their enemies. The Gentiles shed the blood of their names. And, notice that Peter said not to be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance. Peter is saying don’t love the way used to, loving only your brother or those that love you. For, this is what Israel was doing when Ezekiel prophesied that they profaned the name of the Lord by shedding blood.

Loving as the Gentiles did and Israel did in its former ignorance was to love those who love you and hate those who hate you. But, this was not being holy as God is holy, perfect as God is perfect. Rather, it was to profane the name of God, to put God’s name and character to common use. For, it is quite common to shed the blood of your enemies.

So then, what is being holy as God is holy, perfect as God is perfect?

Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:43-45. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Is it not clear what it means to be holy as God is holy, perfect as God is perfect?

It means to love your enemies, to do good to your enemies. This is what makes God holy. This is what makes God uncommon, unique, set apart. And, it is the same for us.

We are not holy because we hold to a set of rules, to some more guidelines. We are holy because love as God loves.

How do we know God loves us?

1 John 4:8-10 says, “God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

We know God is love because Jesus Christ died for us.

When did Jesus die for us?

Romans 5:6, 8, 10 says, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Chris died for the ungodly…But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us…For while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.”

God loved us, Christ died for us, while we God’s enemies.

This is what makes God holy. God is not holy because he cannot tolerate sin and what destroy all sinners in an everlasting fire forever and ever. No, God is holy because instead of killing his enemies he dies for them.

Throughout the ages, men have used God’s name as justification to kill their enemies. The Old Testament shows that Israel did this repeatedly.

But, in Ezekiel, God said he would act to vindicate the holiness of his name. He wa not going to act for the sake of Israel. He was going to act for the sake of his name.

The singular act, the sine qua non, that God performed to vindicate the holiness of name for all ages was to die on the cross, to die the most shameful death ever devised by men, the most wicked and vile intention of all the evil intentions of man’s heart.

God vindicated the holiness of his name by shedding his blood not by shedding the blood of others.

The singular act of Jesus crucified on the cross defines the name and character of God. This act is what makes God holy. This is why Jesus was the slain lamb before the foundation of the world. He is so because this is who God is.

And, in case you are wondering, for Jesus to come again to slaughter millions, to confine people to an everlasting, eternal judgment of fire, to destroy millions, would be to profane the name and character of God.

God doesn’t kill his enemies. He dies for them.

Does God Intend Death for Anyone?

TODAY’S READING: EZEKIEL 18-20

“And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I deal with you for my name’s sake, not according to your evil ways, nor according to your corrupt deeds, O house of Israel, declares the Lord God.” – Ezekiel 20:44

“Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” – Ezekiel 18:23

“For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.” – Ezekiel 18:32

“Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” – Ezekiel 33:11

In a previous post on Ezekiel, we saw that the purpose of his ministry was that people should “know that I am the Lord.” In Ezekiel 18:23, we are told that we will know that God is Lord when he deals with us for his name’s sake.

What does it mean for God to deal with us for his name’s sake?

In the Hebrew culture, one’s name was synonymous with one’s character. For God to deal with us for his name’s sake is for God to deal with us for his character’s sake. That is, we will know that God is Lord as he deals with us according to his character, his being, who God is?

How do we know God’s character?

Jesus. Period.

Colossians 1:15, 19 says, “He is the image of the invisible God…For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.”

Hebrews 1:3 says, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”

God is exactly like Jesus. Therefore, when we see and know the character of Jesus, we will see and know the character of God.

What is the character of Jesus? What is the nature of Jesus? What is the being of Jesus?

1 John 1:5 says, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

Jesus is the light of the world. He told the disciples that God is light. Because God is light, there is no darkness at all in God. So, we will know that God is Lord when we see he acts in light and light alone.

1 John 4:8-10 says, “God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that the loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

Jesus fully displayed the perfection of God’s love when he suffered and died for us on the cross so that we might know love and live. So, we will know that God is Lord when we see he acts in love and love alone, which means that God suffers and dies rather tortures and kills.

1 John 5:10-11 says, “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”

Jesus fully displayed the life of God. The fullness of the Godhead was in him. God was able to give us this eternal life because God is life.

So, we see that the character, that nature, the being, the name, of God is light, love, life. We will know that God is Lord when we see him act for the sake of his name.

But, what does the word sake mean?

According to Wester’s, sake means:

  1. end, purpose
  2. the good, advantage, or enhancement of some entity (as an ideal)
  3. personal or social welfare, safety, or benefit

The Hebrew word for sake is lama’an (I’m sure I spelled that completely wrong). It means purpose, intent, for the sake of, on account of, to the intent, in order that.

When God is acting for the sake of his name, he is acting for the end, the purpose, the intent, of his name, his character. God is acting for the sake of his name when he is acting to bring about the end, the purpose, the intent of his character, which is light, love, and life.

So, “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God?”

The Hebrew word for pleasure in Ezekiel 18:23 also means desire, to be willing, inclined, purpose. We could understand this verse as God asking, “Do I desire the death of the wicked? Do I will, intend, or purpose the death of the wicked?”

If we have come to know that the Lord is God by seeing God act for the sake of his name, then surely the answer to that question is no. Because God is light, love and life, he cannot take pleasure in, desire, will, intend, or purpose the death of the wicked.

In John 14:6-7, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you have known my Father also.”

Jesus is the way, truth, and life. Jesus could just as have easily said, “I am the light, and the love, and the life.” This is the nature, the being of Jesus. And, you can only come to the Father in his being and nature. You can’t get to the Father outside of his being and nature. But, if we see Jesus in his being of light, love, and life, then we see the Father too.

When God asked the question “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked?”, he answered by saying “not rather that he should turn from his way and live.” God also said, “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”

Turn and live.

What is it to turn and live?

To turn is to repent. It is to turn from our evil and wicked ways. To turn from death.

To turn, to repent, is to be resurrected.

Here God is saying that he does will or intend the death of the wicked. Rather his purpose and his will is that we would turn and live, that we would be resurrected and have life.

But, this is exactly what Jesus said is the nature of God.

In John 11, Martha said that believed in the resurrection that would take place on the last day. She believed in the resurrection as an event. But, in John 11:25, Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life.”

The resurrection is not just an event. Jesus, God, is the resurrection and the life. Resurrection and life is God’s nature, God’s being, God’s character, God’s name. Resurrection and life is the purpose and end that God is working toward so that when he does this we will know that he is Lord.

Therefore, if God is resurrection and life, turning and living, then how could it ever be that in this age or the ages to come he would will, intend, purpose, desire, take pleasure in, the death of the wicked, the death of anyone.

Look at how God says it again in Ezekiel.

“Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?”

“As I live.”

God is life. Because he is life, he does not have pleasure, will, intend, or purpose death for the wicked, or anyone else. Rather, his end and purpose is that we turn and live, that we are in his resurrection and life.

Who Caused the Plagues? What Are the Plagues About?

Today’s Reading: Exodus 8-10

Exodus 8-10 covers 8 of the 10 plagues that occurred in Egypt. I think what I would call the traditional, standard, or conventional reading of this passage is that God caused these plagues to fall on Egypt because Pharaoh would not let Israel go due to his pride and hard heart. The traditional view is that each of the ten plagues

  • water turned into blood so that all the fish died
  • frogs over the whole country of Egypt
  • gnats in all the land of Egypt
  • swarms of flies on Pharaoh, his servants, and all his people
  • a severe plague on the livestock in the field
  • soot from the kiln that becomes fine dust and causes boils over all Egypt
  • heavy hail that killed every man and beast in the field
  • locusts that covered all the land of Egypt
  • darkness that could be felt over the land of Egypt
  • the death of all the firstborn in a household that was not under the blood

were done by God to Pharaoh and Egypt.

But, is this God?

Is this how God acts?

Is this how God leads people to know him?

Is this how God leads people to repent?

Growing in my relationship with Jesus has forced me to change the way I read the Bible. Jesus causes me to read passages like Exodus 8-10 in a different way.

What do I mean?

Colossians 1:15 says, “He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God.”

Hebrews 1:3 says, “He [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”

John 12:45 says, “And whoever sees me [Jesus] sees him [God the Father] who sent me.

John 14:6-7 says, “I [Jesus] am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

John 14:9 says, “Whoever has seen me [Jesus] has seen the Father.”

John 10:30 says, “I [Jesus] and the Father are one.”

Jesus is the clearest picture of who God really is, what God is really like. We only see God, we only know who God is, when we see Jesus.

There was a veil in the tabernacle and the temple that separated the holy place from the most holy place. Israel couldn’t go into the holy place. The priests could go into the holy place. But, no one, except the high priest once a year, could go into the most holy place. There was a veil that kept them from seeing God clearly.

2 Corinthians 3:12-16 says, “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.”

Paul continues in 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

There is a veil over the Old Testament. It’s hard to read it clearly and understand what God was really doing and saying. But, there is someone that removes the veil. Jesus!

How did Jesus remove the veil? Jesus died on the cross and the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom. For those who would come to him, those who would enter into the temple, they would see God clearly through Jesus. But, not just see Jesus in any old way. We could see God clearly through the crucified Christ that died for the sins of the world yet cried out from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

1 John 4:8 and 16 both say, “God is love.” How do we know love? 1 John 4:9-10 says, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” We know love, we only know love, because God loved us and sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. God manifested his love in Jesus. God made his love a real, tangible thing that we could see, touch, and smell through Jesus.

Paul lists 16 attributes of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Just look at the last five. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

Therefore, given that Jesus is the image of God, God is love, we can only know love through Jesus’ death on the cross, and it is that death on the cross that removes the veil to read Moses clearly, how can I can possibly read the ten plagues as something God was doing to Pharaoh and Egypt? How can I possibly reconcile that with all that I have come to know about Jesus’ death on the cross so that I could be free from Satan, sin, and death?

Further, in Exodus 8-10, Moses continually writes that God was acting so that Pharaoh and everyone else would know that he is Lord. In order to know the Lord, we must turn to Jesus. We must repent. God was calling Pharaoh to repentance. What leads to repentance? Romans 2:4 says, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” God smiting Pharaoh and Egypt with ten plagues was God’s kindness leading him to repentance? Really? I don’t think so.

If not God, then who caused the ten plagues?

Have you ever noticed what happens to the person doing evil or wickedness in scripture? Goliath’s head was cut off by his own sword. Haman was hanged on his own gallows. Satan, who had the power of death, was defeated by Jesus’ death on the cross. The one acting wickedly is always done in by his own wickedness.

Proverbs 26:27 says, “Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling.” The following list of scriptures says exactly the same thing.

  • Job 4:8
  • Psalm 7:15
  • Psalm 35:8
  • Psalm 141:10
  • Proverbs 28:10
  • Proverbs 29:6
  • Daniel 6:24
  • Matthew 26:52

And, there are many, many more.

But, I want to call out one other scripture in particular. Psalm 7:16 says, “His mischief returns upon his own, and on his own skull his violence descends.” The evil one does violence, and his violence returns on his own skull.

Where was Jesus crucified? Golgotha, the place of the skull. We did violence to Jesus, the image of God, and that violence returned to our own skull. God was kind to forgive us of that. Seeing that kindness, leads us to repentance.

So, who caused the plagues in Egypt? God, who is love, such love that can only be known through the death of Jesus on the cross and his forgiveness from the cross? Or Pharaoh, whose own violence, whose own evil and wicked acts, was coming back on to him?

What was the wickedness that Pharaoh did? First, he had enslaved Israel in his own pride. Second, he worshiped everything but God. Each of the ten plagues is related to an act of worship of something that Pharaoh and Egypt held to be a god. Each plague was the wicked idolatry of Egypt coming back onto itself.

The plagues were an issue of worship. Egypt worshiped false gods to their own destruction. Yet, God was calling people out of Egypt, the culture, the belief system, the education system, etc., to worship him. God was calling people to go on a three day journey into the wilderness to worship him. Three days is the period from death to life. God was calling people to die to Egypt, the world, and come to him for life. God was even calling Pharaoh, if he would but listen. God was moving in the midst of that, trying to get Pharaoh to know him, trying to turn Pharaoh towards him.

The whole issue was about what, rather who, was being worshiped.

We must always remember that the cross, the crucified Christ, changes everything. It is the central pivot point in all of history. It changes, or it should change, the way we read the Old Testament. Jesus’ death removes the veil so that we can see God clearly in the Old Testament.

But, we must remember that even now “we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

Let us turn to Jesus, through the teaching of the Holy Spirit, so that we can see the Father clearly in all the scripture.