Differing Views of God

(Important Notice:  Before I get to today’s blog I want to warn you that we’re going to shut Lifestream down for a couple of days beginning on Tuesday evening here in the States, to move it to a new server.  I apologize for any inconvenience, but among the website issues we’ve had to resolve this spring is the fact that our bandwidth needs have grown tremendously in the last few months and our current server just can’t handle it for us economically.  I apologize for any inconvenience it causes.  I hope after this we can just run smoothly for awhile.)

During my recent trip to North Carolina I had the chance to sit down with a couple in their home. As we shared our journeys the husband mentioned that even though he had a seminary degree he couldn’t understand how the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New could be the same God.  Theology told him it was, but he hadn’t worked it out.

How could the same God who seemed so vicious in Old Testament history be the same God whom Jesus talked about and demonstrated as he partied with sinners, healed the sick, and shared such compassion to mend the broken-hearted.  He thought the easiest explanation was what Marcion concluded in the 2nd century—that in the Old Testament, Israel was following a false god and the real God showed up in Jesus Christ.  But, he knew Marcion was a heretic, so that couldn’t be right. 

I started into an explanation I used in my study of Scripture called The Jesus Lens.  The Old Testament tells the story of God rescuing fallen humanity and even when he had to break into human history to deal with the destructive power of sin and preserve a line that could receive his grace.  People saw God’s passion and its occasional severity as proof that he was angry with humanity.  I used the analogy of my wife bridging a relationship with battered, stray dogs that showed up at our house in Visalia.  Instead of rushing to us, they cowered in the bushes or in the darkness, afraid we would harm them, too.  Winning a dog that has been abused takes some time.  You have to work with their hunger to invite them closer to you until they can begin to believe that you are not out to hurt them but help them. 

And then this thought came to mind, “The Old Testament is the story of God’s rescue told from the dog’s perspective.”  I hadn’t thought of it that way before, but the more I’ve meditated on it, the more I like it.  That’s why there seems to be differences between the Old and New Testaments. While God has not changed, our perception of him changes greatly through the Incarnation of Jesus.  

Before we saw him through our eyes and our mistaken conclusions.  Just like the Old Testament writers who saw God through their grid of shame and fear and deemed him a terrifying judge.  Their words reflect it.  We’ve got to understand they write from a place of fear and rejection, which only makes it all the more miraculous when they get a glimpse of the loving and gracious God whose “love never fails”, whose “lovingkindness is better than life”, and whose “mercies are new every morning”.  They were torn between a God of great affection and the blindness of their own guilt and shame. 

Thankfully, Jesus comes to tell us and to show us what God is really like.  He’s not angry with us for our sin, but sees us as harassed and helpless and wants to rescue us from our bondage into his life.  He woos us into the Father’s affection and prepared a way for us to be at rest in his presence, confident that he wants us there, as he untangles the mess we’ve made of our lives.  The writers of the New Testament tells us that same story of rescue told from the dogs’ perspective who are now inside the house.  In Christ they found peace with God and no longer needed to cower in the bushes as they had become at home in him.

We all undergo that same process, don’t we?  Abused by sin and fearful that God would either ignore us or punish us, we cower in our own self-effort or self-pity, hoping against hope that he’ll be good to us, but too overwhelmed by fears to come to him.  And yet, he keeps reaching out to us until we can finally be won into his affection. 

Then when we are won into his affection, we can hold a more complete view of God and even in those moments where God is intense and severe in setting us free or keeping the world in check, we see that as an expression of his love, not his anger or rejection of us. 

I hope the analogy helps you.  It’s one I’m going to play with for awhile and see if it stands the test of time.  

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16 Comments
  1. Ana Figueira July 10, 2013 at 12:28 am

    Wow, this analogy does make sense, on so many levels… We often do not understand God, our (negative) experiences make us shy away from him, his passion for us might even scare us as we’re not used to it… slowly learning to listen to his voice, to run to him instead of away from him… Jesus often used sheep in his parables as they were common in his culture, but today probably more people can relate to dogs… Thank you for sharing this, Wayne!

  2. Ana Figueira July 10, 2013 at 3:28 am

    Wow, this analogy does make sense, on so many levels… We often do not understand God, our (negative) experiences make us shy away from him, his passion for us might even scare us as we’re not used to it… slowly learning to listen to his voice, to run to him instead of away from him… Jesus often used sheep in his parables as they were common in his culture, but today probably more people can relate to dogs… Thank you for sharing this, Wayne!

  3. Jimmy July 10, 2013 at 11:03 am

    Great thoughts, Wayne.

    I recently had lunch with a friend and when the topic of a mutual friend came up I was shocked.  This lunch friend began to describe with almost 100% accuracy things that our mutual friend had done over the past years.  What amazed me was he was coming to a completely inaccurate conclusion about who this friend was.  I knew this because I have been walking with this friend very closely and knew why he had done the things that lunch friend had been observing.  After a frustrating conversation trying to convince lunch friend that he was wrong, I finally just had to say “you’ve got to get together with our friend and hear his story because you’re completely wrong about him.”

    I’ve often thought about that as I read the Old Testament.  I imagine that the writers were observing the things they saw God doing or thought he was doing accurately.  However, because of their shame their perception of who he is based on those event was wrong or incomplete.  Their shame kept them from walking with God closely so they were left to their shame-filled perceptions and imaginations to desribe him. So if something bad happened, of course they would conclude that God was angry because they had not performed well.

    Then Jesus came and said “you’ve got our Father all wrong. You know the Scriptures but you don’t know him.  Look at me and you will see him.”  It’s interesting that the people in Jesus day who knew the Scriptures the best had the hardest time seeing him for who is was.

    What’s great about this journey with God is that when I go to the Old Testament, I go with him.  He walks with me as I read it and I can ask questions, tell him what I don’t like, what bores me, how he comes across in a particular story, how my understanding of a story undermines my trust, etc.  Sometimes he gives me insight and sometimes the questions are left unanswered.  What doesn’t change, however, is a deep sense of his affection and the joy hearing my Father’s side of his story.

  4. Jimmy July 10, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    Great thoughts, Wayne.

    I recently had lunch with a friend and when the topic of a mutual friend came up I was shocked.  This lunch friend began to describe with almost 100% accuracy things that our mutual friend had done over the past years.  What amazed me was he was coming to a completely inaccurate conclusion about who this friend was.  I knew this because I have been walking with this friend very closely and knew why he had done the things that lunch friend had been observing.  After a frustrating conversation trying to convince lunch friend that he was wrong, I finally just had to say “you’ve got to get together with our friend and hear his story because you’re completely wrong about him.”

    I’ve often thought about that as I read the Old Testament.  I imagine that the writers were observing the things they saw God doing or thought he was doing accurately.  However, because of their shame their perception of who he is based on those event was wrong or incomplete.  Their shame kept them from walking with God closely so they were left to their shame-filled perceptions and imaginations to desribe him. So if something bad happened, of course they would conclude that God was angry because they had not performed well.

    Then Jesus came and said “you’ve got our Father all wrong. You know the Scriptures but you don’t know him.  Look at me and you will see him.”  It’s interesting that the people in Jesus day who knew the Scriptures the best had the hardest time seeing him for who is was.

    What’s great about this journey with God is that when I go to the Old Testament, I go with him.  He walks with me as I read it and I can ask questions, tell him what I don’t like, what bores me, how he comes across in a particular story, how my understanding of a story undermines my trust, etc.  Sometimes he gives me insight and sometimes the questions are left unanswered.  What doesn’t change, however, is a deep sense of his affection and the joy hearing my Father’s side of his story.

  5. Charlie Rapp July 18, 2013 at 9:47 am

    I feel it’s a very good analogy. As humans we are constantly strugglng to understand. We’re constantly struggling to have worth and accomplish something significant. The reality is God is the solution to both. When we fully enter into His Kingdom/presence/unconditional love, those struggles lose their power and influence on us. But until we fully enter into faith and trust (relationship) in an everpresent, always-loving God, we are “trying” to find our way. We all do it. Lord help us all. 

    Thanks for sharing your journey and insights. Thought-provoking and a blessing. 

    God bless

  6. Charlie Rapp July 18, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    I feel it’s a very good analogy. As humans we are constantly strugglng to understand. We’re constantly struggling to have worth and accomplish something significant. The reality is God is the solution to both. When we fully enter into His Kingdom/presence/unconditional love, those struggles lose their power and influence on us. But until we fully enter into faith and trust (relationship) in an everpresent, always-loving God, we are “trying” to find our way. We all do it. Lord help us all. 

    Thanks for sharing your journey and insights. Thought-provoking and a blessing. 

    God bless

  7. Doug Hinschberger July 19, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    Over the last couple of years, I’ve been mulling over Wayne’s Jesus Lens teaching, and some other material (Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge, The Shack) that encouraged me to read the Old Testament through the lens of Jesus representing what the Father is like. It throws a whole new light on the OT and helps it make more sense to me. It helps when I step away from the rigid interpretation guides I learned and followed for so many years. Reading The Message has been hugely helpful as well.

  8. Doug Hinschberger July 19, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    Over the last couple of years, I’ve been mulling over Wayne’s Jesus Lens teaching, and some other material (Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge, The Shack) that encouraged me to read the Old Testament through the lens of Jesus representing what the Father is like. It throws a whole new light on the OT and helps it make more sense to me. It helps when I step away from the rigid interpretation guides I learned and followed for so many years. Reading The Message has been hugely helpful as well.

  9. mark warner August 25, 2013 at 12:49 am

    Good stuff as usual.  The dog illustration is good.  Dogs also need discipline.  When I was younger we had a little dog that was fun to play with, to make bark, to watch her chase after people.  Until she ran under a bus.  Lack of discipline was fatal to her, even though she did not understand.  It was a horrible experience, but not the dog’s fault.  It was mine.  A dog is not happy if it is in charge.  Too much of life is beyond it’s comprehension.  It needs a loving, caring pack leader.  Leader, not a mamby pamby best friend.

    Boundaries are safe places to play.  I am an addict.  I have to have boundaries to be safe.  My life is good, loving fulfilling when I stay inside the boundaries.  If I decide to play outside the boundaries, my choice, here comes the bus.  In addiction, there is no bottom.  You hear, when they “hit bottom”. That is a myth.  The bottom is death.

    This Christian stuff is serious stuff.  They’re not called the 10 suggestions. Sin is a huge problem.  It destroys me.  How well I know.  I am unable to even come close, in my heart, to keeping his laws. The teachings of Jesus are not difficult, they are impossible.   Yet He comes as a gentle leader who has experienced all things but did not give in.  And not only does He forgive, He also heals.  Completely.  Perhaps not in this life, but in the life to come.  He does not condemn me, but invites me into a life of healing with Him.  To share with others.  And covers me with His righteousness.  Wow……..My greatest accomplishment, the best thing I will ever be, happened when I accepted Christ.  “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for me, that I might become the righteousness of God, in Him”.  Faith plus nothing…………As you say, He overlooks a lot in me………  And I trust him…..

    I love the line from the movie “The best exotic Marigold hotel”.  The line is  “In the end, it is always good.   If it is not yet good, it is not yet the end.”  I could tell you stories that would freeze your blood.  I’ll take this life.  And the life to come……………

    Rats.  The preacher is coming out again…………..  You know all this stuff……. Just write the book… Blessings!

  10. mark warner August 25, 2013 at 3:49 am

    Good stuff as usual.  The dog illustration is good.  Dogs also need discipline.  When I was younger we had a little dog that was fun to play with, to make bark, to watch her chase after people.  Until she ran under a bus.  Lack of discipline was fatal to her, even though she did not understand.  It was a horrible experience, but not the dog’s fault.  It was mine.  A dog is not happy if it is in charge.  Too much of life is beyond it’s comprehension.  It needs a loving, caring pack leader.  Leader, not a mamby pamby best friend.

    Boundaries are safe places to play.  I am an addict.  I have to have boundaries to be safe.  My life is good, loving fulfilling when I stay inside the boundaries.  If I decide to play outside the boundaries, my choice, here comes the bus.  In addiction, there is no bottom.  You hear, when they “hit bottom”. That is a myth.  The bottom is death.

    This Christian stuff is serious stuff.  They’re not called the 10 suggestions. Sin is a huge problem.  It destroys me.  How well I know.  I am unable to even come close, in my heart, to keeping his laws. The teachings of Jesus are not difficult, they are impossible.   Yet He comes as a gentle leader who has experienced all things but did not give in.  And not only does He forgive, He also heals.  Completely.  Perhaps not in this life, but in the life to come.  He does not condemn me, but invites me into a life of healing with Him.  To share with others.  And covers me with His righteousness.  Wow……..My greatest accomplishment, the best thing I will ever be, happened when I accepted Christ.  “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for me, that I might become the righteousness of God, in Him”.  Faith plus nothing…………As you say, He overlooks a lot in me………  And I trust him…..

    I love the line from the movie “The best exotic Marigold hotel”.  The line is  “In the end, it is always good.   If it is not yet good, it is not yet the end.”  I could tell you stories that would freeze your blood.  I’ll take this life.  And the life to come……………

    Rats.  The preacher is coming out again…………..  You know all this stuff……. Just write the book… Blessings!

  11. mark warner August 26, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Thanks for reading my randomness.  Just one more thought on the dog.

    When we come home, the dog goes nuts.  He jumps up and down and is totally thrilled to see us, to love us, because he misses us.  My wife and I have not had a dog for 30 years so this is new to us.  I like to think God is the same way.

     

  12. mark warner August 26, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Okay okay I just thought it was my last thought.  When God moved into the promised land he swept a lot of cultures aside.  Painful and bloody for a fact. Was there a better way to do it?  Probably not.  It was kill or be killed at that time, not much in between although some tribes tried for peace.  Understandable and reconcilable with the God of mercy and peace?  Not from my vantage point.  At the least very difficult.

    Ah, but the result!  A temple built with no idol inside on the only trade route between Africa, Europe and Asia.  Many people would stop there as it was a central location.  God wished to show Himself to the then known world.  The why of Israel, I don’t know.  I personally prefer the Germans.   But they tried.  Imperfectly, mistaken laden but they tried.  He always wants to show Himself.  Sometimes as a person of a different race and gender.  Whatever works.  But bag the idol, whatever it may be.

  13. mark warner August 26, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Thanks for reading my randomness.  Just one more thought on the dog.

    When we come home, the dog goes nuts.  He jumps up and down and is totally thrilled to see us, to love us, because he misses us.  My wife and I have not had a dog for 30 years so this is new to us.  I like to think God is the same way.

     

  14. mark warner August 26, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    Okay okay I just thought it was my last thought.  When God moved into the promised land he swept a lot of cultures aside.  Painful and bloody for a fact. Was there a better way to do it?  Probably not.  It was kill or be killed at that time, not much in between although some tribes tried for peace.  Understandable and reconcilable with the God of mercy and peace?  Not from my vantage point.  At the least very difficult.

    Ah, but the result!  A temple built with no idol inside on the only trade route between Africa, Europe and Asia.  Many people would stop there as it was a central location.  God wished to show Himself to the then known world.  The why of Israel, I don’t know.  I personally prefer the Germans.   But they tried.  Imperfectly, mistaken laden but they tried.  He always wants to show Himself.  Sometimes as a person of a different race and gender.  Whatever works.  But bag the idol, whatever it may be.

  15. Harvey April 6, 2014 at 10:28 am

    I love the dog analogy ! The Jesus lens has been very helpful as well! All very good tips for my journey!

  16. Harvey April 6, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    I love the dog analogy ! The Jesus lens has been very helpful as well! All very good tips for my journey!

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