Join us as we explore God's ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.
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Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
What is God really like? We read the Old Testament and see a God who punishes sin in extremely harsh ways. Take for example the incident recorded in Exodus 32 and 33. Moses goes up Mount Horeb and God writes on tables of stone ten commandments as the basis to live in community with him and each other. Because of Moses’ prolonged absence, the people convince his brother, Aaron, that Moses must be dead and will not return. Aaron crafts a gold statue of a cow and that statue becomes their god.
Exodus 33 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ 2 I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 3 Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”
4 When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments. 5 For the Lord had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you.’”6 So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments at Mount Horeb.God is ready to destroy all those people and start over with just Moses. But Moses prays and asks forgiveness for their sinfulness. He offers his life for theirs and asks God to remain with them on their journey to the land God promised Abraham so many years ago.
God changed his mind and saved his people from destruction, but instead of going straight to the land he had picked out for them as an inheritance, the Israelites remained in the rugged wilderness of the middle east for forty years. They lived as nomads with no home to call their own until every adult who left Egypt died except for Joshua and Caleb. That is harsh punishment.
In the desert, God provided food for them, but it was manna every day. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Manna. Once when I was in the Army, our rations got a little mixed up and we at chicken cacciatore for breakfast and lunch for longer than anyone should. We couldn’t exchange them. We were stuck with them. It took me almost a decade to enjoy chicken cacciatore again. It gave me a new appreciation for the Israelites’ complaint about manna. The Bible tells us it was sweet, like honey. But there are only so many ways you can fix something. Raw. Boiled. Baked. Add water and yeast to make bread. Fried. How many things can you do with it? But still it was manna. Every day. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For forty years. If you do the math, that’s 14,560 days. If you ate three meals a day, that 43,680 meals. Of manna. Punishment!
God heard their complaint about manna, though. He solved their problem. They ate quail. Now, if you order quail in a restaurant, it’s usually in one of those high priced places. I’m not sure most of the restaurants I eat in have quail on the menu. Quite a luxury God gave them. But like the manna, when that’s all you have is quail, it gets old no matter how good it was in the beginning. God let them eat it until it came out their nose. They grew really sick of those birds. Literally. Punishment.
God sent hail and brimstone down on the wicked. Sodom and Gomorrah. He turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt when she couldn’t resist one more peak at the town she left behind. God let the waters fall back together to crush the Egyptian army after the Israelites walked across on dry land. God surrounded Elisha with an army of angels ready to strike when the Syrian army paid him a visit. God even struck Miriam with leprosy when she and Aaron got a little jealous of Moses’ position.
For those of you who might be fashion sensitive, they had shoes that didn’t wear out. No shoe shopping. The same pair of sandals. Every day. No matter what you might wear. Oh, yeah. The clothes didn’t wear out either. So for the fashionistas, they wore the same clothes. Every day. For 14, 560 days. Maybe they had one extra set so they could wear one set while the other was in the wash, but remember, they left in a hurry. They didn’t take a lot of luggage with them. Not much of a wardrobe. Punishment.
So we see the God of the Old Testament seems like he was always looking for ways to punish. But that’s not really true. Did he punish? Yes. Did he love? More than we can ever understand. I think sometimes those glimpses of God’s wrath in the Old Testament are kind of like our news media today. Bad news cells. We want the juicy failures so it makes us feel better about ourselves.
The truth is God has not changed. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is truth and life and light. He is the creator. He keeps all of this universe humming in perfect order. He is love. He created that emotion because he wants us to experience in our frail, imperfect way, the perfect love the triune Godhead experiences eternally.
The amazing thing about God is that he wants to have a personal relationship with each of us. He wants that relationship so desperately that he came to earth and lived with us wrapped in human flesh. Then sacrificed himself on a Roman cross as payment for the Old Testament covenant punishment we deserve. His mercy relieves us of that payment with our blood. But God hasn’t changed and there is more. Not only does he give us mercy and doesn’t make us pay the penalty for our sins, he pours out his grace on us.
God’s grace is so incredible it is impossible to describe. God’s grace so exceeds our limited capacity to imagine, we cannot put it into words. Many have tried, but we all fall short and just stand in awe of the creator who gives us life. Forgives our sins. Covers us with the blood he shed on the cross for us. Sits at the right hand of the Father intervening on our behalf. His grace is so marvelous we cannot begin to even adequately put it into our thoughts.
The God of grace and mercy and love is the New Testament God we like to hear about and he is all of that. He pours himself out for us. He is an awesome God as the song written by Rich Mullins and made popular by Michael W. Smith echos for us. Don’t get me wrong, I know God’s grace and mercy and love. I’ve experienced it personally. But I also know that God has not and will not change. The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are the same God. Just like as a good father, there are times that I must punish my kids to help them learn right from wrong, God as our greatest example of a good father disciplines us.
Should we be surprised at the seeming change in personality between the two sides represented in the Old and New? No, but if you look closely at God before and after that dividing line in which God came to earth to live in flesh, you’ll see his love in the Old Testament with scenes like Pharaoh’s daughter rescuing Moses from the river. God giving Sarah a child in her old age. David’s psalms. And the list goes on and on.
The God of the New Testament is also a God of wrath. Just take a look at Acts 5 and see what happened to Ananias and Sapphira or the judgments that will be meted out described in the book of Revelation. God has not and will not change. He is the one constant in everything we do or see or feel. He is the anchor we can depend on because regardless of the political bent of any particular nation, regardless the state of the economy, regardless the health of loved ones or yourself, God is the same and God cares.
What does that mean for us? It means in a hopeless, loveless, wicked world, we have hope. We have love. We have righteousness. Because we can have God, not just with us, but in us. He can forgive us and then if we let him, he can guide us through this life and into the next safe from the destroyer of souls.
In this Lenten Season, remember who God is. Remember he came to show us we have hope because he came and died for us. But he didn’t just die as a sacrifice. If he stayed in the grave as a sacrifice, we would not be worshiping him. We would not have churches around the globe. We would not die as martyrs for Jesus, the Messiah. No, if Jesus had only died on the cross, he would have been another good man doing marvelous things for people.
But Easter came. Jesus arose. He conquered death, our enemy. He lives today. Remember who God is. Remember why we have hope. Spend time listening to him and learning about him as Easter approaches.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.