So What IS God Like?

May 27, 2015

Somebody made a quirky comment about God and Jesus the other day; it got me thinking. It went something like this: “I’m a Jesus person; the God of the Old Testament needs rehabilitation, and Jesus did that.”

Aside from who/what you think might be “the God of the Old Testament,” can you see what is wrong with this statement? The comment basically states that Jesus is not the same God as YHWH of old! It also suggests that the speaker might not be truly Trinitarian.

But let’s take a look at one statement of the character of God found in the Old Testament, Psalm 145.

1          I will extol you, my God and King,
                        and bless your name forever and ever.
2          Every day I will bless you,
                        and praise your name forever and ever.
3          Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;
                        his greatness is unsearchable.

4          One generation shall laud your works to another,
                        and shall declare your mighty acts.
5          On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
                        and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
6          The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed,
                        and I will declare your greatness.
7          They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness,
                        and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

8             The LORD is gracious and merciful,
                        slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9          The LORD is good to all
                    and his compassion is over all that he has made.

10           All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD,
                        and all your faithful shall bless you.
11        They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom,
                        and tell of your power,
12        to make known to all people your mighty deeds,
                        and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13        Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
                        and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

The LORD is faithful in all his words,
                        and gracious in all his deeds.
14        The LORD upholds all who are falling,
                        and raises up all who are bowed down.
15        The eyes of all look to you,
                        and you give them their food in due season.
16        You open your hand,
                        satisfying the desire of every living thing.
17        The LORD is just in all his ways,
                        and kind in all his doings.
18        The LORD is near to all who call on him,
                        to all who call on him in truth.
19        He fulfills the desire of all who fear him;
                        he also hears their cry, and saves them.
20        The LORD watches over all who love him,
                        but all the wicked he will destroy.
21        My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD,
                        and all flesh will bless his holy name forever and ever.

Just look at all those adjectives and verbs to describe our gracious and loving God! Doesn’t it hit you that Jesus is the same God as YHWH, God come in the flesh entirely. Jesus did not come with a purpose or intent any different from what he, as God, had been pursuing through the millennia. Any description or character we attribute to Jesus must be attributed equally to God, and visa versa: any description or character we attribute to YHWH in accordance with the Scripture must be applied to Jesus. To do anything else theologically is in error.

When Jesus introduced himself to his disciples—comments recorded primarily in the gospel of John—he identified himself as one with the Father, of one will with the Father, the one sent by his Father, not to mention the one who would send the Spirit. These Trinitarian links are extremely important to us, because here is where they point: if we get to know Jesus, we get to know God. Jesus is the face of God made accessible to mere mortals who otherwise would fall blinded before the glory of the Almighty. Jesus is the one through whom we relate to the triune God. By being so, Jesus enables us to participate in the love, power, and purposes of the fellowship of Father, Son, and Spirit.

But, you say, look at verse 20b: “But all the wicked he will destroy.” Didn’t Jesus say, “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him”? Yes, he did! He came to save . . . he came to redeem us so that we could be made righteous and be able to stand in the presence of God who is righteous and pure. And we are saved from what? Saved from the folly of trying to find Life by another way than its Source, Jesus the Lord.

Jesus went on to say, “Those who believe in [the Son] are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:17-18). There is no getting around it: some day there will be a reckoning, the standard being belief in the name of Jesus Christ as God’s Son come in the flesh. Jesus made his appearance specifically to help us see the mercy and compassion of God, which (Paul reminds us later) “draws us to repentance” (Romans 2:4). God wants us to be saved; God cares about how we are doing spiritually. God has made a great effort to introduce us to the means of salvation. All we have to do is grab hold of it!

But I presume that some will not avail themselves of God’s mercy, as hard as that is to believe (I mean, what an offer!). Some day those who have rejected Christ will be destroyed, the last chance for their salvation exhausted. While the righteous will not rejoice that some are lost because of their refusal to submit to God’s sovereignty, those who have been saved will be glad that wickedness can no longer touch them or threaten them. It is an expression of God’s mercy and compassion that he cares about the well-being of those who find shelter in him.



2 Responses to “So What IS God Like?”

  1. emd5542 Says:

    This is Truth. Thank you, Mary. Keeping faith, Eleanor

  2. Jodie Gallo Says:

    I remember once being coached by a friend on how to get little wild birds to come eat seeds out of my hand. The coaching was to stand very still and look the other way. Appear to not be very interested in the little birds. And slowly but surely they will come, closer and closer, and finally overcome their anxiety and eat out or your hand.

    I am thinking about the distopian post-apocalyptic world from which the Church arose and against which it prevailed. It came as an answer to the prayers of a world that was lost and knew it.

    I think it’s possibly a nostalgic mistake to keep reminding the world it is lost, in order to sell it salvation. People who are lost will come to that conclusion on their own without any prompting. Chasing them with seeds will just spook them. But when we stand there as a strong tree in the wilderness, the birds will come and make their nests, and the animals of the field will come and rest in its shade.

    I think, if we sit still and listen, we can hear the prayers of the world around us, and if we do, we can enter into the dialog they are already having with God, as facilitators, and brokers, and ambassadors, and translators.

    It’s all about body language. That is what my friend taught me about feeding the birds. Show them they don’t need to be afraid.


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