Is he a vengeful God visiting the sins of the fathers on the children.... ( Exodus 20:5-6) or a loving God, slow to become angry and abounding in steadfast love ( Numbers 14:18)?
When I was writing ‘Bible Stories For Big Kids’ I was pleasantly surprised at how many times God was described as a loving God, something which I have experienced along the way but now was able to see it repeated by so many of the prophets.
People see God from many perspectives – some negative and some positive, but at some stage we have to choose how we perceive God. In Matthew 12:34, Jesus said “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”. “ In other words, the thing that drives us at the centre is the thing that people will see” - Sally Nelson 'Encounter With God' Bible Reading Notes 2015.
Having experienced and also read about a loving God, to me, some of those Old Testament stories give rise to a number of questions. I do have issues with the ethnic cleansing of Canaan for example. I can see why God wanted his people to not be tempted with other gods but even with the locals out of the way, the Israelites still managed to fall into apostasy. Then look at the life of Moses, who at the age of 80, led the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt to the Promised Land (Canaan). After all that hard work, he was denied entry to the Promised Land because he had had a bad hair day back at Meribah. What was God thinking? That I can’t answer but I have learnt to take God and his word, seriously. When he says something he means it whether we like it or not, and it is not for us to rationalise the hard bits to fit with our style of thinking or our culture. We must always see God for who he is and not what we want him to be.
Moses may have been looking forward to a peaceful retirement – was there such a thing in his time?- but the last segment of his life was far from peaceful and yet at the end of his days he was able to remind the Israelites of a God who loved them and really cared about them. On page 68 of ‘Bible Stories For Big Kids’ I have listed some of the promises and warnings Moses gave the people before he died, and these were no warm fuzzies, but were meant to be taken seriously, very seriously. Here are some of them,
‘No other nation, no matter how great, has a God who is so near when they need him as the Lord our God is to us. He answers us whenever we call for help.’
‘The Lord has worked miracles to prove to you that he alone is God and that there is no other.’
‘Love the Lord your God and everything he commands and be faithful to him.’
There are so many more gems in the Bible and in these days when information and technology are changing so fast, it is so good to know that the words of the Bible are relevant to every age.
So what is God really like? I may not have all the answers to my questions, but to me, he remains a God who is patient, forgiving and abounding in a constant love for all people.
What about you?