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The Old Testament Isn’t That Scary
by Jenna Hostetler
Recently I went to the beach with some friends for a relaxing weekend before finals. It provided a much needed rest, both physically and spiritually, and I finally got to sit and read the Bible without any pressing deadlines or distractions fighting for my attention. I have been reading Jeremiah, a book that is hard to understand the full context of without sitting down and reading several chapters at a time. Upon doing so, however, I found that I couldn’t put it down. Come to think of it, I’ve really missed reading in the Old Testament. While there is arguably more “hell, fire, and brimstone” in the Old Testament than in the New Testament, reading it gives me such a fuller picture of who God is. Since I believe all of scripture is inspired by God, I think it’s important to resist running away from the harder parts and ignoring the difficult words from the Lord that I don’t know what to do with. Instead I should try to understand the part of God’s heart that those words are coming from. The God of the Old Testament and the New Testament are not two different Beings, but the same God. So we should seek to understand the whole picture of Him that the Bible gives to us, not just the parts that we find understandable or to our liking.
As I read Jeremiah, some of it scared me. I had no idea what to do with it, as some of it contradicted my view of a loving God:
“Like the east wind I will scatter them before the enemy. I will show them my back, not my face, in the day of their calamity.” (Jer. 18:17)
“For I have set my face against this city for harm and not for good, declares the Lord,” (Jer. 21:10).
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God is angry with His chosen people, He is promising to punish them, and He shows no signs of relenting or restoring them to Him later. How can one bear to read that God has gone back on His promise? That the only one in the universe who can perfectly love someone now hates them? (Jer. 12:8) That the one who tells us to forgive 70 times 7 times has given up? It really messes with you, but it’s so good to challenge yourself with these passages because it stretches your view of God. It toughens the mind and prevents me from thinking that I have God all figured out. When that happens, God goes from a stick figure to way beyond any 3D movie we’ve ever made.
The good news is that these tough passages don’t contradict the true character of God—just our wimpy views of Him. First, Jeremiah makes it clear that God is just. He made a covenant with His people, they broke it, and He has the right to punish them. I think I forget sometimes that I deserve nothing good from God. What I’ve been given is all a result of grace through the death of Jesus Christ. Punishment, wrath, and abandonment are what I rightfully deserve. So as hard as it is to see, I don’t think our panties should get in a wad when we see God doing what He has every right to do, and should do, according to what is just…