READINGOld Testament: Jeremiah 1:11-19
Psalms: Psalms 56, 57, 58
New Testament: Romans 1:1-15
Gospel: John 4:27-42
Evening Psalms: Psalms 64, 65
DEVOTIONALI’ve often struggled with dichotomies within faith. Some of them are general - like whether I should read the Bible as the unalterable word of God or as a human work open for interpretation. Some, though, are very specific contrasts on a single topic. Rightly or wrongly, the dichotomy that I’ve struggled with the most is in terms of “Old Testament God” and “New Testament God.”
I read the passage in Jeremiah, and I see unerringly the “vengeful” God with which I’ve struggled so much. Growing up in the church, I couldn’t get my head around this God that I was supposed to fear. This God, that shows how entire peoples will be terrorized and threatens to humiliate His own prophet, is a good thing? I loved reading Greek mythology with their all-too-human gods but, for my own God, I was hoping for something more than that.
But the other part of the story was completely different. Here, people are overflowing with joy because of the kindness of God that is poured out to everybody. We’re told to go out and show the whole world God’s love. And rather than focusing on God’s help to “smite thy enemies,” followers are implored to make “earth as it is in heaven.” Yeah, that’s something I can understand. That is a message and a faith that makes much more sense to me and is spiritually filling.
But how do I match that up with the uber-Zeus of the earlier readings?
I eventually connected the dots through the person and message of Jesus. Jesus re-introduced me to a God who is not just “out there” displaying cosmic might, but who nourishes from within and wants to work through me, through us. Yes, Jesus is still speaking of the same “terrible and mighty” God from before. God is All and that can be terrible and mighty if that’s what I’m focused on. But Jesus changed my relationship with God. He says to me, “Look deeper.” That might and splendor is not just destructive force. It’s beautiful. It’s life.
I imagine listening in while Jesus tells his followers, “So, you’re interested in connecting with God. Why? To prosper or have your enemies smitten, perhaps? You wouldn’t be the first or the last to see a relationship with God that way. But it can be so much more than that. Let me tell you how.”
Through Jesus, God reached out and connected.