Summary: One of the images of God from the Old Testament is that of a powerful and intimidating deity who stands in judgment. How can that square with the God of love and compassion we see in the New Testament.
For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been dealing with questions that those in our church – as well as those from about 3 neighboring congregations – have submitted that they would like to ask of God. The question we’re dealing with this morning is: God, what are you like?
OPEN: A couple of years back, an advertising firm in Fort Lauderdale, Florida launched a billboard campaign, sponsored by an anonymous client. The campaign depicted several different “messages from God” and all were signed “God.”
1. Let’s Meet at My House Sunday Before the Game.
2. C’mon Over and Bring the Kids
3. Need a Marriage Counselor? I’m Available.
4. We Need To Talk
5. Loved the Wedding, Invite Me to the Marriage
6. That “Love Thy Neighbor Thing.” I Meant It
7. I Love You… I Love You… I Love You.
8. Will The Road You’re On Get You To My Place
9. Follow Me
10. Tell The Kids I Love Them
11. Need Directions?
12. Big Bang Theory? You’ve Got To Be Kidding!
APPLY: I personally thought these were pretty clever. But sometime after these billboards had made national news, I found myself listening to a radio preacher out of Indianapolis who had problems with these billboards - particularly the ones that sounded ominous and judgmental like the following:
13. My Way Is The Highway
14. Some Things Are Written In Stone
15. You Think It’s Hot Here?
16. Keep Using My Name In Vain and I’ll Make Rush Hour Longer
17. What Part of “Thou Shalt Not…” Didn’t You Understand?
18. Have You Read My #1 Best Seller? There Will Be a Test
What troubled this “preacher” was that these particular billboards spoke of a God who stood in judgment. He much preferred a God who was always loving and tender… in fact, he seemed to be offended by the notion that God would judge anyone.
ILLUS: This wasn’t the first time I’d encountered this attitude. Years ago (when I’d just graduated from Bible college) I began a Bible study in my home. Several men attended, included a man from another church in town – one that was known for its liberal teachings.
We were studying the story of Ananias and Sapphira, who lied about a contribution to church, and immediately upon lying… they died. Although the text didn’t explicitly state that God killed them - that was obviously the implication.
Well, that really offended this man from this other church. He became agitated and tried to prove God hadn’t done anything to cause their deaths.
As we were discussing this, he shared what he truly believed about God - or at least what he had been taught:
1. He said there were 2 Gods in the Bible - the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New – and that they were as different from one another as night is from day.
a. He believed that the God of Old Testament was a God of judgment and anger
b. BUT the God of the NT was a God of compassion and love…
2. And he indicated he could never love or honor a God like the one in the Old Testament
Of course… that’s all pure heresy.
The Bible is fairly clear on the fact that God of the Old Testament IS the God of the New Testament. The only thing that really changed was the relationship that same God had with His people. Under the Old Testament, God’s relationship was centered on the Law of Moses. In the New, it was centered on the Grace of Christ.
But I understand why this would trouble both him and that preacher on the radio. There’s something about the God of Scripture that can be fairly… intimidating.
Exodus, for example, tells of the time when God gave His 10 commandments to His people.
Before Moses went up to receive the tablets, God thundered down the 10 commandments from mountain. And “When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.’” (Exodus 20:18-19)
Later in Israel’s history, the prophet Elijah met God on that same mountain:
“The LORD said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake came a fire but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.”1 Kings 19:11-13