Thursday, September 1, 2011

OTC 2 Hard Questions Introduction

It's that time of year again! My church began a series last fall called the Old Testament Challenge which involved reading through the Pentateuch in nine weeks. This month we begin Old Testament Challenge 2 and we will be reading through the historical books. And, as last year, I and the pastor are writing a devotional guide of sorts, though this year my role has changed just a bit.

This year I get one page each week to address the hard questions that have come up in the past week's reading. So over the next couple weeks, I'll share my contributions to the OTC at Redeemer Church in Omaha, NE.

“…they have rejected me from being king over them.”

God uses many different images in the Bible to show his relationship to his people: a father, a lover, even a friend. But one of the more dominant pictures is that of a ruler or king.

God wants to be king. God must be king. And God will be king. This isn’t an ego thing. God is the ultimate being in the universe and it has to be this way (and honestly, this is a good thing). So it only makes sense when we see much in the Old Testament pivoting around God’s kingdom and rule—especially the conflict that results when men reject it. Consider two examples:

  • In the garden, Adam and Eve were God’s emissaries, his royal ambassadors over creation. So when they sinned, it wasn’t just rebellion, it was treason against a loving and giving ruler.
  • In Egypt, God wasn’t just coming as a rescuing king for his people, he was also demonstrating his power and authority over each of Egypt’s man-made gods and their god-king.
So this idea shapes the first of three general principles that will help clear up some of the harder passages you will read:
  • Where is God’s rule? If there is conflict, how has God’s instruction been ignored? If there is judgment, how has God’s rule been rejected?
  • “Is” does not mean “ought”. Some of the things you will read in the Bible will be downright horrid. But just because you read it there does not mean God endorses it. Some things are recorded precisely to show what happens when we reject God as king and try to be our own kings instead.
  • Community is important—for good or for bad. We live in an extremely individualistic society, valuing the individual over the group. But most cultures over the centuries have not functioned this way, instead valuing the group over the individual. So when a family, community, or people are judged as a unit, it clashes with the modern reader’s sensibilities. We should humbly admit this is a tension largely unique to our western, “enlightened” and elitist mind set.
For further reading: Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster? (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011)

No comments: