The Old Testament is an intimidating book. It is God’s very own word. It can be difficult to understand. Furthermore, for many readers it paints a portrait of God’s character that is harsh, demanding, and severe. However, those perceptions are misinformed and deny the reality of the Old Testament revelation.
The Old Testament is a revelation of God and His character as it points us forward to the coming of Jesus Christ. While each story reveals something specific from God for believers, there is an overarching theme that is spread throughout. Each reveals the holiness of God. Those stories that we cannot bear to read because of their severity to men point us to a holy God and it is a holiness that affects every aspect of who He is and what He does.
Often we are so distracted by what has happened that we neglect to delve deeper. Instead we rush to judgment about who we think God is. A deeper look though will also reveal that yes, the Lord’s anger can be kindled (and rightly so because it is holy) but we fail to see that the Lord is often slow to anger.
R.C. Sproul notes that God is often so slow to anger that when he does finally manifest his anger we are offended by it. What a powerfully true statement! The truth in that statement reveals something about the status of a Christian’s heart. We have a high regard for ourselves and a low regard for God.
The Lord’s holiness fails to hold us captive, and as a result of that, we humans think we are better off than we really are. We see this displayed through the constant need for works righteousness to act as ones justification . . . interestingly it is the same concept for many unbelievers and believers alike. We are plagued by the same mindset that holds us back in our relationship with God.
In The Holiness of God, Sproul offers a good summation of this concept when he says: “Even if we recognize that He is gracious, we think that He has not been gracious enough. We think we deserve more grace” (Pg. 126). The Lord is slow to anger. The Lord offers grace to us. The Lord gives us mercy. Yet, we unashamedly ask for more . . . not only do we ask for more, we think we are entitled to more.
The Lord has given grace sufficient to cover all and given us His word, His Son, and His creation to lead us to it. Far more than is required for the sinful state in which we exist. How is that we can in good conscience, demand more from Him? The reality of the Christian life is that we need to spend time seeing the holiness of God and ask ourselves, “Who am I without God and who am I with God?” The reality is that we cannot understand divine mercy until we understand divine justice.
I have been reading through R.C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God . Join me each week as we read a chapter and reflect on what we have learned. It’s not too late to join! For more information click here. Next week we will read chapter 6.