Can We Solely Trust the Old Testaments Portrayal of God?
I’m just really thankful for Jesus! I could mention a thousand ways in which I am thankful for Him, but one way hit me last week at a Bible study and I’ve been thinking about it since. We’ve been studying Hebrews and we got to this verse, “You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word that the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:23b-24).
This is how the Amplified Bible clarifies this, “And to Jesus, the Mediator (Go-between, Agent) of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood which speaks [of mercy], a better and nobler and more gracious message than the blood of Abel [which cried out for vengeance]” (Hebrews 12:24 AMP).
Abel was killed by his brother Cain. As his blood spilled on the ground it cried out to God for vengeance—then God responded (Genesis 4:10-15).
Something similar happened in the Old Testament with Elijah and the messengers that King Ahaziah sent. It’s a weird account and it can be quite confusing. Here’s a brief summary, but you can read the entire account in 2 Kings 1. The king sent messengers to Elijah to clarify a previous message and when they got to him they addressed him as “Man of God.” At this Elijah replied, “If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!” (2 Kings 1:10a). To which of course it did, what choice did God have with a statement like that by one of His prophet? This happened a second time, but by the third time, the messengers at least got smart and asked for respect for their lives being merely the messengers.
This is a puzzling account. It is confusing when looking at this (or others like it in the Old Testament) while trying to reconcile the idea that God is loving and benevolent.
So the question becomes—Can we solely trust the Old Testaments portrayal of God?
Let’s Look at Jesus’ Reaction to This…
Near the end of his life, Jesus resolutely sets His face toward Jerusalem and His impending death. But He has to pass through Samaria so He sends messengers ahead to prepare the way for Him. When He gets there, He is in not received because they know He is heading toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51-54).
So the disciples take a cue from Elijah’s playbook and ask, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” (Luke 9:55b). Samaria was the ‘present-day’ location of the same scene where Elijah encountered the King’s messengers and killed them.
Someone greater than Elijah was standing there not being received; that is a serious offense. But instead of enforcing that infraction, Jesus turned to James and John and severely rebuked them (Luke 9:55). Isn’t it interesting that Jesus had a completely different reaction than Elijah did in a similar situation?
On the one hand, Elijah was a ‘Man of God’. On the other, Jesus is the ‘Son of God’. And if Elijah thought calling fire down from heaven was appropriate, then why didn’t Jesus? So many times we look these accounts at face value and we’re confused why God seems angry and vengeful. Yet, Jesus is the one who is the EXACT IMAGE of God (Hebrews 1:3). So shouldn’t we consider how He handles this situation to understand God’s viewpoint of these types of things?
Elijah called for vengeance (and rightfully so); and yet, Jesus called for mercy. This is the Amplified description of Jesus’ reply to the disciples, “But He turned and rebuked and severely censured them. He said, You do not know of what sort of spirit you are, For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them [from the penalty of eternal death]” (Luke 9:55-56a AMP).
Clearly in this situation, God’s desire for mercy trumped His desire for retribution—Wow!
But this is not an isolated event. “You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word that the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:23b-24).
Again I say—I am SO THANKFUL for Jesus!
His blood, which covers and obliterates our sins is the same blood that enables us to stand in His presence. It is the same blood that continually cries out to God for mercy; a plea that speaks a GOOD word on our behalf!
If Abel’s blood rightfully cried out for vengeance moving God to action…
If Elijah’s position as a Man of God moved God to action...
Then Jesus’ position as mediator of the New Covenant, and the blood ratified the deal will continually move God to Mercy!
Friends, that is powerful! May you find boldness to come before God with the mindset that He will met you full of grace and mercy each and every time!