The Heart and Character of God -
One of the most significant theological insights I have had happened in Hebrew Bible class in Seminary. We we're talking about Moses and the burning bush. My professor was teaching us about the Hebrew words that are translated into English as, “I am.” As in, God telling Moses, “I am who I am.” and “tell Pharaoh, ‘I AM’ sent me.” God was telling Moses what God’s name is. What I learned is that the same Hebrew word could mean, “I Am who I Am,” or it could mean, I will be who I will be.” The hamster wheel in my head began to spin so fast I worried that smoke might be coming out of my ears. Really, is God allowed to change and become something new? I had never thought of God in that way. I suddenly realized that I had not really given it much thought.
Now that I have let myself think of God in new ways it seems pretty obvious to me that God is evolving. At the very least I would say that we are evolving in our understanding of God. I always wanted God to be perfect. The problem with things that are perfect is that they are not living. Living things change. If something is perfect and then changes it is no longer perfect. I guess that is why in the Creation Story God doesn’t ever call creation perfect. Instead God calls it, “Good.” In a weird way, Good is much better than perfect.
GOD IS LIKE JESUS
Jesus, who was a real person, who did real things that people wrote about, shows us what God is like. If you understand who Jesus was, you can get a picture of what God is like. Things that were important to God were important to Jesus. If we want to know the heart and character of God, we must get to know the heart and character of Jesus. The way the Bible was written and compiled, causes us to have greatly differing pictures of God. Here is an example.
In Genesis 6, God is so displeased with the violence of those on the earth that God wishes that that they had never been created. God must really hate violence. But then, is a weird turn of events, God sends a flood to kill all of the inhabitants of earth except one family and Two of every kind of animal. So lets recap. God hates violence in humans and then uses violence to wipe them out. This could leave you to wonder if God really hates violence. So what if we look to Jesus on this one.
DRIVER CARRIES NO CASH
Jesus said to those He was sending out in His name, “Do not take anything with you including a staff. A staff was used by travelers to fend off robbers or wild animals. Not carrying a staff when you traveled was another way of saying, driver does not carry cash. It also left you completely vulnerable. Another example is when Jesus was preaching the sermon on the mount. He told people to turn the other cheek instead of fighting back. The thing he reserved for enemies was to pray for them. So, Jesus earns the nonviolent resistance seal of approval. To me this also means that God’s character is to be a lover of nonviolent solutions to conflict.
So what about the flood then? It seems kinda violent does it not? Yes. If all you had was the Biblical flood story you would come away from it believing God to be petty and not all that creative. However if you knew what the Biblical story was re-imaging it may make more sense. There is another flood story that is much older than the Biblical story. It is called Enuma Elish and it goes something like this:
The gods got together and decided that the men and women of earth were making too much noise and disturbing the gods. So they decide to wipe them all out with a flood.
The moral of the story then is to not make the gods angry by being too loud. Now along comes a group of people called the Hebrews who worship not many but one God and this God chooses to save one family and a whole bunch of animals. The meaning then, is in the difference between the two stories. Both stories would have been known at the time of the writing of the Biblical version. What does it say about the One God that God would have compassion on a family and on animals. It may not seem like a big step forward but it was. To say that the gods or a God took anything into consideration except themselves was huge.
People have used the Bible to justify all kinds of bad behavior from Slavery to oppression of women to genocide but they are never using Jesus’ life as the justification. You can find things in the Bible that can paint all kinds of pictures of God’s heart and Character but if you want to know the truth you have to look to Jesus