This week in my Living on the Rock Bible study*, we looked at the name and character of God.
And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You. (Psalm 9:10)
We spent our time together today thinking about how Jesus reveals God’s character to us.
For many, our salvation is the story of a wrathful God, angry at sin. Jesus, loving and kind, steps between the Father and us, saving us from wrathful God.
Do you relate to that picture at all? This dualistic view of God is very common, and can sometimes be hard to recognize in ourselves. A friend shared this morning that when she answered this question, she thought she wasn’t affected by this dualism. But in the course of our conversation, when someone expressed discomfort with some of how the Old Testament represents God, her first thought was “Well, that’s the Old Testament God, Jesus is something totally different.”
I thought that was such an important realization.
In the course of our discussion, one woman shared that she only ever prays to Jesus, not God. Another shared the opposite – she mostly prays to God and doesn’t really think about Jesus as the object of her prayers.
Both really important realizations. And I think we shouldn’t judge ourselves, or give ourselves or others rules in this area (the answer isn’t “You can only pray to Jesus.” Or “We should only pray to the Father.)
Instead, I think we should take note. Be curious. Lean into those questions.
Why do you pray to Whom you pray to? Do you answer questions about the Old Testament by contrasting “that God” with JEsus, as if they are different? Is it possible that your view of God falls short of the Trinitarian beauty of the Father-Son-Spirit?
These questions are really important, because Jesus SAID
“He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”(John 14:9)
And the clear testimony of Scripture is that Jesus is
…the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature. (Hebrews 1:3)
It is VITAL to our relationship with God that reject a false, dualistic view of God. He is ONE. Father-Son-Spirit.
With that in mind – and with the purpose of taking the Bible literally when it says Jesus was the EXACT representation of God – I’ve spent some time thinking about what we learn about God’s character from the life of Christ as it’s recorded in the gospel accounts in the Bible (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.)
What can we learn about what God is like from the way Jesus was born? I’m sure different aspects of the Christmas story will stand out to different people, but here’s what I thought of:
- Jesus was a King, but God ordained His birth in quite humble circumstances.
- Jesus was a King, but He didn’t wait to be born until humanity had cleaned itself up, or even until medical advances made a relatively sterile birth possible. He was born into dirt, He came right into the mess. Nothing about the birth of Christ was pristine or perfect or cleaned up. (Yet we think we need to get our lives cleaned up before we can really invite God in?)
- He came through PEOPLE, He entrusted Himself to humanity, and time, and place. Presumably, God could have entered His world in any number of ways, but He chose to come through a birth canal, to a teenage mom, entrusting Himself to humanity who would reject Him. What does that say about God’s character? It feels to me like just as Jesus is more comfortable with mess than I think He is, He’s also more comfortable with humanity and uncertainty than I am.
Additionally, we are given a couple of special names for God in Jesus’ birth story:
- Jesus is the New Testament form of the Hebrew name Joshua. The first readers of the Gospel stories would immediately have thought of Joshua, the Military leader who led Israel into the promised land after Moses and the Exodus from Egypt. Joshua has connotations of victory and deliverance. The name Joshua means Yahweh SAVES.
- Matthew tells us Jesus’ birth fulfills the prophecy that “the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel”, which means “GOD WITH US.” I love thinking about Emmanuel outside of the Christmas season – because this is a truth for the entire year. In Jesus, our heavenly Father is revealed as the WITH US God. Present. Completed in the Holy Spirit, God’s presence with us always.
Think about what you know about the life of Christ – the 3 years described in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. How did Jesus interact with people like you and me? As I thought about what was He like, and what that teaches us about God’s character, I thought
- He was very gentle with sinners, and more blunt and direct with the prideful & religious rule-followers who thought they knew more than Him (yet we have a view of God that He wants rule followers who know everything?)
- He was drawn to outsiders, outcasts, invisible people. He ate with the despised of His society – people of all sorts were comfortable with Him. Jesus seems to have had a radar of sorts for needy people (but we so often feel like we have to hide our need from God?)
- “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
- “I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” (John 12:47)
- “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)
I am expectant that the coming Lent and Easter season will give me lots of opportunities to consider what I learn about the character of God from the death and resurrection of Jesus.
- The first thing that comes to my mind about the crucifixion is that it was not an accident. This was always the plan. Jesus was given life to lay down His life. Centuries before His birth, Yahweh God set up the sacrificial system, which pictured Jesus, the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
- We are told of six statements Jesus makes from the cross. One of them was “Father, Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) Even from the cross, the heart of Jesus was for forgiveness, covering over the sin of those crucifying Him. This is the heart of our God.
- We are told of six statements Jesus makes from the cross. One of them is “Woman, behold your son” (John 19:26-27), essentially making the disciple John Mary’s adoptive son. Jesus said 6 things from the cross – and one of them was making sure his mother was taken care of. While saving the entire world, He took the time to care for one woman. That is so beautiful and human and kind. That is the heart of our God.
- Jesus IS KING. Mighty ruler, sovereign of the universe. But His coronation was on the cross – that was the moment He won victory over His enemy (Satan). Our King won His victory through sacrifice, love, laying down His life. This is the heart of our our GOD.
I want to learn to read the Old Testament through the lens of Jesus as God’s highest revelation of Himself.
I want to learn to see the love and kindness and holiness of our Father God in the face of Christ. I want to let Jesus, like an elder brother, lead me to know our Father.
I want to worship the ONE God, not a false, dualistic lie.
Each week, after studying about the different ways that God is our security, I am thinking about how that could change the way I live. “Since God is ______________, then I ______________________.”
This week: Since Jesus is the exact representation of God’s nature, I can rest in the truth that I have a God who gets right down into the mess with me. He is not a far off, vengeful God. He is Emmanuel, God WITH me. I want to root out any fear that God is going to strike me or smite me (or others!)
And since I have a God who laid down His life, I can lay down my life for others.