In a recent post I argued that God is not a jealous God, even though He said He was. I am either the world’s greatest heretic, or I am confident that I know who my Father is! How can I say God is not jealous when it’s right there in black and white in both Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 6? Because I have learned to filter what I read in the Bible through Jesus and His finished work. Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). Don’t you know that Jesus loved us and died for us while we were still idol-worshipping sinners (Rms 5:8)? That doesn’t look like jealousy to me!
Rest assured that God never changes. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb 13:8). But judging from the feedback I’ve received, some of you are having trouble wrapping your heads around the idea that God can change the way He relates to us without changing His nature. Yet there are many examples in the Bible of God acting differently in different circumstances. Most notably, God changes the way He relates to us in covenant. If this puzzles you, look at the table below which compares God’s behavior before and after Mt Sinai (when the 10 commandments were given):
God’s Behavior Before and After Mt Sinai
|Before: Covenant of Grace (unmerited favor)||After: Covenant of Law-Keeping (merited favor)|
|Cain kills his brother and God protects him (Gen 4:15)||A man picks up sticks on the Sabbath and God says “kill him” (Nu 15:32-36)|
|The Israelites cry out to God about their hardships and He delivers them (Ex 3:7-8)||The Israelites complain about their hardships and God sends fire and kills them (Nu 11:1-3)|
|The Israelites complain about the Egyptians and God delivers them (Ex 14:11-12, 21ff)||The Israelites complain about the Canaanites and 10 are immediately struck down; the rest are condemned to die in the wilderness (Nu 14:26-37)|
|The Israelites grumble about the bitter water and God gives them good water (Ex 15:22-25)||The Israelites grumble about the bad food and God strikes them with a plague killing many (Nu 11:4-10, 31-34)|
|The Israelites whine about the lack of food and water and God feeds them supernaturally (Ex 16,17)||The Israelites whine about the lack of food and water and God sends a plague of snakes that kills many (Nu 21:4-6)|
Doesn’t it strike you as odd that a loving God acts one way one time, but a completely different way another? If it does, then you’ve never raised children. Go find a loving parent and ask them, “Did you spank your kids when they were little? Do you still spank them now that they’re grown?” Do you see? The same loving parent relates to their children differently depending on how the children wish to relate to them. Under the old covenant, God chose to restrain His heart of love towards the Children of Israel in order that they might see the dangers of sin and recognize their need for a Savior.
God has always loved us with an everlasting, and therefore, unconditional love. He blessed Abraham and told him, “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendents” (Gen 17:7). Even while the Israelites were under the temporary law-keeping covenant, God’s true and unchanging nature would occasionally be detected by prophets like Jeremiah (31:3) and Isaiah (54:10) – not to mention David who lived as if the old covenant wasn’t as real to Him as God’s loving-kindness (Ps 51:1, 63:3,KJV). This is why God said of David, “Now there’s a man who knows my heart.”
That old covenant – the one where God chose to make His love conditional on the Israelites’ performance – is long gone. We live under a new and better covenant where the heart of God is clearly seen in the way He relates to us. And how does He relate? Through the pure and unqualified grace that comes to us through Jesus Christ. If you want to know how much your heavenly Father loves you, look to Jesus who died for you and now lives for you.
- Does God kill babies?
- Is God’s love unconditional?
- The badness of David vs the goodness of God