One of the arguments we hear against God rather frequently is that people are struggling with the God of the Old Testament - the seemingly vengeful, malicious, unpredictable God who is one minute telling His people how much He loves them and in the very same breath, defeating them in battle and sending them into exile.
But let's be honest. That's not really the problem people are having with God. That's the story of the vast majority of the gods of people throughout history. Most of the gods men have worshiped have been vengeful and unpredictable. They have been at times hostile to the people. It has taken often more than man can muster to get on their good side and to stay there. And that hasn't stopped anyone from worshiping them. (Over time, sure, but not immediately.)
The problem we really have with God is not how He seems to act with His people in the Old Testament. The problem we have with God is what He claims in Genesis.
See, it's not that God could be as fickle as all the other gods; man has come to expect that from his deities. The trouble is that this God claims to have created the world and then become fickle with it. That's what seems to make it perverse.
The other gods were generally mythological. They were created from stories or they were exalted men or they were forces of nature as it were. The creation myths aren't so bold as the creation story; most of these other gods seem to have come to be after the world was set in motion. The Christian God, however, claims to have set the world in motion.
And then become vengeful with it.
That's a problem. It's a problem because it makes us wonder what this God's intent could have possibly been in creating the world in the first place. Did He create it just for His wrath? Did He create it to show His dominance over it? Did He create it not for His own glory, but for His own ego? To play with it like a child plays with his toys? We don't like the idea of being played with.
This is what Job was railing against in the book that bears his name. It wasn't that his life was miserable and difficult and falling apart. It wasn't the grief of losing his family or the trial of losing his possession or even the pain of the boils that covered his skin. The problem Job had was that he still believed the creation story. He still believed God had created him. As we talked about on Friday, Job knew without a doubt that God had knit him together in his mother's womb. He even says as much. And the trouble Job is having is what to do with this God who invests such craftsmanship into His world and then troubles that very world. That knits together a man and then snarls him.
We often have the same questions.
But we're so unaware of them. It's easy to fall into the trap of what we're hearing in the world, what we think the problems are. The problem is not that our God is like all the other gods; it doesn't seem like that would trouble anybody. If you worship Baal and he's fickle and difficult to please, what does it matter to you if God is fickle and difficult to please? That's what you've come to expect of your gods. The problem is that this God claims to be different and then appears shockingly similar to all the other gods. The problem is that this God calls the world His handiwork, then rebels against His own Creation (or so it seems).
To answer this objection, of course, we have to follow through with the story. We have to get to the good part, the meat of the whole thing. We have to get to the place where God does something radically different from all the other gods of this world - where He loves this world so much that He sends His only Son into it so that He can love it with skin on and pour out His offering all over this world. It is this act that ties us back to the creation story, where we get to see God coming back to the story He started writing at the foundation of the world.
What do we do with all that junk in the middle? All that stuff that seems so objectionable? I don't really know. What I know is that God began as the God of the world, became the God of the people so He could show Himself as the God of the world and in doing so, became Lord of the people. (If you followed that, give yourself a cookie.) Like I said, I don't really know.
All I'm saying is that we're not really troubled by what we think we're troubled by. It's no bother to man for his gods to be fickle; they always have been. Our trouble is that our God is loving.
It's that that we must discover an answer for.