OK. Let’s get this straight, God does not change. But the way God has reveaed himself over time has changed. This is a quick run through, starting with the earliest book of the Bible, Job.
Not Genesis. Genesis belongs with the books of Moses, it deals with things before the Exodus, but it is a post Exodus book. I’m starting with Job, which is set in the time of the Patriarchs. So what is the God of Job like?
Job’s God, El, is the top guy in a group of gods, the head of a council of gods. There are other god’s but El is top dog. It is a long book saying in a poetic way that when bad stuff happens we are not to blame God. There are some who say that they can’t believe in God because of the bad stuff happens, but right from the start of the Bible, talks about that, which lifts it above the narratives of other religions of the time, which have gods fighting each other and raining down arbitary acts of destruction. Job (the book) says God (El) is not like that.
Then there’s the Exodus, we are introduced to another god, or another name for God, Yahweh, YHWH. This is the God of the Exodus, who brings the tribes of Israel out of Egypt. Something special is here too, because Yahweh, the local god of Israel, is also El, the chief of the Gods. There is a sacrificial system, but it is not there to stave off anger or win God’s favour as in the religions of that time and area. It is about ritual pureness and forgiveness. But there’s an extra sacrifice, the fellowship offering. God wants fellowship with his people, here revealed as the nation of Israel. A personal relationship with the highest of the Gods is possible. Many of the psalms are written from this viewpoint, even Christian hymns such as Praise to the holiest in the height carry the same imagery.
And so it went on through the period of the Judges and the kings, both in the unified and divided kingdoms. Then, as the northern kingdom was about to be taken into exile, in the south the prophet Isaiah was saying something new: There is only one God and the gods of the other nations are simply statues of wood or stone with no power.
This was revolutionary. The world view was turned on its head. It did not take off immediately, but when the southern kingdom returned from its own exile the idea of there being one God was sold. The revelation of the nature of God had progressed.
Out of the old and into the new. Another big change, and even more revolutionary. God became man. Even more revolutionary than the idea that the local god Yahweh was the high God El is the idea that a man, Jesus is God. But why did Jesus come?
Jesus came and preached about the Kingdom Of God, not just that the kingdom is coming, but that is already here. Gods kingdom has come.
Jesus is coming back. Let us encourage each other with this thought, God gets the last word and becomes King. The mess of the world gets sorted. But to over emphasise this, as if God is not concerned with our present physical lives is a mistake. There is no divide between the spiritual and secular in the Jewish narrative, that is a Greek idea that somehow has got attached to western Christian thinking, But the incarnation, God becoming man, is a very physical thing: God becomes a physical human, God goes about preaching and healing as a physical human, God dies on the cross as a physical human, God is raised from the dead as a physical human. God cares for our physical lives enough to become physical.
It teaches a lot about what a king is; and it is revolutionary. The Jews were looking for a Messiah who would be the sort of King who would drive out their enemies. Jesus came as a king who was executed by the Jews enemies, and even whilst being executed forgave them. In doing so he showed that people are wrong about what a king is and about what leadership is about.
In teaching about the kingdom of God taught that he was coming back, but also that it is already here. The kingdom of God broke out into this world when Jesus died, rose again, ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to us. When we live by the Spirit we live in the Kingdom of God. God’s Kingdom is here now, and is demonstrated when people live by the standards of the kingdom, of love and forgiveness, even to those we cannot like, even to those who do us wrong.
When peoplw live that way, going beyond forgiveness and wanting the best for their enemies, as recently demonstrated by members of the black church in Charleston, South Carolina, then the kingdom of God breaks out in the world again and God becomes King,