Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

All along, I have wondered how Jesus would come across straight after hearing about so much of God’s anger and wrath in the Old Testament.

Would Jesus really bear the character of God? Would I conclude that Jesus was only a human being, albeit a gifted one, like Elijah? Would I conclude that there were actually two Gods here – a ‘good God, bad God’ scenario if you will?

First up, Jesus is definitely a human. He is ‘amazed’ (NIV) when so many people in his hometown fail to have enough faith to be healed. Those he does heal, he asks not to tell anyone, which of course they do. He tries to avoid the crowds, but they repeatedly get the better of him and find him.

I had to wonder if the healing thing was not part of his original plan, but faced with so much suffering, he just couldn’t face saying no.

He loses his temper. With a tree. Because he didn’t know that figs were out of season. He’s really angry with himself, but the tree is the one who gets it. Literally. He curses the tree, apparently forgetting that his word is God.

Now, that’s a human thing to do. Anyone who says this is a gospel that pushes his deity is way off.

In fact, he gets angry at least three times in this account. Yet, of course, that anger reminds me of the God of the Old Testament, far more than his kindness does...

Then Jesus asked them, "Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they remained silent.

He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.

- Mark 3:4-5(NIV)

It’s all in there. The anger, the healing, the love, the paradox about trying to turn people’s hearts and, most encouragingly, the level-headedness despite everything.

Because while he got angry alot, the God of the Old Testament was also extremely level-headed. You’d have to be, to so seriously discipline people who you love for 4,000 years.

Yet there’s the difference. In the above extract, I’d really expect God/Jesus to blight the doubters, ram them all through with the sword and then do the same to their wives and children down to the fourth generation, to teach everyone they’re wrong. (it's an old testament thing) But Jesus doesn’t. Despite his displeasure, he does something wonderful, and proves them wrong in a completely positive way.

And he has so much to say in this gospel about the importance of doing what is right, over just mindlessly obeying.

He answered, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions."

Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

- Mark 2:25-27 (NIV)

Hear-hear. This is the sort of common sense that I want to hear from God. It’s there in the Old Testament too, (Jesus even quotes it) but swamped by so much good/bad polarisation.

And he said to them: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe[Some manuscripts set up] your own traditions! For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban' (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that."

- Mark 7:9-13 (NIV)

Obviously I would hope to conclude that God and Jesus are the same guy. The difference in temperament though, is staggering.

I have to wonder if the most likely explanation is actually contained in the excerpt I just quoted – “And you do many things like that.” Would that include the simplified way in which man had been portraying God in his earlier writings?

Man, at that time, not understanding right and wrong so well...


8 comment(s):

At 3:32 pm, Anonymous Rhett said...

Hey Steve.

I'm enjoying reading these... In terms of reading through the O.T in order, I'm about to start with 1 Samuel. So yeah; not going incredibly well! But I will do it!

I've also read Psalms. And I'm reading 2 Corinthians (love that book). Actually, part of the reason I'm going so slow is that I find so much more of relevence and encouragement in the N.T.

Anyway, as I reach each new book I search for your thoughts on it! So thanks. ;-).

P.S when are you coming back?

At 8:49 pm, Blogger Steve Goble said...

Hey thanks for the encouraging words Rhett!

I like 2 Corinthians as well – lots of very positive stuff.

I hope to hear more of your thoughts on these books too.

After the Luke and Matthew review, there's a science-fiction CD review... and then the next 22 entries are all Bible reviews! (though that's just peanuts compared to my backlog of 61 Doctor Who episodes...)

Your question is popular. Sad to say it's not looking very good. I was doing a YouTube search for clips of Howick the other night, with a tear in my eye. One day...

At 9:44 pm, Anonymous Rhett said...

I might just do that at some point, though probably not book by book. That would make me too accountable!

That sucks that it's not looking very good. What are you doing at the moment? I mean in terms of work... or are you holidaying?

I really hope you do come back. Sarah and I hope to visit England late 2009, so if you're still there by then (while I'll be sad) at least we'll get to see you.

At 11:00 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The accountability thing is a tough one. I wrote most of these reviews at the time of reading the books themselves, but in some cases I'm finding that, in the three months that have elapsed until posting, some of my opinions have changed! Sometimes I change the posts accordingly, on other occasions I leave them as representative of my initial questions at the time. I guess I'm accountable to my older self!

I probably shouldn't be too specific here, so I shall be general and talk about my philosophy of "paperwork."

I actually think Jesus put it best in the excerpt from Mark that I've quoted at the end of this post. There are perfectly good rules, but rules are not a substitute for thinking and doing the right thing.

I think we create rules to save ourselves the trouble of having to constantly think about what's right and fair. And that's fine so long as the rules work and produce decisions that are right and fair. In cases when the rules don't work, in my opinion we have to return to the thinking that the rules are meant to represent. In our society however, many people, particularly big organisations, believe the exact opposite: when the rules don't work, we must not think, but follow the rules, no matter how hard or unfair they may seem!

Of course the rightness and fairness of a matter is subjective. In my opinion my paperwork should have been approved, because the last four years of my life are there, my friends are there, my church is there, my stuff is there, my money is there and, oh yes, I have two jobs are there! (I'm glad I didn't buy that car)

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the rules are actually correct that my paperwork shouldn't have been approved. The thing is though, the rules don't take any of the points that I've made in the above paragraph into consideration, which I think they should. So in my opinion the rules have room for improvement, which can only happen by going back to thinking.

Of greater importance to me though is that God could easily have had my paperwork approved if he had wanted to. He hasn't. That's cool.

As for what I'm doing here, yes I'm working... over there! Staying up all night working over the telephone and internet for one of my employers there.

Anyway, there's more to come. I certainly would like to catch-up with you and Sarah this year or next. :)

At 8:44 pm, Anonymous Rhett said...

Working for an NZ company!? That's novel!

I do hope things get sorted out. If you don't get residency, is there any way you can come back for a decent length of time?

At 9:52 am, Blogger Steve Goble said...

There are always ways of doing that, so I guess at the moment I'm determining:

a) which ways, if any, offer themselves, (I do have other irons in the fire)

b) whether I consider those ways worth it, and

c) whether I reckon it's within God's agenda.

I do miss NZ alot - especially all my friends. But I don't want to take a step backwards to becoming just a visitor again, like I was when I effectively settled there four years ago.

At 3:40 pm, Anonymous Rhett said...

Yeah I totally understand.

We miss you too! Especially now we have no one to drive home on a Sunday night ;-).

At 4:24 pm, Blogger Steve Goble said...

Yeah, I miss our chats too!


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