The God We Wouldn’t Expect (part 1)

I was inspired by Bill Kinnon’s post to begin posting a little series on seeing God in the Old Testament writings, a project I first worked on back in about 2000 or so.

I thence invoke thy aid to my advent’rous Song
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above th’Aonian Mount, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhyme.
And chiefly Thou O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all Temples th’upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for Thou know’st; Thou from the first
Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread
Dove-like sat’st brooding on the vast Abyss
And mad’st it pregnant: What in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support;
That to the height of this great argument
I may assert Eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to men.
(John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book I, 1-26)

What are those books of the Bible sometimes called the “Writings”? Though some are read a great deal, many are passed over, many are pondered, but some are rejected either by actual words or by simple disregard. Yet the writings are to us a record of the activity of God. More precisely the writings give to us an account of how God has interacted with those he calls his own, the people who he seeks to draw close to him, and the community who he yearns for. These books are also the record of response. They are the history of how humanity has chosen to respond to the One who calls and leads, how those who have been called his people have rejected him, and in some cases how some who were apart from him have been called into his fold. These stories, however, are not the narratives of the beginning of this relationship, but rather we find a discussion of relative maturity in how God deals with humanity and especially his chosen people. We do not always find the constant, obvious miracles, rather we find pain and suffering which cause people to cry out. However, we also find great delight, not simply in what God does, but in who God is.

The Writings of the Old Testament are to us a record of just that, an account of who God is. We find his delights, his sorrows, his willingness to bring aid, his restraint and anger, and willingness to bring punishment. We learn how he wants us to respond to him and to others. Through this collection of writings the “ways of God” are truly justified to all of humanity, so that we may know him truly as he is. He is not simply a “god”, but is God with a distinct personality and desire for actual relationship with his people. In the reading and pondering of the Writings, however, we find an interesting point constantly jumping out at us. God is complicated. God is confusing. God is sometimes frustrating.

The God we were taught to believe in does certainly appear in these writings, but a thorough reading more often than not reveals to us a God we would not expect, a God who does not act like God “should”, a God who does not follow the rules. The goal of this paper is to examine briefly the various writings which have been passed down to us, and to see how God is not quite what we would expect, but actually entirely more amazing and wonderful than we could possibly imagine. This God we would not expect is the God we truly do need.

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