Sometimes the God about whom we read in the Old Testament seems like a completely different God than He whom we worship today. It is readings like today’s that make us believe the great heresy that the Old Testament God is a god of wrath and vengeance while the New Testament God is a god of grace and love. The truth is that God doesn’t change and has never changed – He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
But as we read about so much death and killing, children and women, soldiers and servants, it is hard to believe that God sanctioned these actions. Yet Jehu, who carried out the murder of the entire family of King Ahab, is praised by God for his righteousness and faithfulness.
What does the bible mean to you? How does your interpretation go – from the bible to you, or from your own experience and belief into the text? The first is called “exegesis”, where we seek answers in the bible. The second is called “eisegesis”, where we read our own opinions, experiences, and beliefs back into the bible. The first begins with God and His Word and then travels out to and through us. The second begins with us and then travels back into the text.
Far too many people today are experts at eisegesis, able to find a verse to back up any belief they may have come to. Want to get drunk? Find verses that suggest a glass of wine before bed. The NRA, the ACLU, and even Westboro Baptist people have verses to back up their desired message. But if you read the scriptures as a whole, you find a God with His own agenda, beliefs, behaviors, and theology. And He’s a God who expects us to follow His path, not the other way around.
As you read hard texts like this one, it is right to struggle with it, even to question it. But ultimately we have to remember that God is not subject to our opinions or desires. He acts as He acts, differently in each generation and across cultures. And we dare not call Him false, or liar, or mean because He doesn’t follow our game plan. He never said He would.