Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Heart of God

God's Word, the Bible contains so much of value.  It is a book to be read for wisdom.  We find in it a moral compass.  The answer to the question, where do we come from? is answered, and we find out why we are in this mess and that God has a plan to save us from a terrible end.  God's Son is introduced to us in this book, as well as His teachings, penned by the apostles.  In the Old Testament, we learn the history of the nation of Israel, from its first patriarch, Abraham to the millions populating the Promised Land.  The rise to power and subsequent defeat and captivity is chronicled, as well as their promised return to the Land.  In this Book God also teaches us about His heart.

For those of us who haven't read much of the Bible, there are some parts of it that may seem bewildering.  After reading through Genesis and the first half of Exodus, you can get bogged down with all the rules and sacrificial rites that take up much of the next couple books.  Then when you start reading I and II Chronicles, the genealogies seem never-ending.  And when we get to that Saharan desert, the Prophets, we wonder what is God trying to say?

Well, I am not here to tell you why God wrote what He wrote.  He is the author and if He wrote it, then He must have had a very good reason to do so.  It is His Word to us, much more important than anything anyone else wrote.  I would caution those who are new followers of Christ, seekers, and anyone else who hasn't read the Bible that much, that you need to take it easy.  Don't dive into the Old Testament right away.  First read the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Fall in love with the radical rabbi, Jesus.  Then read His teachings in the epistles.  After you have read the New Testament through three or four times you should be ready to undertake a reading of the Old Testament.  Please don't think I am saying one part of the Bible is more important.  It is all God's Word.  But it makes more sense if you read the N.T. first. 

I just finished reading the book of Jeremiah.  He was known as the Weeping Prophet.  He warned the citizens of Jerusalem that the Babylonians would overcome them and take them into captivity if they did not repent of their sin.  They did not repent, and Jerusalem was taken and burned and the people were taken into captivity. 

The last chapters of Jeremiah are dedicated to his prophecies against different nations.  In Jeremiah 48 he tells about God's judgment against Moab.  The Moabites were related to the Jews, since they were descended from Lot, Abraham's nephew.  They worshipped the demon-god Chemosh.  Through this god they were encouraged to do very wicked deeds, including offering their children to Chemosh.  This resulted in the death of children - they were burnt to death.  Because of their wickedness God pronounced judgment upon them.  After their defeat by the Babylonians, their land was destroyed and laid desolate.  What is interesting about this is what God says in verse 31, 'Therefore I shall wail for Moab, even for all Moab shall I cry out.' and verse 36, 'Therefore My heart wails for Moab like flutes.'  This so aptly expresses the heart of God.

Though God was justly punishing Moab for centuries of wickedness, He did not relish what He was doing.  He was doing what His justice required, but He did not deny Himself to vent His sorrow for the Moabites.  When I read that God wailed, it doesn't give me the idea that He cried a little.  No, wailing is a loud heat-rending anguished sobbing of deep grief.  Each of these Moabites was a special creation of God. He loved them, and though it didn't change His judgment, He was truly sorrowful that they would suffer punishment.  God wants us to know His heart.  He truly loves those He created in His image.

And now that we know God's heart, those of us who are Christ-followers should emulate Him.  Not that we should think that we ought to punish the wicked, but we should love them.  We are all created in God's image.  He has taken a special interest in each of us, breathing into each one a soul that will forever.  Though there are billions of people presently occupying this planet, God takes an interest in each one of us, and we should love those we can.  As we love the unloved, they will see God through us.