The Older Sibling: Part 1

The Old Testament has always been the least favored of the two testaments. Christians, preachers and churches behaved like parents showing outright favoritism to a child and justifying their actions by citing the child’s supremacy over his or her sibling, when they champion the New Testament and neglect the “older sibling”. As such, the Torah being part of the old also suffers from this neglect. However, my colleagues and I, who began our devotional journey with the Torah more than a year ago and are now halfway through Deuteronomy, have sieved from our learning that the features that the New Testament boasts of are not uniquely exclusive but can also be found in the Old Testament as exemplified by the Torah.

While the Torah refers to the five books of the Bible, it is also about a story captured between Genesis and Deuteronomy. It is a story with imperfections. Nonetheless, it is a story that reveals the heart of God. Like King David who in 1 Samuel 13:14 is described as a man after God’s own heart and whose story is certainly far from perfect, the Torah is a story after God’s own heart. The intentions of God’s heart embodied in Jesus Christ are clearly expressed from the beginnings. The Torah is a revelation of God’s intentions for the world that would be fulfilled through Israel.

John 13:1 tells us that, “…Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” Jesus would return to his Father whose will is to embody the extent of his love through Jesus Christ. The Torah reveals that the extent of God’s love existed from the beginnings. For having created humankind, God “loved them to the end”.

If I assume God’s omniscience, which is displayed in Deuteronomy 4:25-31 where God predicts Israel’s destruction and deliverance, then why did God create humankind when he knew that we would mess things up? As a parent, if I knew that my child would bring me much shame, rebel against all my guidance and eventually walk a path that leads to destruction, would my wife and I still have this child? Honestly, both of us would likely say no. However, God’s perspective for proceeding with creation could not be narrowed down by such an analogy. God could not be thwarted by known consequences. God was prepared to go all the way in loving humankind even at the expense of bearing our shame and experiencing our rebellion. Such an interpretation is derived from an assumption riding on the initial assumption. In other words, I assume that God would fix the mess, which rides on the assumption that God knew that the mess would inevitably surface if humankind were created.

John Goldingay said that with the Old Testament, “the story it tells does not look like one that resulted from a plan”. Such a comment can push one to the fringe of being offended. How could almighty God not have a plan for the world or a plan for humankind’s salvation? Like many Christians, I have a view that God had everything all planned out from the start and it would be inconceivable to think of God not possessing an all encompassing plan for humankind’s journey– a disorganized God. Paradoxically, this conception of God having a perfect plan goes through an extremely bumpy ride from the exit of Eden to the edge of Canaan. A plan that is subjected to so many changes certainly does not carry the shape of perfection.

A pivotal example is spotted in the passage (Genesis 6:5-7) where the climatic wickedness of humankind causes God to regret having created them. Then God decides to execute a creational reboot by eradicating every living creature but soon implicitly regrets this action by promising never to repeat a judgment of such a scale for God realized that humankind’s inclination to evil remains unchanged (Genesis 8:20-22). God twice regrets what he had set out to accomplish for there exists no perfect plan but rather a flexible plan that adapts to God’s purpose.

God commits in loving humankind despite of their unending disobedience. The problem is humankind. As such, the changeability of God’s plan is wrapped around God’s unchanging purpose to love humankind. God relentlessly work around the failures of humankind so as to work towards the purpose of loving humanity. If parents knew how their children would turn out in life and yet continue to love them even when they bring shame and respond in rebellion, they would exhibit a greater extent of love than the earlier analogy. Here is the supremacy of God’s love. That is, the almighty God changing his plans for the unchanging purpose of loving humankind to the end.

[The above is a post migrated from a previous blog]

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