Last week I attended a bible study at the church I used to attend. The subject was ‘Finding God’s Will’. This particular discussion centered on who God is. Everyone described his attributes – love, compassion, merciful, unchanging. I raised my hand to read from Exodus, where God reveals Himself to Moses. Before I was called on, someone raised a question that took the conversation in another direction. But God.
But God wanted that verse discussed, because someone eventually asked, “What about Him being a jealous God, punishing a thousand generations?” The room stuttered over that one and I finally had the opportunity to read the scripture and comment.
“Adonai, Adonai, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness and truth, showing mercy to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means leaving the guilty unpunished, but bringing the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.” – Exodus 34:6-7
God is a God of justice. That is what makes Him so dependable. If He was all love and compassion, we couldn’t count on Him to be steadfast with us. We might be the object of His affection one day, then the next it could be the guy who is oppressing us. That’s the problem with replacement theology. If He changed His mind about Israel being His chosen people, He could change it again.
Now I had a pastor say that His plan was always to include everyone. And he’s right. But that does not mean He unfairly used the Israelites simply to accomplish His purpose and now He’s done with them. Again, that would not be just, that would not be in line with His character.
So what is the Christmas story? Is it simply a story about a cute little baby born in a manger? No. It is the story about God’s just judgement for sin. It is about the Creator of All Things taking on flesh because of His love, mercy, grace, and compassion for His creation. He took on the just judgment that we deserved because there was no other way to save us from our own evil inclination. He took on that evil inclination and defeated it by living a sinless life, by following all the just rules and laws He established for His people on Mt Sinai.
Those rules and laws are His Spirit in writing. Every jot and title reveals His character, the totality of who He is (or at least as much as our minds can fathom.) Those rules and laws, those jots and titles became flesh and dwelt among us, bringing us the Good News that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
What should our response be to this Christmas story? We should turn from our evil, selfish inclination and toward the God who loves us, not only during this season of light, but every day in gratitude for what He did for us. Our response to the Christmas story is a changed heart; a changed life, remembering that God is unchanging. His is love and at the same time He is just. And we can count on Him – not only for love, but for justice – justice for us, and justice for those we injure.
May this Christmas story run deep into your heart, producing the fruit of righteousness in every area of your life.