I remember watching a TV program once about the sun. It was so interesting, so fascinating… and yet quite terrifying. Solar flares, temperatures that are out of this world (no pun intended), explosions and nuclear activity that dwarfs the most advanced nuclear weapons. One of the scariest things was the fact that solar storms were causing solar flares which could reach close enough to the earth to have a huge and devastating impact on our lives here! …And all this from our lovely, warm, life-giving sun! It’s the same sun that allows photosynthesis to take place in plants so they can be nourished, the same sun that sunflowers turn towards throughout the day, the same sun that leaves our bedsheets feeling fresh and dry, that melts the winter snows away to make way for spring, that warms us, brightens our day, and is vitally important to everything that exists on this earth. If it died out, life on earth would die in a matter of minutes. How could it be such a… dangerous and scary thing?
It’s funny, but I used to get a similar feeling about reading the Old Testament… what a scary God He was! Killing people, burning entire cities, flooding the earth and wiping out all (except 8) of humanity and his creation. I liked the New Testament much better… that was about our Jesus, our compassionate, merciful, loving, humble, servant Jesus. And yet… He told us many times in the gospel accounts, “if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father”. What, you mean that same Father who allowed serpents, sent plagues, exiled His people, and poured out His wrath on those who disobeyed?
I realised that, in all honesty, I really didn’t very much like a lot about that Old Testament God! I’ve heard many people say something like that. Maybe He’s not really like that, or maybe He changed when Jesus came, or maybe that was all just written by flawed people with an agenda. But… what if we just have a bit of a soft view of God? Do we see him as more of a Santa Claus figure, a jolly Father, or just a quiet and warm sunshine that is here to meet our needs? Maybe He is some of those things in a way… but do we forget the nuclear activity, the solar storms, the holy anger, the light so bright it would blind us if we saw Him face to face?
I guess the thing is, knowing the truth about the sun makes me a bit afraid and uncomfortable… it’s something I want to keep a safe distance from. Imagine the heat as you approached it in a spacecraft, doing as best as we could to design a protective suit that could withstand the temperatures. I’m not sure I could say to that sun as I approached it, “I don’t like that you’re this hot! Please, just turn off the heat!” The sun couldn’t change it’s properties, change it’s make-up, it’s temperatures, any more than God can change who He is. Just because I don’t like the heat, doesn’t mean He can just turn it off. Like He said to Moses, “I AM that I AM”. His most common name, Yahweh, means “I AM”. The very meaning seems to imply something unchangeable, no matter how we feel about it.
So… why was Jesus seemingly so different from this aspect of God? Or was He? How easy it is to forget the Jesus who also whipped people out of the Temple in His Holy anger… and who had some firm and direct things to say about those who were supposedly the keepers of the law given by His own Father, and who spoke often about the eternal fire and warned of the darkness where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth. And yet He still reflected God’s kind nature perfectly, because the truth is that the Old Testament God the Father (and the same God the Father He is today) is also very merciful, kind, compassionate, and loving! (Just read some of the Psalms, especially Psalm 136!). Jesus was very aware of our weaknesses and temptations, He was human as well as God! But He was also aware of the bright and Holy presence of the Father, a presence He loved, and a presence that He came to make us ready for.
The thing that we don’t often like to think about is, the gospel is bad news before it’s good news… the bad news is, there’s a fiery sun, a Holy God, a solar storm that we can’t withstand, that would melt us in a second, no matter how good or protected we think we are. It seems to me that it’s not because He is temperamental, controlling, angry, or down on us… but because He is so Holy (pure, clean, bright, with no darkness or shadow), and we (because of the fall in the garden back in Genesis) are so… not. And there’s nothing He can change about that, except… the good news is, there is! He has made a way! Or, if I thought of it this way, He has made a spacesuit of protection so that we can “boldly come before the throne of grace” (Heb. 4:16), we can approach that hot but loving sun, and we won’t be burnt. Instead, we will find help, love, protection, provision, mercy! That suit of protection is the blood of Jesus, the full truth and acceptance of His redemptive work for us on the cross. It was freely given, and it was costly… more than all the money, time and sweat spent on all the space exploration in the history of the human race.
“Consequently, he (Jesus) is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25