anger, Bible, Christian Life, Christianity, exploitation, God, holiness, Jesus, judgment, King Thorax, mercy, My Little Pony, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, New Testament, Old Testament, perfection, Pharynx, pushovers, Starlight Glimmer, To Change a Changeling, wrath
Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “To Change a Changeling”
Starlight Glimmer, Trixie, and Thorax have an unusual problem in today’s episode. It seems Pharynx, Thorax’s “rough” brother, doesn’t want to adopt the new Changeling lifestyle of being more peaceful and pacifistic; earning him the chagrin and dislike of most of his fellow Changelings as he’s assumed to be an aggressive brute. Yet while Pharynx is definitely not inclined to be more innocent and sweet like the rest of his brethren, it turns out he has more in common with them than either side would like to admit. He clings to his own aggressive and “military-esque” nature because he wants to defend the Changeling hive. It’s because the social structure of the Changeling race is important to him that he wants to remain fierce and strong to protect it. In the end, the Changelings ended up learning a realistic and valuable lesson when they are attacked and Pharynx comes to their defense: it’s always nice to pursue being peaceful, but don’t think that just because you are peaceful that you won’t have to deal with individuals who aren’t. Not every problem can be solved by “being nice”.
When it comes to the Bible, what most modern-day Christians cling to is only the New Testament. There may be a few key passages and Psalms they look at in the Old Testament, but in general the focus is away from that. Part of it is because a good portion of the Old Testament is devoted to genealogies and the Mosaic Law, but another part of it could be because the Old Testament is rather hard to swallow. Most people, secular as well as Christian, view the “God of the Old Testament” as someone far more vengeful, wrathful, angry, and condemnatory. And there is a lot more blood, destruction, and death in the Old Testament (although, in all fairness, the Old Testament takes place over a much, much larger time frame than the New Testament). Critics of Christianity often point out this fact and argue that Christians can’t possibly be worshiping the “same God” in both halves of the Bible. As for Christians themselves, I know at least some are apt to think that the New Testament is the “true Gospel” while the Old Testament was, perhaps, tainted and biased a bit by its mortal writers.
The implicit idea behind all of this is that people definitely prefer the “God of Mercy” to the “God of Wrath”. And that’s only natural. It’s far more of an easy thought to think of an all-loving, all-forgiving, welcoming God who sees us as his children than to think of a furious, vengeful, punishing God who sees us all as sinners to smite. What more, it’s very hard to reconcile these two images into the same individual. How can the image of the brilliantly holy, mighty judge of the world be reconciled to the suffering, compassionate father? It’s often easier for people to simply choose one or the other. And of the two, the merciful God is favored. That’s the sort of God most of us would like, I’m sure; especially confronted with our own sinfulness and wickedness. One who is kind, gentle, and overlooks sin with a shrug and a head-pat. Not one who issues out decrees for slaughter or consumes people with fire from Heaven.
Firstly, it’s important to realize that the idea of a “God of Mercy” is not something new to the New Testament. As Jesus said, He came to fulfill the Law, not abolish it (Matthew 5:17). And many of the teachings He gave originated in the Old Testament…they simply didn’t gain as much prominence until the time of Jesus. (“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5; “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19-18; ) Many sections of the Old Testament are devoted to the compassion God shows to sinners who repent. (“But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die. None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them. Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live. Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” Ezekiel 18:21-23; “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.” Jonah 3:10; “”I have surely heard Ephraim’s moaning: ‘You disciplined me like an unruly calf, and I have been disciplined. Restore me, and I will return, because you are the Lord my God. After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understand, I beat my breast. I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’ Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him.
Therefore my heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him,” declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 31:18-20)
Many of the prophets proclaimed death and doom as a result of Israel abandoning God, but when the people changed their tune to start crying out that God had cast them off as his people forever, there were equally powerful prophecies assuring the Israelites that God would never forget them or fail to rebuild them. (“Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.” Isaiah 61:7; ““I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm—my great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed.”” Joel 2:25-26; “”For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”” Jeremiah 29:11-14)
Furthermore, it’s also inaccurate to think that simply because God in the Old Testament was known predominantly as “the God of Israel” that he was any less the God of the world and all mankind. He showed his mercy to non-Israelites as well as Israelites. As the above passage from Jonah pointed out, God had mercy on the people of Nineveh when they repented. Lord Jesus himself pointed out other instances in the Bible where non-Israelites were favored over Israelites…much to the chagrin of his fellow Jews. “I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.” (Luke 4:25-27)
Therefore, it’s rather inaccurate to try and claim that just because God showed more of his “mighty arm” in the Old Testament that he isn’t the same God we call our Heavenly Father in the New Testament. Rather, over a longer period of time, and different sets of circumstances, different “sides” of him were presented. That’s why it’s important to read the whole Bible to fully understand God and not just the passages we like.
Secondly, as this episode highlights, unfortunately not everything in the world can be solved by “being nice”. While we would all love a touch of mercy for our wrongdoings, there comes a time when we stop looking for to someone for mercy and we start treating someone as a pushover who lets us walk all over them. Parents know that all too well. They may hate disciplining their children, but if they don’t (and, possibly, force others like grandparents to do the same) their children eventually become unruly and unmanageable because they expect to get away with everything. They stop respecting their parents as an authority figure at all and do whatever they want even when told to stop. In the same way, if God was simply hands-off to all sin and evil in the world, simply telling people to “be nice”, eventually there would be no reason to obey him. God is against sin because sin is hurtful and damaging to humanity. Yet people don’t always see it that way and only see what it offers them at the moment; regardless of how it hurts themselves or others. When that happens and they won’t listen, the only way to deal with it is to be more “severe”.
After all, do we expect police officers to politely ask criminals to not commit crimes? Or do we expect them to grab them, restrain them, or even force them to submit if they don’t stop? Do we expect other countries around the world to respect us and not invade so long as we be open and friendly to them, or do we threaten to “hit them back even harder” if they try something–not so much out of a desire for war but as a deterrent? If we expect that from people of such relatively minor authority, how can we expect less from God as the supreme authority?
Thirdly, the God of the Old Testament is just as important as the God of the New Testament. The old Mosaic Law was to confront people with the holiness, righteousness, perfection, and obedience demanded of all those who would follow God, with the promise that all who disobeyed in the slightest would meet terrible, swift, brutal, and everlasting retribution. It was supposed to be something frightening and terror-strickening to show the consequences of all sin and the superhuman standards needed to ascribe to God’s holiness. Through all of that, the power of Jesus’ Sacrifice and redemptive blood becomes all the more precious and powerful. The mercy given forth by His act becomes that much more glorious. After being faced with the terror of God’s wrath and the destructive power of sin, we can now freely rejoice in God’s glory. The Old Testament is admonishment to the sinner; the New Testament is wonderful glory to the one who accepts Lord Jesus’ Sacrifice.
God is Love (1 John 4:8), and it’s important to never lose sight of that, especially when we feel at our lowest and most unlovable. It’s when people are at this most despairing point, after all, that God wishes to welcome them most strongly. Just remember that God is not only to be loved but also to be respected as an object of reverence, or “Godly fear”. Don’t lose sight of that image either whenever we find ourselves lured into committing sin.
Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for your great mercy, especially personified in the matchless sacrifice of your Son, Lord Jesus Christ, who paid the full penalty of my sins so that I may gain entry into heaven. Grant that I will never cheapen this sacrifice by taking it for granted or stubbornly persisting in sin. And help me always to remember that you are a God both to be loved above all and respected above all at all times. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”