God may seem like an angry, distant God…until you understand the rhythm of scripture.
For most climates around the world, there’s a rhythm to nature.
Spring brings about birth, summer matures, fall ages, and winter brings about death.
If we don’t understand this rhythm, winter may seem cruel and merciless.
I propose that scripture also has a rhythm. If we fail to grasp it, then God may seem like an angry God, bent on getting revenge.
I’ve recently come across two different, but still very similar suggestions.
Stephen Prothero has suggested the following:
- First, there’s wrong-doing, which leads to punishment and exile.
- Secondly, after the breach of the covenant (the wrong-doing), there’s a new covenant that gives hope.
He suggests that because God is just, he punishes. But because he is merciful, he creates new opportunities for renewed relationship.
The second rhythm is proposed by Richard Benton.
- First, God provides for his creation – a gift, if you will.
- But, we misuse God’s gift, which typically causes suffering for others.
- Because we misused the gift, God deprives us of it through disaster or exile (so that we can no longer abuse it)
- Finally, God restores us with the expectation that we’ve learned not to hoard the gifts God gives to all.
This rhythm gives a context for human freedom to accept (or misuse) God’s gifts and the blessing (or consequence) of such use. The cause and effect of scripture.
If you read with an eye for these sorts of rhythms, I think you’ll find scripture to the be story of hope, despite the despair around us.