I’m working on my thesis, you guys. It’s so much writing. But luckily, it’s also pretty fascinating.
Last spring, I mentioned that I would be writing my Old Testament Biblical Studies thesis on a theology of faith in action. I’m working on my first chapter right now, which is focused on God himself. I thought it would be good to start this theology (study of God) with an understanding of how God actively revealed himself to His people. So far, I’ve discovered some pretty amazing things.
If you were to start reading the Bible and you knew nothing about who God was, you would open up to Genesis and see a God who starts creating the world. He speaks and builds and molds. You would then read about Him speaking to the humans He created and walking with them in the garden that the Bible says He literally planted (Genesis 2:8). Those humans disobeyed God, so He sent them out of this garden (after He made them clothes). You would then read about this God speaking with Cain, making a covenant with Noah and thwarting the plans of Babel. In Genesis 12, God speaks to Abram and tells him that He has big plans for him. He’s going to make him into a great nation and give him land. Throughout the rest of Genesis, we read about God beginning to enact this plan through Isaac and Jacob and Joseph.
Now, take a minute and pretend that you don’t know anything about who God is. I find it fascinating that the first book of the Bible is solely focused on God’s action. The very first words of Scripture do not describe the fact that God is holy; they don’t let us know that He’s omniscient or worthy of all praise. God’s first words to Adam and Eve are not about how He has a Trinitarian nature, and He doesn’t even command worship from them. Instead, He commands action: He tells them to be fruitful and to take responsibility over the earth.
The book of Exodus opens with the Israelites trapped in slavery. God hears their cries and remembers His promises to Abraham. Then He goes into action: locusts, blood, gnats, darkness. He shows His active power to Pharaoh, and He parts the Red Sea so that His people can cross through to safety. It is not until Exodus 15 — a book and a half into the Bible — that people began to praise God in terms we are familiar with. Moses and the Israelites sing a song about God, describing His power and glory, unfailing love and holiness. (You know, the words Chris Tomlin songs are made of.) They speak of these attributes in relation to what He has done: God thwarted Pharaoh, He kept His promises to Abraham, He proved Himself faithful.
It is fascinating to me that this is how God chose to reveal himself and His character. He could have started in the beginning by telling everyone that He was good and just and holy and faithful. But that’s not what He did. He proved those things through His actions. Throughout the Scripture when God speaks of himself, He reminds Israel of how He brought them out of Egypt. He reminds them that they can trust Him because He has always been faithful to them, proven through His actions.
It’s amazing. God is holy and just and good. Those thing are all true of Him. And He could have just said it, commanded us to believe it and left it at that. But He didn’t. He interacted and made promises and followed through. He proved to Israel — and to us — that He can be trusted because He always does what He says. He always acts. He always shows up.
What do you think? Had you ever noticed this in the first couple of books of the Bible? How do you think this should affect our theology?
Copyright 2012 Denise Morris Snyder. All Rights Reserved.