Though God Doesn’t Change, the Way People Perceive Him Does
I enjoy a good book, one with a satisfying story arc. The Bible has an arc, too, a biblical story arc.
Some people see the Old Testament as focusing on God’s rules and judgment, with the New Testament focusing on God’s love and freedom. Though there’s some truth to this, it’s simplistic. The Old Testament also has its share of God’s love and freedom, while the New Testament gives us some new rules (though not as many) and contains judgment (check out Revelation).
However, on a more nuanced level we see changes that occur throughout the Old Testament and even the New. But it’s not God doing the changing, it’s people. As the biblical story arc progresses, the way we interact with God changes.
Aspects of the Biblical Story Arc
Intimacy with God: In the beginning is Adam and Eve, basking in the Garden of Eden and hanging out with God each evening. How cool would that be?
Distant from God: Then Adam and Eve are kicked out of paradise. Their relationship with God changes. It’s their fault, not his. From then until the time of Noah, people aren’t close to God at all. He seems quite distant.
Rescued by God: Then God looks at humanity and how they messed up his creation. He considers Noah and makes a plan: a boat, a flood, and a rescue. God is at work. He makes a promise to Noah. Man seems to be back on track with God, but not for long.
Promises from God: The next notable biblical character is Abraham, Father Abraham, a man of faith. Abraham has a closer connection with God and a deeper faith. God makes a new covenant with Abraham and promises he’ll be the father of many nations.
Guidance from God: Then we witness another transition with Moses. Moses sees God face to face. They hang out. They talk. Moses glows. God gives guidelines on how to live, moving his people beyond the barbarism of the world around them. God promises to bless others through his people, but they don’t do their part. They fail to live up to their potential. They don’t do much to bless others.
Closeness with God: Then David comes on the scene. He has the heart of God. God promises that from David’s line will come the messiah, the savior, who we know as Jesus.
Patience from God: But things go downhill after David. Future kings make a mess of things. But from the prophets we see God’s love for his people (us), his despair over their (our) actions, and his patience toward them (us). A cycle occurs: human despair, godly rescue, embracing God, backsliding, and repeat. Over and over. It’s a dark time spiritually. But this is the people’s doing. God’s always present.
Supernatural Provision from God: As we transition from the Old Testament to the New Testament and consider the books of the Apocrypha, we see a new level of spiritual engagement emerge, with supernatural acts. It’s as if the people finally see and accept the Holy Spirit at work. This is a great primer for what happens next.
Saved by God: In the New Testament Jesus becomes the star, as God always intended. Need I say more?
Community with God: In reading the Gospels, we gain a fresh perspective of God’s plan for us. Yet this viewpoint shifts as we move through Acts and more in the epistles. The people live in community and connect with God like never before.
Restored to God: By the time we get to Revelation our perception morphs yet again. We witness a supernatural battle, victory and judgment, and a new heaven and a new earth. Intimacy with God is restored. Just as God intended for us all along.
This is a most pleasing biblical story arc.
Yet from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, we see consistency in God and his desire to live with us. God doesn’t change, but how we perceive him and approach him does. And it’s a beautiful thing.