Change of Perspective: From the God of Moses to Jesus

Our perspective of God changes dramatically in the New Testament because God came to us in different form.


I can’t how many times I have been reminded and drawn to the words Paul penned in his letter to the Philippians about Jesus (Phil: 2:6-8):

Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Scholars tell us these words were an early creed. The creed that Paul recited to the people in Philippi was probably familiar to them, as it was intended to be recited. That is the nature of creeds: they are meant to be repeated.

Thus, I suppose, the fact that I find myself drawn over and over again to the Philippian creed is apt. It carries significant and timeworn meaning to me, as it certainly must have done for Paul and and the early followers of Jesus to be considered so worth repeating.

I found myself thinking again about these words today as I wrapped up another blog post (Lessons Learned from the Edge of the Wilderness). As often is the case when meditating on Scripture, meanings deepen, grow and broaden. The Philippian creed takes on new meaning for me in light of the exercise of comparing and harmonizing the “God of the Old Testament” with Jesus (another theme I have focused on in the past).

In Lessons Learned from the Edge of the Wilderness, I was thinking about the fact that Moses and the people of Israel were distanced from God – such is the fate of all people in our natural and sinful state. In this piece, I want to explore what that means (and why it is the case), and I want to explore why our perception of God changes in the revelation of Jesus.

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Who Was Jesus

The fundamental question isn’t: why did God kill Jesus? The fundamental question is: who was Jesus?


People discussed and debated who was Jesus during his life, and people continue to ask the question today: who was Jesus? It’s really pretty remarkable that people are still asking that question today if you think about it. Jesus didn’t write anything. He didn’t create a lasting work of art. He didn’t conquer anyone.

Yet, people are still talking about Jesus today. Jesus is worshiped by some as God. He is revered my every major religion as a prophet or wise, spiritual man. He is even respected by the irreligious as a moral and good man. Though he didn’t pen a single word as far as we know, more books have been written about him than any man who lived.

So, it makes sense to ask: who was Jesus? It’s not an irrelevant question, even today, so many years after is life and very public and widely attested death.

The Internet skeptics who question whether the man, Jesus, ever lived are simply living in denial. Not even most atheists doubt that the man known as Jesus of Nazareth, the man who was crucified on a cross, was an actual man who lived in the first century. A more serious and compelling question is: who was Jesus?

So, let me get right to the point. The following statement from Paul, the once hater and persecutor of Christians who became a follower, highlights why this question is still relevant today:

“For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. …. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.” Romans 3:25-26

How we respond to this statement is a litmus test of sorts. It raises the ultimate question – who was Jesus – in a way that gets right to the heart of the matter. We can’t read that statement, if we truly understand it, without worshiping and loving such a God or recoiling in horror, indignation and revulsion.

One of the most biting critiques of the Bible and the story of Jesus is that God killed him. God demanded a sacrifice, and Jesus was it. If God is God, He orchestrated the death of Jesus to sate His own demands for justice, homage and retribution.

People like Richard Dawkins make this accusation of “the Christian God”. They say that even if God exists, they would never follow such a vindictive, spiteful God like that.

Lay aside the propriety of created beings standing in moral judgment of the Creator of the universe. If the Creator of the universe was a spiteful, vindictive mean-spirited Being, what could we do about it? And what would our moral indignation have to do with anything?

But of course, the Richard Dawkins types don’t believe in God. What they do believe is at the heart of this blog piece. They believe that Jesus was a just a man. He wasn’t divine. He was no different than you and me.

If Jesus was just a man, the Christian view that Jesus was sacrificed and killed to satisfy God’s sense of justice – or vindictiveness, or spite or evil desire to inflict pain – is something that seems despicably bad. As moral beings, we can see that such a thing would be wrong. It’s twisted. We know better. It doesn’t feel right.

But the fundamental question isn’t: why did God kill Jesus (or have him killed)? The fundamental question is: who was Jesus? We have to answer this question before we can make any sense of the latter question.

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