Sometimes people say things like, “I like Jesus, but I don’t like the God of the Old Testament. Why are they so different?” The answer is, they aren’t. They are exactly the same. That may seem crazy, but let me tell you a story…about a pet fish.
Darth Fishy and Mackenzie
When they were younger, my kids wanted a pet. It was odd because they were both scared of animals. Even still, they became more and more insistent that they wanted a pet. We told them, “no, we can love other people’s pets.” But they persisted, and we finally caved and gave in. So, we drove to a local pet store and bought two goldfish and two bowls, one for each kid. My son, Dawson, named his Darth Fishy. My daughter, Marissa, named hers’, Mackenzie.
When we got home, we put the fish in their tanks, and my kids sat and watched them. Eventually, they got bored and went to watch TV. Marissa announced, “fish don’t make good pets.” I asked her why. She told me, “because they are hard to love and they don’t love you back.”
That’s when Marissa started petting her goldfish. She would stick her hand in the bowl and try to pet the fish. Her fish didn’t like it one bit. In fact, her fish would panic and desperately try to get away from the large hand that suddenly dropped down from the sky.
Sometimes, when unable to sleep, I would visualize her fish writing in a tiny diary, “It happened again today. It was a regular day, intermittent light and 72 degrees. The ground was pink gravel beneath me. I was trying to decide whether I should swim towards the surface or down to the bottom when suddenly it appeared – the shadow monster.
The shadow was always the first sign that it’s coming. Then five large protruding limbs would arrive, followed by a meaty paw that would try and crush me. I did everything I could to get away, but it trapped me in a corner and touched me. Then, from somewhere in the heavens, I heard a loud thundering noise.” The thundering noise was Marissa yelling, “Daddy, I just pet my fish!”
To Love And Be Loved
Have you ever thought about what it’s like to be God? The Bible tells us that God is love. Not that God can be loving, but that God IS love.
The Bible says God created us with love, and for love. If you’ve ever wondered, ‘Why am I here? Is there a purpose for my life?’ The answer is yes, and it’s to be loved by God and to love Him in return.
God created us with love, and for love. But God quickly discovered a problem with His creation: Humans were hard to love, and don’t do well with returning his love. It wasn’t that they didn’t want love; they did. But, it was difficult to love them, for them to receive love or to give it back in return.
God tried. He blessed the people; he answered their prayers, he did miracles for them. But the people still rejected him, did what they were told not to do and were ungrateful. He invited them into a deeper relationship with him. The people just turned away.
God tried other ways to show his love for these people. He sent prophets, to give warnings and pronounce his love. Through one prophet, named Malachi, God said, “‘I have loved you,’ but you ask, ‘How have you loved us?'” (Malachi 1:2).
You can almost picture God thinking, “How have I loved you?! Don’t you understand my love? How can you ask that? How else could I love you?” But then God had an idea.
Communicating God’s Love
I felt sad for my daughter. All she wanted was to show love to her fish, but her fish wouldn’t accept her affection. So, she attempted to pet her fish, but the fish bolted in the opposite direction. Marissa was hurt and frustrated, “I’m just trying to love you, Mackenzie. Why don’t you understand?”
Marissa is a great girl. She was a kind and loving fish owner. How does one communicate that to a fish? She couldn’t. But what if there was a way Marissa could get in the bowl with her fish? What if she could BECOME a fish? Then maybe she could show her fish love in a way it could understand. That might work!
That was God’s idea, too. Way back, around 740 BC, God gave a message to a prophet named Isaiah, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Emmanuel,” (Isaiah 7:14).
Finally, God brought his idea into fruition, “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife because what is conceived inside her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.’
God With Us
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel’ — which means, ‘God with us.’When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus” (Matthew 1:20-25).
God wanted to love his people, but no matter what he did, people rejected His love. If only there were some way for God to get in the bowl with them. If he could just become a person, he could show his people love in a way they could understand. And that’s precisely what God did.
God became one of us. He became Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” He came to us as Jesus Christ. That means when we look at Jesus, we see God, exactly God. The Bible says in Colossians 1:15, “He is the image of the invisible God…” and in Hebrews 1:3, the “Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being.” Jesus is exactly God. If you want to know what God is like, just look at Jesus.
Sometimes people will say, “I’ve read the Bible, and I like Jesus, but I don’t like the God of the Old Testament.” Well, they’re the same.
A Better Understanding
Why then, does there seem to be a difference? Why was Marissa’s fish scared of her? When Marissa put her hand in the bowl to pet her fish, why did it flee like its life was in danger? Because Marissa was too big and different, so her fish was unable to understand her loving efforts.
If Marissa could get in that tank, as a fish, go up to her fish, give it some fishy love, snuggle up to it, maybe then the fish would understand her passion. Her love wouldn’t be different, she’d be expressing the same love, but it would be on a level her fish could understand.
Jesus was Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus came to convey God’s love, the same love God had always tried displaying. But Jesus came as a human, so we could see God, know what God is like, and experience his love in a way that we could better understand.
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