I am a natural-born puzzler. As a kid I loved sitting down with my grandma and “helping” her (in futility of course) do her morning crossword puzzle. I would spend hours upon hours hunched over a jigsaw puzzle trying to figure out how every piece fits together. I can’t put out a puzzle now or else I would get nothing done; my obsessive brain would be pulled toward the puzzle and I wouldn’t be able to move on until it was completed.
I think that people are like puzzles. Interactions with them give you clues about who they really are. Their reactions to certain things give you insight into what clicks for them and what just doesn’t fit. We’re constantly learning how this person we’re in relationship with works. The more time we spend with someone, the more pieces come together and we get a more complete image of who they are.
People may puzzle me, but God has us all figured out.
I’ve often heard people complain about the seeming inconsistency between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. This has always bothered me because the entire Old Testament is slathered with grace and love, you just have to dig a little deeper than the surface to find it.
I want you to imagine what it would’ve been like to live in the time when the book of Exodus was written. Put yourself in the shoes of the Israelites: you had just been enslaved to a people who worshipped many gods. You understood the idea of rules and consequences because you had lived within those confines your entire life. While living in slavery, you had developed bad habits and were used to an unhealthy and abusive structure.
What would you say the Israelites needed? My answer is: boundaries. Have you ever let a person loose who needs intense structure? It’s not pretty. The Israelites wanted to run wild and free, but God knew how dangerous that could be for them, so he set up some structure for them, some guidelines, some boundaries to keep them safe and keep them coming back into relationship with him. I firmly believe that giving them the Law was an act of love and a showing of grace.
Now, let’s fast forward a few thousand years to the New Testament days of Jesus. Imagine living in that oppressive society where you were burdened by rules and shame and guilt. The way to free someone from shame is not through more rules but through love. The Pharisees had turned God’s law into a money-making scheme and Jesus was going to have none of that foolishness. To the religious elite, he was stern and harsh. They thought they were justified by their outward actions and he knew their hard hearts could only be pierced by the sharp sword of truth. To those who were broken and needing relief, he was kind and compassionate, wrapping them in his welcoming and loving arms.
God speaks to us in a way that we can understand. Jesus spoke in parables so that the agrarian culture could grasp the message. God used men like Nehemiah and Paul who could speak to groups within their cultural context. God is infinite and complex, but he has made himself known through his word and his Son. Think about that for a moment! What an immense privilege to know and be known by him. Let’s be intentional to seek out his word today!