The other day, one of my friends was discussing that when he reads through the Old Testament, as he has been doing the last several weeks (if not months), he has a lot of trouble reconciling God as He appears in the Old Testament with God as He reveals Himself in the New Testament. If you have ever even just thumbed through the two sections, you have probably seen some of the things that go on, and you probably can name some of the events that seem incongruent between the Old and the New.
God seems to be behind wars, and there are several instances where God strikes people down on the spot for breaking certain rules. 1 Chronicles 13:10 details such an instance where Uzzah reaches and touches the Ark of the Covenant and God’s “anger was aroused against Uzzah” and struck him dead.
For my friend and many others, this makes people angry. Particularly when the it is clearly stated in the verse that Uzzah was only trying to steady the Ark in order to keep it from falling after the cart had hit a bump. Even King David, who was attempting to move the Ark and bring it to Jerusalem, was angry at and even afraid of God after that incident (1 Chron. 13:11-12).
Was God different? Did He change somewhere between the Old and the New Testament? In His infinite wisdom, could He not look forward to the cross and cover Uzzah with grace?
Well, remember Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5? At this point in the Bible, Christ has already ascended into Heaven and the Church is in its very beginnings. Ananias and Sapphira sell some of their land and give some of the money to the Church. Very good thing to do right? Except, they lied about the amount, claiming that the money they donated was all of the money they received for the land. Peter calls out Ananias saying that the land and the money was his to do with as he wished. There was no sense lying about it. Peter tells Ananias that he was lying to God and not to men. Then, Ananias fell down dead, and verse 5 in Acts 5 says that the people that heard about it were terrified. A few hours later, Sapphira walks in and speaks with Peter. She attempts to maintain the charade, apparently unaware that her husband had passed, and she met with the same fate. Acts 5:11 says that “Great fear gripped the entire church and everyone else who heard what had happened.”
So, good news, God is consistent in that these similar instances are not limited to one Testament or the other. They appear in both. How does that help? It seems like this makes the problem that much worse. Grace and unfailing love seem to be completely absent. It’s not just the modern eye that takes issue with these things; those that witnessed them were horrified, likely even more so because they witnessed them.
These events leave everyone filled with questions. It’s likely one of the only possible ways to respond when we see things happen that we cannot understand: holocausts, Hiroshima, 9/11. We take great issue with evil, but the fact of the matter is so does God. So now (since it is December) it can all be tied into the Christmas story. In the middle of absolute chaos that the human mind cannot possibly understand, the LORD did something that is just as incredible, difficult to wrap the mind around. A virgin gave birth to a Savior whose blood would cover over sin, wash it away, and make things brand new. The reality is, that notion grace is just as incomprehensible as the problem that we call evil. Somehow, God reconciles the two on His own.