As a young teen, I thought about suicide. I don’t speak of it much because it doesn’t even feel like me, but it is true. I entered puberty a few years before many of my fellows, and I suffered the emotional storm that goes with this before my mind could catch up with these abstract things happening.
I also didn’t do anger well. I kept all my anger inside, hoping to make everyone happy around me. This is a formula for depression. Therefore, at age 11, I began to depress myself regularly, dwelling on hurts and letting anger lead me into hopelessness.
By age 13, I had already made two plans to take my life. I never went through with either of them. But I would have done it if I had had the nerve. That’s when God reached down and took hold of my life. Within a three-month period, four significant people (all believers in Jesus) became friends with me. None of them knew each other at the time and all of them showed God’s love to me. One of them, Mr. Serna my 8th grade English teacher, presented the truth claims of the New Testament and asked me if I wanted to receive the gift of eternal life through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
I did want that. I changed forever that day, and there were no more thoughts of suicide. (Note: That is not to say that Christians never think about suicide. Many people do. I just found my new relationship with God helped me with it).
After that, the other three Christians who had come into my life mentored me into an understanding of how to live for God. I realize, looking back on it 42 years later, that God initiated all of this. I could have resisted his help, but the help was given before I even knew I needed God to help.
That’s why 1 John 4:10 reminds us that “it was not that we first loved God, but that He first loved us and gave himself for us“. God is the great Initiator, the One who pursues us long before we pursue God.
And the Old Testament is by far the best place to observe this happening. In the Old Testament we find example after example of how God pursued a relationship with His creation and how God dealt with so many of the obstacles we put in the way of accomplishing this. Let’s do a small survey to show what I’m referring to.
Our Existence: Perhaps this borders on the realm of the deeply philosophical, but we humans did not think up the notion of our existence and who we would become. God pictured us in his mind long before our creation, long before any creation.
God could have created little mouse-like creatures with long tails and rapier swords in their hands to serve him. He could have created just angels and left it at that. There didn’t even need to be a physical realm. But we were created in the Image of God as our core. We are creators, we are choosing beings, we are built with a moral center and a communal desire. No matter what we do with these abilities, we have them because God wanted us to have them. The whole of man’s existence hinges on one thing: God initiated all of this and wanted us to exist. God wanted ME and YOU to exist. We had nothing to do with that desire. It is God’s romance from start to finish.
The Concept of Justice: In his 1929 book “A Preface to Morals”, atheist Walter Lippmann made a great attempt at proposing a system of rights and wrongs that does not allow God into the equation. Others had attempted this before him, but no one could solve the great conundrum of ethics: If you don’t believe in absolute right and wrong, how can you propose what is right and wrong? Lippmann, as well, ultimately failed to explain his rationale–and all supporters of his position agree he failed–but at least he made the attempt.
Nihilism and Existentialism, the two best-known atheistic philosophies, don’t even bother. They both conclude that morals in a pluralistic world are impossible.
The Old Testament consistently proposes one grand theme: That God is the author and initiator of the concept of Justice. God evidenced his view toward justice in the story of Noah and the Ark. In Genesis 6:5-8 we read,
5 The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth,and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6 The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. 7 So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
In verses 11 and 12, it also says “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways.” The Hebrew word for “corrupt” is a word which means to “destroy or tear apart”. God saw how man was destroying everything and everyone. It was God’s decision that the human race as it had become needed to be cleansed and purged.
Some people wrongly suspect that it was because of man’s attitude toward God that made God want to wipe us out. However, the word for “corrupt” tells us that it is the way we treat each other and this planet that causes God great pain. You see, the New Testament is clear that God is a forgiving God. The book of Jonah confirms that. But it is what we do to one another and to this world that God cannot overlook. God can forgive–and does–the sins we commit against Him. But being a righteous judge, He cannot overlook the destruction we cause in the lives of others.
When you read the Old Testament, see the God of justice in action. Even though God raises up Nebuchadnezzar to bring consequences on Israel for the way they betrayed their covenant with God, the Babylonians went too far and God had to judge them for being cruel.
In those moments when you feel like everything is unfair, it is good to see that God takes the initiative to keep score. Vengeance is God’s; He shall repay. We are freed from having to be vengeful because God has already said that all acts of cruelty, thievery and any other injustice shall be answered for.
As we observe in the Genesis 6 passage, God is grieved when humans acts with wanton abandon and hurt others. All of the murders, violence, lying, stealing, cheating, betrayal will be judged. God initiated that.
Communication: God is there and He is not silent. These are the words which form the title of one of Francis Schaeffer’s greatest books. They also describe one of the great themes of the Old Testament. God wants his people to know his voice and to follow his leading.
Other religions have prophets. Other religions show the gods communicating with man. But there is no other writing extant which shows God being tender, compassionate, gentle and kind with human beings. Let’s just note a few of the wonderful communication stories of the Old Testament.
When Adam and Eve sinned, God didn’t turn away from them. God came looking for them and asked what had happened. Remember, when God asks a question, he is entering into a dialogue; He doesn’t need the information. God wanted to keep the dialogue going with Adam and Eve.
When Cain killed his brother, God came to him, wanting to talk. He asked where Cain’s brother was (once again, God was not looking for information, he was seeking to hold Cain accountable).
Noah heard God give him the dimensions of the boat that would save a remnant of the human race.
Daniel received interpretations of dreams from God. So did Joseph and Elijah.
Moses walked so closely in communication with God that the writer of Numbers said it was if “Moses spoke with God face to face.” What a wonderful God that allows humans to speak with Him so intimately.
Samuel was a small boy of 4 or 5 when God called to him in the night. Even though Samuel did not at first recognize God, God kept speaking until Samuel understood.
The prophet Nathan was sent by God to tell David the King that his new son was to be called Jedidiah, which means “loved by the Lord”. This is the second child born of the relationship between David and Bathsheba. Even though the first child died because of their adultery, God still showed his love to them at the birth of their second child.
Zechariah receives many visions from God, and God takes the time to show him how to interpret visions. The Book of Zechariah is a marvelous primer in how to receive visions from God.
I could go on for days extolling the many times that God spoke to men and women. What we see overwhelmingly is that God is the one who initiated this conversation. Though man wanted to hear God–such as Job who kept asking for an audience with God during his time of suffering–God is the one who came to mankind to communicate.
God still does. God the Initiator does so much more to have a relationship with Him than we do. This is what the Old Testament shows us over and over. It is one of the reasons I love reading it.