Readings for June 26-27
So on the one hand in today’s episode of game of thrones we have Zechariah being stoned to death for his righteousness and willingness to speak the Lord’s truth in the face of great wrong being committed by great power. Unlike Stephen he dies calling for God to avenge him, which God duly does in the very next verse.
He’s not a different god, he’s the same God of Zechariah and of Stephen but something has changed. What? Is it God’s character? Or the character of his people?
Gore, massacres and vengeance of one king on another is so layered and confusing, one following on another, that it is impossible to keep straight in my mind. Are there good guys and bad guys? But then it also seems almost irrelevant, as if none of the particular players matter. This is going to go on and on. Who are we rooting for?
One thing I know is that the same God who complied with Zechariah’s request for vengeance also complied with Stephen’s request for forgiveness. Stephen prayed for Paul, and, IMHO, saved him by setting in motion the sequence of events that began with his conversion and ended with the gospel being spread throughout the entire known world.
So again, what was different? The people of God, certainly. In the Old Testament they were certain God would vindicate them, so they could call on him to be among them and fight their battles.
Something different happens in the New Testament–instead of being the plaintiffs, we seem to have become the defendants before God. We’re put on notice. Our enemies, the Romans for instance, are not to be defeated. We are to pray for them. And, ironically, the new enemy is us, those within the church who do not live up to the Spirit of Christ. (Ephesians 4-5)
We who dwell in the 21st century can look back on many centuries of Christian world domination and are bound to see all this with a slightly different perspective. Even today, in (supposedly) the most advanced nation on earth, our leaders and citizens invoke God as an agent of vengeance. He is regarded as our servant in war. We are only continuing a tradition that goes back farther than the middle ages of worshiping our other gods, power, property, and self. And making enemies of those who interfere with these ends.
I should be coming to a conclusion here, or drawing some lessons from this, or finding a way to change us all, or a way out. But I have nothing. There is and has always been only one God. Are we the people of the Old Testament, or of the New?