I am posting a short series which I have labeled as Our Scandalous God. In the first article, I used this definition for the word scandal – a situation or event that causes public outrage or censure (Encarta World English Dictionary).
I also noted the fact that referring to God as scandalous might make some of us uncomfortable. It’s too risky to define God with such a word. I might even seem almost blasphemous. But, if we stick with the definition for scandal set out above, then I don’t think it’s an out-of-the-question description of God, or at least the God presented to us in Scripture.
The ironic thing about it all is that God is not really scandalous to those who understand His ways. But, for those who do not know the God of Scripture, or those who think they know the God of Scripture because they have played the game of so-called Christianity, God will usually come out as scandalous every single time, meaning He will definitely cause public outrage and, as a result, be given heapings worth of criticism.
Yep, that’s our God. Or, again, that’s the Yahweh we read about in Scripture.
I could go right through the biblical text to present to you our scandalous God (as if I needed to this on His behalf). There is the flood in which God chooses to save only 8 people, no more and no less. The gracious and compassionate one chooses to simply save 8, not 800 or 8,000. And don’t even try and pull out the card that says Noah was righteous enough and that’s why God saved him. The KJV got it right in its translation of Genesis 6:8:
But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.
The Hebrew word hen can be translated as grace or favour. So, the word favour (as it is translated in most of our English Bibles) does not refer to Noah meriting anything. It is about grace! And, in line with the layout of the whole text of Genesis, we see that vs9 starts a completely new section describing Noah’s walk with God after receiving the hen, or grace, of God.
So God simply chose to save 8 people. I thought a gracious God would save more? Scandalous! But moving on….
God goes on to choose a Gentile by the name of Abram who would be the first to start the Hebrew-Jewish people, a reality that Paul takes up in his letter to the Romans (4:9-12). Whoa! God chose an unclean, uncircumcised Gentile to initiate His people. I can hear the outrage!
The scandalous one inspires quite a few songs scattered throughout the Psalms which we must label as complaints (see Psalm 13:1-2). ‘Wait a second. We are supposed to pray this way. We can only sing songs that say this.’ But the Psalms are actually filled with more complaints than praise. Uh oh!
And, of all things, to really cause the religious to blush, He has a sensually erotic love song dropped right in the middle of Scripture (it’s called the Song of Songs).
I hear the critics rising up already. Crucify Him, crucify Him, crucify Him. But I am getting ahead of myself…
Oh yeah. There’s the reality that, in an attempt to dash all of our religious hopes, from those of the first century to those of the twenty-first century, God has a few women show up to be the first to peer upon the empty tomb of Christ. Not the twelve (or eleven), not even just regular Jewish men. Dirty, filthy women. And, these women get to be the first apostles sent out on behalf of Christ! (Check it out in Matthew 28:1-8 and Mark 16:1-8.)
Not to mention that, time and time again, God keeps choosing the boneheads of the day, the down and out’s, the uneducated, the ignoble, the weak, whores, murderers, what we might simply refer to as sinners.
‘Ok, that’s enough God. Next time you do something, make sure you consult with me.’
We laugh, maybe even shake our heads at such a statement. But, most of the time, we are ready to chime in with such a chorus.
When I read systematic theology books, I get this sense that the God that is portrayed in such texts, and all subjects related to Him, doesn’t always have much to do with the God whom Scripture presents to us. Don’t get me wrong, I love studying theology (though I am not sure systematic theology is always the answer). But, the more I grow, the more I realise that I cannot package God. I can’t even fit him into a 1,000 page systematic text book.
Can you imagine Grudem or Berkhof or Ryrie writing a chapter in their texts on the scandalousness of God? Maybe the section would be entitled something like this – Just When You Think You Have God Figured Out, He Comes And Screws You Over. We can’t imagine finding something like this in systematic texts. But maybe Lewis or Chesterton would have taken up that challenge.
And, so, God keeps stirring up one scandal after another. And following on from that is the public outrage and severe criticism, even from His own people. It’s been going on for an extremely long time. And it will continue going on for the rest of this age.
What, or who, is the greatest scandal of all time – Jesus of Nazareth. I’m not going to dive into this Jesus character just yet. I’ll reserve that for the next and final article. But, if you know the story of Jesus at all, the true story of Jesus as presented in the Gospel texts, you know that He is the greatest scandal of the scandalous God whom we serve. I can’t wait to ponder His story……