What is the purpose of the Torah?
Then the man (Adam) and his wife (Eve) heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?" He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid." (Genesis 3:8-10)
"Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God." (Exodus 3:5-6)
This is our God. Scared? You should be! The trouble is, we're not and we really really should be. Yes, God is more approachable than He seemed to be in Old Testament times, but He's no pussycat. Quoting from the Narnia books, Aslan is not a tame lion.
Many Christians today seem to have lost the real sense of awe and reverence for our holy God. Remember, He is the same yesterday, today and forever. The same God who met with Adam and Moses, who terrified them with His presence, is the one who supposedly has casual chats and loses arguments with certain modern-day "prophets" and "apostles".
Some high profile TV preachers and teachers seem to have such a special relationship with the Almighty God, Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, that they are able to twist Him around their little fingers, get Him to change His mind about the most trivial of items, force His will through perceived loopholes. They do this to reinforce that most Greek of ideas - them and us, clergy and laity, anointed and commoners. They believe that they are God's special anointed, specially selected people with divine channels of communications, little Popes with big ideas, giving them license to take almighty liberties.
Believe me God has no special relationship with self-styled Super-Christians, God's Dread army, His Generals, Manifest Sons of God, or whatever else many of them may call themselves. If God has lowered Himself to the degree that He has become a partner in such shenanigans then we all might as well pack up and go home and flush our membership cards down the toilet! Harsh words indeed, but I worship a God who will not be manipulated and twisted and treated like a playground chum. I follow an awesome God who destroyed wicked nations, who saw off Ananias for cheating on a property deal, who rained down burning sulphur on Sodom and Gomorrah. My God is not a tame lion!
Yet God is a personal God and if we didn't believe that prayer changes things then surely we wouldn't bother. He is intensely interested in our comings and goings and cares deeply about us. The Sodom and Gomorrah episode shows us God having His mind changed by Abraham.
"Then Abraham approached him and said: "Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing - to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" The LORD said, "If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake." (Genesis 16:23-26)
Yes God does listen to us and can change His mind. But there's a chasm the size of a small planet between Abraham's pleadings for the life of the righteous and a T.V. preacher commanding God to authorise a thousand-fold increase for those who send in their hard-earned cash. If religious Jews had their own TV station there would be none of this nonsense (though probably replaced with other different types of nonsense!) Why am I so certain? Well it's all down to the Jewish view of God.
More of this next week ...
(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book How the Church Lost the Way: And How it Can Find it Again)