I read the four chapters from Numbers and one verse stands out for me: Numbers 25:17. Treat the Midianites as enemies and kill them. In the book of Numbers, I am learning that the God of Israel is a jealous God. God is not indifferent to Israel or to their relationships in this world. God demands exclusive devotion. God is enraged when we are seduced by other allegiances.
But I remember how Jesus would say in his Sermon on the Mount: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:44) This is why many people keep their distance from the Old Testament. It seems inconsistent with the New Testament. It seems like the God of one Testament is not the same God of the other Testament. How can God at one point encourage the killing of enemies and at another expect us to do what feels impossible – love our enemies? Is God asking us to do something even God cannot do?
Then I wondered why we are reading 1 Corinthians 13 – this one chapter in the middle of our readings from Mark. I have no idea what possible purpose the designer of this reading program had in mind. But then I came to verse twelve: For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
It is not God who changes through the scriptures from Old to New Testaments. We are the ones to change, to grow as we live into a relationship with God. Even today, my understanding of God and what God expects of me I know only in part. Did God want the Midianites killed? If I had been alive at that moment in history, I don’t know. I only know what I know today as a Christian – and even what I know in my lifetime is partial and incomplete. I must keep growing to see more clearly who God is and what God wants. Love is the bridge to God’s future.