I have begun to develop an increased fascination with the Old Testament since I have been taking a class on the book of Genesis this semester. For the longest time I had convinced myself that the Old Testament was boring in comparison to the New Testament. All of my personal reading times in the Bible were spent between the books of Matthew and Revelation, all the while, Genesis to Malachi gathered more dust than the number of sons Isaac was promised in Genesis 28:14. But as the class has gone on, I have finally begun to know and commune with the God I so often neglected.
The Bible is the Word of God in its entirety, not just the books that I prefer or think more beneficial to my spirituality. While the New Testament seems to displays a more tangible God, seen in the incarnate Jesus, the Old Testament reveals why the world needs Jesus so much. In Genesis, the promise of the blessing that will bless all nations is introduced and the Gospels show that promise coming to fruition. The Old Testament reveals the love, mercy, and grace of a Father for His children, even though those children are idolatrous and sinful a majority of the time. This realization has caused me to find even more importance in the New Testament as it pertains to the fulfillment of the promises God made in the Old Testament. That being said, I learned something pretty interesting in my Genesis class last week.
We have just finished the halfway mark of Genesis spending a significant amount of time on the patriarch Abraham. Throughout the narrative we see the covenant made by God with Abraham mentioned several times, emphasizing the promise that God would make Abraham a great nation. After failed attempts to find an heir through the adoption of Eliezer and a surrogate child by the Egyptian, Hagar at the age of 100, Abraham must have been having some doubts about the promises God was making. Here Abraham was, 100 years old, the "Father of a multitude", with one son who was not the child of promise he expected. But as it often goes, God so completely exceeds our expectations, leaving us dumb-founded at our doubts in His faithfulness. This is seen when God tells Abraham that from his wife Sarah the child He has promised will come, through which all nations will be blessed. I cannot in good conscience fault Abraham for his reaction to this news, as it would probably be the reaction I would express as well.
Genesis 17:17 says, "Abraham fell on his face and laughed" at the prospect of his ancient wife giving birth to a son. But can we really blame Abraham? How often do we laugh at smaller matters in our own lives? Not believing that God will provide or continue to be faithful? Often we focus so much on what we say or think about God when seldom we actually pay attention to what God says about Himself. This is a matter of the utmost importance when God introduces Himself to Abraham earlier in the same chapter.
When God approaches Abraham He calls himself "God Almighty," in Hebrew, El Shaddai. I recently learned in my Genesis class that the name most likely comes from the Hebrew root shadad which means "to deal violently with, destroy, or lay waste to." Not too comforting of a description for God. But when one uses this verb in reference to God it means for God to display his almighty power, which ultimately can be used to denote God's control over all nature. God names Himself intentionally for a specific reason. When the "way of a woman" had ceased to be with Sarah, God "changed her nature" and gave to her the ability to produce the child He had promised within her own womb. I could not help but see the similarities when I was reading through 1 Corinthians 15 this morning.
The Apostle Paul is writing in response to the Corinthian church concerning specific individuals denying the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Paul affirms that because Christ has been raised from the dead, those who are in Christ shall also be made alive. He continues later in the chapter speaking on the resurrection body that we will receive once we die and are resurrected with Christ, a body that is no longer "perishable but imperishable," a body that no longer "exists in weakness but is raised in power," a body that no longer "bears the image of the man of dust (Adam)," but the "image of the man of heaven (Jesus)." In Christ our nature is changed, we no longer are the sinners we once were but the justified and set apart people of God.
This chapter in Corinthians speaks of the perfection we will soon attain upon our physical death, but can it not be applied to our earthly lives as followers of Jesus? Is there any explanation for our new identities, our new actions, our new words, and our new love for others, apart from Jesus changing our nature and ultimately our lives? More importantly, do we live life as if our nature has been changed? May it be that we live with the realization that we are no longer children of the flesh but children of the Spirit.
God has the power to change the nature we were born with. We are not the mistakes we have made, the bad things we have done, or the worst sins we have transgressed. Apart from Jesus we are children of flesh and blood, but in Jesus our nature has been changed and we are of a different kind entirely. In our relationship with Him, we are no longer the men and women of dust but the men and women of Heaven. Because of Jesus, we are given a new identity and a new address when we begin to follow him. The God that is all-powerful, the God that changed the nature of Sarah to provide her with a son, is the same God that loves us so dearly and wants to see us made new through a relationship with His Son and the sanctifying power of His Holy Spirit. Allow El Shaddai the Almighty God to change you and be made new.