I’ve been reading through the Old Testament lately. My purpose in this is to look at the narrative of scripture. I grew up looking at the Bible as some sort of textbook or legal document--full of rules and regulations for how to live so God doesn’t get mad. As I’ve been reading through the Patriarchs (Abraham and his many sons), I am amazed at how messed up those people were. They lied, cheated, betrayed, held grudges, killed each other, sold women like livestock and, occasionally, obeyed God. This is where perspective and your understanding of the purpose of scripture becomes really important.
If you are reading the Bible with the idea that it is the story of God’s people and how he interacted with them, you will get a picture of a God who hypocritically overlooks gross abuse and violence until it messes with his plan--then he turns people into pillars of salt and banishes them to wander in the wilderness. This micro-managing, fickle God is no one I want to follow.
On the other hand, if you are looking at the Bible as the story of God creating and revealing himself to his people, the scriptures take on a different light. Suddenly, you are reading about God and how much he loves his creation and how much of their absurdity he is willing to work with to accomplish his primary objective to reconcile humanity to himself. God steers this people he has sought out as they do all manner of wicked and bizarre things. He allows them to suffer the consequences of their actions and also redeems and protects them. He systematically hears the cry of the oppressed and is moved to action by the plight of the helpless.
The God of the universe paints a picture of himself as the one who cannot be thwarted in his will, loves all of humanity dearly, and seems to have an endless supply of grace and, well, unfailing love. No wonder we see that phrase so often repeated in God’s Word!