Reading the Bible with an open mind, one is struck with the similarity of the sentiments expressed, especially about God. This is not a coincidence. The Bible itself says it is inspired by God. One of the marks of a stable and mature personality is the consistency with which that person behaves and expresses himself. How much more then should we expect that from God!
I own an Algebra book published in the 1950’s. Compared to a modern high school Algebra textbook, much is different, but much is also the same. The modern textbook has lots of pictures and graphs. But the content is basically the same. The Quadratic Formula and the Pythagorean Theorem is still the same now as it was 75 years ago. Which is what one would expect. In a similar way, the 66 books that make up the Bible, though written over a period of 1600 years (1500 BC – 100 AD) and by 40 different authors certainly are different in terms of types of literature and style, but nevertheless tell a remarkably similar story. The basics are the same.
Yes, there are differences. Some of which are easily explained, such as those between the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) as a nomadic family called by God, Israel as a theocratic nation and the Church (now Jew and Gentile) as a scattered collection of people. And, some are not easily explained, such as the role of the Mosaic Law in the life of a follower of Jesus Christ. Still, when reading the Bible, the clear impression is that these men and women written about in the Bible, living centuries apart, exhibited the same kind of yearning for and contact with God that believers experience today. Take the book of Psalms for example. How can one read the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my Shepherd” and not fully appreciate what King David originally penned around 1000 BC?
Sometimes people say, “The God of the Old Testament is harsh and angry but the God of the New Testament is full of love,” as if two different Gods are described. That comment comes because they just haven’t read the Bible enough. The same God is described. The most repeated description of God in the Old Testament is found in Psalm 86:15 “But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” And some of the scariest things in the Bible are found on the lips of Jesus, such as Matthew 25:41 “Depart from me you who are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Read and read and read in the Bible, letting its words soak into your soul. As the days and weeks and months and years go by, you’ll absorb a tremendous amount about the nature of God. Of course the single greatest revelation of God is Jesus Christ himself who said, “When you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9). When you are in doubt about the nature of God, keep in mind that God is like Jesus. The entire message of the Bible could be summed up in that one statement – God is like Jesus. You can trust Jesus. He believed the Bible was from God and that is good enough for me.
There are passages in Scripture that seem to be inconsistent. Most of them can be resolved with further study, though some will remain a puzzle. The Christian conviction is that God is the ultimate author of the Bible. We can be confident in the trustworthiness of the Bible. Where we find a passage difficult to understand we lay it aside and continue on.
Here are some texts that might be of use:
John 5:39-40 (NIV)
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Peter 1:20-21 (NIV)
Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.