I'm on the slow plan on reading my Bible all the way through. I started a little over 5 years ago. At first I felt like such a failure that I couldn't rush through it in a year - after all, the books all say that's how it should be done. But I have persevered with my slow and steady pace and been stunned by how God has revealed Himself over the years. Today's revelation is not necessarily new, but I just understood it so much better than I ever had in the past.
Recently, I have been reading the minor prophets. (You know, the little books at the end of the Old Testament....Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and now Zephaniah.) The last few weeks have been quite depressing, actually. These prophets are very focused on God's judgement on the nations. Lots of "you're going to be destroyed, I'll pour out my wrath on you, burn, baby, burn"...You get the idea. Woven in amongst the judgement however, is a beautiful promise of restoration for God's people. A promise of rest and peace and beauty.
I have always been mystified by how the religious population in the New Testament became so hard and legalistic. But after reading all this, I've begun to understand why the religious people created extra rules that kept them from breaking any of God's rules. I mean, honestly, I don't want to be dashed on rocks, or destroyed by pestilence or famine.
This is why Jesus must have been such a shock. They expected a judgement bringer - a man of wrath - who would destroy the wicked nations of the world. After reading all the judgement stuff in the Old Testament, I could see why they might have this idea. Instead they found a man who said, "Love one another, Peace I bring to you, Blessed are the merciful." Jesus was not what the religious people expected. He was about forgiveness and mercy and freedom from sin. Because He did not fit their idea of who the Messiah was supposed to be, they could not accept Him. They could not wrap their minds around God acting differently than they expected.
Today, I better understood why Jesus was a surprise to the religious people when He came. And I want to be careful that I do not limit God to my expectations of Him. I do not want my limited knowledge of Him and his character to ever keep me from seeing Him at work all around me.
I am looking forward to that beautiful promise of restoration. When someday our relationship is fully and completely restored and not messed up by my sin and when I can see clearly all that God is.