Jesus is famous for his list of blessings found in the Sermon on the Mount. You know, "Blessed are the poor for they will inherit the earth" and "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God."
But the Old Testament also contains a few "blessed are" statements which don't always sound quite as beautiful.
For example, can you imagine Jesus saying something like this:
"Blessed is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them on the rocks." [Ps 137:8-9]
That's not the sort of thing we would ever expect Jesus to say, is it?
This is partly why we need to learn how to read the Old Testament scriptures through the lens of Jesus.
See, before we can understand a text, we first need to understand God - and that means recognizing Him for who He really is.
The best way to understand God is to look at Jesus. Why? Because Jesus is the one who reveals the Father to us. If we have seen Jesus, then we have truly seen God because no one has ever seen God at any time except for Jesus.
So, when we read a verse of scripture in the Hebrew Bible that has God saying something like:
"Samaria will be held guilty, for she has rebelled against her God. They will fall by the sword, their little ones will be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women will be ripped open." [Hosea 13:16]
We need to ask ourselves a few questions first, like:
"Is this what God said?"
Or, "Is this what the author thought God was saying?"
Actually, our first question should be: "Does this sound like something Jesus would ever say?"
If not, we know that the verse we're reading isn't what God said but what the author thought God was saying.
Because ultimately we have to decide if our faith is in a Book, or if our faith is in Jesus.
In this specific case, we can see that Jesus showed great love and compassion for people from Samaria. He told parables where the Samaritans were the heroes. He went out of his way to share the Gospel with a Samaritan woman. He refused to look down on Samaritans or to treat them any differently than other people.
Jesus loved Samaritans. So, we can be 100 percent sure of one thing: Jesus would not encourage anyone to "dash in pieces" their "little ones" or to "rip open" their "pregnant women."
Not even a little bit.
There are over 100 verses in the Bible where God reportedly told people to go and kill other people.
In many of those verses God seems to command people to slaughter women, children and even toddlers and pregnant mothers.
If you think Jesus would ever do this you might want to refresh your memory a little. He is the same one who told us to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, forgive those who hate us, pray for those who misuse us and overcome evil with good.
In fact, Jesus tells us to do all of these things so that we can be like someone else: His Father in Heaven.
Yes, our compassion, forgiveness and radical love is patterned after the same love that God has for everyone - both the righteous and the unrighteous.
If God wasn't kind and merciful to everyone, then Jesus would have no basis for asking us to be like Him by showing love and mercy for our enemies.
In conclusion: Jesus reveals a God who would rather die for His enemies than kill them. Jesus shows us a God who loves all the people we hate and He wants us to love them, too.
So, the next time you read a verse in the Bible that depicts God as a bloodthirsty warrior who delights at the slaughter of women, children and pregnant mothers, just remember: That's not Jesus.
And if it doesn't look like Jesus, it's not the Father.