“Who is like God.”
That is the English meaning of the Hebrew name Michael. It can either be understood as a challenge: Is anyone really like God? or as a compliment: This person is godly. Michaela is the feminine form of this name.
My sister Michaela called me yesterday for my birthday, and part of our conversation orbited around what books we are currently reading. I told her that i was six books in to a series about the birth of England as we know it. The first book in the series is called The Last Kingdom, and the series is written by Bernard Cornwell.
Now, i don’t think the author is a believer, but it is fascinating to me that the main character–a pagan named Uhtred of Bebbanburg–is always commenting on the Christians who are trying to convert the British Isles. First, he can’t ever grasp the fact that the Christians worship their “nailed god.” Second, he can’t come to terms with the fact that the Christians want to be all about rules. Third, he often comments on the fact that the Christians are just as superstitious as his fellow pagans are.
One example of this will suffice. But first, some background. King Alfred, a Christian, had an illegitimate child, Osferth, with a slave girl before Alfred became a believer. Osferth, in his father’s guilt, was sent to a monastery to become a monk/priest. Eventually, he meets Uhtred, and Uhtred decides to spite Alfred–a common theme of the series–by training Osferth as a warrior. The following conversation will support my point that Uhtred, a pagan, understands the goal of Christianity better than most of the other characters, even though he refuses to submit to God.
“It’s time you got married,” I told Osferth as we passed an open-doored barn where two fair-haired girls winnowed grain on a threshing floor.
“I’ve thought of it,” he said gloomily.
He half smiled. “You believe in destiny, lord,” he said.
“And you don’t?” I asked. Osferth and I were riding a few paces ahead of the others. “And what does destiny have to do with a girl in your bed?”
“Non ingredietur mamzer hoc de scorto natus in ecclesiam Domini,” he said, then gave me a very somber look, “usque ad deciman generationem.”
“Both Father Beocca and Father Willibald tried to teach me Latin,” I said, “and they both failed.”
“It comes from the scriptures, lord,” he said, “from the book of Deuteronomy, and it means a bastard isn’t allowed into the church and it warns that the curse will last for ten generations.”
I stared at him in disbelief. “You were training to be a priest when I met you!”
“And I left my training,” he said. “I had to. How could I be a priest when God bans me from his congregation?”
“So you can’t be a priest,” I said, “but you can be married!”
“Usque ad decimam generationem,” he said. “My children would be cursed, and their children too, and every child for ten generations.”
“So every bastard is doomed?”
“God tells us that, lord.”
“Then he’s a bloody-minded god,” I said savagely, then saw that his distress was real. “It wasn’t your fault that Alfred played piggyback with a servant girl.”
“So how can his sin affect you?”
“God is not always fair, lord, but he is just within his rules.”
“Just! So if I can’t catch a thief I should just whip his children instead and you’d call me just?”
“God abhors sin, lord, and what better way to avert sin than threaten it with the direst punishment? . . . If God didn’t punish us severely,” Osferth went on, “then
what is to stop sin spreading?”
“I like sin,” I said.
(Bernard Cornwell, Death of Kings [New York, NY: Harper, 2011], 114-15.)
Simply put, it is clear that Uhtred is not a believer, but it is also clear that he intuitively grasps the truth of Ezekiel 18:20 as a pagan. One contributing factor to his paganism is the horrendous theology and practice of the Catholic Church in 900 AD. Ezekiel 18:20 explains:
Ezekiel 18:20 (HCSB)
The person who sins is the one who will die. A son won’t suffer punishment for the father’s iniquity, and a father won’t suffer punishment for the son’s iniquity. The righteousness of the righteous person will be on him, and the wickedness of the wicked person will be on him.
My point in all of this is that it is important to think of God rightly. In my daily Bible reading yesterday, i stumbled on something exciting:
Genesis 33:10 (HCSB)
“For indeed, I have seen your face, ⌊and it is⌋ like seeing God’s face, since you have accepted me.”
Who is like God?
Jacob said that to Esau.
Jacob is the one who was accepted by God, and Esau was the one who was cursed by God (cf. Genesis 25:23, Malachi 1:1-3, Hebrews 12:14-17).
But Jacob says Esau is like God. Is this interesting or what???
There is a reason why Jacob says Esau is like God. “Since you have accepted me.”
Think about it. In this simple verse we have a very early picture of the grace of God.
God is not primarily a sovereign ruler who wants to crush anybody who doesn’t seek Him. God is not an exalted kill-joy. God is not a trigger-happy god looking for someone to drop judgment on.
God is eager to accept people. He is not “bloody-minded.” He doesn’t find pleasure in the death of the wicked. He must punish sin, but He doesn’t punish us on earth for our sins.
Christianity comes from the root-word “Christ.” This is a title for Jesus. Jesus is the Son of God who came to earth to trade places with us. He lived a sinless life, and He died in our place on the cross so we could be accepted by God.
In reality, if we want to know who is like God, the answer is best framed thus: Jesus. It was His life that made us acceptable to God. It was His work that allows God to accept us. It was His work that changes God from our enemy to our friend.
But it was His work. We must trust Him to be accepted by God. When we put our trust in Him, He will change our heart so we no longer like sin. When we place our trust in Him, He will turn all of us into Michaels or Michaelas. When we place our faith in Him, we will all be “like God” (cf. 2 Peter 1:4).
Place your faith in Him today! Please don’t remain a pagan in your sin!
In this with you.
Soli Deo Gloria
Thanks for reading.