He is the image of the invisible God. Colossians 1:15

This thought is repeated elsewhere, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9) and again “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3).

Sometimes we struggle with this. We view Jesus as kind and compassionate but we read the Old Testament and conclude God is stern and callous. Yet Jesus is the exact representation of God. How can this be?

Shortly after becoming a Christian I was encouraged to read the whole Bible in my first year. I remember reading the prophets but because of my lack of knowledge of Jewish history, I incorrectly assumed that God’s people were constantly being sent into exile. It seemed to me that God would warn them, but they didn’t respond. In my mind’s eye, I saw God’s people walking back and forward across the desert being taken into captivity and then released. It was years later that I learnt there were only two exiles and each group of God’s people was only exiled once. I was surprised. It made me realize how patient, compassionate and gracious God was—just like Jesus.

Our minds seem to gravitate towards those occasions in the Old Testament where God enacted his judgement. We are shocked with the brutality of his actions because we overlook his deep offence at people’s sin. We are so familiar with his forgiveness that our minds fail to notice the numerous times where he shows mercy.

A day is coming when we will again see God enact his judgement. However we can trust in God’s character, he will act justly but also with compassion.

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