God of Peace. Majesty of the Heavens. Bestower of Peace.
And a guy who's just super concerned about what's been going on with you lately. That's right: the Creator of the Universe just can't seem to get humans off his mind.
The God we're talking about here is the same deity from the Hebrew Bible. He demands strict devotion (i.e., no worshipping other gods), and he can also be a little (okay, a lot) judgmental at times. But he's also totally caught up in human affairs. What can we say? God loves him some drama.
Back in the day, God made a deal with the Jewish people. Put your faith in me and trust in me and I'll totally bless you. But the people didn't seem to be keeping up with their end of the bargain. Folks just weren't following what God wanted for them, and sin was running rampant.
So what's an all-powerful divine being to do? According to Hebrews, you make a new deal. Or as the Bible likes to call it, a covenant:
"The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not like the covenant that I made with their ancestors, on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and so I had no concern for them, says the Lord. This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach one another or say to each other, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more." (8:8-12)
His new plan? Send Jesus to save the world.
Just one catch: the plan calls for his Son to die.
There are two different thoughts around Jesus' death. On one hand, God sent Jesus to tell the world all kinds of good things, and people killed him for it. On the other hand, God sent Jesus to tell the world all kings of good things knowing he would be crucified so he could die to redeem humankind from its sins.
Hebrews seems to fall in the latter camp:
The verdict from Hebrews: God sent a messiah to Earth knowing that he would be killed. In fact, that was all part of the plan. In order to save the world from sin and establish a new covenant, Jesus had to die.
If you're into the doctrine of the Trinity, you could argue that God actually sent himself to die. If God and Jesus are of the same substance or nature, then that must be the case. That would turn God into a pretty nice, self-sacrificing dude, but Hebrews doesn't have this understanding of God. The idea of three Gods in one didn't take shape until the 4th century, so for now, we still have a Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that are separate folks.
This wouldn't be the first time someone accused God of being a bit of a divine meanie. Even in Hebrews, he has some questionable qualities.
So is God a divine bully or is something else going on here? In the Bible's opinion, God can do pretty much whatever he wants. If he wants to judge the heck out of you, that's fine. If he wants to punish you, that's cool, too. Those are the perks of being the Creator of the Universe. God made the world, so he's in charge of it.
God may ask people to go through hard times…or death on a cross…but in the end, he's only doing it because he loves people so much. God has always had a special place in his heart for humanity, but according to the New Testament, after Jesus, God took loving to a new level:
You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them. (For they could not endure the order that was given, "If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned to death." Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, "I tremble with fear.") But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (12:18-24)
Basically, the post-Jesus version of God has changed a bit—quite a trick for an unchanging God. He always loved and cared for humanity, but he was also a bit standoffish with them. Back in Exodus, the Israelites freaked out at the thought that God was up on Mount Sinai. He's kind of a fierce dude.
But now that Jesus is hanging up in Heaven, he can act as the go-between for God and his people. According to Hebrews, God has become more approachable. Just think of him as a warm and cuddly kitten. We think he'd like that.