One thing that has attributed to how I read the scriptures, is being able to see/discern the two voices found throughout the sacred text. These two voices are seen consistently in both the Old and new testaments.
One voice is that of the revelation of Christ, which includes mercy, peace and grace. The other is that of religion and power which includes the condoning of the sacrificial system, sacred violence, retributive justice and a God that needs to be placated.
The latter, the voice of the accuser, is really our voice trying to make sense of the world. We scapegoat God as being violent, condoning violence through a sacrificial system and even ordering the murder of those that oppose. If God is violent and retributive, we can be too, as long as what we are doing is in the name of God. This voice is riddled throughout the Hebrew Bible, from the conquest of Cannan and the murder of all life including women and children to the legalization of rape of woman and even death to anyone who touches the sacred arc of the Covenant on accident (that’s not to say that these stories can’t be read allegoricaly to see Christ in them as the early church did). We also see this in many New Testament text with the state ordered murder of Jesus in collaboration with the Jewish high priest. The story of empire collaborating with religion is always the same, from the deicide of God to the Spanish inquisition to Nazi Germany to Isis. It should give anyone pause when we put our nationalistic pride of the same importance and identity as following the Divine, whether it be Jesus, Yahweh, Muhammad or whoever.
The former (the voice of Jesus) can usually be seen through that of the prophets in the Hebrew scriptures. In essence saying “NO! God isn’t like that! There is a better way”! With the many verses saying “God desires mercy not sacrifice” and their call for social justice for the marginalized and poor. And obviously best seen through Christ who instead of coming and destroying the enemies of the Jews (the Romans or Empire in general) as most thought and hoped the messiah would do, as the ultimate scapegoat He completely ended the sacrificial system through His non violent, non retributive giving of His own life at the hands of angry men and while dying, forgave them. That’s the voice of God. Self emptying, non condemning, merciful love.
Sadly many think that Jesus will change in the predicted 2nd coming, just as the jews thought the messiah would destroy their enemies, and destroy all those who Christians consider their enemies. As if Jesus will change. No, Jesus shows us what God has always been like and when the 2nd coming, restoration of all things, final judgment or whatever you want to call it happens, I think many will be weeping and gnashing their teeth when they find out that Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever and the judgment, just as it was seen on the cross, is actually mercy.
For me, discerning these two voices has made the scriptures come alive as I read and study, not a flat boring text somehow mandated and written by a far off distant God; but a story inspired by the Divine, not dictated, of man’s journey discovering God with the ultimate revelation of the Divine finally being seen in Jesus. And that’s a story worth digging into.