(Originally named "People like me" but bad grammar, combined with an assumption of affection, required a revision of title.)
It's easy to get frustrated and judgmental, reading the Old Testament. "C'mon, people!" I want to say to Israel. "I'm getting worn out, hearing your repeated failures, generation after generation. Buck up already and do what is right!"
A leader turns his heart to God, taking the people back from idolatry to true worship. Then his son erects Asherah poles, restores the high ground of the Baals, and builds altars under every spreading tree. The same kings commit murders and assassinations, rape and pillage, reaping wars and famines. The people, who have strayed like sheep after these arrogant and idolatrous idiots, cry out for mercy.
Then God raises up a faithful leader again. The nation reaps prosperity and peace. But the cycle repeats. Obviously, we don't learn good character, morals, and law from history.
Few kings spent a lifetime as worshipers of the One God. Not even Solomon, for all his glorious beginnings, endured to the end. Why doesn't God just roll up the historical archives of the Israelites and Gentiles, wipe out humanity, and start a more obedient creation?
Instead, God repeatedly shows his mercy, forgiveness, and patience. Those inherent qualities of WHO he is color everything he does among us. If we got a fraction of what we deserved, we would not survive his wrath.
My eyes and ears burn as I watch and listen to culture. Most of us live in fantasy. We assume we live with justice, riches, safety, and care for others. We can be especially naive if we grew up in church.
At the same time, we lock our homes and cars against strangers (and friends, at times). Weapons are a "right, "not for hunting food, but for protection against others. We sanitize our hands lest unmentionable diseases infect us. We distrust the overtures of salespeople, and scrutinize offers of neighborly kindness for hidden motives. A quarter of our schoolchildren don't get enough food at home, according to a recent study.
I occasionally play piano at a local hospital, watching people stream by. I listen to snatches of conversations, and catch slivers of many unique stories. It's humbling to recognize that God knows and loves each passerby as much as he knows and loves me and those I care about. He waits for us to turn to him, so his loving, forgiving, and healing arms can embrace us.
I want to grow old with a faithful heart. To show tender mercy and patience to others as God extends it to me, day by day. To recognize that human hearts are desperately wicked, while living joyfully because God - knowing the depths of our condition - lifts us up, signing our pardon on a New Covenant with the blood of Jesus.
When I read the Old Testament, I have to remember it's not just stories about "awful us." The Bible is a showcase for the spectacular. It reminds us that our loving Creator interacts time and again, based on his goodness and infinite love, with all those who are willing to receive his attention. His untiring advances invite us to know and love him in return.
I need grace more than anyone else. So,
"Thanks be to God! Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy. Thanks be to God!" He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever... even on a day when I'm crabby about another overcast sky, reading the news on the BBC, shuddering at the hardships of followers whose rotten leaders drag them through hell.
Who is a God like You, who pardons
Iniquity and passes over the rebellious
Act of the remnant of His possession?
He does not retain His anger forever,
Because He delights in unchanging love.
He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sins Into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:18-19 NASB