Monday, November 28, 2011

In with the Old...

In with the Old Testament, that is. I listen to the Bible on radio a few times a day. 

I find the Old Testament really depressing. It's not that God is unfaithful or uncaring. It's that we are such stupid people, generation after generation. (I'm not using the term "stupid" lightly, either.) 

From the time the first people began to reason, we think we know better than God. Adam and Eve choose "the knowledge of good and evil" over knowing God and the wonderful surprises he had planned in his relationship with them. By the time Noah is told to build the ark, humanity is so corrupt that God chooses to start over with Noah and his family. Researches note that Noah would have had to take about 3,800 species into the ark to keep diversity as we see it today; everyone and everything could have fit into his boat as long as Noah saved the lower tier for manure. Ugh stinky. But after all that work, one of his grown sons is disrespectful and consigned to serve everyone else. The writer of Genesis doesn't say if Noah had a temper, but his curse on his son sure sounds like it.

Then Moses, the murderer, impulsive caretaker, and meekest person on the planet. Gideon, who keeps making excuses why he shouldn't lead and builds an idol from the spoils of God's victory. Rehaboham, Solomon's heir, who splits the kingdom by being a tyrant. Israel, who goes "whoring after other gods" time and time again... 

It's just depressing. Some people find the OT uplifting because of God's faithfulness. I think that's the only good part of the story. People who are faithful to God get thumped by their peers. They're told they are out of step and idiots to serve God. Evildoers hunt them down and kill them when possible. Much of the Old Testament contains God's warnings of the horrible punishments his righteous judgment will inflict. Does anyone pay attention? Very few do. Very few indeed.

It gives me a heavy stomach to read the stories. I find myself stopping and losing track between all the prostitution, killing, and idolatry. Which is why I have scripture read to me on UCB Bible. I can focus on the words, the scope, the ongoing movement of God among us through history.

I don't understand most of what the Bible says about God. He is like the wind whose movement is seen and felt but cannot itself be captured. The more I know, the less wisdom and understanding I seem to have. The older I get and the deeper into a life of faith, the more trust it takes to pray, "Not my will but yours for this day." I want to shout, every time I see horrible things on the news, experience another surgery alongside my daughter who lives in pain, or hear of marriages breaking up, financial ruin, and people taking advantage of others-- "PEOPLE PAY ATTENTION! DON'T BE SUCH MORONS!!! GOD WHERE ARE YOU?!!"

But would anyone mind a warning? I'd probably be sent away to an asylum for disturbing the peace, if not for appealing to God for help.

Yet I also sin. Continually. I break the law and cut into line, looking out for myself rather than my neighbor. I look without pity on the poor and needy and walk by those who need my help, the Pharisee hastening on the other side of the road so I don't become "defiled" or waste precious time (Luke 10:25-36). 

Grrrr. After all these years of reflection and saying to God, "I'm yours. Help me to obey. Help me to love you with all my heart," I'm still a sinner, continually washed by God's grace and a once-for-all blood sacrifice.

I am comforted by reading the stories of Abraham (liar, coward, God's chosen) and David (adulterer, murderer, deceiver - pretend-madman, God's chosen). Both kept coming back to say, "Sorry! I'm actually and truly yours, in spite of what I just did. Please help! No other gods before you."

The God who had mercy on them looks on me with pity and compassion, too. "Lord have mercy! Christ have mercy! Lord have mercy!"

I'm praying with the Orthodox church today, after listening to a half hour of genealogies from 1 Chronicles. Oh please - how about some cheerful psalms? Like #150. 

Read more:
The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The LORD is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works. Psalm 145:8-9 NKJV 

Thanks be to God.

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