Those Troubling Scriptures
Not a feel good book
In a previous hub,The Bible - Its Own Best Defense, I wrote "This business of knowing God is not a one-time introduction, but rather a lifetime of friendship...” I received the following from someone who identified herself as a “doubter”, my kind of person. “I already doubted, before fully acknowledging the fact that I was agnostic. Then, on reading more of the Bible ~ eg. the suffering of Job, the slaughter of the Amalekite babies, the rape of David's wives, etc, etc ~ I found myself disgusted and appalled by various horrific actions or commands credited to God, who was supposed to be our loving father-creator.” To these might be added the many times we read of curses being called down on people in the imprecatory psalms, as they are called. Note Psalms 35 and 109.
Very troubling passages, indeed, to any with a caring heart and an inquiring mind. We’d like to have final definitive answers. We demand them. I have. But Bible study needs to be approached with the humble awareness that we are listening to God’s heart. Stay with me. That’s the very issue in question. How could it be God?
We can relate to this!
Not long ago a man stuck a needle in my three year old granddaughter’s arm and made her very unhappy. Her parents looked on, allowing the needle to pierce deep into the little girl’s flesh. How cruel! Except that you and I both understand that the man is a trained pediatrician and that the fluid injected into her arm prevents a horrible disease that may have killed the child. Parents routinely allow their children to be “hurt” by men they choose to trust.
I work for the largest home improvement retailer in the world. It has almost 2000 stores and many more thousands of employees. I’m one of three Bay Integrity Associates at our store. My job is to scan “outs”, places were there are price tags but no product. I also verify counts and change price labels. Fifty years ago I did the same thing for a grocery store. They called me a stock boy then. Anyway, there are times when I’m asked to do things that don’t make any sense to me at all, like change labels that I’d just changed a few days earlier, or count an item for the umpteenth time. Yes, sometimes I cop an attitude. “These folks don’t know what they’re doing!” Except that I don’t know what the people at corporate know. I have a choice. Stew in my angry juices or let it go to concentrate on that part of the Home Depot universe I’m responsible for.
Two stories; one point. Perspective makes all the difference in the world. Those passages in Scripture offend us because we don’t share God’s perspective. While I’d like to have more specific answers, I acknowledge that God knows a bit more than I. But, again why should I believe that there is such a God to trust?
Why should I believe there's a trustworthy God?
Allow we one more illustration. I know little about how my automobile works or how my air conditioner works or how my eyes work. But I’ve found a mechanic that has won my trust; a home climate control company whose technicians I love; and an optometrist I’d commend to anyone. Is there anyone out there that would fulfill the role of an expert regarding my many godquestions? Would someone who claimed to be equal with God, who did and spoke only what he received from the Father and who died but then rose to life on the third day be a reliable witness to God?
Jesus accepted the Old Testament as the Word of God. He quotes it often and defines himself by it. He even mentions God’s raining down fire on Sodom, Matthew 11:23,24. Even if you don’t buy that Jesus is God in the flesh, people the world over regard him as an upright man worthy of our respect. His resurrection sealed it for me. Frank Morison’s shows to my satisfaction that Jesus died and rose just as it’s reported in the gospels. Who Moved the Stone?
I know I’ve offered no specific answers. But I have given data that warrants a sympathetic and humble reading of the Bible. What’s needed is a perspective change. Without that, every answer can be countered with another question. That adjustment comes in the context of a loving relationship, not intellectual data.
Interesting how God respects and cares for us more than we do for ourselves. We say that we’d be satisfied with a few answers. But He knows that won’t work. He did what it takes to win our love and trust. Jesus, God in the flesh, hung on a cross, accepting upon himself the just consequences of my rebellion. That's the horrific event that blows me away. That the Father should hand his Son, the "exact imprint of his nature" (Hebrews 1:3), over to sinful men to be killed on my behalf, is an act of divine love that melts every objection to his ways that I might raise. Thus, his justice and holiness are respected and his boundless love extended. What a plan!
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