wrestling with what to do with what the Bible says

Posted: February 7, 2016 in Uncategorized

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m on a journey to attempt to listen to the Bible in a year.  The current method I’ve found is really working; I listen while I’m showering and getting ready for my day.  Since the time doesn’t have to be carved out for ONLY listening, it’s fitting into what was already a highly regimented part of my day.  Those are the kinds of things that work for me.

I was talking with a friend the other day about the difficulties of the Old Testament (OT).  It’s easy to recommend a new believer to check out the New Testament (NT), and even the Psalms and the Proverbs (though I’ve mentioned earlier, for sure the Proverbs are my least favorite part of the Bible – but I’m continually working on my attitude on that point).

But it’s hard to recommend the OT.  While the stories are quite vivid and interesting, I often find them confusing as well.  Some of them seem to really call into question the nature of God – He seems to come off in a way that is inconsistent with the way I know Him personally.  Lots of mornings I struggle with the OT portion of my reading/listening.  Commands are given or actions taken that I don’t understand, and that look wrong to my own understanding.  It seems important to me to acknowledge this tension and struggle, even as I go to my default method for dealing with it:  remembering the larger truth that God is good and loves people, and so anything that seems to contradict that is a lapse in my understanding, and not a sign of a character defect on His part.  At this point in my journey, I wouldn’t recommend the OT to anyone who is not able to return again and again to that point:  He is good, and where I seem to see otherwise, I am missing something.

A thing I’m really noticing this time even more than usual is the way He meets us and works with us right where we are, not insisting that we get stuff right before He will work with us.

There’s the matter of all those wives and concubines, for instance.  I don’t see any way that it’s God’s best plan for us that we do the polygamy thing – I just don’t see it.  However, it appears that God chose to work with the folks who were doing it that way.  He didn’t withdraw and say, “When you get the ‘one man and one woman’ part right about relationships and marriage, THEN I’ll work with you.”  (Which makes me wonder why current Christian culture in the USA wants to be so insistent on that point, but that’s another topic entirely and I’m not here for that this morning.)  He worked within their system, it seems, even though their system didn’t exactly honor His best ways.

Yesterday’s readings were tough for me because they were some of the giving of the law.  There’s a lot in there that makes sense – that is just asking us to play nicely together, and to understand the gravity of harming one another.  But then there is stuff in there that seems to indicate that slaves’ lives are of less value than the lives of the free folk.  See, that’s a thing that doesn’t sit right with me.  There is absolutely ZERO part of my understanding of the God I love and serve that says one life is worth less than another.  My understanding is that He created us all, loves us all, sent Christ to redeem us all, no exceptions, no people who are beyond the reach of His great love and compassion.  In the face of that understanding, some of yesterday’s OT verses left me somewhere between confuddled and angry, to be honest.

So I don’t know what to do with the verses that seem to imply that slaves are worth less in His eyes.  The best I can come up with at this point is to decide that though the God inspiring the Bible was and is perfect, the human beings who were conveying the information (first in spoken form, and later written down) were imperfect vessels for bringing the message forward – that they added some of the values of their own culture to what was communicated to them.  That what seemed obvious to them (but was not right) ended up mixed in with the pure and holy truth that was being communicated to and through them.  That He didn’t strike them dead for getting it only *almost* right is another evidence that He meets us where we are and works with us in our limited capacity, is all I can decide just now.

Perhaps I’m a heretic.  As I write all of this, I am deeply aware that some folks might start thinking that about me if they read.  Perhaps I’m way off base, and for sure it flies in the face of the Bible-as-the-perfectly-inspired-word-of-God place where I stay pretty easily when I’m not digging into the confusing parts of it daily.  Whatever you do, don’t read Karen’s blog as a way to get perfect and divine inspiration for interpreting scripture.  I’m just me, muddling through, scratching my head, praying a lot, and trying to hear what He’s saying in there that I need to grab and apply to my thoughts, prayers and actions on a daily basis.

Despite the struggle, I’m so glad to be listening through.  Every day I hear things that challenge me and help me to focus.  Every day I hear how very personal His attention is to us, and my mind is again blown.  Every day I hear the stories as a part of my own history and heritage and am somehow more settled and peaceful for it.

Have you ever wrestled with this stuff, or does it all just seem easy and obvious to you?

  1. Laurie says:

    This is a struggle for sure. The only way I can reconcile God’s goodness, mercy, grace and deep love for people is to realize that just as today – people make their own choices and God let’s people live with their choices in consequences of blessing or less than that address.

    Our teaching last week was ‘giving birth to an Ishmael’. Waiting for the promised heir, Sarai and Abram cooked up a plan to help Jehovah get that heir that was promised and used Hagar. Turned out to be a bad idea and Jehovah had to change plans – He changed His plans because of folks running on ahead of His plan. I am so so so Guilty over and over of doing what I want and also not waiting for God to do what He has for my life in my time. Running on ahead…..making a bad plan, bad idea, ‘giving birth to many many many many Ishmael’s’ in my life and living with those consequences. God has turned the ashes into good for His glory, and the ick for good. Only He could do that.

    I think that is maybe what happened in the OT. I don’t know. I am not sure. It was a mess from the eating of the apple in the garden……..that is one think I do know. I know God had a redemption plan from the beginning as we are not like Him. I love the OT because of all the ugly icky prickly life and people Yahweh used inspite of broken and messed up like a soup sandwich people that hijacked His plan for their own………then came running back to Him with the mess and broken pieces – just like I do. I love that the men and the women of the lineage of Christ are not Royalty and pristine. I love that Christ’s lineage has liars, thieves, prostitutes, and other wrecks of humanity in His lineage. I can relate to this. I can’t relate to a human being who lives a perfect, flawless life. I have zero in common with them. Zero.

    God knew I was going to need a whole slew of goof ball people that blew up their life due to sin and not listening to Him ——– in order to draw me to the Savior.

    That is why I love the OT and the constant pointing to a Savior through out that book.
    Jehovah is Good. He loves people and I am not moving off that address.

    I love your writing – thank you for making me think.

    love you!

  2. Laurie says:

    please ignore the punctuation and grammar mistakes

    ; – #

  3. Cindy Maynard says:

    lots of wrestling and struggling over the years of reading God’s word. maybe that’s what grows us, matures us, and causes us to see things from another perspective.

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