When I was 20 I read the Old Testament from start to finish for the first time. At first it just seemed crazy but as I read the whole thing it came to life in a way that I never grasped when I just read verses or chapters here and there. The following are three bombs that got dropped on me as I prayed and studied the books. These ancient ideas are completely relevant to this very moment:
- We are prone to forget miracles and live as if they never happened. No matter how massive and profound the miracles are, only hours later we can find ourselves in an ugly predicament and resort to using a sinful method to deal with the predicament because we don’t expect God to help, even though we have seen him show up and defy reality by intervening in the past. We are also prone to witnessing these majestic moments but then remembering them through a lens of “Hmmmm, maybe that wasn’t a miracle after all. I bet I was just caught up in emotions the moment. There is probably a perfectly rational explanation for why that happened. And since that wasn’t a miracle, I guess I didn’t need a miracle to get through that hardship after all. So in the future I don’t have to live in a way that depends quite so much on God and his miracles. I find my own way to get things done without him.”
“They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them. He did miracles in the sight of their ancestors in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan.” (Psalm 78:11-12)
- We are tempted moment by moment to mix in the norms of our culture with the truths of the Bible, even when the Bible expressly condemns many of those norms directly, by name, 100% of the time. We are prone to changing the scripture instead of changing our hearts. When we do this we end up with “Our Culture’s Norms + Politically & Culturally Correct Scriptures.” Then we throw away the “Politically & Culturally Incorrect Scriptures.” This makes us feel warm and fuzzy because we only keep the scriptures that say our Cultural Norms are perfectly acceptable. Our Cultural Norms vouch for our Politically & Culturally Correct Scriptures, and our Politically & Culturally Correct Scriptures vouch for our Cultural Norms. Poof, a life without tension. 100% of the time in The Bible when Israel did this they began to wither. Though God did not force Israel to love him and honor his scripture, at a minimum he did back off and let the people’s fictional Politically & Culturally “Correct” religion break their hearts and ruin their society, often to the point where they began to enslave and kill other Israelites, and were killed and enslaved by neighboring countries.
“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
- But the story does not end there. When Israel cried out to God for forgiveness and rescue, God loved them and took them back. From that I learned the lesson that drew me to God’s heart: No matter how many years we have fought against God, no matter how many miles and years we have run from him, we are only five seconds away from him. If we’re willing to confess we have done wrong and acknowledge God is right, and if we are willing to turn away from the lies and pursue God, we can take five seconds and tell that to Jesus. “Jesus, I relent. You are good. Your way was the right one all along. I am sorry and I want to change. Please forgive me and help me change.” Then all those days, weeks, years, or even decades of fighting against God and running from him, they are cast away. He forgives us and we are new. We are usually still in the middle of the mess we made, but we are there with the one who spoke creation into existence, the author of love and salvation, the Lord of Armies. He both has the heart to rescue us and the power to do it. Praise God.
“...if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
QUESTIONS TO ASK IN LIGHT OF THESE IDEAS:
- Regarding number 1: How has God shown up in my life in miraculous ways? Is he kind enough and powerful enough to do it again? Am I willing to live in a greater way that actually depends on him to show up miraculously? Have I written down the miraculous ways I have witnessed God move so I can read them when I feel afraid or when I begin to stop trusting him?
- Regarding number 2: Is God altogether good? Did he give us trustworthy scriptures? If so, am I willing to admit that history reveals that my own decisions and wisdom have not been all that trustworthy, and therefore trust God’s decisions and wisdom instead of my own, even when he seems crazy to me?
- Regarding number 3: Am I willing to receive God’s correction? Am I willing to accept it even it if comes through a very imperfect person who I don’t respect? Am I willing to stop blaming God for the mess around me when I could have helped to prevent the mess or minimize it if I’d been aligned with God all along? Am I willing to not only admit I was wrong and ask forgiveness, but to also to turn away from and stop chasing the things that God says are wrong? And finally, am I willing to trust Jesus that though I have failed, he still loves me and is after heart and my joy?
Have you read the Old Testament or New Testament as a whole, from start to finish? If not, consider it. You may find this “modern world” around you is not as far removed from ancient history as you presume. You will see the solutions to scores of issues that have plagued you for years. Answers to apparent discrepancies are likely to be revealed in the light of the historical and cultural contexts and heart of God (which you will grow closer to and better comprehend as you read).
If you’re up for it, Nick just started a new podcast that walks us through chapters of the Bible, giving insights and ideas as we go. It’s a great place to start.
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (The Words of Jesus in Matthew 24:35)