Monday, April 14, 2014

Pondering the Old Testament

Reading the Old Testament is an exercise that raises lots of questions for any reader. It is a complicated, multi-genred collection of books that carries a raw and beautiful story that must be understood at 50,000 feet and where the feet hit the ground.

The question I pondered this morning was why there are so many ups and downs in the life course of God's people. Why not a simple, "God wins and we all go home" story? Instead we get: Sometimes things are good; sometimes things are bad. They are victors. They are losers. They are good. They are bad. They are faithful. They are faithless. They are kind. They are ruthless.

It was when I listed these things above that I realized two things:
1) It is easy for me to relate, in principle, to so much of the inconsistency of God's people in the Old Testament. When I become critical of the OT, I find that were I to hold myself to the standard I hold the text to, I find myself seriously inadequate. I could plot similar lines of ups and downs, successes and failures (big and small) in my life.

2) There is something in the story of God's people for everyone. It is not merely for the winners whose life seems to go well no matter what, it is also for the losers who can't get ahead to save their life. It is not only for the heroes who capture all the fame for their acts, but also for the nobodies who seemingly don’t accomplish much. Almost every Israelite is a nameless nobody, but is part of the story. The rock stars are complicated and flawed (Moses, Abraham, David), the wimps are elevated and also flawed(Gideon), and the generally unimportant matter.

I have had my fights with the Old Testament – perhaps you have had them as well. In fact, I hope you have. But for every part of the Old Testament I find difficult to reconcile (there are many), I find many more reasons to embrace it. I am grateful for a text of a people so generous to be as flawed as I am.

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