OT: Gen. 11:1-13:4
For the sake of an accurate record, today's reading records the Tower of Babel, the call of Abram, and the tale of Abram lying like a dog and pretending that his wife is his sister. He kept the ruse up even when Pharoah took her as his wife. Wow.
But I want to hone in on a much smaller part of the reading that has had huge implications for my own faith in the last few years. You may notice in the genealogy portion of the text that people are living to 400 and 500 years old. Now, recall in Gen. 6:3 that God cut back man's life to 120 years.
Okay, stop there and let me tell you a story. The first time I read through the whole Bible (in 2006), I was determined to read it with fresh eyes. I didn't wan to read it necessarily from the point of view of someone who was raised to be a Christian, but from the eyes of someone who had never read it before. And it was this type of thing that stood out to me. These seeming contradictions, either in the text itself or in God's own nature. Hold your judgment for a second, and let me keep going. About that time, I found a blog by a man named David Plotz. He was a Reformed Jewish agnostic, and he was kind of doing the same thing as I was: reading the Bible (in his case, the Old Testament) all the way through, with fresh eyes. His blog is where I got the inspiration for my blog. It was even called Blogging the Bible. Because Plotz did not have faith, he found the Old Testament to be hilariously contradictory. He found God's character to be totally inconsistent. That was his take on it. Sadly, in an interview with Christianity Today, he said that reading through the Old Testament pushed him closer toward atheism!
And when I read the Bible through the first time, I struggled with things like the year discrepancy. I know, I know, it's not a discrepancy. Maybe it was a pre-flood/after-flood thing. Maybe this explanation. Maybe that one. Maybe. Maybe.
But the bottom line is that to believe that the Bible is not contradictory is an act of faith. You can use whatever logical gymnastics you want to "prove" the Bible's veracity and make it make sense to you. But ultimately, it takes faith and the work of the Holy Spirit. I think that David Plotz's agnostic reaction to the Old Testament is not atypical. Reading the Bible in and of itself does not draw you to God. God draws you to God. That much is very clear in Scripture. Another thing that is very clear is that a relationship with God will. take. faith. It will never be "proven."
Now, to be clear, I'm not against asking questions. Far from it. I ask God questions all the time. And often, He uses my questions to allow me to get to know Him better. In meditating on the difficult parts of His Word, I have been drawn so much closer to Him. But I've also learned that even if my little brain can't noodle out an answer that is satisfactory to me, I still have faith. And that in itself has helped to teach me humility.
Without my fully knowing it, my brain has been chewing on these concepts over the years since my first reading. And now, as I read the Bible, I read it fully as a person of faith. Because that is what I am. And the words of the Bible are beautiful to me. And they are not contradictory. Because I have faith that it was written by the inspiration of a Being far wiser than I, and I know that just because my feeble mind can't grasp a concept, it doesn't mean that it isn't true or accurate.
NT: Matt. 5:1-26
As a child, I thought the Beatitudes were bizarre. Well, mainly the first three. Blessed are the poor in spirit? Those who mourn? The meek? I didn't want to be any of those things! As I've grown in my faith, however, I have repeatedly heard the explanation that the Beatitudes describe the progression of a relationship with God. The inner pain, sorrow, and humility listed in the first three Beatitudes reflect a heart that is finding true repentance. Those emotions accompany repentance. Once a soul recognizes and turns from its sin, it hungers and thirsts for righteousness. Having been shown mercy, it is merciful. It's heart is pure. It seeks to make peace, since Christianity is a ministry of reconciliation. And inevitably, it will face persecution from the world, since it operates at such radical odds with the world.
I like that interpretation. It makes sense to me. Moving on.
I have always loved the salt of the earth and light of the world passages.
And I am always a little confused by Jesus' remarks on the law. I get that His perfect sacrifice on the cross fulfilled the law, rather than abolished it. But I don't get why He still says to obey the law in light of his ultimate fulfillment (5:19). Maybe it was because He hadn't died yet?
I have a lot of thoughts in light of 5:20 ("...unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven"), but I will wait until he says, "Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect," to address them.
Wow. There is so much more here about anger and reconciliation, but this blog is already ridiculously long (will they all be this long???), so I'll move on.
I love the faith reflected in verse 3 ("In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in anticipation.") And I love the image of God's protection in verse 12 ("For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with you favor as with a shield.")
Yikes. The consequences of ignoring wisdom are harsh. And based on what I've seen in my life, I'd say these verses are totally accurate!