Sunday, January 2, 2011

The O.T.

Wow…it's been awhile. If you've noticed a lapse in posts around here, let's just say that life is crazy AND I've been reading through the Old Testament. (Both are true.) I always try to keep myself reading a particular book of the Bible--I'm more likely to stick with it that way--and one day in September, I sat down and started Genesis. And like Forrest Gump, who "decided to go for a little run" and ends up running across the country for three years, I just kept on reading. Truth be told, after almost four months, I'm only at the end of Numbers. It would appear that, like Forrest, I'm on the three-year plan…however, one of my New Year's resolutions is to get to the finish line of Malachi by the end of 2011. I'm pretty sure I can do it. If you can get through the Pentateuch, I think you've pretty well proven your commitment and the rest is a home stretch. It's been 12 years since I read through the whole Bible, and from what I recall from back then, my 10th grade self did a LOT of skimming. Like most of Leviticus, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel…well, probably most of the entire Old Testament. So this time, four books in, it's provided several eye-opening insights.

Here is a chronicle of my revelations. I'll try not to include too many lamentations. Yuk yuk.

The good/easy to swallow/fits in nicely with my faith paradigm stuff:

- Getting the whole picture of who the Israelite people were--their overarching story from the beginning--gives me a much better lens through which to view Jesus, the early Christians, and the Bible as a whole. I'm even learning significant little factoids, like that they're called the Hebrews because Abraham lived in Hebron. Never knew that before.

- A lot of the rules and regulations in the Law make a lot of sense in ways the people of that day couldn't possibly have understood, like not eating certain animals that probably carried numerous diseases or not touching dead bodies, which would have of course caused contamination. Obviously, God was protecting His people, and they just had to trust Him for His good reasons....much like I have to do about a lot of things today.

- Such a huge sense of relief--and a sense of just what a big deal it is--that Jesus' death on the cross constituted THE ONE sacrifice acceptable to God for ALL sin. When you read 100 pages of all the offerings and sacrifices the Hebrews had to perform, it really leaves an impression of what a burden we as Christians are freed from.

- Certain stories are really exceptionally moving. I developed a whole new affinity for Joseph after reading his story straight through. His continued depth of love for his brothers, even after they sold him as a slave to a foreign country, is challenging in the best way. I love the fact that he's always running off to a corner to weep with love for them.

The bad/challenging/kinda faith-shaking:

- Is it just me or was Moses a total megalomaniac? It's hard for me to buy that he was "more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3). To me, he appears pretty ego-driven and power-hungry, and since he's the only one hearing directly from God, it seems somewhat suspicious that God is always on his side. When Miriam and Aaron dare to oppose him, God yells at them and strikes Miriam with leprosy (why only Miriam, by the way?)

- The blatant sexism, such as the "Test for an Unfaithful Wife," in which if a man suspected his wife of infidelity (he didn't even have to have any reason; maybe he ate a bad quail taco and was feeling cranky) he could bring her before the authorities. She would be forced to drink a bitter liquid intended to make her barren or miscarry. If God intervened and the concoction didn't work, the woman was innocent. If the liquid did indeed function as expected, she was deemed guilty of sleeping around. (Numbers 5)

- Having to make atonement even for sins that were unintentional. This really rubs the wrong way against my understanding of God as gracious and compassionate, or the gentle Messiah who wouldn't even break a bruised reed (Isaiah 42).

- The number of times God totally destroys people, even His own people. With all the references to God as "slow to anger" elsewhere in Scripture, He sure is depicted as a hothead in the Pentateuch. It seems like Moses is constantly scooting off to the Tabernacle to pacify this volatile God who is about to wipe everybody off the face of the earth.

Anyway, these are my honest thoughts. I'm sure I should probably be reading with a good scholarly commentary that would explain some of the passages I find offensive--add that to my New Year's resolutions, I guess. I still believe, of course, that the Old Testament is the inspired Word of God…but it does seem to raise almost as many questions as it answers.

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