Monday, February 20, 2012

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

So, I’ve been going on and on about trying to get to know God, and about the Bible. It’s definitely His story, but as I read it now, it is hard not to see that it also has a LOT to say about US. And let me tell you, it’s not a pretty picture.

At the get-go, we meet a couple of people who are too curious for their own good, brothers who hate each other, a bunch of raping lunatics, and a whole race of people that are so bad that the God who created and loves and them is tempted to wipe them out completely. And that’s just in the first book!

The Israelites could see God's presence
in a pillar of FIRE... but still wandered.
Where I am now is in the book of Exodus, where the Israelites have escaped the slavery in Egypt – being forced to meet quotas without being given the materials they need, and are now wandering around in the desert – mostly mad at their leader, Moses. God is literally making food rain down on them and water come out of rocks for them and they have the gall to complain. In fact, they say repeatedly that they’d prefer to be well-fed slaves than hungry free people. I guess to Americans like us, this seems kind of appalling – it’s kind of baffling that they would not have said, like Patrick Henry, “Give me liberty or give me death.” No, they pretty much said the opposite.

And every time they got in a tight spot, they would grumble and complain. They could actually SEE the presence of God with them in the form of a pillar of cloud or a pillar of fire, and it wasn’t enough for them. I should be so lucky. I’d love to have a constant visible reminder of God. Of course, I still can’t say for sure whether I’d be any better than the Israelites in the desert. Practically the whole Bible is full of people who can’t for the life of them learn to trust God, to follow Him, to do what is right...

Hosea married a ...
"pretty woman" to illustrate
Israel's faithlessness.
God tells them over and over not to worship foreign gods and ... well, let’s just say, they’re not very good listeners. If they were my kids, they’d have to give up all their privileges. And in the book of Hosea, God has the prophet Hosea marry a prostitute to draw a graphic picture for Israel that she is whoring after idols. I guess we are supposed to envision that Hosea is symbolic of God, and the prostitute is Israel. If you look at it that way, you can imagine a jealous husband’s pain and wrath in a pretty tangible way. It always reminds me of a Pete Townshend song called, Second Hand Love

Pete Townshend
I guess people expect the Old Testament to be full of sin and debauchery – thems was wild times. It looks like nearly every king Israel had “did evil in the eyes of the Lord.” Even its heroes often fell into low-down ways. King David slept with a married woman and had her husband killed. Their son Solomon – the one who was considered uber-wise... well, in the end he, too, succumbed to foreign women and their idols. The prophets managed to live wise lives, but they were in the minority... and they often suffered for it.

And the New Testament doesn’t get much better. An argument often used to prove the veracity of the Bible often points out that if Jesus’s followers were making it all up, wouldn’t they have made themselves look better, smarter, more together? I think it’s a fair point. Instead they let it all hang out about how clueless, petty, impulsive, faithless they were... like this one time when John and James called dibs on thrones next to Jesus when He got to be a king... because they still thought He’d be a KING king... You know, with a crown and all. In their defense, that’s what a lot of people thought the Messiah would be. 

I’m pretty sure Jesus’s friends waited for this to happen right up to His death. That’s why they were so disappointed when He was killed and so surprised when He came back from the dead. Even after that, one of them asked, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Yep, they still didn’t get it. In the very next chapter, they are filled with the Holy Spirit in a pretty good fire and light show. This is the Spirit of God in a person, to give comfort and reveal truth. I’d hazard a guess that this is when they finally get it.

Even Jesus's cousin John
the Baptist had his bad days.
And even with the supernatural aid of the the Holy Spirit, the early church is depicted as being prone to discord, petty arguing, jealousy, power-grabbing, charlatanry (is that a word?)... Paul was constantly having to tell people to play nice. He wasn’t writing a general “how to be a Christian” instruction manual; he was addressing specific people and problems in the church. It just reads like a “how to” because at any given time, that’s how people are generally acting.

And really, nothing that people do in the Bible surprises me... because I know myself. And I’m a low-down no-good so and so. I mean, I’m not a murderer or anything, and I can’t say it’s ever crossed my mind to kill anyone, but petty, jealous, rude, vain, angry, and more....? Yes. And most of all, faithless. Just like the people wandering in the desert looking straight at the God moving in front of them in a pillar of fire, and whining and complaining that they wanted to go home. That’s a pretty good picture of myself, sorry to say. God proves His love and faithfulness to me over and over in all kinds of ways, but I find myself worrying and brooding, fearing the future, doubting His presence. 

I love this photo of Van Morrison in his cups.
My friend Grace reminded me that even John the Baptist, of whom Jesus said, “Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist...” Even he had a fit of doubt where he had to send a messenger to ask Jesus if He was really “the One.” So, even a great guy like John the B. suffered from that most human affliction: doubt. And I know just how he felt. Not that I’ve baptized Jesus or been in jail, or anything... but that I am likely to look what’s going on around me instead of at God. As Van Morrison says, When Will I Ever Learn? Soon I hope.

I’m talking pretty bad about the human race in this post, and the truth is, we are definitely capable of being “only evil all the time”... But really, I love us... because we are also capable of great things: acts of whimsy, kindness, sacrifice, beauty, art, generosity, grace and love. I’m guessing it’s because God made us in His image. 

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!
And the most fancy thing of all is, GOD HIMSELF likes us. Never gets tired of us. Loves us, even. He uses us to do His work. To love and care for others. John said it all when He said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” You see? Even though we are just... iffy at best... He sees us as beautiful and valuable. He loves us so very much. Like a jealous husband. Like a protective father. He wants us to hang with Him now, and live with Him FOREVER in Heaven. Yes, He loves you. And with a love like that... you know that can't be bad...


  1. ...a sermon on csn led to an article on cnn that prompted me to look for an image from a Biblical account to match what I was seeing right before my eyes: the pillar of fire you mentioned from the Book of Exodus... ok, I was actually looking for an image to share on my wall along with the video and that's what led me to this post, the image. Thank you for your post btw. Your honesty is greatly appreciated. I hope this video stays up on the website for others to watch what God is still doing to this day... although we don't need proof to believe in your Word and existence and awesome power, I believe that this is the glimpse we are given to share to those who find it so difficult to "SEE" and believe in God.