For my Genesis to Ruth class in seminary, we were asked to write some words on how God has been speaking to us. My one word would be “humbled.” One of the ways God continually speaks to me, and this course is making me rethink, is about the complexity of his character and my limited understanding. Particularly having just read through Joshua, how is God just when he commands the death of children (ie. Achan and his children stoned to death)??? I understand that the people God is dealing with such as Egyptians and the Canaanites have stored up God’s wrath and he is dealing justly. I wonder if God let the children live then they’d be worse off because they’d be orphaned and perhaps he just would rather take them to heaven. I also see that God is a covenant keeping God who shows steadfast love to those who love him and keep his commands. There are great consequences for disobedience and great blessings for faithfulness. Whenever I come to places of misunderstanding like this, I can either choose to get depressed or angry or I can resign myself to humility and let God be God even when I do not understand all of the complexities of his character. Along these lines, God has been using the course to deepen my appreciation for looking deeply into Scripture. There is much complexity in how each individual passage is written, which is made more intricate as these passages are woven together. On top of that, seeing how each book builds on the others and reveals more of God’s glory and power amazes even more. And this is just the first few books of the Bible!
I’ve loved learning again about how the covenant traces all the way through the Old Testament. Reading from the beginning we see God’s story of grace revealing itself through every character chosen. From God initiating a SUBSTITUTE lamb for Adam and Eve, to Noah’s DELIVERANCE, to God CHOOSING Abraham, to God’s PROVISION through Joseph, to God’s demonstration of SOVEREIGN POWER with Egypt, to the elaborate plan for HOLINESS in Leviticus, to the GIFT of the promised land, we can see God laying out his plan to bring us back to him through a covenant that only he can keep. All goodness we receive is not because we earn it or deserve it, but because God is gracious. And we also see him including people in the process, rewarding those who love him and cursing those who oppose him. This incredible story God was writing always had in mind individuals who would get caught up in the work he was doing in the world. God’s glory is revealed in the lives of people.
I think the experience of the worksheets, while difficult, are a significant way to exercise the brain in new ways. God uses experiences like these to challenge and stretch. If it just becomes academic dialogue, it can be diffused of meaning, but when used to draw out new understandings of the texts so that a greater awe of God comes about, then these exercises really pop for me. Granted they are a bit tiring, but when embraced for the purpose, they are really eye-opening. Even this most recent worksheet outlining Joshua. Doing the work helped me really begin to see God’s gift shine throughout the book. His GIFT of undeserved GRACE.
Alter’s book is another experience that I think God has used for me. I come from a fairly conservative, Baptist background holding to some basic doctrines that really aren’t questioned much, just accepted. While I still hold to the inerrancy of Scripture, what that looks like, as questioned by Alter, may take a different spin. It does not shake my faith to consider that the author of a particular book of the Bible wasn’t on site with a recording device to 100% accurately quote a speaker. The authors quite likely took some liberties in how they wrote particular experiences, but the meanings as written and inspired by God hold together as truth. Perhaps a helpful example of this is when we speak with a friend and they speak back to us what we said for understanding. We agree that what they’ve said back to us is true even if it is not word-for-word.
So I think these experiences humble me. I don’t have to have all the answers to be moving in the right direction. I don’t have to be right in all my understandings. It’s ok to question and struggle along in my humanity, while holding on to my primal instincts and foundational principles that God loves me and I can love him back!