If you have been following along since the beginning of the year, you know that we have been reading one chapter in Deuteronomy, Proverbs, and Corinthians each day. I called it “History Lessons” and we have been trying to find little applications each day from the scripture reading, especially the ancient story of the Jews in Deuteronomy. Somedays that has been fun and easy to do, Moses recounting the victories in the wilderness, God reminding them of the blessings He had for them in the promised land. At other times, especially over the last four or five days, it has been hard to even endure the Deuteronomy passage, much less see how it relates to us today. Talk about complete annihilation of a defeated enemy, discussion of animal sacrifices, that stuff is hard to make sense of.
Today, Deuteronomy 22 is particularly difficult. What do you do with the “put to death a couple caught in adultery” part? Or what about the barbaric “give poison to a woman of whom her husband is suspicious,” if she lives she’s innocent, if she dies, well, then you know? Let’s face it, there are places in the Old Testament that I just want to completely skip over, act like the don’t exist. I want to read about Elijah feeding the widow woman instead, sing KumBaYah, and call it a day as far as my devotions go. But it is there. Nasty, hard, unimaginable stories and instructions in the Old Testament that challenge my thinking and shake my faith.
Here are some options for us. We can do the above, act like those passages don’t exist, read around them, sweep them under the carpet and go on. The problem is that no only are they there, there are a lot of them. Any “intelligent” reading of the Bible is going to confront this stuff often.
Another option is to just assign this to the God of the Old Testament, declare that He is not the same as the God of the New Testament, or, maybe He is but thank goodness, now we have Jesus going to bat for us and we don’t have to worry about that anymore. That makes sense to me. I sure like the sweet, baby in the manger Jesus, the love your neighbor and turn the other cheek Jesus, a lot more than the kill ‘em all, take no prisoners God of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. The problem here is that Scripture doesn’t leave much room for God 1.0 and God 2.0. In fact, the Bible seems to go out of it’s way to say things like, “He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
Well, here is one more option, times have changed, the culture is different. In the primitive days of the Old Testament that kind of stuff was accepted but today is not the same. I am not a divorce lawyer, but my guess is the old, “she drank poison and it didn’t work out too well” defense would not fly in the modern, day court system. So, let’s just say that was then and this is now and go on our merry way. I like this idea and I probably fall back to this argument a lot. I think there is a lot of truth to this. God has not evolved. We have. He hasn’t changed. We have. And He is just as relevant to our society today as He was to the Jews in the wilderness 4000 years ago. In addition to that Jesus has ushered in a New Covenant. We are no longer under the old, sacrificial system, but instead live under the grace and mercy of a loving Father who sent His Son to live and die for us. The writer of Hebrews calls it a “better” way. Hebrews 10:11-14 says, “Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. But our High Priest offered Himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then He sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. There He waits until His enemies are humbled and made a footstool under His feet. For by that one offering e Hforever made perfect those who are being made holy.”
I like that. God put an old system in place that, from our perspective looks pretty harsh, but, as times changed, Jesus came and offered a better plan, settling the law deal once and for all. Now it’s all good. Let’s go with door number 3. And that is right by the way. Thank God it is.
It is just not ALL of the answer. And if we go too quickly there we miss a really important history lesson. So, what is the history lesson from Deuteronomy 22 and passages like it? Well, it might be something like this, God is God and I am not, (Sound familiar?), “His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts,” (Isaiah 55:8-9), AND, He is always at work in a thousand different, sometimes not understandable, ways to redeem us, reclaim us, and reconcile us to Himself. His one, singular purpose is to draw us into His loving arms. That is way, way beyond my ability to comprehend or explain. I read these really hard passages, I grapple with these terribly difficult issues, and I come away saying, “God is far bigger than I can even think, or imagine, and He loves me with an everlasting love.”
That helps me when I am facing my own, personal, hard to understand seasons. Why did I pray for that person and they didn’t get well? How is it that my wife is pulling away from me while I am trying to pull closer to God? How could the Patriots possibly be in the SuperBowl again when the whole world was praying they would lose? Hard questions. Then I remember that God is far more complex than I know, that He has a plan, even when I do not see it, and HE LOVES ME AND WANTS WHAT IS BEST FOR ME. That is what Paul has in mind when he says, “We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.” (II Corinthians 6:8-10)
So, let’s not gloss over or ignore these hard chapters. Let’s read them with wonder and amazement that God would be so interested in the most minute details of our lives. And that He would work for thousands of years to meet us right where we are in culture, development and understanding. Paul quotes God in II Corinthians 6:2, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Read this stuff and think that God has always been making a way for us to find ourselves in Him.
Whatever you are facing, whether you understand it or not, when it makes sense and when it doesn’t, you have a HUGE God that is hard at work, teaching you, reaching you, loving you with a love that does not quit. And He will “work all things together for good.” (Romans 8:28)
God will make a way
Where there seems to be no way
He works in ways we cannot see
He will make a way for me Don Moen