God confronts my image of him

After posting to the blog about the stoning of the sabbath breaker my computer tore this part of the page and I felt God speaking to me through it.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

The same Law for Israelites and aliens

Numbers 16:13-16
“The community is to have the same rules for you and for the alien living among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to com. You and the alien shall be the same fefore the Lord: the same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the alien living among you.”

This raises certain questions of course. How long would the alien have to become acquainted with all the unfamiliar laws before he was expected to abide by them? It is comforting to note that God makes provision in Num 15:22 for “unintentional sins.” I am sure a newcomer to the community would be needing this grace frequently. It seems to be the defiant sinner that God is chiefly concerned about. He instructs them to cut him off from his people (15:30). At least it’s not stoning…oh, wait a minute…here’s a guy in 15:32 caught gathering wood on the Sabbath. They’re not sure what to do with him so they keep him in custody until he can be brought before the whole assembly. Obviously this is a very public offense and a public statement must be made. At least they decide to ask Moses about it. And Moses asks God. God says they must stone him…and they do, outside the camp.

Woah, our evangelical mind reels with this…wants to cover it up from all our new converts out there, from the world we are trying to “evangelize”. We explain it by relegating this period of “law” to the old testament and something that has been done away with by Christ’s act of grace that reconciled us back to God at his own expense. Nice and tidy…dismisses us from having to wrestle with difficult questions. I think that’s too simple. I think we have to get back to wrestling with understanding difficult portions of the Torah with the new lens of Christ’s yoke as the 1st century church began to do…something which got interrupted by the democratization of Christianity by a profane gentile Roman society.

Some questions that come to my mind about this passage of stoning…

  1. Should we assume that this was clearly an act of defiance to belittle God’s requirement for Sabbath?
  2. Do we trust that God based his decision by a discerning of his heart…meaning, if this had been an unintentional violation, would God not have spared him?
  3. What were the implications of letting this small act of work slide? I mean, if this declaration of Sabbath is meant to be a gift to us to invite us into the “rest” of God, shouldn’t it be voluntary? Shouldn’t there be tolerance and grace for those that haven’t learned how to slow down – like an active 3 year old who is too wound up to settle down for his nap? Or do we need to look at the Sabbath more as the symbol of marriage covenant between God and us that is so precious to God that He will fiercely defend it?
  4. Do we come at this story with a preconception of the deep commitment of God’s love or of an angry God that is fed up with people and has lost patience with their petty insolence? I think there is no question that we will read into scripture what we already perceive about God. If I believe that Christ was the perfect representation, a direct embodiment, of the love and heart of God, how can I make sense of this through that lens?
  5. Was there grief or anguish in the heart of God with this judgment or was he the “immovable mover” as western theologians have called him?
  6. If I read this story with the advice of Theresa of Avila and put myself into this story as a character, perhaps the main antagonist, how can I resonate with it on a deeper emotional level? What questions will I ask of God in this place? God, would you require my life if I loved you but made a mistake and acted out of anxiety by working on the Sabbath? Would you consider the attitude of my heart?

All these details affect the way we engage with a story like this on an emotional level. The fact that we don’t get a lot of this background when we read various accounts of the “Old Testament” means we have to fill in a lot of missing pieces through our study of scripture and through our experience of “the Father” to help us begin to picture the heart and intent working behind the scenes. It is extremely dangerous to pick out one event that seems to describe the anger of God, with all it’s brevity of detail, and try to build a picture of the heart and character of God from that. Remember that God is described as being slow to anger, rich in mercy, full of compassion…if I believe he can never contradict himself or be inconsistent, then how does this belief affect my reading of this story? Does it change the questions I ask? Does it change the way I imagine myself in this story? Does it give me the courage to ask God directly why He had to do this…

For me I feel this journey to wrestle with the harsh depictions of God’s wrath in the old Testament is a crucial exercise for confronting the broken image of a hard, critical, disappointed God that haunts much of my history of relationship with God. I must confront this image depicted by our forefathers like Jonathan Edwards “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” He read these passages with a broken lens along with many others in the reformation and the great awakening in the US. Though there was much revelation in their teachings, this image of an Angry God must be destroyed…it has driven me away from His presence to sin and distraction far too long. It has corrupted and distorted my discernment of God’s heart countless times. How many times he has spoken to me or come to me in ways that are opposite to my fears. And yet still they persist, like oil rising to cover the surface of the water, from somewhere deep within. These emotional images and experiences through childhood that shape our understanding of God are quite impossible for us to change. Only God can heal them.

I thank God for the discussion series i’ve been listening to between Brad Jersak, S.J. Hill and Russ Hewett. They are a great help to me in confronting my broken image of God and helping me to reach out in trust and confidence to a God who delights in me.

Karina smells good

I hear momma holler down the stairs as we come in from playing outside,”come and have a bath karina, you need to clean your bum.”

Immediately I hear Karina answer,”it smells really good.”