I have learned an important and valuable lesson that I can only attribute to God, because up until now...well, let's just say my readings of the Old Testament really sucked.
Oh I found insight and inspiration for sure. I also found death, destruction, despair, sin, and a never ending cyle of violence...or so I thought. I have been constantly disgusted by the words I've read. The laws that showed just how impossible it was to measure up to God's standards.Even there I found hope, because all of the laws could easily fall under one of two headings. "Love God" or "Love Others as You Love Yourself." I got that.
What I could not see, was the grace and compassion of God. The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are one and the same; yet I felt such a disconnect. On one hand, death, destruction, and a hand on the smite button...(just go with me on this...these are only my observations and perceptions). On the other hand, there's this God who loved the world so much, that he sent His only Son as a blood sacrifice - payment for the sins of a world who rejects Him again and again.
Today I am one day behind in my Bible reading for B90X. (See above: Frustration and Disconnect)
I am catching up quickly because let's face it; I am a speed reader and a few extra chapters will only take me about ten minutes...if that.
Still, I have been emotional and volatile regarding the OT up until now. (See: My brother Joshua for witness)
I've never realized how VERY important cross references are. I always glanced at them with a small smile as I read the footnotes and somewhat interesting interpretations.
See: Joshua 5:8 reference in the NASB...the word used is "healed" as in "they waited to move from camp until they were healed from their rather traumatic, adult circumcision - See: Painful Mutilation; See also: kind of funny way for God to set a nation apart since the men are the only ones suffering through it...though maybe that's what He means when He said that women were redeemed through the act of child bearing...comparable pain scales?
Anyway, the interpretation in the footnotes for 5:8 is "revived"
Do not ask me why, but that struck me as really funny. I laughed aloud at the mental image of a bunch of men laying on their pallets moaning about being near death (an holding ice bags to a very sensitive area) while the women rolled their eyes and insisted their men would survive. I pictured one woman scoffing, "Have a child or fourteen and THEN tell me you are dying."
Okay, I'm a sadistic person...subject dropped. Still laughing.
Back to the regularly scheduled broadcast. I discovered a note in my study Bible that talked about Genesis 15:7-21 in conjunction with the Israelite's very scary conquest of their inherited land. (See: Total Annihilation & Massacre of ALL people living there - including livestock and household pets...)
Genesis 15 talks about Abraham's conversation with God when he could not number the stars and God covenants to make him a great nation from which all the world will be blessed. Abraham is living in Canaan at the time - the land God promised to him. I always wondered WHY God didn't just let him stay there so his descendants could possess it right then and there.
Verse 16 gave me some perspective.
Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.
Four generations from Abraham (isn't that about roughly four hundred years?) his descendants would return to claim their land. They couldn't get it yet because of the iniquity of the Amorites. God KNEW something we (me and Abe) didn't know.
So I look for another reference because that phrase just won't leave me, but I can't for the life of me figure it out...
Lo and behold, I found it in the margins. Leviticus 18:24-28...Naturally, I checked it out.
I don't think I've ever SERIOUSLY used the cross references in my Bible. It feels alot like a treasure hunt actually. You should definitely try it sometime. :)
Leviticus 18:24-28 says this:
Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled.
For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants.
But as for you, you are to keep My statutes and My judgments and shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the alien who sojurns among you
(for the men of the land who have been before you have done all these abominations, and the land has become defiled);
so that the land will not spew you out, should you defile it, as it has spewed out the nation which has been before you.
(All italicized words were my doing)
Do you want to know my assessment of the Old Testament God? For some of you, this might be shocking because you already knew this, but bear with me a little while longer.
The God of the Old Testament is the same God that we find in the New Testament.
He is a God of love, a God of second chances, a God of mercy and grace.
The nations in Canaan (See: Abraham's promised land) knew God. And like the demons, they trembled and believed.
But their fear was not founded in love and reverence and surrender to His will. It was the fear of one who knows God and knows that every choice he's made in life goes in direct defiance of God's sovereign will.
Even the land sensed this and began the process of ejecting its inhabitants to make way for a nation who would be set apart for God's purposes. (See: Though they broke faith with God and lost it as well, God's plan is still for restoration...and that's also a different story for another time.)
God promised the Israelites some pretty hefty rewards if they just heeded His word and feared Him enough to surrender their wills to His. He promised to keep illness, famine, and war far from their borders. He promised to enlarge their borders so that they would cover the whole earth. He promised that no woman would be barren and no man would toil in vain. He promised that wealth, happiness, and peace would be theirs.
They just needed to do one thing:
Sadly, God foresaw even that failure as He mentions several times in the midst of all the laws and festival regulations. He even told them that they were going to see the other nations and beg Him for a king.
But he made provisions for them even in that. How merciful and just He truly is. He took the bad and turned it for good. Destruction, He turned to Restoration...a process which is still going on in the world today.
The nations in Palestine/Canaan/Israel?
They had four hundred years of chances to be grafted into those covenanted promises. From the time Abraham received the promise to the time the Israelites crossed the Jordan River on dry land, they KNEW God.
They CHOSE to reject His promises in favor of sacrificing their own lives at the hands of their own cursed will. And cursed it was...disease, death, the fires of heaven, and the Wrath of God rained down on them.
Another concept that I realized in this study?
God is a mercy killer.
I wondered as I read, "Why did He demand that even the children be destroyed in these heathen nations?"
It finally made sense to me after much prayer and confusion. And I GET IT now.
The sins of the fathers are passed down to their children.
Not the children of fathers who fight against the sin in their lives and surrender to God's will alone. Though their righteousness is as filthy rags, God made them whiter than snow. Their children receive the blessings of God for many generations - because a righteous father hands down those lessons to his children and they surrender to God...and their children surrender to God...and on and on and on...
The nations of Canaan?
They chose to walk in their sin and reject the promises of God. They chose to blaspheme the Holy Spirit and mock the blood of Christ (See: yes, I know Christ did not come for many more years, but it still holds true)
THEY not God chose the curse and so God mercifully wiped them out. Like an eraser on a chalk board, He started from scratch once more. He threw out the tainted, damaged clay and brought in a whole new batch to restore what had become defiled.
Sometimes, destruction happens before restoration can begin.
And sometimes, God watches as the ones He loves walk away, straight into the arms of the curse of sin.
And He bleeds all over again on the newest battlefield, the latest land desolated by famine and disease, and the hardened hearts of the ones who chose their own twisted, evil, cancer-ridden will over His pleasing and perfect and healing Will.
I get it now. I never doubted God is sovereign and just and perfect - far above my human plans and questions.
It's just nice to have a little more insight into why I truly believe that with every beat of my heart.
God bless you all! Choose LIFE, so that you may truly LIVE!