As I’ve mentioned recently, my Bible reading currently finds me in the cycle of stories of the Old Testament, where God’s people love Him, forget Him, mock Him, and turn back to Him again in waves of joy and grief that often leave me wanting to scream at my Bible as I might yell at the television set–“What do you think you’re doing? How can you be so stupid that you would worship a man-made idol or other people’s gods when you have a history of covenant with the one and only God?”
But, I usually remind myself how easy it is to armchair quarterback history. A perspective from thousands of years in the future, after all, can easily see where others stumble, especially since my perspective includes knowledge of the New Covenant, which was completed when Christ came and sacrificed Himself for us.
Before Christ, the closest any individual came to God was through the High Priest, who was allowed to cleanse himself and enter the Holy of Holies, the most sacred place in the Temple, the place where God dwelled, only once each year in order to offer sacrifices that would give the people a way to forgiveness from God. When Christ died on the Cross, that curtain that separated the rest of the people from that Holy of Holies literally split in two! From that moment on, those who ask Jesus to be their Savior have entrance into the Holy of Holies through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which means that we can call on God anytime, anyplace, anywhere.
But, since human nature really never changes, how often do we also cycle through loving God, forgetting Him, and even mocking Him before we remember just how special the gift of Grace and Salvation are and return to Him again?
Modern culture likes to concentrate on a kind of non-religion where everyone can feel good about him/herself so long as we give everybody enough room to believe whatever they want, and we don’t get in anybody else’s way.
Even though Christ loves all of us so much that He died so that we all would have the chance to choose everlasting life with Him, He did not negate following God’s commands:
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. (Matthew 23:23)
There is no way to God the Father except through our belief in Christ the Son. Christ commanded that we love God first, with everything that is in us, and to love others as we want ourselves to be loved. Between these two commands, He covered every other rule laid out for human behavior in the Holy Word.
Yet, despite the simplicity of God’s plan for our salvation, don’t we manage to make everything so very complicated? We judge when we should be silent. We offer disapproval when we should be extending a helping hand. We let ourselves off the hook when we should be listening to the voice of conscience that tells us we just messed up. We hold onto our pride when we should submit to God’s ultimate power over us.
Despite the many downs in the history of the Jews, theirs is the ultimate victory in human history because it is through them that God chose to make Himself known to the rest of us. I feel sorry for those who stubbornly refuse to believe that God is because, in the end, they miss out on the pinnacle-moments of knowing a loving Creator.
Through his many psalms, David, the man after God’s own heart, expresses as well as anyone the joy of knowing, truly knowing, God’s love for us:
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. (2 Samuel 22:2-4)
Like intersecting circles in a graph, we humans may have different perspectives about the world, but the one thing that should center us is coming back to our true center, which is Christ.
So, even though I want to chastise the people in the stories I read in the Old Testament, I know that I, too, am constantly on a path of winding toward and away from God, even though I have Jesus in my heart. The main lesson I have to learn is to keep going on my knees and asking God to keep guiding me and bringing me back to center.