Tuesday, February 3, 2009

God is Up to My Misgivings

I wholeheartedly believe the Bible, and trust God completely. With my heart I believe, but my mind doubts. The most shameful misgivings raise their ugly heads just when I'm trying to say pretty prayers. I'd like to ignore them, but the Bible says I’m to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in me. I can’t give an answer to others if I don’t have answers myself, so I have to trust God to answer the questions I hate to ask.

Today's Old Testament reading, (Exodus 31-33)about the giving of the first set of commandments, and the golden calf, brought some of those old, nagging questions to the mind. Moses did a lot of things right, so much so that he is typecast in scripture as a foreshadowing of Jesus, or a “type” of Christ. He interceded for his people in spite of his bitter disappointment after they completely disregarded God in the short forty days Moses was out of their sight, meeting with God.

Indeed, God intended to destroy the stiff-necked, stubborn people of Israel, who were quick to turn from His ways. God planned to spare only Moses, making of him a new nation, but Moses eloquently pleaded with God to spare the people, and God heeded Moses' prayer. It is because of his willingness to stand between his people and their certain destruction that Moses is known in history as a forshadowing of Christ, himself.

Moses did a lot right, yet all his good deeds did not guarantee him admittance to the promised land he had journeyed a lifetime to reach. After a forty-year pilgrimage through the desert, Moses himself was denied access because of a seemingly minor infraction, an act of careless disobedience: Moses struck a rock when instructed to speak to it. As a result, he died on the far side of the river, within sight of Canaan, never setting foot on the good land God had promised.

Why couldn’t God have forgiven Moses the small offense, knowing that Moses was only human? Why can’t God forgive all of us our offenses, since He loves us in spite of our wrongdoings? Why do we need Jesus , and what about Him? If Jesus had made one little mistake, would it have been all over for our Savior? If that had happened, could omnipotent God not have produced another Messiah to take over?

As to why Moses suffered dire repercussions for a “minor” infraction – well, what is minor? That depends on what the definition of is is, doesn’t it? Where is the line we cross that changes a minor, forgivable offense to major trouble? God does not deal in degrees; if God pardoned the most minor offense, then the next-least harmful offenses would move into the position of “minor” to be pardoned, until there was no longer any difference between right and wrong, and no point in trying to define it. The result would be chaos, raging injustice, and unending misery for all of us.

Regarding the question of why there could be only one shot at making the Messiah, it is because Jesus was an authentic human being, not a superman. Being a person is a first-hand, first-time experience, hence facing the unknown without prior experience is intrinsic to the human condition. If God were to inseminate another virgin and make Himself human a second time, it would no longer be His first experience, and His authenticity would be lost.

Christ’s authenticity is fundamental because a big part of my hope and trust in Jesus is in knowing that He was human in every way (including his inexperience, i.e. starting out as an infant, going through childhood, facing awkward teenage phase, right on down the line), and yet He did not make a misstep during His entire lifetime. He has the power to help me make right choices because He did it himself. Jesus faced the same struggles and temptations I do, and has offered His own mind to help me face the hard choices.

Here’s another question that has plagued me: what about the short, thirty-three year lifespan or our Lord? Could Jesus have lived a sinless life until the age of ninety, or even seventy-five? Maybe that one is a moot point. Consider the account of Christ’s agony the night before the crucifixion. The gospels record that Jesus sweated blood as He mentally prepared himself to shoulder the cross. This phenomenon has been recorded in medicine as a sign of unspeakable suffering – the kind that takes years off of a person’s life. The Lord not likely have lived to a “ripe, old age.”

My questions don’t seem so scary now that they are on paper and out in the open. Do you have questions you can hardly stand to ask? Are there thoughts in your head that prevent you from trusting Jesus with your life? Maybe it is time to ask God about your own distracting doubts. To trust Him is to talk to Him and pour out your doubts before Him, even if you are ashamed or embarrassed of your thoughts.

The Lord is up to the task of dealing with everything that concerns us, especially our doubts. and will respond with love and mercy even if your questions aren't as easy to answer as mine. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to unravel the things that don't make sense; sometimes a question may be so enormous that the answer won't come until we see God face to face. It is worth asking the One who knows the answers, in any case. May your prayers be honest today, even if they're not pretty!

. . . now we see indistinctly,
as in a mirror, but then face to face.
Now I know in part, but then I will know fully,
as I am fully known.
- 1 Corinthians 13: 12

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