I’ve often read the Bible in frustration, often asking the question: ‘If God is a God of love and is gracious to all, why did he command for Israel’s enemies to be destroyed, and why did he inspire words that praise horrific acts, such as “Blessed are thy who dash your little ones upon the rocks”?’
Having since learned a lot more about not only the Bible, but the cultural context in which it was written, I can see how these words came to be attributed to God. (Rob Bell’s brilliant DVD The Gods Aren’t Angry was a true gift!)
Here is a brief explanation that follows the same thought, ‘God is love,’ and the logical opposite, ‘Anything that is not of love is not of God.’
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“They did battle against Midian, as the Lord had commanded Moses, and killed every male . . . took the women of Midian and their little ones captive . . . . Moses said to them, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man by sleeping with him. But all the young girls who have not known a man by sleeping with him, keep alive for yourselves.” (Excerpt from Numbers 31: 7-18)
Upon the recent death of the beloved Art Linkletter, we remembered his “Kids say the darnedest things.”
God must feel that way about us, as we see but “through a glass dimly.” Today’s text was chosen by a reader for comment because it’s one of the very difficult scriptures to understand. The God I know would never annihilate all of the women and children of the Midianites, saving only the young virgin females for the conquerors. I do believe however, that the ancient Israelites living among people who honored their gods in these ways may have begun thinking that their God deserved similar devotion, zealously attributing such words to God.
Even Abraham thought God asked him to sacrifice Isaac, his only son, because he lived among people for whom human sacrifice to the gods was expected. But I do not believe God ever told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. I do believe God sent an angel to stop Abraham’s hand and make it known that our God never demands human sacrifice. And thus we have a breakthrough voice, soaring melodiously above the noise of common culture, that stretches forward to today.
Like Abraham and the Midianites, we say the darnedest things, often attributing things to God that we learned from parents, mentors, pastors, movements, or professors without questioning or revisiting them. Thank God for the times God’s angels stop our hands, revealing more light and truth from God’s holy word, revealing a right-now God, in us, for ourselves, to the world. Such moments can startle us and make us ask, like the apostle Paul, “Who is this?” And sometimes . . . “Surprise! It’s me, God! Stop fighting my new thing.”
Take time for quiet moments with God, who speaks the darnedest things to human understanding, consistent with the overarching purpose of the biblical story, though not always with biblical snapshots taken at particular points in time. . . . Biblical stories assure us that God’s mercy and salvation are not limited by human imperfection, but soar on the wings of a merciful, doting God, who “winks” at our endless but passing ignorance, laughing, “My kids say the darnedest things.”
Prayer: Oh God, I long for the day when I will know even as I am known. Please “wink” at my ignorance. Forgive me for past and present misunderstandings to which I sometimes cling beyond their usefulness. I want to be a part of your dynamically love-expanding realm on earth. Give me “itching ears” for your good news and a nimble spirit with the energy to follow. Lord, I want to hear you – even when it startles . . . .Amen.
Reflection by Ron Buford, from daily devotional Still Speaking