Wednesday, August 7, 2013

For You

The God of the Old Testament is, shall we say, a bit of a vengeful God.  If you've ever read these stories, you can't help but walk away with that impression of Him.  His people offend Him by offering sacrifices to this or that other god.  They upset Him by breaking this or that rule.  They defy Him, deny Him, and dishonor Him...and God won't stand for it.

We often see Him promising destruction, articulating a curse that involves some form of mass death where wild animals of various species will eat the flesh of the deceased, where bodies will lie rotting in the streets for lack of graves, where bones will disintegrate to dust.  It's gruesome and kind of harsh, but this is what He promises.  (Although, to be fair, I'm not sure I have seen any instances of this actually coming to pass, any times when God has not, in His mercy, changed His mind.  Jezebel, of course, was eaten by dogs, but I think the en masse slaughter and subsequent eating by birds and beasts of the nation of Israel never happened.  I'd probably remember that.  Even when He promised not to let an entire generation into the Promised Land after their rebellion in the wilderness, He let them wander and die of natural causes and even buried Moses and Aaron.  So there's that.)

But what strikes me is that, as often as this is the God we remember, He is just as often the God of a different curse.  If you read through the Scriptures, even the ones that promise destruction, what you find is that just as often as God is promising the destruction and death of the people, He is promising the destruction of the land and their home and their crops and their food.

Take this passage from Jeremiah 4:

My anguish, my anguish!...I see the earth.  It's formless and empty.  I see the sky.  Its lights are gone.  I see the mountains.  They are shaking, and the hills are swaying.  I see that there are no people, and every bird has flown away.  I see that the fertile land has become a desert, and all its cities are torn down because of the Lord and his burning anger.  This is what the Lord says:  The whole earth will be ruined. (19, 23-27)

There are other verses that say the lands will lay barren, the fields won't produce, the crops will rot, there will be no rains, etc.

In His anger, the Lord completely undoes creation.  He undoes this place He created.  He takes back Eden.

Isn't that what it is?  Look again at the passage from Jeremiah and compare that with the creation story in Genesis.  In the beginning, everything was formless and empty.  And here we have the earth, formless and empty.  Then God separated the light from the darkness...  And here, the light is gone.  It's just darkness again.  He created the lands and separated them from the waters.  The mountains are shaking; the hills, swaying.  He filled the waters with creatures and the skies with birds.  All the birds have flown away.  He created vegetation to cover the earth, plants to grow and food to harvest and so on and so forth (in case you haven't noticed, yes.  I am paraphrasing Genesis).  The fertile land has become a desert.  And He created man.  There are no men.  There are no women.  There are no people.  Creation is completely undone.

The story of Genesis is the story of Eden.  It is the birth of a place, culminating in the formation of people.  It's easy to think that maybe Eden was missing something, and that something was man, but the opposite has always been true.  It was man that was missing something, and that something was Eden.  God created this place for you.

And if you're not going to appreciate it, He says, then what's the point?  In one moment of burning anger, He proclaims a curse that undoes His creation.  That's anger.  That's righteous fire.  That's a powerful and passionate God right there.

It just strikes me as I read these kinds of verses how willing God is to let us keep going, to let us have whatever it is that we think we want to have, and that He has these other ways of dealing with us.  It's easy to destroy evil people.  It's simple, at least to our minds, to wipe out the offender.  But it's not love, and at His core, that is what God is.  He is love.  So in love, He can't just destroy us.  He can't write us off.  But He can shield His investment.  We don't want Him?  Ok, that's cool.  Then we must not want Eden, either.  We must not want our fields and our flowers and our food.  We must not want our mountains and our molehills.  We must not want our sun or our stars.  Because these things are from Him, special gifts created just for us, and well, if we don't want that, then God is willing to show us what life without Him - fully without Him - is really like.  That is the essence of this curse.  It is God telling us that He's created this beautiful, wonderful, awesome place for us and if we're not interested....good luck creating for yourself.  See what you can do in a formless, empty place.

God is not pick-and-choose.  We don't get to take this part of Him and not that part.  We don't get to have just a piece of Him.  It's all or nothing.  The fullness of God or the formlessness of godlessness.  There is no in-between.  This place we're blessed and honored to live in, it was created just for us.  This place, it was created just for you.  Do you get that?  This is part of the incredible gift God is giving to you, this very place.  He's not as attached to it as He is to you.  So if you don't want it, He'll destroy it.  If He can't have the one thing that matters - YOU - then none of this matters.  He will take away the entire work of creation for the chance to spare that maybe one day you'll come back to Him and rediscover this place.

So maybe one day, you'll discover Eden.  

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