I’ve begun a plan recently that will take me through the entire Bible in 90 days. I’m hoping it will give me a better sense of the broad Story of the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. It’s been challenging so far (I’m on day 18, in Judges), but I’m starting to see budding in my understanding and appreciation. One thing that fascinates me is how these writings have defined a people for thousands of years: first the Jewish people and then the Christians as well. Those who wrote the New Testament would have been immersed in these stories, probably having most of them memorized. It was largely Israel’s story of enslavement, exodus, rise and fall which drove their thinking.
What strikes me most of all so far is how candid the stories are. The authors, and in turn the Spirit guiding them, was not concerned with dressing things up, or glazing over the difficult parts. We see the full falleness presented, both of the greatest heroes and the darkest villains. You have Moses, on one hand parting the red sea and interceding between Yahweh and Israel, great things! On the other hand, you have him getting so mad with this stubborn group of people that he finally hits a rock too hard, which incurs discipline from Yahweh. Leadership is not without its challenges. I’ve a feeling we should give them a little slack some times.
Then you have stories which are just funny. How about Balaam? A threatened king tries repeatedly to pay Balaam to curse the Israelites. Balaam probably shouldn’t have even entertained the king’s request, (made evident by a talking she-ass) but he does. Instead of pronouncing a curse, Balaam blesses the Israelites 3 times! I’m sure the situation would have been quite grave, but several thousand years later it’s hard not to laugh ;-)
Summing up, I guess these writings are still quite foreign to me. I don’t really understand the context in which these things happened, but they are becoming more familiar. I’m hoping that familiarity will breed deeper appreciation, instead of contempt; so far we’re heading in the right direction :-)