Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Ain't necessarily so.

Is a line from a song designed to undermine Christian faith and righteousness, to sow doubt and cynicism.

But there's a little truth in there too.

I've been turning over a number of thoughts recently after a friend visited The West Bank and Bethlehem, and came back with doubts about the possibility of peace.

There's a natural tendency to read the old testament & bin the bits we don't like as being pre-Jesus, therefore no longer applying, but that's not satisfactory as a way of understanding or interpreting history as it was recorded. So I've recently been re-reading the histories of the kings of Israel in both the bible and Josephus in parallel, and there's a tendency in Josephus (and Chronicles) to exalt the acts of David & Solomon as unimpeachable and desirable. That would include the annexation of certain parts of Canaan and the final enslavement of the people there.

Now, if you were a Jew, believing that David and Solomon were the perfect examples of those ruling in God's name, you might see this behaviour as desirable and righteous. It then becomes a small step for you to see that your re-acquisition of that same land in the 21st century as continuing their work.

But what if they were merely recorded facts of history, rather than God's best plan for his people to carry through? What is God's heart for those enslaved and what is His desire for them, rather than what are the recorded facts about what has actually been done by various people to them? Food for thought?

For me, Jesus comment about divorce is really telling: Moses gave the Jews divorce laws because their hearts were hard. It wasn't that divorce was good or acceptable under certain circumstances, but that hard hearts created marriage breakdown, and that under some circumstances it was likely better that two broken people didn't remain married compared to the worse alternatives.

There's a big danger that we re-interpret all sorts of things through our wet, liberal, socialist, capitalist, libertarian 21st century eyes and miss God's heart in what happened, lose sight of the fact that He works with sinful, broken people from where they are. But if we try to see God's character behind and through it all, then we can start to see with less obscurity the things He wanted compared to the way things were actually done. Just like now, really.

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