As I sit in my home chapel (my front porch), I’m reflecting on what I have learned from reading through the Bible so far this year. This is my favorite place for reading Scripture because I feel a part of God’s creation. I sink into the green of grass and maple leaves; the white of daisies and fading hydrangeas; the purple of verbena and petunias; the call of birds. I gaze at the passing clouds and am filled with awe at God’s splendor.
Surrounded by all this beauty, thoughts from reading through the Bible merge with what I see and hear. The overarching message I’ve been getting since January is this: God loves His people. He created the world I see and hear from my porch, and He created and chose the Israelites centuries ago to carry out His will. God’s will sounds pretty simple: love and worship me, only me, said God, and I will care for, guide, and love you forever.
When I was a little girl, sometimes at night when I was trying to go to sleep, I put my hand up in the air so God could “hold my hand.” I wanted a physical touch from God, not just a spiritual one. I think the Israelites wanted this, too, so they made physical gods, like the neighboring people did, the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, and all those other “-ites.” They knew God had told them not to make idols, but it was really hard not to want a god they could see and touch. So they went against God’s will, once, twice, countless times.
What I’ve learned from reading the Old Testament so far, from Genesis to Haggai, is that God forgave these people He had chosen, once, twice, countless times. He had patience with them, again and again. We all wonder about the violence and wars that God allowed and even commanded in the Old Testament, but how about all the times God loved and forgave these people that He had chosen? God asked one thing: love and worship only me. Have no other gods before me. The Israelites didn’t do that- and neither do we.
I’ve learned from reading so far why God had to send Jesus to rescue His people because of their inability/refusal to follow His will. All the passages – Kings, Judges, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, etcetera- recounting the Israelites’ lack of obedience show why Jesus had to leave the realm of God to enter the realm of humanity and save us.
Finally, I’ve learned from watching the video for the book of Esther that God is never mentioned in this book. Peculiar, as this is the Bible, after all! But the series’ creators explain that God is present everywhere in the action of the text, guiding circumstances and people. God uses imperfect, morally flawed people like King Ahasuerus and Haman, Mordecai and Esther, to accomplish His will for His people. It struck me that this is a strong message of hope for our day and age, with imperfect, morally flawed humans abounding…just like those Israelites centuries ago.
So on those days like today when I see God’s presence everywhere in creation, and on those dark nights when I don’t, and I want a physical touch from God, I will try to remember these accounts of God’s unmerited love, patience, and forgiveness. God loves us, and He forgives us. No matter what.
Jane Shadle, SPC Member