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May 06, 2010

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1.

I've been reading through the OT while I nurse at night and I have been struggling with this type of thing too. Though I feel more that I am only getting a small part of the story. This is a problem with all the scriptures, but it seems more acute here. Most of the OT was written as a political document, that is why there are so many names and such. So I think we are missing a lot of the details that could help us understand.
But also, the Israelites were remarkably slow to turn to their God. Some kids need boot camps and even prison before they figure things out, some never do despite awful consequences. Perhaps love failed as a motivator for these people, so the next step was fear and a detailed set of rules.
I have found that if I look at the OT in broad brush strokes, rather than at the specific details, I can feel more of a sense of God's love and care. That helps me as I study it.

2.

readermom, Thanks for your thoughtful and sensitive response. This really is something that has been troubling me, not just something I tangled up for a blog post. I like your idea of remembering that we don't have the whole picture. Such a huge period of time is condensed into so few pages. Thinking about the OT as a book about God written and translated by imperfect men helps me.

3.

I too reason that God allows men to suffer the consequences of their own actions in order that we might grow and learn. I also imagine hell as being that place where we feel the full weight of our actions unless we have already repented of such and made amends as best we can. It is an interesting thought that sometimes maybe God gives us what we ask for and lo and behold maybe we were naive in the asking and possibly what we asked for wasn't and isn't what is best for us. I love that song that goes (I thank God for unanswered prayers). I think a loving Father truly wants the best things for us, but it takes complete humility and a willing heart to bend our own wants and desires and ask Him for what He thinks is best. This is a lesson I would like to teach my children, but am unsure how to go about it. Any thoughts?

4.

Jules, I think you're already teaching your children those concepts by being a good parent. When we teach our children about consequences through punishment and rewards they are learning how the larger world works. It is especially helpful if we explain it to them in that way, that there are consequences for actions. That same explanation enables us as parents to love while at the same time disciplining. Hopefully if, as parents, we do this well it mirrors the way God teaches us as adults and we make the transition from childhood to adulthood more easily.

5.

Interesting thoughts about natural consequences. I guess my follow-up thought would be if you see chronic illnesses such as you mention as evidences of God's *wrath*? Imagine if someone had heart disease in your SS class. The message to me might be translated as you suggesting that their heart disease is God's "wrath" for their "wickedness."

I think there are two questions here. What does His wrath really entail? Is it just any negative consequence, or is it more severe than that? I tend to think it's the latter. If it is, then I don't see this parallel as holding water. I think there was something more than just thrown-off bodily systems that brought these (seemingly immediate) consequences. I think there was something more going on -- in their hearts, I think -- that was grievous. But I could be wrong.

On a more meta level, when I engage these hard questions, I think something else to consider is that what is 'bad' to us as mortals, imo, often differs from God's eternal view. God does NOTHING save it be for our benefit. We see the worst thing that could possibly happen as getting a plague and dying. We are, after all, biologically programmed to live, so that makes sense. But I think it's important not to let that part of ourselves necessarily define what is 'good' or 'bad' or 'loving' or 'not loving' when it comes to God's actions. We, imo, too often use mortal/cultural/personal sensitivities to measure God by. But what if it were something like God actually rescuing them from condemning themselves further through continued disobedience by ending their lives? Or something like that? Surely it also was an act of love as a warning to those left behind, no? Things for Him, I believe, are so multi-faceted. I think we try so hard to understand Him with our linear, limited brains. We can't. Even what we 'know' about God is sooo limited.

Along those lines, while I think of course there are limitations of the scriptures (imperfect, incomplete, some things lost in translation), I tend to prefer to put the incompleteness more (or at least as much) on our own shoulders as readers. I am coming to believe that these uncomfortable things are often opportunities to learn more through the Spirit. Of course, sometimes we need to just let things go, too, but imo, it's far too easy to cast off something uncomfortable as the fault of someone else (the translators or the prophets or the writers or whatever) rather than to consider that maybe it's our own lenses that block us from seeing what is really there.

For me, the paradoxes often lead me to ponder more and seek more and learn more about God in ways I never could have solved through thinking alone. (And sometimes that process has taken decades of letting something brew in the back of my mind and being willing to suspend where my mind might go with things that seem confusing at face value.)

So I think that your asking questions like this and weighing what you see against the God you know is important. I'd just not be too quick to assume that the discomfort comes from something that isn't there in the text, but perhaps with something that might not be yet there in your perspective. Weakness will be made strength and all of that -- God told Moroni not to worry about his weakness in writing, because He would help people see past that and find truth. I hadn't thought about that in this context until just now, but I think it applies.

Anyway, I'm rambling...but appreciate opportunities to mull over thoughts on this. Of course, I'm just a clueless mortal, so take it with that disclaimer.

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