Christianity 201

January 29, 2023

Old Testament Narratives Relate to Our Modern Lives

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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NIV.Daniel.3.16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us fom Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (full narrative v.8-25)

Today we’re highlighting an author for the first time. Matthias writes at Understanding as I Go. Click the title which follows to read this where it first appeared, or just continue to jump into today’s study.

To Have Faith

What is right and wrong? This is a question that has come to my mind recently.

In recent months I’ve been studying the bible very intently, taking it slowly, praying, meditating and examining what I’m reading very closely. At times reading just a small section and trying to understand all that is within it.

Studying the bible can be difficult, mainly because of context. Much of what is in the bible is written for that time, though the message within it is timeless. Idioms and historical references, names of the people and who they were, all are things that I find important to understanding it fully. I can now understand why I often avoided the Old Testament in the past, simply because I couldn’t relate to what was going on.

As I study I realize that many things I thought I understood before were wrong, or not complete. What I imagined wasn’t what was actually being expressed. I could only relate to it in modern terms. Even the teachings of Jesus, which I once thought I understood for the most part, I was misreading because of lack of understanding.

I came upon a great Bible app called “Logos” which has been helping me a lot. I call it a study bible on steroids. I can read and hyperlink to many resources that help me to understand what I’m reading. I also watch many videos of people teaching about the Bible from their perspective.

As I’ve expanded this study, using many different resources, I come to find that resources often contradict each other. One video might explain something in one way and another in another way. Even so, I get something from both videos. I can see that some people are more “liberal” in what they teach and others are more “conservative.”

For example, a more liberal teacher might say that tattoos are okay, even though it states that one shouldn’t get them in Leviticus. They say that one should simply be thoughtful about what they are getting. To not tattoo themselves with things that might represent idolatry or worship to another god. She pointed out that if one were to rely on Leviticus then they would have to rely on this source for all the other laws in Leviticus, which few follow today.

More conservative people say that we should adhere to it as it is written, while at the same time not focusing on the other laws of Leviticus. They seem to think that this law is important and the others aren’t which is cherry picking from the bible.

I can understand both points of view and learn from both. I have no desire to get a tattoo so it doesn’t matter much to me anyway, but I examined this more to understand what is right and wrong in general.

It may have been easier in early Jewish life to understand what is right and wrong. They had 613 laws that they had to follow. If they followed them then they were doing right. If they didn’t then they were doing wrong. They also did it as a community. A rather closed community. They lived, celebrated and endured life together. Though they were also very rebellious at times to God. Which would cause God to leave their midst and let them indulge in their sin to their own destruction.

Over and over again they were nearly destroyed, taken into captivity, their cities destroyed and even their precious temple burned down. All because they would choose to live different from what God commanded them to live.

It is difficult to realize that we are merely tools for God in many ways. We are not our own person creating our own lives. It may seem like we are but it is just an illusion. Yes, we can set out on our own and even come to experience success in life, but all that success is vain without God.

On the other hand, we can worship God with all our might and strength and at times feel that we are all alone, struggling just to get to the next day. Even feeling that God isn’t there listening to us. It is these times when one simply wants to give up and try something else, even if from the illusion, to make life a little easier. But it is also these times when we should be most faithful to God, for God will always come when least expected and give us rest.

In my case, I have come to believe that God is making it so difficult simply because when He makes it easy I’m more likely to drift away. When I’m happy and comfortable, though I am grateful to God, I also have a tendency to drift and become complacent. I’ve seen that during this time of struggle I’m doing more what God would want me to do, though not perfectly by any means.

In fact, I often feel completely unworthy of God. I struggle with my own difficulty of having Asperger’s. I want so much to do what is right, it’s almost like it’s chiseled in stone in my heart, giving me no choice but to do what is right, yet this obsession causes such stress that it causes me to do wrong things. To be angry and frustrated. Feeling pain all the time in my heart. I want to give God everything but I can’t. So many times I want to give up.

The irony is that God always tells me that He loves me and that I’m doing fine. I guess that I constantly argue this point because I feel I fight against such a generous judgement. I think, “I’m reading and studying all of this and I can’t live up to it completely. I’m all alone without any community and when I try to join a community, I am not accepted because they are living of the world and I have no desire for the things of the world. I have no interest in the things of the world.

When I meet people who claim to be religious, they ask me questions like, “What to do for work? What type of music do you listen to? What movies do you like? etc.” We can be sitting in a church and they talk to me about the world when all I know is my own obsession, studying the Word of God and trying to live by his Word. I want to talk about Jesus but they don’t.

If I bring up God in public to others who say they are religious, they look around uncomfortably to see if others are listening. I myself will talk loudly about God. I have nothing to hide. Even so, they usually change the subject to something they are more comfortable talking about, such as family and friends or movies and TV.

Among all the books that I’m reading right now, I have been reading “The Crucified Life” by A.W. Tozer. It is very good stuff about living solely for God. In it he states that you might work in a large office building and when you go to break you might look around and see that you have nothing in common with anyone there. They are all talking about the world and you have no interest in the world.

It feels good to see that another person feels this way but it doesn’t make it any easier. I was thinking that why it might be so difficult for me is simply that I have weak faith. I can’t let go completely and live solely for God. I still have a longing to be accepted by others rather than being completely satisfied by being accepted by God.

I thought of the story in Daniel about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace. How they were put into the furnace for not being willing to worship other gods and live by different standards than that of God. They fell into the furnace as if falling into worship for God and thus God came and saved them from burning.

I have come to see that the stories in the Old Testament relate directly with our own modern lives. The rebelliousness of the Jews and the punishments that came because of their disobedience to God. Punishments that basically come by their own actions and hands. The true punishment is that God withdraws from them. God doesn’t necessarily inflict the punishment.

A lesson here is that life here is not safe, even though it seems to be safe based on the illusion. When we go off on our own, like a stray sheep, we no longer have the Shepherd there to protect us from the wolves and other threats. No matter how strong we might feel, believing that we can protect ourselves, the reality is that we are all merely sheep in this world with wolves all around desiring nothing more than to destroy us. They will destroy us in many ways, mainly coming from the inside of us, where they will first change our hearts and pull us away from God. Then they will lead us to a place far away from God so they can then take us down very painfully, destroying us from the inside out as well as from the outside in.

All because we lost faith. We gave up on God. We decided that we could do it better than God. We can protect ourselves better than God.

Grace through Faith. This is the core message, not only of the New Testament but also throughout the Old Testament. We are not worthy of God. No one can ever truly be worthy of God. This isn’t what God expects from us. He makes it difficult so that we won’t become complacent. So we will understand that we truly need Him and nothing else. It may seem like punishment, mainly because we might have experienced comfort and always desire that comfort after having experienced it.

In many ways, modern humans in industrialized nations are spoiled, experiencing comforts that they don’t deserve without realizing that it is these comforts that can take us away from God. Make us complacent and even come to believe that we don’t need God and can do it all on our own. Maybe even become immortal as Cyborgs, as some futurists place their hope within.

This life is difficult and many times I have no idea if what I’m doing is right or wrong. I can’t look to the world to know the difference because what is right for some is wrong for others and they seem to have a great desire to promote such things passionately. I can only look to God and realize that those times when it feels that I did everything wrong, made the wrong decisions because my life isn’t reflecting something I would see as positive, as long as I maintain faith in God, it is usually simply a path to another destination on the journey. Many times the pain is what guides me to go through things that we wouldn’t desire to do if I were comfortable.

Life is not about being comfortable, successful and having wealth and physical security. Life is about dedicating our lives to God, no matter what they conditions of our lives might be.

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