Bible Stories! Sanitized for Your Protection

January 24, 2012 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

Have you ever read through Genesis?  Have you ever read through Genesis with your kids?  You will see the stories differently, I assure you.  You will recognize that some of these stories are terrible (Explanation:  What the people do is terrible).

My 11 year old daughter came to me the other day, eyes big, shaking her head.  What had she just read?  The story of Lot and his daughters in the cave.  “I’m not sure I know that one.”  Let’s just say it’s about a guy and his two daughters.  The two daughters have a large quantity of alcohol and a plan for carrying on the family name.

My 14 year old after reading the story of Noah has two questions.  What did Noah’s son do that was so wrong and why is that story in the Bible?  “I’m not sure I know that one either.”  This is the end of the story of Noah, where he grows a vineyard, gets drunk and passes out drunk and naked in his tent.  One of his sons sees it, tells the brothers and Noah finds out and gets mad.

If you are not familiar with one or both of those stories, then you are a victim of what I will now call Bible Sanitization.  We pretend certain stories aren’t in there and we take famous stories and clean them up.  Many of you may believe that Jonah was happy when Nineveh repented.  He may still be mad about it for all we know.

Now I’m not suggesting that we put Ehud the left handed assassin who kills the really fat guy in the preschool rotation, but I am suggesting that we do damage when we ignore the “worst” parts of the Bible.  The Bible is not a story of a bunch of perfect heroes that we should idolize.  It is the story of one hero worth idolizing and a bunch of people just like us.  We see the best of them and the worst of them.

If we only know the best, we can believe that God will only use perfect or close to perfect people.  Men like Gideon who bravely fought an army with just 300 guys, trumpets and clay pots.  I mean, giant scaredy cats like Gideon who had to see not one but two miracles before he would do it, destroyed idols at night so no one would know and after his great battle led the people to idol worship.

When you read the Bible, you see an accurate picture of people, imperfect, sinful people, like the adulterer, murderer king who God said was “a man after his own heart.”  You also see an accurate picture of the devastating nature of sin and the effects that it can have on you and your family and ultimately your world.

We don’t need a watered-down Bible or a sanitized view of the world.  We need reality.  We need to have an honest view of ourselves, then we can understand the depths and power of God’s grace.  Then he can use us to do incredible things for him in the world, like Peter the guy who curses at people for accusing him of knowing Jesus.

The Sins of the Father…

If there is any verse/passage/concept that men hope is not true, it is this one:

“You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,” Exodus 20:5

We do not want to believe that somehow the consequences of our sins fall to our kids, grandkids, etc.  We know that we are sinners and we bear the weight of our decisions.  We don’t really like the idea of having to bear the burden for our own stupidity, but the idea that someone else, much less our kids, would have to bear the burden is too much.

However, we may not want it to be true, but isn’t it obvious that it is?  Don’t we see it?  The decisions that we make and the consequences get passed down from generation to generation.  Sons say they won’t be like their dad, but they are.  They (we) become what they (we) saw.

Reading through my passage for my Bible in a year plan today, I read the story of Isaac and Rebekah.  Isaac is going through the land of King Abimilek.  He tells the king that his wife is actually his sister.  This is the same lie that his dad, Abraham, told two different kings at two different times.  What a coincidence, a son repeats the exact same sin that his father did.

Thankfully I don’t have any sons (true) so this doesn’t apply to me (not true).  I never see my sins repeated in my daughters (not true).  I’ve never once seen traits of cynicism (not true) or bursts of anger (you get the point).  In fact, it is burned into my memory the time my 8 year old daughter screamed at the car in front of us, “Hey! Move! The light is not getting any greener!”

Our children are and will become what they see, but before we allow that to only discourage us, let’s look at the next verse in Exodus 20:

“But showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:6

It works both ways, so while you should feel challenged, you should be encouraged as well.  Be encouraged to be better, to pursue God more and to show your kids how to be a man (woman) and follower of God.

Bible in a Year: Genesis 1-11 Amazing, “Unbelievable” Stories

January 6th.  Who’s still keeping up with their daily reading plan?  I know that most of you are still going strong, at least I hope so.  The Leviticus slump is coming and the summer sleepies.  Let’s hang tough in January, especially during Genesis.  (I know that everyone is not doing the same plan, but just about everyone is reading Genesis right now)

As I finished Genesis 1-11 this week, I was captured again by how fantastic these stories, and if I could use the word “unbelievable” at least momentarily.  For some, we read those stories, we believe them but brush them off as kid’s Sunday School stories.  For others, we dismiss them like fables–cute stories, but no serious person would truly believe them.

Well, I don’t know if I am a serious person, but I believe them.  I believe that God created the world through his words and there are limits as to what science can tell us about what a supernatural God that cannot be observed did or does.  I believe Satan spoke through a snake in a literal Garden of Eden.  Jesus references these stories, Paul references these stories, and both of them as true stories.  They don’t simply reference the lesson, but the history.  It doesn’t bother me that I sound naive.  I’m also just naive enough to believe that a literally dead person literally came back to life after having literally been dead.  He walked around and then was taken to heaven.  If I’m naive enough to believe that, then believing animals walked onto a giant boat to avoid a worldwide flood seems like no big deal.

(I could go on and on.  My belief in these Bible stories is not shallow and pretty well thought out.  However, an apologetic article would be more like a blog series, and these Bible in a Year posts are designed to be more devotional.  If you have some interest in apologetic stuff, let me know.  I could write some stuff and I know some other folks who would love to do it as well.)

However, I don’t want to spend a lot of time on that, because I think by spending a lot of energy trying to decide what fits with science and answering “is it true” questions that we miss some major themes of the Bible that God is wanting to introduce as we start through the Bible.  Here are just a few.

1) The main “character” of the Bible is God.  “In the beginning God…”  That’s where it starts.  We get to people later.  Too often we read the Bible the way we used to read our high school yearbooks.  Hundreds of pages in that book, we don’t notice most of them.  However the 4 or 5 pages (or more if you were some kind of superstar) where your picture is found are dog-eared. The Bible is not an instruction book, and it is not about us.  It was written for us, but it is about God.

2) God loves people and God hates sin.  Seems simple right.  I wonder though.  Do we believe both of those things?  I’m not sure.  Do we believe that God hates sin so much that it must be punished?  Kicked out of the garden, cursing the earth, banishment, a worldwide flood, confusing languages.  In a few chapters we will see the destruction of cities.  Does God hate sin that much?  Still?  We see God’s compassion, through the making of the clothes, sparing Cain, the remnant on the ark.  We see that even more in Jesus Christ.  However, compassion and forgiveness are only truly powerful if God hates sin and sin requires punishment.

3) God loves the whole world and loves diversity.  God wanted people to “fill the earth and multiply.”  He wanted the whole earth to be full.  He knew the result of that would be diversity.  People in different areas would adapt to different customs and languages.  However, people didn’t want that.  They stayed together and wanted to build a giant monument to keep them together.  God did to them what they refused to do themselves.  He made them diverse and spread them out.  Which leads to…

4) God is control.  He is working his plan.  If you are still reading your Bible every day in November and December (and why wouldn’t you be?) you will see God’s plan slowly unfolding over hundreds of years.  We should be both humbled and relieved.  God’s got this.  Whatever “this-es” you are going through, he’s got it.

There is so much more–redemption, forgiveness, the frailty of people, the devastating effects of sin.  The prologue (as some have called it) to the Bible is incredibly deep and powerful and sets the course for the big picture story of the Bible.  The God of the Universe creates a people who rebel.  He loves them and wants relationship with them, but they must be redeemed.

Glad you’re hanging in there.  Let’s keep doing this.