Friday, August 22, 2008
Judges and Obama
After I got my Bible Background commentary for the Old Testament, I decided to try reading through these ancient books for the first time. I'm trying to understand all the verses, all the chapters, not just the familiar stories. It's a strange thing. The culture seems so different, the ways of the people so wacky. We don't live in the same world today. And yet, the nature of humans has not changed, we have not evolved into some greater beings. We still ooze jealousy and anger, we still think God would be wise to consider our input in His plans, we still want what we want, and we want it NOW! We live in the same world today.
I've made it to the end of Judges, which is a book full of inspiring stories that show how God will use imperfect people to draw nations to Him. There are stories that show how, when we are stepping out in obedience, we--with God--can accomplish impossible things. Think of Gideon and Samson. But the overall story of the book, I think, is that the people wanted a person to be their leader. they weren't satisfied with having God, the Creator of the Universe, as their leader. And I just keep wondering why?
It happens over and over in the book of Judges. The people do most of what God commands them to do, but not everything. They don't get rid of all the people in these lands as God instructed. And after a while, what do you know, they're worshiping God, the LORD, and saying with their mouths that He is the One true God, but they also just have a little statue for Baal in the backyard, just to sort of take advantage of the rain he might send, in case he's the real deal. And maybe a couple of little charms to give honor to Ishtar, the fertility goddess, you know, just for good luck. Not surprisingly, they find themselves in a pickle, get things really messed up, and then cry out to God. He raises a man or woman up to be a judge for them, they all remember that the LORD is indeed the One true God again, and they have peace in the land for 20, 40, or 50 years. That person dies, and before you know it, another generation of folks start to fudge a little with the other gods, make a mess of things again, and the cycle is repeated.
Is this so different from how we are today? I'm thinking not so much.
And, since I just finished Stephen Mansfield's book about Barack Obama's faith, I'm seeing a connection. I think of how millions of people have set their eyes on him as the great hope... Obama's big on a civil religion, one that will cover everyone's bases. What's the problem with that? His faith will "some allege, give people a watered-down religion of Americanism but insulate them from the raw but healing truth of revealed religion. In other words, it replaces traditional religion with a bland political religiosity that creates a mood without offering power. It is merely faith in faith rather than faith in God."(p.94)
Doesn't that kind of thinking sound familiar? Yikes. Are we being asked to find hope in that? Blech. A recurring statement in Judges is "the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes." Let us not grow too confident in our own eyes. Seems that just leads to big barrels of pickles.