The scriptures were given by God to teach us about Himself, but they were also given to us to teach ourselves about ourselves because, let’s face it, it’s our end of the relationship that needs work, not His end. How He does this tells us as much about His character as does the very fact that He bothers to teach us at all. He wants our character to be excellent, like His, but the way He does it is entirely compassionate, from the beginning.
Our first example of how to do things is found in Gen 2:16-17 where God gives a commandment to the man He created.
16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
God knew that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, a tree that brought an unholy mixture, would make it impossible for the man to live a life separate from the mixture of the holy and the profane. This was a pure commandment, very straightforward and simple, given to a pure human being. And inspired by the guile of the serpent, it was disobeyed and there were consequences. And then we, as immature believers, criticize Eve, who was more perfect and pure than we could ever imagine and say, “Boy I would never have eaten that fruit!” And then we say, “Boy I would have never grumbled against Moses in the wilderness!” And then, after shaking our heads at every patriarch and King, we go forward to say, “I would have never rejected Messiah!”
But God knows better, and after too many years I have come to know better too. I am Eve, I am the mixed multitude in the wilderness, I am the Pharisee leaders. I am every person in the Bible who lacked faith, who lied, who murdered, who broke the commandments — and the Bible was given to me in order to show me that, because the scriptures are a revealer of the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Heb 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
But it took Him time to start showing me that, and the method He used was entirely compassionate and patient.
When we read the scriptures over and over again (remember last time I talked about teaching by repetition?), the stories of the people of God become alive to us, they become real people with real histories. It is as though we are sitting on a grandfather’s lap hearing about the generations of our family, the good, the bad and the ugly — and indeed once we are grafted in to Israel through faith and obedience and belief through the blood of Yeshua (Jesus), we are the children of Israel, and the forefathers are our forefathers. This is exactly how the Bible is set up, to teach us what is and what will be through what was. They are our examples of how and how not to do things.
I Cor 10:11 Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
This isn’t a schoolhouse way of teaching, this is a family style of teaching, teaching through real life events where people made real choices which had real consequences, sometimes long-lasting consequences. It’s a loving teaching style that gives us the opportunity to search ourselves before we get into mischief. But, unless we look at it that way, and come to a point where we are willing to refrain from looking down on those people whose mistakes are recorded, and start looking for glimpses of ourselves in those mistakes, they profit us nothing. In fact, not only will they be profitless, but worse than profitless, because they will be a source of pride as we say, “Oh I would never…” In short, it is not the teaching style that is flawed, but the attitude with which we approach it.
Adam and Eve aren’t the only people to disobey a direct commandment, I’ve done it. Noah isn’t the only person to have gotten into a compromised position through losing control of his faculties, I’ve done it. Abraham and Sarah are not the only people who have presumptuously created a bad situation because they lacked the faith to wait, I’ve done it. How these things happened in my life looked entirely different, and the consequences looked different, but at it’s root, I committed the same sins. I am going to give my favorite example, and apply it to my own life and show you what He taught me. For anyone unfamiliar with what I do, I share my failures (like the Bible does) and show parallels from the scriptures to help show how nothing has changed.
So, lately the boys and I have been reading through the first five books of the Bible, and they are very typical kids. When the mixed multitude in the desert (Israelites and the foreigners who left Egypt with them in order to follow God) start grumbling and complaining against Moses and even wanting to stone him, my boys are always just astounded, “Oh my gosh these guys are idiots, God parted the Sea and made all those plagues and they are complaining?!” I tell them that we do the same thing and if we were out there in the wilderness we might be the grumblers too. But they never believe me, they haven’t reached that point of maturity where they are really able to honestly evaluate their own behavior and see the connections.
So, last night, my husband came home from work as I was patching the bedroom closet and priming it. We got to talking, and I started grumbling about his job, about how he is saving the company a lot of money but they aren’t giving him credit. You know how the good old boy network works sometimes. Now, we both know that God blesses Mark’s work, and the company is the beneficiary of it. It isn’t like Mark is doing this all on his own, God showed him how to save the company money and Mark implemented those things. God does the work and Mark gets paid for it. When I look at it from that vantage, giving God the credit and simply being grateful to be a cog in God’s machine, then I do not grumble. But when I get in the flesh, and think that Mark isn’t getting enough credit, or enough of a raise — I am not actually grumbling against the company, I am grumbling against God.
The Israelites were angry at Moses because God wasn’t giving them what they wanted on their terms. They thought they were complaining against Moses, but they were really complaining against God, because God was the only one capable of changing those circumstances. And those circumstances were there to test them, expose their character flaws, and refine them IF they repented and learned. Moses was powerless to make water in the wilderness, or provide free meat if God didn’t want them to have water and free meat. They didn’t really think Moses was being unfair, in the honesty of their hearts, they thought God was being unfair. They thought this because they chose to forget that they had been delivered from a life of slavery and hardship.
In the same way, I was angry at Mark’s work because God wasn’t giving me what I wanted (recognition for Mark) on my terms (NOW). I thought I was complaining about Mark’s work, but I was really complaining against God because God is the only one capable of changing those circumstances. And those circumstances are there to test us, expose our character flaws, and refine us IF we repent and learn. Mark’s work is powerless to give him credit or more money, if God doesn’t want us to have credit or more money. I didn’t really think that Mark’s work is being unfair, in the honesty of my heart I thought that God was being unfair. I thought this because I chose to forget that when God gave us this job we had been delivered from unemployment!
And so, last night just when I started grumbling and lassoed Mark into it, something went very wrong at work and they couldn’t fix it. They called last night to tell him and when he told me what time it had happened at, I knew what I had done and that this was discipline. I spent a lot of time repenting for it and they are getting it fixed this morning finally. But my grumbling created a lot of hassle for a lot of people. Repentance isn’t magic, repentance means that things are going to start getting better, it doesn’t mean they will be good NOW.
I strongly encourage you to allow God to teach you in this way, and I caution you to never, ever look at anyone’s sin in the Bible and say, “I would never..” because that is when we give Him an invitation to expose our true characters and prove otherwise. That He gave us these examples at all is an act of mercy, giving us the opportunity the search ourselves before we fall to those sins which are common to all men.