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Royal Underwear Dancing and Random Acts of Divine Wrath

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I’ve been reading the Bible lately and it’s been giving me some trouble.

To put it mildly.

I’m going to blog about this more over the next couple of weeks (at least I think I am) but here’s the short version: last spring, having utterly failed in my attempt to memorize the book of Philippians, I decided that if I can’t memorize the Bible, at least I can still read it. So at the end of May I embarked on a one-year read-through-the-Bible program, which I am about 3/4 of the way through now.

This particular reading program mixes things up so that on any given day you may be reading a chapter from the Psalms or other Writings, a chapter from the historical books, a chapter from one of the Prophets, and a chapter from the New Testament. Most of the time, the New Testament passages have been the only thing that kept me from losing my religion altogether, although sometimes even they are problematic. I know I’ve raised the question before of whether anyone who professes to believe and love the Bible actually reads it all the way through, but man, this stuff has been slamming me hard lately.

I have read the Bible through before, probably when I was a teenager. Ever since then I’ve pretty much stuck to reading bits that were pre-selected, either by someone else (for a Sabbath School class or Bible study, or the pastor’s sermon) or by myself (for a writing project I was working  on, or just for my own devotional reading). When I was left to my own devices this largely meant reading the Gospels, the Epistles, Psalms and a few later bits of Isaiah. I think to some extent we all create our own edited lectionaries of bits of the Bible we’re comfortable with, like we’re all little Thomas Jeffersons attacking Scripture with scissors (even though we would claim we believe and follow the whole thing).

This allows us to say things like I used to say, up till this year. Comforting things like: “Yes, there are some troubling passages in the Old Testament, but when read in context of the entire  Bible … blah, blah, blah, it’s all good and God is love.”

Whoa. Yeah. Now that I’ve been immersed in the whole book, no word left out, for the better part of a year, I’m starting to struggle more with that. Read in context, sometimes it almost seems like the “God is love” bits (including the whole story of Jesus) are the outliers, whereas “read in context” God can come across as brutal, violent and angry about 89.63% of the time. (Ok, that’s a random number. But I did say “about”).

This is something I’m struggling with quite sincerely, and I’ve mostly kept quiet about it except for the occasional comment to Jason, but in the home stretch of this reading program I’ve decided to start journalling privately and, on occasion, blogging publicly about the things that trouble me, trying to pull apart what exactly is happening in Scripture and what reading it does to my faith.

So the other night I’m there in 2 Samuel 6, which contains one of my least-favourite and one of my most-favourite stories in the Old Testament, back to back. My least favourite is the story of Uzzah getting struck dead because he dared to touch the Ark of the Covenant when it almost fell off an ox-cart. Poor old Uzzah, faced with a possible disaster (“The sacred Ark which contains God’s very presence is about to fall in the muck!!”) makes  a split-second decision, clearly with the best of intentions, and — gets fried for it. Seriously, what kind of God is this?!?!

An immensely holy God, whose very presence is so powerful that you have to be careful around Him, people have told me in the past when I mithered on about how unfair this story was. Think of God’s awesome power like lightning, or a volcano  — it’s not out to get you; it’s just so intense you can’t touch it without dying. Well, that’s all very well if you think of God as an impersonal force, but the Bible is ALL about God as  a personal being who wills and does and cares. Nobody is trying to convince me that a volcano has a choice in whether or not to smother people in burning lava. Worse, no-one’s trying to convince me that the volcano LOVES me, loves everyone, except for the unfortunately large number of people it chooses to immolate.

The other answer I’ve heard trotted out to let God off the hook on the Uzzah story is that God is extremely, intensely concerned about being worshipped properly, with holiness and reverence, and you’d better not mess around with Him or do anything potentially dangerous like bring a drum kit into the sanctuary, because you just never know when that might be your Uzzah moment and you might be the one lying in the road (or on the platform at church) wishing in your dying seconds that you’d been more careful.

But then apparently Jesus came to reveal what God is like, and when a Samaritan woman asked Jesus if God had a preference for whether He was worshipped in Jerusalem or on the Samaritan’s holy mountain (a detail which was apparently a hangin’ offense back in OT times, if you set up an altar anywhere other than at the approved site), Jesus is all like, “Hey girl, God wants you to worship Him in spirit and in truth, that’s what matters,” sounding like some laid-back 60s hippie and not at all like the same God who fried poor Uzzah for trying to prevent a catastrophe.

I’m not trying to be flippant or troublesome here: this stuff really bothers me.

After Uzzah is off the scene, comes the good part of 2 Samuel 6. King David finally gets the Ark back to Jerusalem (in a careful no-touchy manner, so nobody dies this time) and he is so happy and excited and filled with the Spirit of  God that he, the King of Israel, goes dancing around the street wearing only his linen ephod, which I take to mean, pretty much, his underwear. I take it to mean this not because I really know what an ephod looks like, but because of the way David’s least-favourite wife Michal freaks out when she sees it, and tells him he’s making a fool of himself dancing half-naked in front of the lower classes and his enemies and random servant girls. And David says he has absolutely no problem being a fool of God, and he doesn’t care what anyone thinks.

I love this. I love the abandoned frenzy of David’s celebration and the idea that if we are truly filled with the Spirit, what the neighbours think will be the last thing on our minds.

(BTW, the image above of David dancing before the Lord comes from the website of a very talented, very funny, very angry-sounding atheist called Barbara Griffiths. The fact that I’ve used her illustration does not mean that I in any way endorse her views, although, as I’m trying to convey here, there are times when I sympathize with her view of Scripture, which is not so much warts-and-all as it is warts-only).

Of course, after Michal complains and David tells her off, the Lord, for good measure, curses her with infertility (at least that’s implied by the placement of the footnote that she never had any children, although I suppose it could just as easily be the author’s way of telling us that after this incident, David just didn’t sleep with her anymore, if he ever did). It seems God is back to his nasty, blasty self here, quickly smacking the woman into place when she dares express her opinion or question her husband’s judgement.

Wow. This is a lot of stuff to handle, all in one chapter. And it seems every day I read the Bible (which is every day) is like this — fantastic, wonderful stuff cheek by jowl with stuff that makes me go, “Really? This is what I believe? This is my holy book?”

Everyone picks and chooses even if they claim not to, but how do you pick and choose when it’s all tangled up like this? I can’t even pull apart this one chapter in a way that makes it acceptable. I can’t throw out 2 Samuel from my Bible, or even 2 Samuel 6, without losing that great story of David’s royal underwear dance, but it comes trailing the death of Uzzah and Michal’s curse of infertility in its wake.

Also,  I find it hard to get into the heads of the people who wrote this stuff. What is it about this God who randomly strikes well-meaning guys dead for simple mistakes, that makes people want to dance and sing and tear off their clothes in ecstasy? The stories are so closely woven you can’t get one without the other, and yet to me they seem disjointed, as if they’re about two different gods.

I’m struggling, is all I’m saying. Struggling to make sense of what I’m reading, and wondering why the pat answers that seem satisfying to 95% of the people I go to church with don’t console me. If there are any spiritual teachers out there with great insight for me, I’m open. Meanwhile, I’ll go back to my reading plan, open up a few more chapters tonight, pray for discernment and see if any of it makes any sense.

Watch this space for further reports on the great midlife Bible-reading experiment.

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40 thoughts on “Royal Underwear Dancing and Random Acts of Divine Wrath

  1. I’ve been struggling with many of the same things, and I’ve come to an interesting conclusion that a Jesuit priest pointed out for me. Basically, the bible is a collection of manuscripts that are a witness to the fact that God exists, loves us, wants to be in relationship with us, etc. But it IS written by people about their experiences, interpretations of events, etc. That human element is really strong, and that causes some problems for “The Bible is the express Word of God, obey is strictly and you’ll be fine” idea. The Bible is something different, (at least in my understanding.) It is a witness to the fact that for thousands of years people have believed in and interacted with this one all knowing, all seeing, creator God. That’s it. That leaves a lot more up to us than we normally feel comfortable with.

    The other thing that changed my perspective a lot was the idea of “the covenants.” There is an old covenant, and we are now in the new covenant. They are different arrangements with humanity, but linked. That made a lot of things make sense for me that had never made sense before.

    • I do agree that the human element in Scripture is quite strong, Patty, and that is often the only way I can make sense out of it. But it still leaves me with a problem of “picking and choosing,” because there’s a danger I might ending up saying that the parts of Scripture I dislike reflect the views of their human authors, while the parts I like reflect God’s eternal values. And I hope I have enough intellectual honesty not to fall into that trap!

  2. To me, the fact that stories like this are together and that there are these greatly troubling stories in the Bible is, strangely enough, somehow comforting. If I wrote or edited the Bible the impossible-to-understand stories wouldn’t be there … and the Bible would have a rosy feel of inauthenticity. I’d be busy protecting God and his people’s reputation. And you or I would not have to struggle with the text and be taken out of our comfort zone.

    Life is messy. The Bible is messy. Let’s keep on – struggling. It’s in the mess that we meet God.

  3. I heard a great sermon one time about Uzzah – and it was explained this way. God had laid out very specific rules about the Ark and how it was to be handled and by who. When Uzzah reached out and touched the Ark he demonstrated a lack of faith in and a disregard for God. The Ark was just coming back to Israel and its proper place. It was a moment in time – if God had allowed Uzzah to live after disregarding the proper way to handle the Ark would it have turned into a battle winning talisman (oh wait! thats how many people thought of it already) instead of the Actual Seat of the Most High?

    I don’t know much about Uzzah and what kind of person he was. I don’t know if he will be saved or not. But let me ask you this. If the death of one person (and God didn’t just strike him dead randomly) turned an entire nation to worshiping God in the correct and proper way was it worth it? and if you had a choice in your life right now – if your death could stun a nation and turn their hearts to God forever – what choice would you make? I don’t think this was about one mans sin – this was a lesson for a nation that had forgotten who they were supposed to be and who God really is.

    In the Old Testament God often uses methods that we think are harsh to teach His People. We an learn from the Bible that God is Love and he Loves us, but when you read stories like this one – it also tells us that God expects certain things from us as well. I know that this is an unpopular view, but I’m actually glad that God has boundaries and expectations of how He is to be treated. I think that so often God is treated like a good luck charm instead of the awesome creator of the Universe.

    So often I hear this statement – “Its ok, God loves you and will forgive you” and the image I get of God is that he is Weak and Ineffectual that you can do whatever you want and offer a flippant “I’m sorry” and all is well. When you read the Bible and see the Power and Majesty and yes, even the temper of God, it makes Him real and powerful and awesome, and reminds me that I need to be on my Knees before Him.

    • I’m glad that that explanation works well for you Cheryl, and I do agree we need to be conscious of the power and majesty of God, but I still have difficulty with the picture of God’s character that this presents, and how it seems to be at odds with the character of Jesus revealed in the gospels.

  4. I’ve often heard that Michal was cursed because of how she talked to David – but why do people make that assumption? She was married to two different men and hadn’t had children to that point so why assume a curse – why not assume she was barren?

    I think that Michals story is sad. She went from a Princess who loved her husband to a Pawn and not just once, but twice she was married for politics. And while David risked much to rescue the women of Ziglag – he never rescued Michal. No wonder she was bitter and angry. (I wonder had David even been in to her before this occured? was she just a pawn cementing his relationship to Saul and proving his right to the thrown?)

    • I agree that Michal’s infertility may have been a perfectly natural result of a bad relationship with David, not a divine curse. And her story is very sad! Have you read India Edgehill’s novel “Kingmaker”? She writes Biblical fiction from a skeptic’s, rather than a believer’s, perspective, which will make some devout readers uncomfortable, but her portrayal of Michal in that novel really resonated with me.

      • That is how I have always seen Michal – she had no children by him because she wanted nothing to do with him! No curse, just a natural result of an unwanted marriage to a person she disliked. He had enough other women that he did not need to bother with her, and she was a princess, and I’m sure had full control over who entered her rooms.

  5. Trudy, I’ve no idea whether this will help you or not, but it makes sense to me. Good intentions in God’s service are insufficient. It is imperative that the actions taken be within God’s will. The Lord gave specific instructions for transporting the ark; David improvised. Uzzah’s touching of the Ark was doubtless a reflex, but his death was not surprising. David was angry with God, but also fearful. He left the Ark where it was for a time.

    As to Michel’s barren state, I am not at all sure from the texts that God deprived her of children. That may well have been David’s doings.

    There are other biblical stories just as difficult for me.

    • I guess we all have our own Bible stories that we struggle with. I had one (agnostic) friend who was just completely bent out of shape about Jesus cursing the fig tree.

      My biggest problem with the explanation that works for you is that I still don’t understand WHY a loving God is so much more hung up on us following His instructions to the letter than our good intentions, so it kind of leaves me in the same place.

      • Our righteousness is as filthy rags…
        In Jesus is the law fulfilled. He bore our sins, our inadequacies and our intentions, good and ill. It is in Him that we live and breathe; all else is death.

  6. You are beginning to use your God-given logic and reason. You smell a rat, and that’s a very good thing. Is God an utter tyrant who can’t forgive without loads of blood? Is God loving and kind? Will the true version of “God” please stand up?

    Here is a Facebook note I’ve written talking about how we all “Cherry Pick in the Orchard of God’s Word”. (The difference is that some of us admit it.)

    http://www.facebook.com/primadonna#!/note.php?note_id=10150243651778629

    • Interesting comments in your Facebook note, Donna. At age 46 I like to believe I’ve been using my God-given logic and reason for many years now, but I find that when I approach the Bible (or anything) from a different place in life, my logic and reason lead me in different directions than they might have done when I was younger (one reason I’m referring to this as my midlife Bible reading project. It will probably look different again when I’m 80!

      I’m reading an interesting book now called “The Bible Made Impossible” which I’ll review over on my book review blog and link here, when I’m done. It seems to touch on a lot of these issues, but I’m not sure I’m going to find the author’s conclusions that helpful. (not finished it yet so can’t really judge).

  7. Let me first say that I am utterly confounded by the story of Michal’s peevishness over David’s exuberant display of joy before God. I’m also stymied by many other portions of the Bible that don’t make much sense when juxtaposed against what I was duly taught about the character of God. But as for Uzzah . . .

    Sometimes I think about the apple Eve ate (or whatever it was) and find myself aghast at how high a price the entire human race paid for her ingestion of one single, solitary piece of fruit—fruit that God created, mind you. Consumption of that one piece of fruit instigated innumerable wars, spawned the likes of Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, and Saddam Hussein, and conceived hard drugs, slavery in all its forms, and abortion. It isn’t a fair price. The penalty is disproportionate to the crime.

    Same with Uzzah. The punishment doesn’t seem to fit the infraction. How could God require Uzzah’s life for just trying to prevent dishonor to the ark? The only answer I can endure is that God said, “Do not do this.” Eve did it anyway, lived for centuries, and died. Uzzah did it anyway and died immediately. Disobedience, no matter the motivation, is still disobedience. And the wages of disobedience is still death.

    But why was Uzzah struck down immediately? Oddly enough, I can’t figure out the Almighty. (I can’t even figure out me.) It’s a struggle to comprehend the bigger picture from my tiny sliver of a viewpoint. It’s a struggle to pick at the puzzle pieces the Bible offers and find that there must be pieces from a hundred different puzzles—no wonder they don’t fit together seamlessly. Not to mention that there are myriad time periods, cultures, and customs at play between the lines—I don’t get them because they aren’t the time period, culture, and customs that I know and understand.

    I often tell my strong-willed oldest daughter, “You don’t have to know the reason in order to obey.” Did Eve and Uzzah have to understand in order to obey? Or were they victims of rationalization? And what does that spell out for me if I won’t trust God when I can’t see the end from the beginning and/or make those pesky puzzle pieces fit? Yet doubt lurks in my mind—what if those puzzle pieces never fit the picture on my particular box? What does that say about my obedience, or lack thereof?

    • Thanks for your thoughts, JoAlyce. I certainly can’t figure out the Almighty either, and am willing to grant Him room to be much bigger than my tiny brain. I’m not sure I’m willing to grant Him room to be meaner and nastier than I, in my limited capacity to love, am able to be, and that’s the way some of these Bible stories seem to make Him come off. I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this!

  8. You mention the volcano, which destroys through no ill will, but just through it’s very nature. Is the ark not the same? It’s nature is that it destroys those who touch it. This was part of its nature from when it was first built – the earliest specifications are that it is to be supported by staves, so that no one should touch the actual object itself.

    Granted, I’m coming at this from a very different perspective, but I do tend to see G-d more as the clockmaker, whose miracles and acts tend to occur through natural or predetermined means.

    • Beverlee, I’m really grateful for and intrigued by all these replies, but yours especially because I’ve often wanted to discuss some of these issues with a thoughtful Jewish person (such as yourself). As I’ve said above, as a Christian sometimes the only way I can make the Hebrew Scriptures tolerable is reading them through the lens of the Gospels and saying, “Well, God can’t REALLY be like that, because Jesus wasn’t.” But then I think, there are plenty of good Jews who don’t seem to believe God is a complete jerk too — and I wish I knew more about how others read the Scriptures. And of course this post and the replies are giving me a glimpse of just that, so thanks. I can sort of see the concept of the Ark as being like a downed electrical line — something that’s just TOO DANGEROUS TO TOUCH!!!! — but the whole text seems to presume such intimate involvement on God’s part that it seems strange that He wouldn’t at least give Uzzah a warning or a second chance! (except that after all this time reading the Scriptures it DOESN’T seem strange, and that’s what troubles me. I’m getting used to people being zapped).

  9. hahahaha – love comments from smart people. If only instead of the word verification there was an IQ test before you could post a comment.

    I have words, but they are only words of sympathy, not guidance.

  10. Oh Trudy, your words SO reflect how I often feel on reading Scripture. So glad you let us see into your heart.

  11. Well, I’m not smart, but having struggled with the same issues when reading the “whole” Bible, the way I have come to deal with it so I can sleep nights is to recognize the human element of the Bible more than I did most of my life. I think God did “inspire” the Bible, but his inspiration was given through people who reflected very much the worldview and culture of their times, and how they saw and understood God is not how we do today. I have come to embrace the concept of “present truth” and to see the Holy Spirit leading not just “us Adventists” or even “us Christians,” but all humanity into a fuller understanding of truth. (hoping that Stephen Pinker’s _The Better Angels of our Natures_ will confirm that notion when I get to read it) Not that humanity isn’t still a big mess, but I really do think our knowledge of God is greater than that of OT times.

    And to top off my heresy, I tend to think God continues to inspire people today with things we need to hear.

  12. Your questions resonate in my heart. Not settling for “pat” answers! One of my greatest challenges is understanding the Old Testament. I am anchored to Jesus’ teaching about Himself that He was the same as His Father in Heaven as in Jesus is the exact image of God…and He came to dispell the lies surrounding the character of God. He really would not have had to come if everybody believed in the Goodness of God. So when I look at the Old Testament, I first have to understand what the writer is saying “God” is like compared to what Jesus presented God to be like. The second thing I have to do is try to understand how a misunderstanding of God’s character (how He would deal with people) can influence actions as well as totally distort perceptions of events that took place and “God’s” role in them. The more I read Jesus’ words, the more I see Him saying the things that will bring “life” (David’s dancing?) and “death” (Uzzah’s death?; Michal’s infertility?)…Sometimes I can see it in the Old Testament, but a lot of times I need to understand Jesus and the impact of sin on humans more deeply.

  13. We get into trouble because we think God is a big human – no, He’s not. We think death is the worst thing that can happen to us – no, it’s not. We think this life is about enjoyment, well, not from God’s perspective: Isaiah 55:8-11 says explicitly, “My ways are not your ways, My thoughts are not your thoughts – I have a purpose which will be accomplished.

    So, let’s look at Uzzah (because that one bothered me, too – “but he meant well!”) – the Philistines capture the Ark in battle (it wasn’t supposed to BE in battle in the first place) and God presses on them in such a way that they finally relinquish their prize – and in a very clever manner, too: put it on a new cart, hitch a couple of milk cows with calves who’ve never pulled anything and see if it goes off toward Israel, instead of careening down the hill and into a bog. The two cows walk sedately off to Israel, lowing as they go – they under compulsion.

    The Jews are thrilled – here’s the Ark! Eventually David goes to bring the Ark to Jerusalem – he brings a bunch of Levites and they put it on a new cart and hitch up some oxen *because it worked for the Philistines*. WRONG. God gave explicit and detailed instructions about how to move and carry the ark (since they did all the time, in the desert) – it was to be carried on poles born on the shoulders of Levites. The ark never should have been on a wagon, much less a wagon at the behest of Levites. Uzzah putting out his hand to keep it from falling is the last straw. Doesn’t mean Uzzah is damned, just that he’s dead (which, in God’s time, we all will be). Certainly got everyone’s attention. David went off angry and then simmered down and figured out (with the Levites, one assumes) what they did wrong. Then they come back and they do it right.

    I’ve seen this pattern in scripture: God says something and then He lands VERY hard on the first big infraction, as if to say, “I *meant* that! take it seriously!!” Think about Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 – God kills them both for attempting to deceive the Holy Spirit! But that’s a really critical issue; would the church have survived the first few centuries if people believed that God didn’t care if we lie to Him? It had nothing to do with money and everything to do with attempting to pull one over on God and the congregation – it was about appearances over reality.

    The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom – but most of us are not wise (and maybe don’t particularly want to be… :/ ). God loves you – but you need to respect Him; He’s not your indulgent grampa – He is holy and righteous and we don’t have a clue what that means and when we see Him we’ll be on our faces (consider John in Revelation 1 – and this is the guy who leaned back on Jesus’ breast at the last supper, right?). The amazing thing is that He doesn’t leave us there, on our faces, but invites us to supper. Worshiping Him in spirit and in truth doesn’t mean “whatever you feel like” – it means the truth of His revelation: if God tells you how to do a particular thing the *right* way, why would you do it the wrong way? Jesus also said, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs, do not cast your pearls before swine.” Not quite “let it all hang out.”

    There is tension in this – He invites us to call Him Abba – but He is still God and His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts, but rich and profound and wonderful. He sees beyond our limited horizon. He gives us instructions and I figure they’re for a reason, even if we don’t understand the reason. How often have we heard a child say, “But I didn’t know!” when they were disobedient and then discovered there were consequences for the disobedience? Not in the punishment sense but just in the action/reaction, sowing and reaping sense.

    Keep reading, keep asking – God loves to unpack these things with us, if we want to know (and if we listen). But maybe give Him the benefit of the doubt. After spending a lot of time in the Hebrew scriptures over the last 17 years (and reading the Bible quickly, like most books, from Genesis to Revelation), I’ve come to see that God was profoundly patient and spent a lot of time basically saying, PLEASE don’t make me do this–! That we wouldn’t understand the Good News to be good news if we hadn’t received the bad news first, yeah?

  14. I just copied everyone’s comments from my Facebook page (where I posted this link) over to the comments section here, so that I can see all people’s thoughtful responses in one place and come back to them again later. I really appreciate getting so many different perspectives on this — please, if you have any thoughts on this, keep them coming! It really helps to know that others wrestle with these same questions, even if we don’t arrive at the same answers.

  15. I’ve always been troubled by the accounts of the conquest of Canaan. Every day it seems there was a new battle and everyone was killed. Infants, toddlers, EVERYONE. At times it seems that religious practices were even put aside for this time of killing. Take the story of Jericho for instance. They marched every day for six days and on the seventh (was this sabbath????) took the city and killed innocent children along with the adults.

    My only conclusion and this leaves me with questions, is that it was a different period, especially in the Old Testament. It was a totally different if you don’t kill they will kill you world. It seems that the people living in that time needed a God who was very specific and very exact. From the way He is portrayed by the authors of that time it would seem they resonated more with the exact and specific angry version of God rather than the more exact and specific loving God that we read about in passages later on in the OT. Passages that go on and on about the ways God loves his people.

    Of course the biggest question that I have would then be: What am I supposed to take away from these passages? What purpose do they serve me in a totally different time and place?

  16. Really interesting thoughts.

    I don’t know the details of the story of Uzzah, but (as far as I can tell) he did not make the decision to move the Ark on the cart (which I’m getting from other comments was not the ‘God-said-it-was-OK-to-do-it-that-way’ way) and then when he tries to save it from falling (which you’d think would be the ‘right’ thing to do, protecting the Ark from falling or hitting the ground) he gets killed for it. So I agree with you, that seems really unfair!!

    I love the story of David dancing in his underpants, though.

  17. I have the same feelings a out certain stories in the Bible. This one I kind of understand. In he earlier story the ark ended up with Philistines and God floored all their gods and even brought plagues on them. He can take care of of something that holds his pressence. Also we don’t know what Uzah life was like. That is why we get to spend a 1000 years looking at the judgment books where all will be made clear and everything will show that GOD IS LOVE!

  18. Loved all the wonderful comments.
    It is interesting how everyone tries to make sense of the carnage and bloodshed in a way that they can still salvage an image of God, who can still be seen as a kind and loving Father.
    In a way, it does take some mental gymnastics to come to that conclusion, given the scripture portrayal we are given.
    As you know, the God I find in the Old, and the New Testament, just doesn’t seem to fit into the mold of the loving and kind Father.
    It seems to me, that like most children, we often try and paint our fathers in the best light, regardless of how angry, or hostile they are in reality. Is that the case here, us, trying to find some semblence of a loving father? Maybe the father we wished we had, or in this case, the God we wished we could have?
    Some will say, that the God of the Old Testament was just the people’s perception of God, born of their primitive understanding, and that today we, have a greater understanding and a deeper understanding, and hence a truer vision of who and what God really is like.
    Who is right, the ancients, or us?
    I don’t know.
    I have shared with you, some of my thoughts regarding how the idea of an almighty God was used and abused by the ancients as a way to control the masses. This fear of the almighty still is by and large used today in much the same manner.
    It is all interesting and fun though, to consider. We can and do surmise a lot, about the past, and the future, and in reality have little verifiable evidence for either. Very little of the scripture was written by eyewitnesses, but as often as not legend and stories past down many generations if not longer, after the fact (assuming there was a fact).
    Thank you again for digging deeper, and asking the challenging questions.
    And as an aside, if and when Rex Murphy were to retire, you have my vote as the next educated and well spoken voice of the people, on the National.

    • Randy, I suggest we know in our hearts that God loves us, and we know in our hearts how our human fathers “should be” (mine pretty much was). At least, that’s how I have come to the conclusion that humanity is slowly being enlightened by God’s Holy Spirit about His truth.

    • The New Rex Murphy … hmmm. Can’t say that’s ever been one of my life goals … but who knows?

  19. Trudy, I also wanted to make an observation about Michal’s lack of offspring, after despising David-the-king-her-husband in her heart. I’ve often wished the Bible did more editorializing (“and this was bad because…”) instead of leaving it to us to figure it out. I’m not sure that we should infer any action on God’s part, in that story. It may be entirely descriptive. And of course she was Saul’s daughter, married to David, and then taken from David and married off to someone else and then David reclaimed her. Michal loved David and saved his life –1 Samuel 18 & 19– how must she have felt when her father handed her off to another man? –1 Samuel 25– And David, in his years of battling, had taken two other wives, and what was her relationship like with her 2nd husband, Phalti? Had she fallen in love with him? Had she become cynical, having been a chess-piece for all these years? Had she been excited, with high romantic expectations when David demanded she be restored to him –2 Samuel 3– and then disappointed because she was one of multiple wives and now David was king and it was not the romantic relationship of their early times together?

    She comes out and chews him out for dancing with abandon before the Lord (But when David returned to bless his household, Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “How the king of Israel distinguished himself today! He uncovered himself today in the eyes of his servants’ maids as one of the foolish ones shamelessly uncovers himself!”) – she’s fairly dripping with sarcasm there. I suspect David was done, fine, forget you. And, being king, he had many women available to him (we know about Bathsheba because of the honor of Uriah the Hittite and her ultimately being the mother of Solomon – but how many other women did David sleep with, because he could?) – so *why* would he be bothered with Michal? He’s done right by his reputation and taken back the wife he bought with 100 Philistine foreskins (eeuw!) – but why not leave her to her empty bed? I think that story is much more about human foolishness and the hardness of the human heart and how easy it is to let words fly out of our mouths before we consider the long term repercussion of those words.

    Think about the tremendous value of Abigail, one of David’s wives, who keeps David from slaying Nabal in the heat of his anger. David clearly has a tendency to fly off the handle and very possible a tendency to carry a grudge. AND he’s ineffectual as a father (look at Amnon and the rape of Tamar and how that plays out with Absalom! sheeeesh, Dad!) – no, I think that passage is far more likely to be descriptive of human choices and human consequences rather than God’s divine judgment on Michal (for what it’s worth, in my humble opinion! ;D).

  20. I think there are many times that scripture seems to contradict the images we perceive of the God Jesus came to portray.

    The story of the ark after being taken during that battle leaves quite a trail of death in its wake. It seems that the Israelites were trying to use it as a “talisman” to help them win a battle that they had not consulted God on in the first place. It seems they had put their trust in the object rather than the God it represented.

    The Philistines suffered death because they stole it, then the men at Beth Shemesh died because they looked into the Ark of the Lord. That was 50,070 men there, seems like an awful lot to me.

    Then we have Uzzah who simply reached out in an automatic response to save something, the Ark of the Lord from tipping over and falling on the ground. I have to say that I don’t think that God killed Uzzah just for his actions but also because no one corrected David’s actions on how best to handle the Ark. It seems that Israel had lost its reverence for holy things.

    The people of Israel had been given strict instructions as to the handling of the Ark in Numbers. (Numbers 3:29-31; 4) God had warned them that they would die if they looked or touched outside of these instructions. This seems to have been forgotten. David did learn his lesson in 1 Chronicles 15:11-15 but at quite a cost.

    I certianly don’t understand all of God’s actions. Of course I am only a created being and He is after all God! I do know God is on trail because of Satan’s accusations. So I don’t think He would do things without good reason. I also know that one day we will judge God’s actions and we will not find Him unfair. But it would be awful nice to have some answers now wouldn’t it!

  21. God is willing to wait to be justified. I think of the crowd mocking Jesus on the cross, (Mt 27:42-43) “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him. He trusts in God; let God rescue Him now, if He delights in Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” – it would be so hard for me to not prove that I could make it be otherwise. God has restraint which is extraordinary to me. And yes, in my earlier comment, I also think Uzzah’s death is the consequence of the presumption of the Levites, carrying the Ark as if it were luggage rather than a holy thing.

  22. Well you got them talking, Trudy. I didn’t read all the replies, however. Your sincerity is more than evident, and, from my perspective, the careless referencing of a text many have ready only in part, and few have truly explored, is past annoying to often dysfunctional. So hats off to you. The first of many considerations is that the Old Testament is a record of Jewish history, values and POVs. Theirs was a nation of laws and continual attempts to keep a wandering populace from running totally amuck. They apparently needed a fearsome God to keep things in line. And their prophets were seers of high accomplishment, so astounding displays of power were available. However, they gave no real appearance of discernment, only well-developed practical application. And a second consideration, Jesus wasn’t actually a Christian, anymore than Buddha was a Buddhist or Lao Tzu a Taoist. No highly evolved being is ever a joiner. They see the world from a view of such interconnectedness, they would not seek nor yearn for membership. From Jesus’ level of human evolution, I’m not sure he’d even recognize the dogma that has come to pass for his teachings.

    I remember saying as a young girl, after another thoroughly annoying presentation of God the Terrible, “I have enough friends like that. Why wold I want my God to be that irrational and mean too.”

    Very, very few people grasp the teachings of Jesus, as to do so, one must acquire the state of consciousness from which he spoke. No small undertaking. But I would say from my years put in, that is exactly what your heart is asking of you. Find the bloody truth, Trudy. Settle for nothing less.

  23. Hey inspiring post you have to question to get answers. I went for the same understanding loving God wipes out human race down to eight people, Loving God orders killing of all men women and children and animals in some of the cities of the promised land. Loving God destroys cities and one of those escaping turned to salt for looking back. Ananias and Sapphira dead for lying to Holy Spirit. Loving God does not let Moses enter promised Land because he struck the Rock a second time. Loving God sends his people back out into wilderness and all who were of age die wandering around except the willing Joshua and Caleb Just because they who died in the Wilderness were afraid of Giants and thought of themselves as grasshoppers in their sight Just picture a whole bunch of Goliath dudes whose King was Og of Bashan he would have dwarfed Goliath probably. Well I know God is good and trustworthy and I did not check my mind at the door. C.S. Lewis said about Aslan He was good but he was not safe. The above really bothered me but I decided to trust and ask him to reveal His reasons if He wanted to But I figured the loving God who did not spare His own son but gave him for me and changed my heart and made me truly alive and filled the hole in my soul. Well maybe I could give Him the benefit of the doubt because after all He is the creator and is infinitely wiser than me. Also I had put all my Eggs in the basket of His grace and frankly I had nowhere else to go. I got some mind-blowing amazing answers to the questions much more glorious than I expected and now I know I truly can trust Him. Even if I cannot comprehend even if he slay me I will trust Him. The answers did not come right away and now Uzzah is on the list thank you very much but now I enjoy the journey to the answers hope you do too. The bottom line is the death burial and Resurrection of Jesus if you have really trusted in Him and His love and grace Ephesians 2;8 all grace not works hang on to this truth even in the face of legalistic contradictions which are in the Bible but are not contradictions at all. Just changes God made and it is all Grace in this current dispensation. There is an an answer to Uzzah we may not get it in this life but a loving God could answer you just because He loves you and it will build your faith. By the way an Ephod is a piece of clothing like a mantle or shoulder garment Google the image there are lots of them David somehow got answers from God using one while on the run from King Saul 1st Samuel 23 . God is awesome and you can trust Him and Perfect love casts out all fear and he does love those who trust in the death burial and Resurrection and not themselves.

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