Time traveling has its challenges. You’ve all seen the dilemmas in the movies. Do you let the people know about the mistakes or choices they are about to make? The difference was that I was writing the Bible News Press trying to take on the identity of a person who was actually unaware of the future. Do you know how hard it is to do that?
Sometimes, I tried to ease the strain of my position with a teeny bit of foreshadowing, in asking questions about how things would work out or in alluding to common dynamics of any society. I was fighting the urge to explain to the readers what those ancient citizens should really be thinking of, how they could respond and plan better. There is a certain agony in watching someone make the same mistake, even if you know they already made it!
There was the aspect of reading through the original Biblical accounts like I was viewing them for the first time. I did, in a sense, get transported to the time. I became aware of them even more as real people, instead of characters in a drama. I saw the unchanging challenges of living in this world, as well as the common struggles of human nature. There was lying, stealing, cheating, all the troubles of human interaction that plague us today. It makes statements about “if only we could live in peace” seem all the more ludicrous. Have people reached any different place in their interactions such that we have any hope of this happening? It doesn’t look like it.
For now, I have ended with Leviticus. The Hebrew people are at a time of hope and promise. They have choices to make. It’s not that God is trying to be hard to get along with. He is showing them the way to life … but a way that they cannot live up to. Even in this system, however, He has made arrangements for their failures, if only they will be humble. Not many people like to really be humble, so it won’t go well, as we all know. People want to do things their own way, according to their own wisdom. Who does God think He is anyway, telling them about life?! Oh, that stubborn pride that separates so many from His goodness.
I don’t know yet if I will take on Deuteronomy, but there is a section toward the end of it that I put to song for my kids a few years ago. It may seem like a strangely upbeat tune for the somber subject, but keep in mind that good things were being offered. We all have the option to choose life. I am grateful that I have something better than the law as the way to do this, but if the Hebrews had trusted God, this law would have lead them to the same way.
Next Sunday, I will kick off a series investigating religious vocabulary, using a theme I have used in the past with my kids called Religious Vocabulary Word of the Day. I welcome ideas for words and phrases to scrutinize.