Did God Actually Say?

4 04 2011

It all started in a garden. A place with geography and a river that divided into four other rivers that all had names. There were two people then, the one man and the one woman made in the image of their Creator God. Made creative. They had minds and imaginations, and they had duties. The One who loved them in spite of all He knew they would do and what it would cost Him — the One who’d provided redemption before He breathed into their nostrils the breath of life — gave them the garden and filled it with a thousand thousands of gifts. He gave and gave and gave, and forbade them only one thing.

God is good in what He gives and He is good in what He forbids. The heart can know this and know it and know it again, but the mind . . .

There was another creature in the garden that knew the way of minds.

Ah, but that’s poetry, some say. Written in a different language to a different people for a different purpose. It’s not meant to be taken as historically true.

“Did God actually say . . .”

Well, yes, there are all those names, numbers — yes, lots of specific numbers. And places. Genealogies. Yes, those, too. But much of it was written in a poetic form. Literature, don’t you know. And no human poet ever infused his art with layers of meaning. Why would God? Or Moses, I should say, who wasn’t there to see these things after all, so how could he know? It’s all about what Moses intended to say, and Abram, and establishing the Jewish nation to usher in the Christ, because it’s all about Jesus. (And how would Moses know about all that? Never mind, as I was saying . . .)

“You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Brilliant theologians have studied this stuff. They’ve examined this one word, and in this case it likely means this. And who has time to consider all those specific details about names and places and numbers when we’ve figured out what this one word probably means? And then there’s science. Smart people who’ve poured their lives into figuring out where man came from (since God didn’t tell us, or wait, that was Moses). They’re pretty smart, and the science is compelling. And who wants to argue with them and look a fool?

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.

But, of course, that didn’t really happen, because how could Moses know?

“All Scripture is breathed out by God . . .”

And besides, it was written in a nuanced language for a culture very different from ours.

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction . . .”

And frankly, it’s offensive to my intellect. Am I supposed to ignore all the knowledge (that tree is bountiful) accumulated since the Bible was written? Am I really supposed to believe the Bible is specific? And don’t start in on the prophecies, because who’s to say they weren’t written after they came true? Really, there’s just so much we can’t verify. Mere men wrote the Bible, and the men who pick it apart are far less mere. They’re educated. Informed. They ask important questions. Like, doesn’t God love everyone, and if He loves everyone, how could all that justice and holiness be relevant any more? And why are these people taking the Bible so literally, as though it were their sole authority for faith and practice and everything depended on its being reliably true? Did God actually say . . .?

And somewhere (not a garden) a serpent laughs.

Metaphorically speaking.

This post may seem like a strange pre-Easter meditation, but it springs from recent thoughts and wrestlings and an honest desire to embrace the fullness of God’s revelation without dressing it up in modern clothes. We all come to the cross naked and ashamed. We’ve tasted the fruit. We’ve bowed to foreign gods. We’ve claimed His Name but gloried in lesser things, and the pride of life drags us back to them again and again. And — oh, the wonder — He loved and bought us anyway, even knowing we would do it all.

In the heart of God, the Lamb was slain before the fall. As we approach Easter, may we come humbly. Teachable. Not flaunting our knowledge, but baring our hearts. While we were hideous, Christ died for us. If we bear His Name, may we also be willing to worship Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. Even if the whole world laughs.

Giving thanks in community for:

#65 Words of life, and Luke, Sarah, and my parents gathered around the book of John
#66 the beautiful Holy Spirit who comforts and teaches
#67 the body of Christ, so imperfect, yet so loved and assured of redemption
#68 the patience and forbearance of friends and loved ones, brothers and sisters
#69 music. I will never cease to be amazed.
#70 the opportunity this week to choreograph a show choir production, always a fun creative process for me and a privilege to share the gift of dance

To join the chorus of thanksgiving, visit Ann Voskamp’s site.


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10 responses

4 04 2011
Suzan

Love this, Jeanne. Thank you.

5 04 2011
jeannedamoff

Thanks, Suzan. And you’re welcome.

4 04 2011
Suzy Q

When I come to the Bible simply and with childlikness, it seems to open up to me so much more readily than when I come to it thinking I already know the answers.
Pieces of it still really confound me so now I just stick with the parts of it that really speak to my heart and trust God with the rest 🙂
Thank you for this meditation. You write so beautifully!

5 04 2011
jeannedamoff

Thanks, Suzy Q. I think we’re all at God’s mercy for understanding, because we automatically see through lenses that have been colored by so many influences, and we don’t even know it. The Pharisees never could really hear what Jesus said, because they already “knew” what God was going to do, and they filtered all his words and actions through those expectations.

I also think that’s why we miss a lot of the answers to our prayers, because they don’t look like answers. We ask God to increase our faith, and then we find ourselves in deep darkness and confusion. It feels like the opposite of what we asked for, but God knows that testing is the only way to increase faith. Anyway, I’m starting to preach now. Sorry. 🙂 I just really do want to remain before God, willing to hear Him and not dictating to Him what He can or can’t be saying in His Word, regardless of all that man in his vast knowledge has done to box Him in.

Thanks for your kind words. I hope you have a beautiful day and radiant Easter!

Love, Jeanne

6 04 2011
Daniel Farrow

Preach it sister. I don’t think its unusual for any of us who have been believers for awhile to find ourselves falling into the trap of the Pharisee. Thank God that He has mercy on us and doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve.

4 04 2011
laura

I have come to this place where I am okay saying I don’t know the answer. It is God’s Word–if it is literal or metaphorical, the question I ask myself is, “What does He want me to learn from this?” It has to begin somewhere, though, and I am not comfortable with some of what the Biblical scholars tell me. I guess I don’t have to be.

Your comment about my photos bothers me. Recently, I reached the free photo storage max on blogger and so have been using flickr to paste my photo url codes in my posts. Now I’m wondering how many other people cannot see them. Phooey. All this stuff makes my head hurt. I need some kind of tech support. I better check this out. Thanks for the heads up, Jeanne.

5 04 2011
jeannedamoff

Thank, Laura. Certainly there is much beautiful mystery in the Word. God reveals and He also keeps secrets, and I believe all of it is meant to draw us closer to Him. So your question you ask yourself is a good one. If I must err, I will always choose to err on the side that God says what He means, especially if He confirms it again and again. And I do believe the Bible is inspired — not subject to the limitations or whims of its various human authors. When we have to start explaining away whole chunks of the Bible to make it fit our paradigm, I fear we’re asking the garden question again.

As for the photos, I have the same problem on Ann Voskamp’s site and others, and they’re all sites that use Flickr. If I click the empty space where the photo is supposed to be, it takes me to Flickr, and I get a message that I’m not authorized to view this photo. I don’t know why Flickr is refusing to open photos on my computer, and I don’t know if it’s happening to other people, but it is very frustrating. If you figure anything out, let me know!

Love to you. J.

4 04 2011
Jennifer@GDWJ

Have I told you lately how I love you? 🙂

You write words that I merely grope for.

Thank you. Thank YOU.

Love, Jennifer

5 04 2011
jeannedamoff

Aw, thanks, Jennifer. You’re too kind. I love you, too, and I also love the beautiful words you find in your groping, so please keep after them.

Much love,
Jeanne

6 04 2011
Daniel Farrow

I’m glad I’m not the only one that gropes for words. I’m SO grateful to the Lord when He helps me find them. 😀

Your comments are a gift. Please know I read each one with gratitude.

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