“Well, that’s a weird little story,” we say.
Or maybe it’s, “Strange,” that we mumble to ourselves as we scratch our foggy heads.
Perhaps we even go so far as, “Isn’t that a contradiction?”
And all this as we read the Bible! For shame!
Most Christians are no doubt embarrassed to admit that these thoughts have crossed our troubled minds as we peruse holy scripture. We should, however, be all the more ashamed that we do not rather boast of finding ourselves troubled with the same, for it should trouble us. If everything we read is only palatable and soothing to our fragile beliefs and ego, we are not reading the Bible, we are checking a box on our to-do list. It should not trouble us, it should shake our very being. Therefore we must climb deeper down those dark caverns when we happen upon them. There is gold down there!
Too often are we satisfied with leaving our curiosity mild, for secretly we believe lies. We either subscribe to that school, or lack thereof, that thinks the Bible too dense to understand, or we slip toward the other side and sense a fear growing in us that, under intense scrutiny, it is simply too weak to stand (this, by the way, was the first step you Atheists took away from your Christian upbringings, at least, those of you who had them). Thus we allow our eyes to ricochet off the deceptively hard surface of a cloudy passage and hustle quickly along to the more comprehensible. Yet as God was in the wilderness, so is He today: God is in the cloud! Moreover, the cloud leads the way.
The Vital Importance of Choice
There are preciously few times in history where God has made it easy to see Him, and then only to those who already knew Him, and that intimately. Rather, in nearly every encounter with God, the evidence He gives of Himself allows both the doubter and the disciple ample means to confirm their divergent views. After all, it is by faith alone, and not by sight, that we may comprehend Him, for such is His will.
If God parted the clouds and waved at us between six and seven-thirty every morning, we would have but little choice to believe in Him. He would be right there. Suddenly the Atheist would become the man of faith. He would, no doubt, soon find himself standing on street corners calling out to passersby to disbelieve what they see, close their eyes every morning, and cast their lot with the unseen world of godlessness, of which he has tasted and seen and found to be truly awful.
If God did so literally greet us every morning, faith would be unnecessary, and freedom would vanish. Rather, God has designed the Universe to protect our freedom. We must willingly choose to follow Him. We cannot be forced. In every natural wonder and supernatural miracle, both the doubter and the disciple may find themselves confirmed, as the evidence of the eyes and heart are equally valid for both.
Jesus Christ: Vampire Cannibal?
Jesus even went so far as to make it intentionally difficult to understand Him. In the lengthy back and forth of John 6:25-66, after literally accusing the assembly of seeing and still not believing, He goes off on what His disciples perceive as a cannibalistic rant, telling the crowd of devout kosher Jews that, in order to get to Heaven and be with the Father, they are going to have to eat Him then wash down His flesh with tankards of His blood. The fact that they interpret all this literally instead of figuratively does not break His stride for a second, and He never corrects them.
In fact, Jesus repeats the image eight times, culminating in the almost sinister cry, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” It should come as no surprise then that only a few verses further down we are told that a great many of His disciples decided they were not going to be a part of this cannibal vampire cult that was likely to end with its members gathering around a dinner table to feast upon their leader and get drunk upon his blood. In their view, the Last Supper would have been quite a gruesome scene.
We then hear, however, the immortal words of Peter only another few verses on, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also, we have come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter had no clue what Jesus’ sermon was about. He was as confused as all those who ran away. Yet he stayed with Jesus because he believed and knew that He was the Messiah. He was not afraid of not knowing everything; he was afraid of not knowing the One who knows everything.
The Parabola of Parable
Throughout the gospels, Jesus made Himself intentionally vague. He used parables abundantly, so that only those who sought God earnestly and to whom the Spirit was calling would come to Him. Jesus addresses this point blank in Matthew 13:12-13:
“For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.”
Knowing this should cause our hearts to quake when we find ourselves running from the cloudy passages. It may be that we are walking away from that dusty plain in Capernaum upon which Jesus preached, an unquenchable itch upon our heads and a gruesome picture within our minds. If that is you, do not fear. Rather, turn around. Go back. If you just wait around a little while, you will find yourself at a campfire around which Jesus sits with his disciples explaining the parables. It may look just like your own living room or study, but it is the same wild haunt.
The God of Femininity
God is a wonder of multifaceted contradictions. He is as near as your heart, and as far as the same. He is a storm shaking the mountaintops, and a still small whisper in a cave. He inhabits this moment, and an eternity more. He is the axiom of love, and the surety of hell. Yet He is also the same: yesterday, today, and forever. These seeming contradictions should really come as no surprise. After all, woman is made in His image too.
Just like her, God has no desire for half-hearted lovers. He has no need for them. He does not want them. He spits the lukewarm from His mouth, just as she leaves them at the curb. God desires to be pursued like a woman by her lover, for in that same way has He pursued us. Passionate love does not glance over difficulties nor find itself contented with the status quo. It is not turned back by the cloudy days or seemingly contradictory personae. Such a love longs to know, and definitely in the biblical sense.
“Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived…” (Gen. 4:1)
“And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son…” (Gen. 4:25)
Knowing, in this sense, brings new life. When we know God, we find new life. When we enter into His word we must enter into it with the same zeal and passion as the marriage bed.
The Infinite Person
Of course, the knowing here described is so much more than the physical act of intimacy between a husband and wife. To a man, woman is a profound mystery. One minute he may chuckle at the apparent simplicity of her logic, while a minute later he is baffled by the definite complexity and subtlety of the same. Is not God the same way? In one instant we can fully comprehend the wonders of His love and mercy towards us, as in verses like, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (Jn. 3:16) Yet His written word alone, never mind His living word, spans thousands of pages, and thousands more highly trained and extensively schooled scholars over thousands of years, writing thousands upon thousands of books, have not tired of unravelling its deep mysteries.
The process of knowing God is little different from the process of knowing your spouse. Do you study your wife or husband in order to know them? Do you only read books about them? Are they categorized and taxonomized and labeled and rigid? Or do you know them best through the intimate day to day relating that is called Life? So also do we know God.
Therefore, when difficult passages rear their heads, do not flee. Engage. If you run away from the difficulties in marriage they will be a continuing plague upon you, so also the doubts and the passionless readings. Trust God that He can defend Himself. Put His word to the test. It will shine through the most vicious accusations. Stand confident, like Elijah upon Carmel, taunting the enemy, for you know that your God is true and real, and all others are sleeping.