Tuesday, June 20, 2017
wrestling with God
St John Chrysostom gives us good advice today in A Year with the Church Fathers. He tells us to keep reading difficult passages in Scripture until either we make sense of them, or someone wiser explains them to us, or God Himself tells us what they mean.
But that brings us to an important point. See, we all have favorite verses in the Bible, don't we? Mine is Philippians 1:21. "For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." You can probably name your favorite, or a few of them. And it's good to have favorite verses that bring us comfort and strength in times of weakness or need.
However, we shouldn't focus entirely on those and ignore the verses that make us uncomfortable. Because if we only read the parts of the Bible we like, we're making the Bible in our image, rather than letting it make us in God's image. The parts of the Bible we disagree with or find challenging are PRECISELY the parts of the Bible that we need to spend time with.
Did you know that the word "Israel" means "struggles with God"? There is a story of Jacob "wrestling with God" or maybe with an angel. And his name is changed to Israel. "-el" on the end of a Hebrew word means "God". So Angel means messenger of God. Daniel means "God is my judge". Gabriel means "God is my strength". And Michael means "Who is like God?" And "Isra-" means "wrestles (or struggles) with". So Israel means "wrestles with God." I share this because that's what we need to do.
We need to wrestle with God. He delights in our wrestling with Him. Have you ever gotten mad at God? Ever felt like shaking your fist in His general direction? He prefers that honesty to ignoring Him or pretending He isn't there. He wants us to wrestle with Him. And when we find those passages of the Bible that make us scratch our heads, we need to wrestle with them. Keep with them, working them around in our minds until our minds are changed. Until we become more like the Bible, rather than making the Bible more like us. Just a quick example of that... Thomas Jefferson took his Bible and literally cut out the parts of it he didn't like. That's exactly what we do NOT want to do. We don't want to change the Bible.
We want it to change us.
God, thank You for inviting us to wrestle with You. Be gentle.