Losing Religion, Part 3, Our God is a Jealous God?
There is a song that was popular for some time “Our God is an Awesome God.” It is a powerful song and I loved singing it. I'm not sure if people within earshot enjoyed my singing it, but that is far from the point of this post.
The point is, what are the attributes of God when the Bible is read, with the filters off. I put together a partial list below with at least one reference from the Bible for each.
- He is Love (1 John 4:8,16)
- He has an abundance of Grace (Psalm 145: 17)
- He is Rich in Mercy (Ephesions 2:4)
- He is Righteous, Perfect (Psalm 19:7-9)
Those are some pretty good attributes, ones that we would want and respect in a creator, and attributes we would like to have ourselves. If you want to see an “entire” list the online Bible Study guide has such a list, here is a link: https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/attributes.cfm
Some of the attributes that don't typically pop up in these study guides are listed below:
- He is Jealous (Exodus 20:5)
- He has angry, sometimes murderous outbursts (Exodus 4:14, 24-26, Job 9:5-6, 1 Samuel 6:14-20, 2 Kings 2:23-24)
- He uses Deceit (2 Thessalonians 2: 11-12)
Now there are a few points I would like to make. One is that this second group of three attributes I have pointed out were typically just glossed over in my early years of training and Bible study. The second point is that I after I read these verses without any filtering, and then searched for Bible commentary in attempt to reconcile them I never came across any convincing explanation. The third point is, if the Bible is accurate in all of its portrayals of God's “personality” then we have a creator with some behavioral problems. I do not believe we have a Creator with behavioral problems. I believe the Bible is not an entirely accurate nor trustworthy document.
Let's have a look at two stories, the first one is in 2 Kings 2:23-24. Elisha was the successor to Elijah, a very righteous man who did not have to die but went directly from earth to heaven. Elisha was out walking one day and some young kids made fun of his bald head. Elisha then cursed the kids in the name of the Lord. So, in response, two bears came out of the woods and tore up 42 children. Now one might claim that this was Elisha's doing, but there is no reason to think he had control over animal behavior. The clear implication here is that God directed the bear's actions.
The second story is from 1 Samuel 6:14-20. Some Levites were transporting the ark of the covenant. On the journey they came across some people in Beth-shemesh who were very happy to see the ark. They were so happy that they wanted to make a sacrifice to God and have a look into the box to see the contents. They did have look, and they did make burnt sacrifices in honor of God. They weren't actually supposed to look in the box. So, God killed all of the people, 50,070 men. It was a great slaughter (exact words from the Bible.)
If anyone of us were have such extreme, murderous reactions to fairly benign acts of disobedience or disrespect we would be considered mentally unstable, murderous psychopaths.
So, now that I no longer believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God (see Losing Religion, Part 2) and no longer believe that the Bible accurately depicts God, where do I go to find the truth?
Part of the answer is simply looking at the world, my experiences, and what “works” in the manner of human relations and living in general. Another part of the answer to read accounts from “witnesses” who have had beyond death experiences. Yet another part is a new type of prayer/meditation/intentional communication-which I'm just barely grasping. More on those topics later.
The photos below are almost relevant to this post. The first is one I captured at our local Trade Days event. I use a portion of my time doing photo and video work to promote small businesses, ministries, performers and the like. The second photo is of Sandy. She snored while I wrote this article and somehow reminds me that all living beings are connected and we need to be nice to each other even if they snore and annoy you. I think she just saw me type that, I just noticed her glaring at me.