The Bible is the story of God and God’s people. It is not primarily a rule book telling us how we should live. Or a scientific textbook explaining how things work. Or a history book of heroes we should emulate.
It is a story. It is The Story.
It is The Story of Yawheh, a God who has existed since before the foundations of this earth, who reached into time and space to create, redeem, and love. It is The Story of a people who have sometimes understood, but more often than not, The Story of a people who have messed things up. And it is The Story of a God who keeps on loving them anyway.
I think the Israelites understood this better than we do. Their view on God and history is revealed in the way they tell their own story.
In Psalm 106, we see a people who share accounts of their blunders as easily as they share their victories.
“We have sinned, even as our ancestors did; we have done wrong and acted wickedly.” – Psalm 106:6
“He saved them from the and of the foe; from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them. Then they believed his promises And sang his praise.” – Psalm 106:10, 12
And we see a people who declare God’s goodness as the introduction to them both.
“Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” – Psalm 106:1
They seem to understand what The Story is really about: a God whose love for His people endures through everything.
The Story is not about Israel’s leaders. They had some great ones, but those leaders were human, right along with the rest of us. They made mistakes. And if we understand what The Story is really about, it shouldn’t make us uncomfortable to talk about them.
Though, in our humanness, it probably will make us uncomfortable. And that’s okay, too. We should still do it. Just like the Israelites did.
“By the waters of Meribah they angered the Lord, and trouble came to Moses because of them; for they rebelled against the Spirit of God, and rash words came from Moses’ lips.” – Psalm 106:32-33
Isn’t it wonderfully human that they tell the story of Moses’ anger, but still blame it on the ever-annoying dessert wanderers? I can feel them telling that story through gritted teeth, knowing they need to share it all, but struggling to take one of their great heroes off his pedestal.
I have had the honor of studying the Old Testament with a brilliant and insightful rabbi. He describes the will of God as a deep and wide river. The will of God is not a point on a map that we have to find, but a vast and refreshing stream in which we are invited to wade.
We can step into it at anytime and walk around. Once we do, we stand in the movement of all that has come before us and all that will surge after us. To understand who God is and who we are, we have to look at how the river runs all around us, back in the past, around us in the present, and ahead into the future.
The Bible is one place that tells the story of what comes before us. And the way it tells the good and the bad together gives us a model of what looking back really means. It doesn’t mean glossing over or forgetting.
Looking back means seeing how humanity struggles and God continues to love. It means looking unanswered questions in the face and finding the ways that God can still be good even when we don’t understand. Looking back means remembering how Jesus lived and hearing what Jesus said when the things in our present tell us to abandon this crazy faith.
That was my reflection on Psalm 106. Link up with your own reflection below. Or stop back next week for a reflection on Psalm 107.