The Ridiculous to the Sublime? (Joshua 11-15 and Psalms 6-8)

October 28, 2010

Forgive me loyal blog readers! I come to you ashamed of my grave failure. A combination of uncooperative internet connection and non-existent inspiration means that there was a great gaping hole where yesterday’s blog post should have been. But fear not; I have returned!

Yesterday around this time I began to write about Joshua 11-15. If you’ve read my other posts on Joshua you know the deal by now. I made dry comments about the rather barbarous tone of this book but tried to restrain from another “what’s going on with all the killing??” rant. I then made a joke about not wanting to ever have to read them passages out in church. They’re full of long lists of unpronounceable names. Then I racked my brains for something more substantial to say…

It was difficult. I tried going down the ‘cultural context’ route; this text would have been important to those who it was written for, affirming their right to the land in which they lived and the faithfulness of their God. But I’ve said that before. When it came to bringing something out for myself, or even better for all of us, I was stumped. So I decided to think it over and finish later. And conveniently forgot.

The truth is I still haven’t thought of anything, nothing genuine. I’m sure Hebrew scholars could tease out a morsel, even a gem, from these chapters. Perhaps you can (please share) but I can’t. But that’s okay. I’m not writing this blog to feign wisdom. So I will share with you that there are parts of the Bible that simply don’t inspire them and even make them think “what is this crazy book?” as a friend of mine put it last week. And I think it’s okay to admit that there are parts of the Bible that leave you cold or confused…though somehow not finding inspiration here still feels like failure.

The poetry of the psalms is even more sublime when contrasted with the drawing of land boundaries and lists of victories in Joshua 11-15. I feel that just by reading Psalms 6-8 I hear the voice of God saying “see, it’s not all bad!”.

In these songs of supplication and praise, beds are drenched with tears, refuge is taken and God’s majesty is praised. Quite a rollercoaster. That such stark contrasts of emotion are established as scripture soothes my anxiety at my own varying responses to the words and promises of God. They show me that I don’t need to choose between showing weakness and confusion and affirming the strength and glory of God. Quite the opposite; in David’s vulnerable, impassioned cries I am exposed to a raw and direct relationship with God. The intimacy of these words beckon me closer, closer to the Beloved to whom they are addressed.

Perhaps this is the problem I have with book of Joshua. It describes the people of Israel when they are invulnerable. It is the story of an unrelenting victory. Though God and his promises are constantly mentioned there is little time for personal doubt,or even rejoicing. These people are on a mission, and they are winning. How can I empathise with that? How can I connect with that? I like my heroes flawed and my plot lines fraught. I like songs of salvation and supplication, not inventories of conquered territory. I doubt I’m alone in this.

And it’s okay. The book of the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament weren’t all written with one purpose. Why do i expect to get the same things from Joshua as I do Psalms? It almost seems arrogant for to expect to be granted a new revelation each day. The scripture is not my servant. I am God’s servant. I am reading the Bible and writing not to be served but to better serve.

So perhaps it is I who needs to move from the ridiculous to the sublime From an attitude of entitlement to God’s wisdom and an openess to God’s words and a willingness to be confused or comforted.

I’ve heard a preacher say that the Bible should read us, rather than us read the Bible. If it was reading me today I think I would be exposed as someone who wants to find something to say about everything, but who is truly blessed when rendered speechless.

“O Lord, our Sovereign,
   how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

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