for those who don't want to just wait it out

like the song says this is a blog for someone who wants to say something (anything) and who's happy to wait and see what time will bring...

Monday, June 04, 2007

Silence and the voice of God

It seems to me that there is a reason why movies are so violent. A reason as to why there is so much suffering, a search for justice, the presence of good and evil (even though the lines may sometimes be blurred). It's biblical.

I watched two movies this weekend; The Chronicles of Narnia and Kingdom of Heaven. Although I have seen both before, I was struck by the seeming silence of God in the face of enormous travesties. The reason why I was so struck by it is because of a challenge, and rebuke, that was laid down for me a few weeks ago at SMBC's preaching conference.

It was a fantastic week of teaching and instruction - but more than that it invigorated me anew with a passion to read God's 'older' covenant (aka promise/testament) to His people. In particular, I have been reading through the book of Judges. Having not read it in a long time, I was confronted there with accounts of murder, adultery, treachery, rebellion, indecision, rape and brutality. On the face of it, not your typical bible 'stories'. There are accounts of almost unbelievable human pain and suffering in the face of either their own, or other peoples, rebellion against God. And through it all, He seems to be silent.

Where is God when Jael betrays an alliance that her husband has, and hammers a tent-peg through a sleeping mans skull (or that Deborah seems to take such delight in recounting it)?

What does it say about God's character that He stands by and allows a woman (a concubin) to be sent by her husband to be brutally raped (by not just a few men but by a whole town!) only to have her crawl back to the doorstep where her master is staying - have him walk over her, demand that she get up and then, on finding that she's dead, to have him mutilate her further by hacking her body into twelve pieces and sending them to his 'neighbours'.

How can that be? How can I affirm that God is good when I read these things or just look out my window and see the suffering in the world that we live in?

When you read through the book of Judges, you can't help but notice the cyclical nature of the literature. Things are good, people are in harmony with God's wishes, they sin, they actively rebel and walk away from God, He sends a judge to warn them of the consequences, they keep rebelling, God judges, they repent, follow God's ways and things are good again... repeat cycle again and again over a period of about 400 years... But a little more reflective reading of the whole book shows us that the 'cycle' isn't so much about all the little patterns but about one big one.

What happens to the concubine in ch19 is, in God's providence and sovereignty, a direct result of what happened some 400 years previously when the Benjamite people failed to do what they were supposed to (cf 1:21). The concubines 12 pieces are sent to the 12 tribes of Israel so that 11 of them may unite against the Benjamite tribe - so that God's original purposes are fulfilled; namely that Jerusalem belong to Gods chosen people (the Israelites) and not their enemies. Through it all, (whether over 400 years or today) God is working.

Try as we might to wrap everything up into nice neat little packages, scripture sometimes just wont allow us to reduce God's character to something that we can understand. To be honest, there is a part of me that really doesn't like it and, like an impatient child, I want to cover my ears with my hands and scream 'NO' in frustration and lack of understanding.

But you know what? The other part of me LOVES it! I relish in the fact that the God that I serve is big enough to stand up to my questions and impatient challenges. His soverignty does not need to defend itself - the question is how easily will I kneel before it...



  • At 5:38 pm, Blogger jodi said…

    PS - Disclaimer: I didn't take the photo of the bible at the bottom of the post - just found it on google. But it did prompt me to go and re-read Ps 73 which I would also encourage you to do (and to pray through!)

  • At 6:12 pm, Blogger Lunch said…

    Kingdom Of Heaven is up there with the worst movies of all time.

  • At 8:46 am, Blogger Glenda said…

    Haven't seen 'Kingdom of Heaven' but I have read and am reading Judges while studying for my OT Exam at the moment. Unfortunately your post only made me realise Jodi how desensitised I have become to the events described in it.

    Part of me wonders whether we should be thankful that God's word doesn't try to cover up human sin but shows it for the ugly reality that it is. It's these very events that atheists like to pull out, hold up and say "see, how can you believe in a moral God who allows this?" (See TripleM's Spoonman editorial on the OT from the week of the 18/5/07) The Spoonman argues that it's the OT God that lacks morality and can't see that often (but not always) these events are not sanctioned by God.

    I'm still having trouble with the holy war thing though and how it's different to what many Muslim's are trying to achieve now.

    Sorry this comment is so long.

  • At 3:40 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't think I want to believe in a "God" who allows (or arranges for) a woman to be raped, and then mutilated, for "his plan".

  • At 7:04 pm, Blogger jodi said…

    Hey Anon.
    First up let me say thanks for taking the time to post an opinion about something that you disagree with. I'm really hoping that you come back to read my response and perhaps we can dialogue a little?

    Secondly can I also say that I think we're on somewhat of a similar wave length (although with different endpoints) because, as I expressed in the post, I understand the tension - how can a GOOD God allow this to happen? Whether it's a woman being brutalised, planes going into buildings, tsunamis killing thousands or hundreds (+) children dying of starvation or neglect every day?

    A couple of clarifications though that I didn't mention in the post. In no way (in the book of Judges or in the rest of the bible) does it ever suggest that God approves of what happens. Or that He likes it or wants His people/creation to have to go through such pain. As I said though, He uses those things/events, in ways that we do not (and I would venture to say that our finite human brains can not) understand.

    What the bible does also affirm is that God is a just God - which means that He will bring judgement and justice against those who have perpetrated such travesties.

    But the added good news comes when we turn to the new testament (the gospels etc) where we see that God has actually set out a way to make things right again. And no longer is it limited to justice but now also to restoration - to make things the way they should be - all at His expense, not ours.

    But there is still an uncomfortableness to this isn't there? It doesn't sit well with us because we can't confine God to our own understanding or parameters.

    Mr/Ms Anon can I beg and plead with you though to keep asking your questions? To keep challenging your own understanding of who God might be and to try looking for some answers...

    Feel very free to post more of your thoughts or questions here - or email me via if you would like it to be more private. I hope to hear from you soon.

  • At 7:06 pm, Blogger jodi said…

    Glenda - as you can see - I clearly don't have a problem with long comments!

    One of the best tips I was ever given while at college (to not desensitise things) is to pray through my study notes.

  • At 7:10 pm, Blogger Lunch said…

    I can't believe I didn't get a personal reply to my comment.

  • At 9:16 pm, Anonymous Shannyn said…

    Hey I hear your going on the Youthworks tour this year. You think you can take us?
    I'm hoping anyways, who knows you might end up with me in your group.

  • At 9:46 pm, Blogger Glenda said…

    Thanks Jodi, it's a good tip, and annoyingly enough, the last thing I'd actually think of doing (ie. pray before study, sure, pray through the study notes, probably not) I'll give it a go and let you know how it goes next week!

  • At 10:22 pm, Blogger jodi said…

    Hey Shannyn - yeah I'm really looking forward to spending time with you guys and hearing how your first 6 months have gone. The fact that I have to do it up on Fraser Is is a bit of a bummer though...(!)

    Glenda - pls do let me know how it goes! When you say let me know 'next week' are you referring to staff conf? Will you be there? If so then I'll look forward to meeting you in the flesh.

    Lachlan - make a comment worth responding to... (I think the phrase you're looking for is "Harsh, but fair")


  • At 10:48 pm, Blogger Lunch said…

    But it's a rubbish movie!

  • At 9:12 am, Blogger Glenda said…

    Yes I'll be up for the weekend as I'm just a 'lil apprentice (okay, maybe not that little). I'll make sure I introduce myself to you :-) Exam is next Wednesday morning.

  • At 11:06 am, Anonymous Shannyn said…

    Do you get to spend the whole two weeks with us, or just the few days on Fraser?


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