Last night we discussed mainly the story of Joseph. This is a great story with lots of narrative elements and a wonderful ending. We noticed that unlike the stories with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Joseph never seems to have any lapses in judgement. He seems to constantly be doing the best he can to cling to God, and in the process he is able to be used by God to do absolutely amazing things, no matter where he finds himself. At 30, he becomes essentially the Prime Minister of all of Egypt an dis able to rescue his family when the famine comes. If you haven’t read the story of Joseph lately, it’s worth rereading!
One of the big questions that was brought up last night was:
God DOES seem to act in a way that is arbitrary at times.
1. Based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system.
2. (of power or a ruling body) Unrestrained and autocratic in the use of authority.
I think it’s true that there are times when God seems to act in a way that is final, unrestrained and outside what we can see. I heard an explanation to this that I have always found helpful.
If a parent sees their child heading to certain physical disaster – like getting to close to a cliff, they may grab their hand and wrench them away. Say that the parent even hurt a child’s shoulder doing this. The child might scream and shout and yell “You hurt me! I hate you!” But really the parent was doing something painful but acting ultimately out of love for the child’s safety. The parent would say, “OK, you can hate me. But I love you so much I’m willing to do whatever it takes to save you.” When the child is older they can look back on the situation and say, “Wow, my parent wasn’t acting arbitrarily, but in great love.”
Perhaps in the narrow scope of our lives we sometimes feel like God acts arbitrarily with us? Or we see him act this way through history. But ultimately I do not believe that God can act outside of his own perimeter of love and that everything he does must be governed by that principle because he is not able to act outside of his character.
There will be things that bother us about God’s actions as we read through the Bible. There will be times when we question his actions. I believe in a God that most desires a relationship with us, and a friendship is based on open conversation and addressing the things that we have questions about. We must lay it out on the table with all the other evidence as we decide whether God is someone who can and should be trusted with our lives. Faith in him can never be a blind leap in the dark but must always be built on evidence of who God is, evidence that we have an abundance of in the these wonderful stories of our patriarchs and prophets.