Three weeks ago, I wrote a very difficult review of a difficult book. The review that went live was actually my third re-write, and even then I wasn’t really happy with it, but I had a deadline, and I just had to publish. The review received two comments of note. One from the author herself, which was kind, and very gracious. The second was from someone who chose to remain anonymous behind their initials, which is his/her right. L. H. did, however, raise a concept in his/her comment that I feel requires a specific response. This post is that response.
“I wonder how we might rate several Old Testament stories that God included in the Bible…the story of Lot’s sordid behavior with his daughters while drunk (Genesis 19)? The story of Noah’s drunken nakedness with his sons (Genesis 9)? The stories of several harlots…even a story of a Levite who cut up his dead wife’s body and scattered her limbs throughout Israel (Judges 19)? And so many more. Not all of the stories that God chose to include in HIS Word are as clean and nicely packaged as the book of Esther. Yet for some reason, He allowed them to happen…and chose to tell us about them, too.”
The Bible is not a series of slightly interconnected stories, nor is it a sweeping epic of the rise and fall of a family that turns into a nation. The Bible is a religious work, designed to reveal God, and His work of Redemption, to us. The entire point of every page is a Holy God redeeming His fallen creation. As far as “nicely packaged” goes, the Bible is the neatest and tidiest of them all. Unlike any work of fiction you could choose to name, there is no point when the story “evolves” or catches the author by surprise. This is the perfectly woven tale, because it is written by the perfect author.
One of the stories referenced by L. H . is actually the perfect example of this. Described above as “Lot’s sordid behavior with his daughters while drunk (Genesis 19).” I would have summarized it as, “Lot’s daughters sordid behavior to their father.” Regardless, we both agree on the sordid nature of a very sad story. All of Lot’s story is a tragic one and I don’t doubt Lot could have written a seemingly hopeless, completely dark tale of abandonment, abuse, and degenerate company; but that isn’t the story God wrote! In the pages of scripture, we are given the tale of a man who makes the wrong decision every single time, and a God who delivers him out of his circumstances, every single time. God didn’t deliver Lot because Lot earned His favor, or even asked for deliverance. God delivered Lot because he remembered His promises to Abraham.
The final installment of the Lot life story does, initially, seem to break this pattern. We don’t see anyone ride in to rescue Lot and his daughters from each other. Abraham doesn’t come to that cave and provide Lot with community, shelter and family restoration. God doesn’t send two men to suddenly draw his daughters’ intentions away from raping their father. There is no dramatic angelic visit, nor does Abraham ride in with armed men. Yet even here, the Lord is at work, and he tells us so.
36 Thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father. 37 The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab.[a] He is the father of the Moabites to this day. 38 The younger also bore a son and called his name Ben-ammi.[b] He is the father of the Ammonites to this day. (Gen 19. ESV)
Moab and Ammon: two nations of conflict for Abraham’s seed, with the Ammonites being a particularly troublesome bunch to the nation of Israel. Yet, when we come to the geneology of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew, we find a beautiful piece of redemption history that God has woven so neatly into the fabric of scripture we might miss it, if we don’t look carefully.
Matthew 1:5-7 tells us: ” . . .and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam . . .”
Obed was born of Ruth, and Ruth was a Moabitess. And Rehoboam, the son of Solomon; what does God have to tell us about him?
31 And Rehoboam slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David. His mother’s name was Naamah the Ammonite. 1 Kings 14:31(ESV)
That is the redemptive work of our God – the God of history.
In Ginger’s story of pain and abuse and suffering, she, like Lot, cannot see right now the ultimate generational plan of our Lord, and it would be unreasonable of me to assume that as we humans tell our stories they would be as tidy and nicely packaged as the words of scripture. Her pain, like Lot and his daughters, cannot be ignored. If I gave the impression of doing so, I hope she would forgive me. However, when reading a work from a believer my hope is always that it would, like Lot’s story, point more to the faithfulness of God and His hand of redemption than it does to our pain and the faithlessness of those around us.