Scripture is hard.
I’ve been thinking through this lately as I watch friends who were once conservative thinkers regarding the inerrant Word of God suddenly re-think their stance in order to make Jesus more seeker-friendly and tolerant in our present age. When presented with Old Testament passages that are hard or New Testament epistles that teach difficult doctrine, their defense is to focus solely on the words of Christ as seen in the Gospels. “I only follow the words of Jesus!” But Jesus Himself, in those very Gospels, proclaims that He is the great I AM, and if we’re to believe any of Scripture, we’ve got to believe it all, because I AM is all over that.
Which leads me to this… Scripture is hard.
I thought about this a few weeks ago when reading through a portion of Scripture that is palatable and comforting. It’s found in the book of Joel, which by its very inclusion into the minor prophets might have people worrying that it’s going to be one of “those” books. You know, one that’s not so tolerant and seeker-friendly. But these words are sweet and wonderful…
Joel 2: 25
I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter…
Well, I like that! God will restore to me the years that were lost to hardship. He will restore to me all that I’ve lost in the difficulties and the trials of life. He will be my restoration with gentleness and kindness because of His great love and mercy for me.
It’s ALLLLL good.
Until I read the WHOLE verse (which is important!)…
Joel 2: 25
I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.
Hold up… what?
God will restore to me all the years that were lost to hardship… the hardship that He sent upon me. He will restore to me all that I’ve lost in the difficulties and the trials of life… that He engineered. He will be my restoration with gentleness and kindness because of His great love and mercy for me… which compelled Him to bring disaster on me in the first place.
God, Jesus, the great I AM… you aren’t sounding like I think you should.
I’ve come to the place in my walk with Christ where I approach Scripture without any doubts that it’s inerrant and right and complete… which means that hopefully (Lord, please help me!) that my theology is formed not by what I think but by what Scripture says. And Scripture is difficult here, because it’s saying that God brings the locusts. By my human standards and my human estimation, this makes God seems sadistic and cruel, that He would engineer calamity so that He can sweep in and restore. He looks to be a villain so that He can be a hero. It seems unfair and not right at all.
But Scripture tells me that God is just. He’s fair. He does all things well. Even the wind and the waves obey Him. There is no one good but Him alone. He is merciful. He is Faithful and True. He is holy. His ways are far above mine.
All of that is true. And when my perceptions – my human estimations and thoughts – don’t line up with what Scripture says, I have to affirm again that God is not like me. He isn’t bound by my human ideals of right and wrong, of fairness and justice, of good and evil. He’s God, the Creator, and He isn’t bound to my human thinking. He’s far beyond that, and if I struggle to comprehend how He can send the locusts and still be good and right and merciful with restoration, then I have to rest on the truth that I can’t understand Him.
But I can trust Him.
And that’s reassuring. God sends the locusts. Nothing that befalls me is apart from His control. He doesn’t allow things – He ordains them for His greater purposes. And though we balk at His vengeance and the hard things that Scripture says about His character, we are comforted by the reassurances of His restoration, that He will bring to completion all that He purposes in us…