Monday, March 29, 2010

Burning Questions

I'm starting to count down the days until my surgery. I've made a to-do list for each day leading up to Thursday, and it's kind of crazy all that I want to get done. I'm afraid of the surgery itself. I am however, afraid of getting the IV before surgery; my recent IVs have been disastrous. Fifteen sticks in Sept 08 and five in Dec 09. That has me actually scared to death. I'm also afraid of after the surgery is over and waking up. I've read horror stories online about people who can't swallow more than a teaspoon at a time. My doctor helped alleviate my fears about that, but the worry sits in the back of my mind, along with worry about how my body will feel after the surgery. How much will my stomach hurt? How long will I be weak and achy from it? I'm trying to turn it all over to God and trust him to be there with me, but I definitely appreciate any prayers you send my way this week and especially Thursday.

During the course of my focus on the Bible the last almost six weeks, I've had a couple of my burning questions answered. I've read the Bible through four times, and I grew up attending church regularly, but there are some stories that just never made sense to me. I couldn't figure out why stories played out the way they did, and while I still can't figure out the purpose of the bridegroom of blood story in Exodus 4:24-26 (I've read explanations but they just don't ring true to me), I do have two answered that I want to share with you.

In 2 Samuel, David decides to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem to the capital city he's building. He gets the people singing and dancing to bring the Ark into town full of celebration. The Ark is placed on an ox-cart, but along the way, it starts to slip, and Uzzah, a son of the man in whose home the Ark had been residing, reaches out and catches it before it can hit the ground. God's anger instantly lashes out and strikes Uzzah dead. It must have been a sight to see, because David calls it the explosion of Uzzah. David is angry with God, but for fear of anyone else being killed, he leaves it in another man's home and returns to Jerusalem.

After some time, David returns to the Ark and successfully brings it home. The difference this time is that David took the time to read God's instructions on how the Ark was to be moved. Back in Exodus, God gave lengthy and precise laws on just how the Ark was to be carried. At the time, the Israelites were a nomadic clan without a land to call their own so the Ark traveled with them. When they settled in the Promised Land, they placed the Ark in one place and everyone traveled to it, so it was an important part of their culture. Wherever the Ark was would be the center of worship. God told them that his Spirit was present between the cherubim on the lid of the Ark, so this wasn't just some box. It was a holy, incredibly sacred item.

David and the rest of the people had forgotten what the Ark stood for. They recognized it for its symbolic value, but forgot about what it truly meant, so they didn't treat it with the reverence God required. Yes, there were people singing and dancing, but an ox-cart doesn't exactly imply holiness. The second time David moved it, he did it the right way. The Levites carried it on long poles across their shoulders and David offered up sacrifices all along the way.

To me, God's reaction to Uzzah seemed extreme. The man was only trying to help, and to be struck down dead instantly for good intentions made me fear God, and not in the good way. But if you read through my sentence again, you'll understand why God did it. Uzzah and David both had good intentions, but they weren't following God's laws. There are many people in the world today who do good, but if they aren't following God's laws, they will be struck down. It's a harsh reality, just like the story. It's not easy to read, because we don't want to think that God is really that strict. While it's true that He is a loving and forgiving God, you need to be reading His Word and obeying His laws to receive that love and forgiveness.

The second mystery for me is actually part of that same story. David is leading his people and the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. He's wearing priestly garments and dancing for pure joy as they enter town. Imagine the moment: music, laughter, cymbals, drums, singing. The king is whirling and dancing in front of the parade, his face lit up from within from the absolute joy in knowing that he is fulfilling God's will for him. His wife, Michal looks out of her window and sees the scene. It's her response that always confused me; upon seeing her husband's dancing, she scorns him in her heart, and when he comes up to her room after the ceremony, she makes fun of him, calling him "a burlesque street dancer." David tells her off, God closes her womb, and Michal isn't mentioned again in the Bible.

I couldn't understand why Michal would be so hateful toward David's dancing until reading through the Bible this time, and then I came to realize that it was out of pure jealousy: she was jealous of David's love for God over her.

You have to know Michal and David's history to understand her feelings. Michal was the younger daughter of King Saul. Saul knew that David was going to be king after him and tried to get him killed by requesting the foreskins of 100 Philistines as the bride price for Michal. David happily paid twice the price (!!), and Michal must have been infatuated with the young handsome man who killed 200 men to wed her. David was a mighty warrior, plus a talented poet and musician, every woman's dream. Shortly after their marriage, Saul sent his soldiers to arrest David. Michal heard about the plan and helped her husband escape, partly by placing idols in their bed and covering them with the blankets to mimic his sleeping form. Obviously despite David's love for God, Michal worshiped in her own way. David didn't return to his bride for a very long time. In fact, Saul married her off to another man, and while David was on the lam from Saul, he married two other women: Abigail and Ahinoam. They gave him several children in his time on the run. Eventually Saul was killed, and David became king. Saul's general set up one of Saul's sons as a puppet king but in time turned against him, and one of David's terms of surrender from the general was the return of his wife Michal. She came back to him, with her new "husband" crying and following her most of the way.

So Michal and David were a young couple in love but became separated by her father's maniacal hatred for him. If David had renounced God, he probably could have remained safely within Israel, and Michal probably looked at it as David chose his God over her. David's love for God kept them apart for much of their adult lives, and while he had several children with his other wives, he hadn't yet produced one with Michal. I'm sure that when she saw David dancing the Ark into town, she wondered why he hadn't greeted her so extravagantly.

Michal's scorn was plain old jealousy. She wanted her husband to love her more than God. But that's a recipe for disaster in any marriage. We may think that we want our spouse to love us more than anything, but in reality our marriage will be far healthier and blessed by God if He comes first in each of our hearts. Michal's scorn cost her David's love and her ability to bear children. That's a terrible price to pay for jealousy.

If we put God first in our hearts and lives, we will receive God's blessings in our marriage and our children. It seems so simple, but when you start factoring in human emotions and desires, it can get pretty messy. Where is God in your marriage? In your heart? Holy Week is a wonderful time to get your priorities straight. I'll be praying for you.

No pix today, Blogger is being stubborn. :)