22 September, 2009


Exd 33:3 & 4 "Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way." When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments.

I recently read an article commending speaking everything that enters your mind to everyone. The journalist reporting on his experiment told about the thrill of his initial experiments. He explained how it was frightening to tell his boss he didn't like an assignment, his girlfriend what he thought of a story, and his interview subject what he thought of his whole life. He also explained how powerful it felt, too.

That's a power some of us never feel.

Yes, there's a danger in speaking the truth hurtfully and inappropriately, but there's an equal danger in being unable to speak a truth in time of need. Some of us would rather lie to ourselves than tell the truth to anyone who might overwhelm us. That is the message of my movie, Lucie's Prayer. Lucie was lying to herself, telling herself that she was the one who needed to change when she was being abused. The first person with Whom we can begin to build a foundation of truth again is God. At the end of the movie, Lucie finally hears God wants to deal truthfully and He's not afraid of her problems. Lucie began the slow, difficult process of learning to tell the truth. As she's learning to tell the truth to God, she'll also have to learn how to tell the truth to her friend Julie, and some day she'll even be able to tell the truth to Billy. On that day, she'll feel the power of truth.

That's a power God always has.

Yahweh tells the Israelites they're a stiffnecked people, and He casts them into mourning. There is no remorse in His words, because there's no ill-considered rage in His statement. Whenever you read the words of God, you should read them out loud, and you should give thought to the tone you choose. Try reading Ex 33:3 & 4 in some different tones.

Sweet Jesus
Go up to the land I've promised you. I have a wonderful plan for your life there, and I want to be the bridge across the gap between here and there. I will turn a kind eye to your imperfections, and hide myself from your learning experiences.

Suffering Jesus
Go up to the land I worked so hard to prepare for you. I want to take the journey with you, but I can't when you're stiffnecked and stubborn. It kills me to love you so much, and for you to keep hurting yourself by not listening to me. I hope you can enjoy your blessings without Me.

Stern Jesus
Try to get to the land flowing with milk and honey without Me. You will never get there without me, and I won't go with you because you've forgotten holiness.

Scientific Jesus
I wonder how many of these people will go to the land flowing with milk and honey. I've repeatedly set good advice in front of them, and at each proving they've chosen against my recommendation. Let me back off and observe their performance.

I've modified the words to emulate various tones, but we each hear some consistent tone in God's voice when we read His word. An addict, a codependent, a narcissist, and a passive-aggressive will all inflect God's text differently but ascribe their inflection to God without a second thought. Part of the Spirit's work is to inflect the word of God more accurately to us, to let us hear God's words the way He meant them to be heard. That's also a big goal of our work in studying the scripture. We must labor to see how God reacts to real people doing real things right and wrong. Then we can adjust the inflection we impose upon His voice to match the reality we see in His stories.

Inflect Yahweh's pronouncement here as powerful, accurate, and unflinching without adding any inflection of dependency, shame, rage, or worry.

Exd 33:3 & 4 "Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way." When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments.

And now that you've heard these words with an accurate tone, do you hear love in them?

No Buddhist koan can top that question for mind-breaking complexity! The sound of one hand clapping? A mere trifle. Trees falling in the forest without anyone to hear them? A child's illusion. Can Yahweh reject Israel lovingly? It's an impossible question. No matter how you define love, the concept of rejection has no part in it. And yet God is love, no?

Maybe this isn't a rejection? But no. It's too hard to defend that thought, when He goes on to ask Moses for permission to destroy these people and start over with a people from Moses.

Maybe this is tough love? Um. Maybe, I guess.

Whatever it might be, it's devoid of any attempt to manipulate. It's a simple declaration of simple truth. Yahweh never threatens to resent His people's acceptance of His gift. He offers no carrot. He doesn't promise them one last chance to do the right thing, and then He'll go with them. There's no sugar-coating and no exaggeration.

I call it honesty.

It's a powerful thing, and it's the only way God knows to deal with us. May we learn to be like Him.


Kansas Bob said...

Gotta love the way Jesus spoke to religious folks calling them out on the hypocrisy. Also gotta love the way he called them out on their misunderstanding of the heart of God telling them to cast a stone if they are without sin.

Lynne said...

Sometimes the hardest part is trying to figure out what the truth is. Been there. Jumped through endlerss hoops while someone else messed with my mind (as I understand it now). Still don't know what the truth is about some things. sometimes all i can pray for is to see things more like Jesus sees them, and then to have the courage to know what to do and do it. When we do learn the truth, the truth sets us free. it's a defining characteristic.

Kevin Knox said...

Yes, Lynne.

Thank you.