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Let’s face it

The Bible doesn’t offer an objective account of the events it narrates. It doesn’t intend to do so. Its presentation of those events is agenda-driven. Those who passed along, preserved, wrote, edited, and compiled what we have in our Bibles believed that God was involved in the stories they recorded. God’s involvement in the history of ancient Israel, in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and in the establishing and development of the early church is the subject matter of the Bible. As the Gospel of John says about its contents, ‘These are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name’ (20:31). What John says of Jesus, all of the biblical writers, editors, and compilers would say about what they produced: ‘We have said these things in these ways so that you might believe that God involves God’s self in the world and in our lives.’ This doesn’t mean, though, that the biblical writers aren’t willing to tell about the negative aspects of the story. Their conviction that God is involved in the story they are telling doesn’t lessen their awareness that God chooses to work in and through frail and fallible human beings. And human beings can and do sometimes make a mess of things. Take the Bible’s portrayal of David, for example. According to the Old Testament, David was the greatest king Israel ever had. God chose David to be king, judging him to be a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). David conquered the city of Jerusalem and made it his capital. By moving the ark of the covenant into the city, he also made it Israel’s religious center. He more or less united the twelve tribes of Israel under a central government (I say ‘more or less’ because the unity was far from perfect). Through the prophet Nathan, God even promised David that his descendants would reign forever, which turned out to be about four hundred years, so the promise came to be interpreted messianically’”a descendant of David would establish God’s eternal kingdom. Christians understand Jesus to be the fulfillment of that promise. But according to what biblical scholars call the Succession Narrative, which is found in 2 Samuel 9’“1 Kings 2, the great king David made some serious errors and committed some scandalous sins. He committed adultery with a woman named Bathsheba, and when she became pregnant, he arranged to have her husband Uriah killed so he could marry the widow. David also failed to deal with serious problems in his family, inaction that resulted in the path to his successor being shrouded in scandal and violence. So, even though the biblical writers’ agenda was to show how God was actively involved in ancient Israel’s history, they still reported the negative elements of that history. This seems to me to be a good example for any nation to follow. It’s understandable that a nation wants to celebrate the positive aspects of its history. But a wise people is willing to name and deal with the negative parts of its story. A wise people is willing to tell even the truth that is painful to face.

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