While studying for my Old Testament exam today, it suddenly struck me that the Hebrews in the Bible are not that different from people today. Although we have the Internet and modern plumbing, when it comes to basic human nature – humanity keeps making the same mistakes. Our society may have evolved somewhat from the Bronze and Iron Ages. But I don’t know that we are as “enlightened” as we might want to think we are.
Regardless of who you think wrote the Torah, it is a fairly progressive document. From the focus on social reforms in Deuteronomy to the depiction of a gracious God who keeps on giving second chances, I have found my OT plunge this semester to be eye opening. Sure, there are comments about stoning rebellious children and seemingly unimportant laws about mildew. These seem extreme or out of touch to us today. But overall the heart of the Law was meant to push the people toward an ideal that we might find remarkable today. I wonder what would happen if the Year of Jubilee were reinstated today. Given all the financial problems in the world, that might be a refreshing idea from thousands of years ago.
Putting myself in the other person’s shoes is a lot harder thing to do when you are trying to relate to somebody who lived 3,000 years ago. Yet, I can certainly relate with many of the emotions and situations that the Israelites must have felt. I understand what it is like to mess up and keep needing mulligans from God. I know what it is like to face new challenges and transition just as the Israelites did as they stood on the edge of the Promise Land.
I know the pain that King Saul must have felt when God’s voice seemed distant. I can relate with the sense of an overwhelming task just as Moses must have felt many time on his journey in the wilderness. There are other times this semester that I read a story and was challenged to the core by the example presented. For example, I may not have felt as generous as Joseph did when he finally revealed his true identity to his brothers.
What makes Scripture such an engaging text? Is it that the people are so real? Is it that I approach the text differently than a non-believer? Is it that there really isn’t anything new under the sun and these people are a lot like me?