The fear of the Lord

As I have done for many years, I decided this year to read through my 'One Year Bible'. This is a Bible that's divided up into readings for each day - a bit from the Old Testament, a bit from the New and usually a Psalm or a bit from Proverbs. If you follow it daily you'll have read through the whole Bible at the end of the year. Now when I say "as I have done for many years", I'm saying that what I have done for many years is decide to read through the One Year Bible. I usually start to lose momentum some time in April, and by November I'm about four months behind. One of these years I'll do it... is this the year? I don't know.

I don't want to read through the entire Bible because I think it will make me a 'good Christian', nor because I think God requires it of me. That's not what grace is about. I want to read through it partly because I like a challenge; but also because I'd like to make spending time with God something that's a normal part of my day, not something I do when I remember it... and then feel guilty about not doing it more often. (Hmmm... what was that I was saying about grace?)

Today I was reading Genesis 3 and 4, which recounts the events known in Christianity as "the fall", where Adam and Eve eat the fruit - which may or may not have been an apple - that God told them not to eat. A history changing event if ever there was one. I can't tell you how many times I've read this part of the Bible. (Genesis is better than Melrose Place - full of scandals, love triangles, intrigue and murder.) Today I was struck by the part just after Adam and Eve eat the fruit. As soon as they eat it the Bible says "their eyes were opened" and the first thing they felt was shame because they were naked. Shortly after this God calls Adam in the garden and Adam says he hid from God because he was afraid.

Fear is an interesting response from Adam here. His first two responses are shame and fear, but what has happened so far that would make him think he needs to fear God? Up to this point God has created the world, then created Adam, then created Eve as a suitable partner for Adam - the first, and perhaps the best ever 'soul mates'. Everything God created was good, and 'good' in God's terms is pretty darn good. God has shown Adam nothing but love and kindness. That's all Adam knows.

And yet, Adam is afraid. When he does something he's not supposed to his first response is to forget what he knows about God.

I am not so very different from Adam. When I stuff up; or deliberately do the wrong thing; or do things that I think will make God angry even if that's not true (like not praying or reading the Bible often enough) then my first response is to forget what I know about God. God is patient, gracious and forgiving. He loves me and genuinely desires a relationship with me. In spite of knowing this I continue to believe that he is an angry, frowning, disapproving God who is just waiting for me to stuff up, and who will remain angry unless I do something to get him to forgive me and like me again.

Although I've never managed to get through the One Year Bible in one year, I have read the whole thing. I've read it, studied it, talked about it, written about it - and yet still my first reaction to my failings is to make it somehow God's fault by creating this tiny, mean, spiteful God who bears no resemblance to the God of the Bible. So my new year's resolution this year is simple - to know God... not the petty God created by my fears, but the real God who loves me so much that he sent his Son to die for me.


Hippomanic Jen said...

Really good plan - and not necessarily the bit about reading the whole Bible in a year.

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