My life’s goal is to guided as many people as possible into a loving relationship with God. A significant part of that mission is to help people appreciate, value and even love, the Bible: God’s message to us.
The Bible has been around for a long time.
The canon of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) was well established by the 3rd or 2nd century before Christ. The New Testament authors completed their writings by approximately the end of the first century AD. Then the early church reached a general consensus on which books to include in the biblical canon during the fourth century. All of that is a long time ago.
For centuries people have trusted the message the Bible contains for their eternal salvation. Because the Bible is so widely respected courts will ask people to swear on the Bible that they’re telling the truth. In popular vernacular the Bible has often been referred to as “The Good Book”.
Considering all the possible names the Bible could be given, the church should quite rightly feel proud that their sacred guide is called “The Good Book”. However, sometimes we may forget that not everything in the Bible is good. For instance in Luke 18:11 we have a prayer that begins, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people….” Jesus cites this “bad” prayer to demonstrate an ungodly attitude of pride. In addition to describing godliness for the people of God, the Bible also contains many examples of negative behaviour that Christians should avoid.
Although a little obscure, Psalm 6 is another passage that contains a negative example for us. The psalm seems to describe the emotional rollercoaster of a poet suffering a severe illness. In verse 2 he cries out, “heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.”
Verses 8-10 contain a rebuttal to the psalmist’s enemies that seem to have arrived at his bedside. The author counters his enemies by declaring that God does hear him.
the Lord has heard my weeping.
The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
It seems reasonable to conclude that these assertions shame his enemies because, like Job’s friends, they were whispering in his ear that God had abandoned him.
- God fearers: They come to the psalmist and tell him that he’s sinned.
- Non-religious friends: They tell him that God isn’t listening.
- Pragmatists: They tell him to suck it up that this is just his path in life.
- Philosophers: They tell him that God wants him to suffer for some unknown reasons.
- Pessimists: They tell him to get used to a life of suffering because God’s decided not to heal him.
From the psalmist’s perspective, these aren’t good people. He describes them as “people who do evil!”
Rewriting Psalm 6
I pray that most of us will never experience the bones of agony that this psalm describes. So how does this psalm relate to us? Of course there’s more than one answer, but one choice we have is to rewrite the Bible.
Psalm 6 contains two human characters: the psalmist and his enemies. However, since we as readers don’t want to identify ourselves with either of these characters (although that may be necessary at times) we recognize that there’s a third possibility.
This psalm challenges us to change the story. When we see people suffering, how will we respond to them? Will we respond in a way that causes them to see us as the enemy, or in a way that lifts their spirits and points them to God?
If we found ourselves at the psalmist’s bedside, what would we say? What would we do? How could we affirm God’s faithful love in the midst of suffering? Can we speak in a way that challenges the enemies’ doubts and affirms God’s mercy? Do we have an alternative narrative to tell, a rewriting of the story?
These questions don’t have simple answers.
Does our relationship with God equip us to share stories of His faithfulness? Are we prepared to share reasons we trust God and demonstrate why others should also?
I’m not suggesting that the psalmist requires a Bible study as he agonises soaking his bed with his tears. Silence and presence may well provide the most appropriate response.
I am suggesting that we can’t waltz into that situation unprepared and expect to provide greater comfort than the evil companions already there.
Rewriting the Bible
What I have in mind when I speak of rewriting the Bible really isn’t as heretical as it sounds. Rather it’s a challenge to recognise that the Bible’s stories become our stories and each time they do we have an opportunity to write our own ending.
- Will I sink like Peter when waves seem about to crash upon me, or will I keep my footing and my eyes focused upon God?
- Will I cultivate gratitude in my life, or will my story reflect the 9 lepers Jesus healed who never said “Thanks”?
- Will I eat with Jesus each Sunday morning then walk out the doors and sell him short or will that meal solidify my commitment to follow him?
- Will I give in to peer pressure and deny Jesus as Peter did, or will I write a different conclusion to that story?
- Will I think like James and John and condemn everyone not quite like me, or can I live with diversity of thought as long Jesus is being honored?
The Bible contains many negative examples so that we can avoid the mistakes and failures of others. Our relationship with God will determine how we respond in those situations. It’s easy to see the shortcomings of others. Each of us must answer the question, “How are we preparing ourselves for a better conclusion to our story?”