Sunday, October 23, 2011

God is in the details

"their coast was from Aroer, 
that is on the bank of the river Arnon, 
and the city that is in the midst of the river, 
and all the plain by Medeba"
Joshua 13:16

Okay, I'm gonna need you to do me a favor to fully appreciate this post.  Would you please grab your Bible, or go online, and look at the Book of Joshua, chapters 13 through 19.  If you have time, read them through; if you don't, just skim them over to get an idea of the information being disseminated.  But please, go back and read them through later ~ there's good stuff in there!

Now, this section of chapters, as you can see, has a lot of words.  And those words are what some folks consider to be the most tedious in all of Scripture:  names.  Names of Israelites, names of enemy nations, names of cities, and geographical identifiers like mountains and bodies of water.  Hazar Shual, Sharuhen, Dabbasheth, and the Valley of Jiphthah El.  We can't pronounce them, we can't spell them, and most of them don't mean anything to us.

So why are they there?  Couldn't God have condensed this information?  Made it more manageable for us? We'd get the same message out of it, wouldn't we?

Well, I've long believed that I'm cheating myself if I skim over anything in Scripture, but that effort on my part doesn't always make it easy to get anything out of details like these.  Sometimes I do recognize a name, of a person or place, that I can connect elsewhere in Scripture,  but mostly I just try to appreciate that for some reason, God wanted these details enumerated.

Now,  I am slightly partial to the "begats".  You know, those lists of genealogy:  "Solomon, begat Roboam, who begat Abia, who begat Asa, who begat Josaphat..." (that portion was from Matthew 1).  I had a pastor once who made me see these names of children of God, as if He were pointing people out to us in a family picture.  Once I saw them as precious to Him, instead of just a list of old guys, I became more interested in them.

But listings of places ~ especially if they no longer appear on maps ~ and enemy tribes or pagan kings, have always been a little harder for me to read.  That is, until I studied this passage in Joshua.  This is the passage we are going over in my Bible study this week.  As I'm studying it, I'm coming to a greater appreciation of these details, for two reasons.

First, for history.  God knew that the Bible would not just be a book of faith, wisdom and guidance, but a book of history.  There are many things written in Scripture that are verifiable in other places historically, and things found elsewhere in historical documents that can be verified in Scripture.  Passages like this help to do that.

But I also am thinking about how important these details were to the children of Israel.  They made it very clear whose territory was where, and how far it extended.  Now, if it were you, wouldn't you be paying a whole lot of attention to the details?  We care about the little things, when they impact our life, right?

Case in point:  my washing machine broke a couple of days ago.   I opened it up, and it was full of water, and I got that dreaded "uh oh" feeling.... So I turned the knob, and started it from a different point in the rinse cycle, and then walked away to do other things, hoping the tub full of water had just been a fluke.  But the next time I checked it, the tub was still full of water, and it was starting to smell funny.  Fortunately there weren't clothes in it, just a bathroom rug and the dog's blanket.

So, I came in and told the Apple of my Eye that the washer was acting up, and we discussed a few possible problems.  All the solutions seemed expensive, though.  You know how it is:  even getting a repairman out to diagnose the problem is expensive.  So I went online instead, and found some information that might be helpful.  And it turns out that the problem is a switch.  You know how a washing machine won't work when the lid is open?  And when you close the lid, it pushes down on a lever?  Well there's something wrong with that lever.  And until the Apple of my Eye can get do a little exploring on how to replace it, I have discovered that I can make it work if I stand and hold the lever myself.  I have to hold it just so, using the thumb and forefinger of my left hand, and jimmying the lever just right with a chopstick in my other hand.  And of course, I have to stand there while the tub drains and spins.  It's even a little interesting (and a little painful) to stand there and watch the washing machine go through its motions.  And while I watched the clothes spin, I thought about things.  Like levers on a washing machine.  Buttons and knobs and wires and hoses and myriad pieces of metal.  Details.  Details that really matter to me, especially when one of them stops working.

The details in my washing machine, are part of the whole.  Valuable parts.  Most of them, if you showed them to me, would mean nothing, but without them the product is incomplete, and even useless.  But I found myself thanking God for these tiny details.

So, too, do I thank Him for the details in Scripture.   I might look at them individually, and wonder what they're for, what purpose they serve, but just because I don't see the purpose doesn't make them invaluable.  I can certainly trust the judgement of the Manufacturer who wrote the Manual, can't I?  I hope you'll join me in praising God for the details of His Word.

~ " 'All this,' David said, 'I have in writing 
as a result of the Lord's hand on me, 
and He enabled me to understand 
all the details of the plan.' " ~
1 Chronicles 28:19

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