Wandering Israelites and Faltering Faith


First of all, Happy Easter, everyone!

Secondly, I know you must all be shocked that I’m actually writing a post that isn’t a ho hum Wednesday Things article, but I just had some Easter-appropriate questions I’d love to discuss with others.

Last night, my mom and I watched the season finale of Parenthood while putting together centerpieces for the wedding. After that was over and we still had some work to do, she bounced around channels and saw that the Ten Commandments was playing. She sentimentally turned to that and let it play quietly while we talked and finished up. The scene played where Moses is up on the mountain getting the 10 Commandments and the Israelites down below just got discouraged and bored and made a cow statue out of gold and partied. And because of that they were then forced to wander in the dessert for 40 years until every person in that whole generation had died.

I feel like, in my experience, in every Sunday school lesson or sermon, etc., that I’ve heard about the multiple falterings of the Israelites’ faith, and it always feels hyperbolic and downplayed and really absurd. To me, people doubting the Lord is a very serious and real issue, and anytime I’ve heard these stories I’ve only ever been told “All of these people were struggling in their faith and had questions and doubts, so they made a gold cow to dance around.” And maybe it’s just me, but especially in the Ten Commandments, I thought that the enthusiasm and behavior depicted in this part felt really unrelatable and made everyone look like morons. They had to have had more logic and reason than that, right? Was it just that they had been so immersed in the culture and religion of the Egyptians and, once they started wondering what they had gotten themselves into, they turned back to that culture they were so comfortable with before for comfort? I don’t know.

I’d be very interested in some sort of bible study which talks about these instances of faltering faith with a perspective that these were real people with real doubts and real questions and real struggles with their faith. I grew up in a church that heavily criticized any questions regarding God or faith, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it were the case that other churches actually discussed my questions, and that the church I grew up in just tried to skim over that to make it sound just plain stupid or pointless to have any kinds of doubts or questions yourself.

Honestly, I think the healthiest thing you can do in general is let people ask questions, and especially when it comes to such personal topics as religion and spirituality. I also can’t help but wonder, from my limited knowledge about the Old Testament, who the heck wouldn’t have questions after things happening like, “oh, Moses got frustrated and hit a rock with his walking stick and now he’s not allowed to go into the Promise Land he had done so much to lead his people to;” or “Oh, because our parents made a gold cow statue and partied hard, they had to wander until every last one of them died and now we have to care about and find this ‘Promise Land?'” or “Uh, didn’t this God just kill immense numbers of the Egyptians’ and our babies and children like, a week ago?” Seriously, the Old Testament has some intense, heavy, and even bizarre things and I feel like so much meaning and truth and context behind a lot of it gets completely lost or skimmed over. I know there’s a significant amount of things we lose out on understanding due to translation issues and culture differences, but I feel like that shouldn’t be an excuse to not question things or try to understand instead of saying “God said so” or “Just accept it – that’s faith.”

I know too well that churches often avoid talking about doubtful questions and faltering faith, but they shouldn’t. I wish more of the Bible was taught in a way that made the stories and characters sound like actual people. I was shocked the first time I heard a message at a Bible camp about how Jesus sometimes got pissed off and had a sense of humor and cracked jokes and had his own struggles with his relationship with God. Until that point, I had always pictured him as a stoic, poetic, monotone dude who’s facial expressions probably didn’t change much and he probably never laughed or chilled out.

I don’t know. This is just what has been on my mind since watching Charleston Heston on the TV last night. And now, I get to go spend some quality family time with Luke’s side of the family! But I’d love to hear some discussion about what I just talked about by people who have more knowledge or perspective than I do — or even people with other/more questions.