What Do You Do When the Bible Isn’t “True”?
Today’s reading started with Psalm 91, a psalm that promises God’s deliverance and protection. Here is an example from Psalm 91: Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, 10 No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; This is particularly challenging for me today as I began my morning praying for several people who are really suffering, even a young child who is going through incredible pain and suffering. I wonder what his parents would think if they read Psalm 91 this morning? What do others think when they read words like those above, that don’t connect with their present situation? Psalms are not doctrinal in nature. They don’t prescribe truth in specific situations but rather in more general terms. When Psalm 91 says, “no evil shall befall you”, it doesn’t make sense because we know that those who have made the Lord their refuge have had evil befall them…sometimes again and again.
What is the answer? The answer is not to try to tell people that the evil that has come into their lives is their own fault and that if they would really make the Lord their refuge, then they wouldn’t have the problems they have. That might be true for some, but it is typically not the case for those who suffer from disease or other things…and shame is not usually an effective way to bring about change. One possible answer is that here the psalmist is taking a longer term view of the situation. Yes, short term evil might befall us, but in the end those who trust in the Lord will win. That’s true, but it doesn’t really seem to be what the psalm is talking about. Maybe a third and better answer is to understand that at times we all struggle with understanding and applying the words of God to our lives. And the struggle we have doesn’t invalidate the Bible; rather it reflects the way the words of an all-mighty, holy, righteous God intersect with an incredibly sinful and fallen world. The inconsistencies we occasionally find don’t invalidate the truth of what God has told us and is telling us. There is value in spending time wrestling with God over what you are reading, especially when it doesn’t ring true. You might find truth for yourself in your struggle with the truth of God’s word.