In my graduate studies I am taking a Hebrew Scriptures course. I’ll be honest and tell you that prior this past semester I hadn’t read a lot of the Old Testament. I hear it at Mass each week and I know many of the stories by heart and enjoy Psalms and Proverbs immensely. But as a Christian who focuses on Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Covenant, well, I tend to focus more on what Jesus said and did than what we read about in the Old Testament. It’s not that I discount those stories and the history, they are after all the cornerstone of the Christian faith, but I’ve never felt led to really study them and so I didn’t have a tremendous amount of knowledge about them.
However, this semester I have been blown away with what I find within those ancient texts. Where I had always been taught that the God of Israel was an angry and punishing God (and he did bring punishment on those who turned their backs on him), instead I found a God of love and hope. One who, despite his chosen people turning their backs on him again and again and again, forgave those whom he loved so dearly. He continually opened his arms ready to welcome them back and he never once walked away from his covenant with them.
We have much to learn from the Old Testament and the God of Israel.
Chapter 32: The Real Problem
This chapter is a hard one for many of us to read and accept. It tells us that the reason for all the problems in the world is directly related to the choices we make. Because we often allow sin to control our lives we have allowed sin to control our world. WE have made the world a mess. WE are responsible for the hurt, the despair, the lack of peace, the collapse of the family, and the suffering we find that plagues us. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.
I imagine that is how the Israelites felt as well. They knew God was on their side and yet time and time again things would fall apart for them. It wasn’t that God had abandoned them, but they had abandoned God. They allowed sin to creep into their world and take over. They often made alliances with those whom God directly told them not to, they engaged in activities that were against their faith, and they didn’t uphold God’s laws. They violated their covenant with God over and over again. But they still questioned why things were so hard, why God allowed them to be punished, and why it seemed that God has abandoned them. They were unable to see that their sins made things hard; their sins brought consequences with them; and their sins didn’t make God abandon them but made them turn their backs on him. They separated themselves from him. If we are honest with ourselves we would see this is the same for us.
Point to Ponder: Sin makes you unhappy.
When I look at the times in my life where I have been the unhappiest- not sad or in despair like when William or Joseph died, but just really unhappy or even miserable in my life- I can see where my participation in sin or the sins of others against me have caused my unhappiness. Sin makes us miserable. Sure, it might have a fleeting thrill or feeling of excitement, but in the long run sin brings with it misery. There may be direct consequences to our sins (like jail time if we were to break the law) or there may be consequences that we don’t really understand until later (we feel guilty or bad about ourselves because of what we have been involved in and this affects how we interact with others or how we view ourselves), but sin always affects our lives.
Sin not only separates us from God but it separates us from one another. It is only through Christ’s sacrifice that we are able to be reconciled to both God and one another. He is the solution. It is because of his death upon the cross that we can even attempt to conquer the sin in our lives. We are not able to do this on our own and it may seem like the odds are stacked up against us, but we have Christ in our corner and with him all things are possible!
Verse to Live: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.” Psalm 51:12
We must be willing to acknowledge that we are sinful and we have to want to change our lives. We have to unite our wills to the Father’s will. It is when we live our lives for the Lord and that we turn our faces to him and our back on sin that we find true joy. It’s a difficult task to undertake but one that is not impossible. We only have to look at the cross to see how great the possibilities truly are!
Question to Consider: What are your three most frequent sins?
Wow! What a hard question to answer in a public forum! As Matthew Kelly says, sin is deeply personal and so it is difficult to answer this question. However, I also know that my sins affect not only myself but many others as well. If I want to conquer my sins then naming them seems like a good thing to do. I would say that the three sins I struggle most with are sloth, use of foul language, and not placing my anger where it truly belongs. I would also say I struggle with not being able to forgive myself even though I have been assured of my forgiveness (so pride or even a touch of, but not full blown, scrupulosity?)
Your Turn: Do you think that you are a sinner? Do you turn your back on God? How do you think your life would change if you turned your back on sin instead? What sins plague your life and your relationship with God and others?
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me and save me from my sins. Amen.