Friday, April 20, 2012

“It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house…”

This is part 8 of a continuing series on hard questions from the Old Testament. They have been adapted from a series of articles I wrote for my church's community groups during our Old Testament Challenge. You can also read the introduction and  parts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.  

Near the end of the book of 2nd Samuel we find two accounts that clash with the modern reader’s sensibilities. They share a common theme however: sin and guilt are passed down. In the first instance it is passed from a father to his sons (Saul in 2 Sam. 21) and in the second it is passed from a king to his people (David in 2 Sam. 24).

We find it rash that God would judge a group for an individual’s sin, but sin is not quite so concerned with individuality as we Americans are. As mentioned before in this post series, the Bible is chock full of warnings against the communal effects of sin. A sin committed by one and tolerated (or endorsed) by the group has a corrupting effect on the whole group, not just the one sinning.

Past cultures and generations understood this better than we do today. While many societies have placed a higher value on the community over the individual, our modern culture values the individual over the community. Again, we must be open enough to challenge our modern value of individuality against most cultures’ higher value of community. (It is also important to note that God seems to be judging Israel for their own sin through David’s sinful actions.)

But if you are at all familiar with the Bible, then the tension you are feeling now should not be a new one. Does it remind you of something? Does it remind you of another father whose sin and guilt were passed on to his children? Something farther back than anything we read in the Old Testament Challenge this year?

When Adam sinned, his guilt and sinfulness were passed on to each and every one of his children. While God has not answered our intellectual questions as to why this happened, he has answered the problem itself.

Just as Adam’s guilt spread to all who shared in his bloodline, so too the righteousness of Christ spreads to all who share in his blood. And the Apostle Paul tells us that his gift of salvation is not just like the trespass. It goes deeper. It is richer. It lifts us higher than the fall we have taken. It is better than the justice we would like to demand for ourselves, it is free and unmerited grace.

For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17 ESV)

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