I got ‘behind’ in my Bible reading lately. Don’t you hate that word, ‘behind’? It’s not like anyone is holding me to a schedule beside myself. But being the ‘upholder’ that I am, I decided to play catch up and read the last half of Judges all at once. Dark. Depressing. There’s just no way to look away from all the evil done by God’s people in that book. It seems there is no one in Israel who really knows the Lord and is faithful.
But light shines on the very next page with the very next book. When we read the Bible in chunks or in ways that aren’t chronological, we sometimes miss out on the timeline of the story. We can miss lessons that we otherwise would see. Ruth begins with an important detail: “In the days when the judges ruled…” Wait! This familiar story is happening during the dark days, during the time when I thought no one was faithful. From one perspective the story looks like that. But Ruth tells the other side of the story.
There was a prophet named Elijah. One time he had a battle royale with the prophets of Baal and he prevailed. But then his life was threatened by wicked Jezebel and he ran away. He was left alone in the wilderness. Alone with his thoughts and questions. Is anyone faithful? Is God still there? God questions him and Elijah declares his loyalty: “I, even I only, am left…” But God shares the other side of the story. He gives Elijah his perspective. He interrupts Elijah’s pity party and gives him an assignment. Oh, and by the way, God has kept a remnant of 7,000 for himself.
In my perplexing circumstances, I need to remember the limits of my knowledge. I never know the whole story. My perspective is only one grain of sand compared to the vast desert of time and eternity. And I certainly don’t have all the wisdom that God possesses. Why am I so quickly confused and left downcast? Maybe I’m just like dejected Elijah, or the person who only reads Judges without going on to Ruth. I am only reading one side of the story. I have the perspective of an ant carrying that one grain of sand when all the while my good and gracious God sees the whole desert and reigns over each and every grain. Right now he is working, calmly and triumphantly working all things according to the counsel of his will.