I read the Bible for the first time in 1983. I was a brand new Christian and wanted to see what God had to say for Himself. I started at Genesis and read through to Revelation. It took about 3 months. When I closed the book I lay my head down and cried.
I grew up in a Presbyterian Church. We went on Sunday mornings and almost every other time the doors were open. I remember a lot of things but I don’t remember learning anything about God. I am sure He was mentioned but I’m just saying, for me, church wasn’t where I discovered God. I did, however, have an opinion of God. I envisioned Him with a large blackboard where with white chalk, He made tally marks of each of my sins. Probably yours too, but in all honesty, I was way too self-absorbed to be concerned about your sins. Mine scared me. Terrified is a better word. I lived in tremendous fear of His judgment. I had no idea what His judgment would be like and I had no idea if it would be brought on by the sum total of my sins or one big, bad one that would tip the scale. Only that it was imminent.
I also had no idea of what sin actually was. I had enough knowledge of the Ten Commandments to know that I wasn’t supposed to steal, or murder or commit adultery and I wasn’t doing those things. But still I felt those tally marks being made and I had no idea how to stop them from being made or how to erase them. I lived with condemnation and fear that was crippling.
But then I read the Bible.
It was the kings of Judah and Israel that helped me see God.
Reading through I and II Kings was an emotional roller coaster ride for me.
These books record the history of the reign of kings over the Israelites.
Some were good and some were exceedingly bad.
A chapter might begin something like this:
“Now Ahaziah was twenty -two years old when he became king…and he did evil in the sight of the Lord” II Kings 8:26-27 .
And I would cringe.
And then a new king would come to power and it would read like this:
“Then Jehoash became king and …. he did right in the sight of the Lord all his days” II Kings12: 1-2.
And I could breathe again.
But then the next king would come to power and it would read like this:
“Jehoahaz …became king and… he did evil in the sight of the Lord” II Kings 13:1-2
And I would fear for them.
This continued for chapters and chapters and years and years and years of their history.
And I couldn’t take it.
I just knew the tally marks were winning and they were doomed.
Each time an evil king came on the scene I would want to scream at them the way I might do watching thriller movie when someone is in danger and doesn’t see it.
I wanted them to stop their sinning; I wanted to believe it was possible.
For them; for me.
I didn’t want to see what God would do to them because whatever God would do to them wouldn’t He surely do the same to me when my tally marks exceeded His limits?
What God did do surprised me.
He allowed consequences for their sin; sin always has consequences but His heart for them was always merciful, compassionate.
He stood with open arms to welcome them back.
To forgive them, to wipe away the tally marks.
Listen to His heart in this passage from Isaiah:
“For the mountains may be removed
and the hills may shake,
but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you,
and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,”
says the Lord who has compassion on you”
God isn’t watching over me to keep track of my sins; He is watching over me to find ways to tell me once again just how much He loves me.
Is it any wonder I cried?