Recently a commenter and I were talking about the prophets of the Old Testament. I already knew from past discussions with Muslim friends that most Muslims were quite stunned to realize how bad (sinful!) many prophets and kings were made out to be in the Bible. Since the Quran only tells a small portion of any of their stories with the possible exceptions of Joseph and Moses, they don't know the fuller, richer stories that Jewish and Christian readers of the Bible have grown up hearing and accepting as truth.
I still remember Muslim Friend who explained that this making prophets into sinful humans was part of the corrupting and changing of the Bible. Remember Muslims don't believe the Bible of today is the same one that Allah told them to refer back to. For shame! You'd think if God instructed you to refer back to the Bible - since He acknowledged the Quran was merely a reminder - that He would preserve the book you are supposed to look back on for further reference! Rats!
Muslim Friend told me the Jews made their prophets into sinners so they could excuse themselves when they sinned. I guess it's like this: Jewish reader sees that King David committed adultery so he is more likely to justify his own adulterous relationships. "See here, God, even King David did this! So what do you expect from little ol' me?"
The thing is the Bible doesn't glorify David's sin. It's not like watching Desperate Housewives and nearly any other television show or movie that makes immorality beautiful and good. On the contrary the Bible shows David confronted by Nathan for his sin and records the awful consequences. Not a mere slap on the wrist either! I'm talking death of the baby, one daughter raped by her half brother, one son killing the other son for raping the aforementioned daughter, another son trying to take over David's kingdom and getting killed in the process. Heartbreaking consequences that should be a strong deterrent to anyone contemplating an adulterous relationship.
So I find the "Jews corrupted their own Scripture so they could get away with their sins" argument rather hard to fathom.
Now one young Muslim lady did make a good point. She said prophets should be role models because if they came with a message of turning back to God yet their lives were sinful - especially involving the "big sins" like adultery and murder - who would take them seriously? While it's true that our testimonies - the way we live before people - are important and we should be good examples, we should never think God's message can't stand in spite of the fallibility of people. Do we judge God and His message on the basis of priests or imams or bishops or evangelists who maybe don't live with the utmost integrity? Sure some will judge the message by those who say they follow it, yet in the end is God's message dependent on faulty, weak humans or can it stand on its own?
When Nathan confronted David with his sin, one charge was that David had caused the enemies of God to show utter contempt. So I for sure am not arguing for us living however we want. As my friend said we should be good examples, good role models and remember we are representing the messages we say we are following. If someone knows that I try to follow Jesus yet they see me doing immoral and selfish and cruel things, they would be right to question me on my hypocrisy. I believe this is why David's sin was so bad. Here was the King of Israel - a man who was "after God's own heart" - doing such detestable things! God doesn't take this lightly!
So my points are these:
Just because a fallible person sins - even greatly - it doesn't mean God's message is null and void. David sinned and David repented. God restored David, yet the consequences of his sins were still there. In my view God is The Standard. Even the Quran declared God "the Reality" which means to me that we cannot wrongly elevate any biblical or quranic character to perfect or even near-perfect status. We must realize all of us have sinned and fallen short of God's holiness and perfection. So if God is the Standard, the Reality, this means Moses, Elijah, David, Muhammad...not even good old Abraham can measure up - not even close. This is why a prophet or favorite king can do wrong things, yet his message - God's message - won't fail. Yes, we are weak. Yes, we do wrong. But God is greater. God is Perfection.
The Bible isn't sanitized. It tells how real people lived: they did right, they also did wrong. This gives me hope because it shows how God can use people in spite of their wrongdoings. How God can redeem broken lives to bring Himself glory! How He can bring beauty from ashes.
These tales of sin don't detract from the message of God. Rather they show me the reality of people - how frail we are to resist human nature, the inclinations of our hearts and bodies and how we are prone to follow our own ways. This teaches me to yield daily to God and walk closely in fellowship with Him so I can draw from His strength when tempting situations come.
I read this earlier in the week. It, along with my recent conversation with Sarira, inspired me to write this post. I think the author nicely summarized the goodness of God as He works in us even though we are sinful creatures.
"'Where you are today is exactly where God planned for you to be, even if you go there through your own disobedience. God weaves our sins into His plans to draw us to Himself and to accomplish His plans for our lives.' God's mercies, which never come to an end and are in new supply every morning, mean that sins - even grievous ones - don't doom us to failure for the rest of our lives. God's plans for us will be accomplished! Sometimes the beauty that results from the working of our sins into the weave of our life, sometimes that beauty has a few flaws. In fact, we could accurately say that it always has flaws, since no human life has been lived perfectly. Every life is the life of a sinner, but in the life of the repentant sinner the final result is good. Not perfect, but good. And the imperfections can be wonderful reminders of God's mercy and grace in taking a terrible thing and making it beautiful, making it all work out right! The converse side of this? A failure to see our sin robs us of the ability to see the amazing grace and kindness of God." (Marti Barkman in June 2010 Beacon Beam)
I spoke recently of the apostle Paul and how he knew he was a sinner and, therefore, seemed to especially enjoy the kindness and compassion of God. When we fail to realize we are sinners or think we are just "little sinners" compared to those who do reallllllllllllly bad things, we diminish the awesome grace and compassion of our Lord. When we inflate the Bible and Quranic characters to nearly-perfect people, we miss out on a whole lot of God's amazing mercy and love! What a shame when our God has given us wonderful examples of His ability to use us despite our weaknesses and imperfections!
So are the prophets perfect? I don't think so. Does that mean God's message is weak and we must throw it out? No. It just means only God is perfect. As for the rest of us: we need to remember our daily dependence upon Him so we can walk in goodness and life.