Matthew 22:15 - 24:31
Israel and the Jewish people have such a rich and profound cultural heritage that I love to study. To be an upstanding Jew of faith, one had to follow a very lengthy, very specific set of laws put in place by God to keep the eyes of His people on Him. But Paul, a religious guru in his day, writes a lot about the law, regularly taking the stand that the Grace brought by Christ sets us free from the demands of a legalistic religion.
Galatians 5:18 "But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law."
Do a word study at Bible Gateway on "the law", or "the covenant". It's mind-boggling to think that in order to close the gap between man's sin and God, the Jewish people had to take such extreme measures.
Jesus was raised in a Jewish family. His early life was recorded to have followed all of the traditions of his religious heritage. But Jesus also knew that He had come as a fulfillment to the law. He knew that He was led by the Spirit of God, and that after His final atonement, the rift between God and Man would be closed. He came to proclaim God's kingdom come to Earth by grace. In that, He attempts to shift peoples' focuses from religion to relationship.
In Matthew 22:23-33, Matthew records a time when some religious scholars attempt to trick Jesus into saying something that would justify His death. They ask Him an inane and complicated question about how the law operates in the after-life. I don't understand very much about this "Sadducee" sect, but it looks like they don't even believe in an after-life!
Jesus' answer is awesome. "You're off base on two counts: You don't know your Bibles, and you don't know how God works." (The Message)
I give all of that back-story to make this point:
It's so easy to get caught up in these ridiculous justifications of the Bible. To find ourselves arguing semantics and comparing inconsistencies, when we really don't "know our Bible".
We have a responsibility as Christians to get to know our Bibles. Like, REALLY, know. Cover to cover. And not what some theology prof says, or some preacher/teacher, or some random mom with a blog ;), but what the Holy Spirit reveals to us individually as we dig in. I want to get to know my Bible with an open heart, expecting God to do something great in my life as I draw closer to Him. Even if I've read the same passage 50 times, the Holy Spirit can always teach me something new. The Word of God is living and active. It's more than words on a page, it's the breath of God.
I think sometimes, too, we find ourselves demanding answers from God. A self-proclaimed atheist once asked me, "If God is all powerful, could God make a rock so big that He couldn't move it?" (I know he read it somewhere) First of all, if he didn't believe in God, then his question was irrelevant. Duh. Secondly, "he doesn't know how God works".
I think my two biggest questions have been "WHY?" and "WHEN?" And asking questions in the context of relationship is fine! It's healthy! But when asked in sarcastic skepticism... "Well, if God's so great, then why do horrible things happen to good people?"... the real issue is that "we don't know how God works." We don't have a relationship, yet, where we can hear the heartbeat of God. Hear His tone of voice when He speaks. We don't know His method or His character.
If someone came up to me and said, "Your husband stole $50 from me." I'd be like, "No way. He wouldn't do that. (It's not in his character to behave that way)". If they insisted and pushed and seemed completely convinced, I would probably respond with something to the effect of "I'm certain there's an explanation for all of this. Let's talk to him about it." I know my husband. We are intimately acquainted. Sometimes our toughest questions can be answered by understanding how God works.
And most importantly, when we think we know our Bible and how God works, but the answers still elude, that is where faith comes in. I don't know all of the answers. (of course!) But I know my God is good. And I know that in the end... the real end... every thing's going to be alright.