There are a lot of supernatural, very inhuman moments in the Bible. Fire falling from heaven, a shepherd boy slaying a giant, the sun refusing to set in the sky, an army of thousands mysteriously dying overnight, people being healed from handkerchiefs touched by a Jesus follower.
These are the moments that make for jaw-dropping stories and epic, cinematic moments, but they aren’t the ones I love best. The biblical moments I get the biggest kicks out of are the ones that display the oh-so-ordinary humanness of the men and women involved.
Moment #5: “He never says anything good about me…”
This first moment may also be one of the most bizarre moments in the Bible. Ahab, king of Israel, decides to go to war against the king of Syria, but first, he wants to make an alliance with Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. Jehoshaphat, though, wants to make sure this war is God’s will, so Ahab calls in 400 prophets who all say, “Go to war and be victorious!”
“Isn’t there a prophet of the Lord we could talk to?” Jehoshaphat asks, instinctively sensing these are not true prophets.
“Well…” Ahab says reluctantly. “There is one. But I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me.”
Jehoshaphat insists that they call in Micaiah, the prophet Ahab doesn’t like. Micaiah says, like the other prophets, “Go to war, and be victorious!”
And here’s what gets me. Ahab hears Micaiah’s words and says, “How many times do I have to make you promise to tell me only the truth?” For once in his life, Ahab gets a good report from this prophet, yet he knows it’s too good to be true.
Micaiah then tells Ahab and Jehoshaphat the truth: they are destined for failure, not victory. And here, Ahab turns to Jehoshaphat to say triumphantly (with a bit of whining too, I imagine), “Didn’t I tell you he never prophesies anything good about me?”
I really enjoy Ahab’s reactions here: first, put out because someone doesn’t say what he wants to hear, then unbelieving when he does hear what he wants to hear, and finally gleefully miffed when he realizes Micaiah still hasn’t said anything good to him.
Moment #4: “This calf just came out!”
While Moses is up on Mount Sinai, listening to God’s commands for Israel, the people get impatient and beg Aaron to make them a new god. Terrified by the will of the people, Aaron concedes, making a golden calf from their gold rings.
When Moses returns, he’s furious – understandably so. He left his supposedly responsible older brother in charge of the people and comes back to find them already having broken the first commandment God just gave them.
He questions Aaron and receives this excuse: “I threw their gold in the fire, and this calf just came out!”
Sandwiched by fear of the people and fear of his brother, Aaron just couldn’t catch a break. Every time I read this story, though, I have to laugh at his excuse.
“He said what?” my after-school kids asked when they heard this story.
Sorry, Aaron, but even a 3rd grader could see through that excuse.
Moment #3: “It’s Peter! He’s here!”
Children are so rarely mentioned by name in the Bible that I always take notice when they are. Rhoda is one of my favorites. When Peter is miraculously freed from prison by an angel, he returns to a friend’s house where a group of believers are praying for him.
Rhoda, a servant girl, hears his knock at the door and recognizes his voice. But then, instead of opening the door, she gets so excited she runs back to tell the other believers Peter is there.
Have you ever seen a child unable to control his or her excitement? I’m reminded of how my brother as a toddler became almost paralyzed by excitement when a container of Ping Pong balls emptied across the floor. He couldn’t even run after them because he was shaking so much. This is a little how I picture Rhoda – blissfully, uncontrollably happy at the answered prayer. Such a stark contrast to the unbelieving adults she relayed her news to.
Moment #2: “Let’s put up three tents.”
This has to be one of the funniest moments in the Bible. Peter, James, and John have an incredible, life-changing experience as they watch a glorified Jesus talk to Moses and Elijah. Most would be struck speechless, but not Peter.
“It’s good that we’re here,” he says to Jesus. “We can put up some tents if you want, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Luke’s narrative adds my favorite line, that Peter “didn’t know what he was saying.”
We’ve all been in that boat, Peter – you just happened to be in it more than most. It’s so encouraging to me to read about the many times Peter stumbled over his words, especially knowing what a great communicator he would later become. Don’t despise humble beginnings…
Moment #1: “I will die here.”
Joab, cousin to King David as well as general of the king’s army, has held a special place in my heart for several years now. He’s mentioned every so often throughout the book of 2 Samuel, and almost always the descriptions of him are contradictory.
One moment he kills an unsuspecting man in revenge for his murdered brother.
The next he is a mighty warrior, urging his men to fight courageously and trust the Lord to provide the right outcome.
Then, obeying the king’s orders, he arranges for the death of an innocent man.
Next, he orchestrates the king’s reunion with his estranged son, giving perhaps one of the most beautiful descriptions of God’s character in the Bible. “Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him” (v. 14).
Then, he murders that same son for treachery against the king, despite David’s request to deal gently with him.
Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder what Joab could possibly have been thinking in these various circumstances. Did he follow the Lord or not? Then, I come to the scene of his death.
Solomon, David’s son, follows his dead father’s orders “not to let Joab’s gray head go down to the grave in peace.” When Joab realizes soldiers are coming to put him to death, he flees to the inner sanctuary of the temple and takes hold of the horns of the altar. Perhaps it was merely a scheme to try and save his own life, since spilling blood in the sanctuary was frowned upon. But Joab’s words to his pursuer, “No, I will die here,” make me hope for something else. They make me hope that there, at the end of his life, he sought the one thing that could save him – God’s mercy.
That scene makes me see Joab for what he was – a broken, flawed man in need of grace. Just like the rest of us.
So, those are a few of my favorite “human” moments in the Bible. Do you have any to add to the list?