As the teacher recounted a story from the Bible that had been carefully edited to suit the age of the children listening, he or she would add little felt people and articles onto the board. Watching the story unfold in little felt pieces sort of illustrated the story in front of you in place of a movie or people acting it out. It was just a way to visually reinforce the lesson in a cost and time efficient manner.
I think I might enjoy playing with the felt board even now. I digress, though.
Anywho... in reading through Genesis the past week, I've noticed a few stories and characters we didn't cover on the felt board. Like, for instance, I don't remember the times Abraham lied about the identity of his wife. He told the folks in Egypt she was his sister, and the Pharaoh took Sarah in as his wife. It wasn't until the Lord inflicted disease upon Pharaoh's household that the lie was discovered (Gen. 12:10-20). Then Abraham did it again in another place, Gerar, telling everyone that Sarah was his sister, and Abimelech took her in. But in this account we learn that it was only a partial lie... how is it that that in all the times I sat through Sunday school I never learned that Sarah was Abraham's half sister? Abraham and Sarah shared the same father but not the same mother (Gen. 20:12).
How about this one...I never heard the story of Lot and his daughters after they fled the city of Sodom. Did you realize that once their mother turned to a pillar of salt, they got their father drunk and both had sex with him so that they could carry on their family name (Gen. 20:30-37)?
Did you realize that once Noah finally got out of that ark, the one he meticulously built with his own hands per precise instruction from God, he planted a vineyard, got drunk off its wine, and passed out naked in his tent (Gen. 9:20-27)?
I don't even want to get into the men of Sodom and what Lot said he'd do to appease them (Gen. 19:1-9)... did you realize he offered up his two virgin daughters to a mob of angry men? Did you see that one on the felt board? I certainly didn't.
Y'all... this is not righteous, holy stuff. This is dirty, barbaric, uncivilized behavior. And, to be honest, I don't understand it. I don't know why it stands out to me this time around in reading, but it does. The ugliness, the unspeakable sins that some of these characters were guilty of, just jumps out from the page at me during this trip through Genesis as though I have never read it before.
There must be something we can learn from these mistakes in the Old Testament. I think of all the weird things I have read, it was Abraham's lies that surprised me the most, especially considering they led to the turning over of his own wife to another man, not once, but twice. Yet the Lord found favor in him, making a covenant with him (Gen 17) and listening to his plea to find innocent men in Sodom before destroying the entire city (Gen 18:16-33). What this says to me is that the felt board character of Abraham, white beard flowing down to his chest, was not altogether accurate. He wasn't this stand-up guy of reverence and perfection. He lied. He gave into impatience and slept with his wife's maidservant to rush the plan of the Lord for an heir (Gen. 16:1-4). He doubted and even laughed at the Lord's promise of a son through Sarah (Gen 17:17). I am amazed at his imperfection and unrighteousness. But through his mistakes, he learned faith. Through his wrongs, he drew closer to this Lord who fulfilled His promises and maintained His covenant despite Abraham's screw ups.
Remember God's request for Abraham to sacrifice his promised son through Sarah? Remember the journey to the mountains, the binding of his son, Isaac, in preparation for sacrifice? As I read the familiar story this morning, it took on a different meaning in my heart. Because of what Abraham had been through with the Lord, the promises fulfilled despite his mistakes, he was able to live boldly through faith (Gen. 22:12).
Now I see the adult version of the felt board, the one with all the stains of sin. Aren't we all guilty of a few unmentionables ourselves? Don't we all have bits and pieces of our lives that aren't meant fit for children's story time? I do... and what the rest of the story will tell you is that for some crazy reason, the Lord has found favor in me, and He has spared me, saw me through it all. And now, as I read through His amazing Word, I find that through these trials comes strength of faith, appreciation, realization of His unending love. With all that comes this desire to do better, to follow in obedience, to learn the way He would have me go.
Oh the beauty of the Word...