Countercultural

Look Deeper, See Clearer, Run Harder

Why Do Awkward Bible Stories Exist?

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there are some pretty awkward Bible stories.

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In January I started a new Bible reading plan that will take me through the Bible in a year (You can check out the app Read Scripture here). But right out of the gate we find a weird passage in Genesis 9 about Noah.

In this story, Noah plants a vineyard after coming off of the ark. He then gets wildly drunk off the wine from this vineyard and falls asleep naked in his tent. Then, to make matters worse, one of his son goes and tattles to the other brothers about their father. Noah awakens later, embarrassed and ashamed.

I told you this was a weird passage.

Here’s the “awkward Bible story” dilemma: Either we ignore this passage and apologize to anyone who stumbles across it, or we look for a deeper meaning. I challenge you to face the awkwardness.

3 Simple Questions to Untangle a Biblical Mess

If we’re going to face it, we have to ask the obvious question: What’s the deal, God? If the Bible is inspired, why’d You go and include awkward Bible stories? Actually, there’s a lot we can learn here, and we can learn it by asking three simple questions:

1. What does this passage tell me about humanity?

2. What does this passage tell me about God?

3. What does this passage tell me about myself?

3 Things We Learn from an Incredibly Awkward Passage

1. Noah was fallen like everyone else.

When we ask the question, “What does this tell me about humanity,” we see that even a man called “righteous,” “blameless,” and “faithful” still messed up (Genesis 6:9). Noah had a chance to correct what Adam first messed up, yet in this passage we find Noah just like Adam, naked and ashamed in a garden.

This theme is seen all over the Bible. You see people do crazy or stupid things, and your first question is, “Why is THAT included in the Bible?” One answer is to remind us that people are fallen and sinful, and we need a Savior.

2. God shows us grace and promises a Savior.

What does Noah’s failure tell me about God? As you read the Old Testament, you’ll see God raising up good people who still make terrible mistakes (think Abraham, Moses, David).

All of these people are called by God, and sustained by God, but ultimately they aren’t the Savior they need. All these flawed heroes in the Bible point us to one man who will perfectly love and follow God—Jesus.

3. “I’m a good person” has never been a good argument.

God didn’t save Noah from the flood because he was perfect; He saved him to make a point. Noah had no power to save himself from the flood; he was completely dependent on God’s love.

Way too many people today are banking their eternities on the argument, “I’m a good person, so I’ll go to heaven.” Noah was a good person, but he still needed God’s salvation.

This is good news, because it means you don’t have to be a “good person” to receive God’s love. God is in the business of working His perfect plan through imperfect people. Our rescue comes when we turn to Jesus and admit that we can’t face eternity alone.

Don’t Be Afraid of Awkward Bible Stories

A lot of people in the church resolve to read more of their Bible each New Year. But awkward or confusing passages often cause us to hit the breaks. We don’t see God in awkward Bible stories, so we stop reading.

Instead of stopping, I want to encourage you to slow down and think. I’m not saying you’ll find the perfect answer for every awkward story, but if you process what a passage tells you about humanity, God, and yourself, you’ll have a solid framework.

Ultimately, remember this: Every word in the Bible was put there on purpose. There are no mistakes or misprints. God paints a picture of redemption through the Bible that is long and wide and deep. The countercultural life doesn’t shy away, but it presses in to look deeper, see clearer, and run harder after knowing God.

  • Thanks for helping us persist with tricky passages Camden! I think your approach and 3 questions are spot on and very pragmatic. In addition it has helped me to remember
    – The times that ancient Israel live din were of course very different – much more violent, strange customs etc Often we are very narrow in our thinking, “judging” ancient events using only a modern fraemwork often doesnt work
    – Often the Bible is de-scriptive rather than pre-scriptive eg describing mistakes that people made in the past – but not telling us to go do likelwise
    ….. there certainly are some weird goings on though :-)

    • I like those two points a lot, Chris. If you read an odd story through a modern, Western mindset and come out saying, “God wants me to do WHAT?” You probably don’t get it. It is helpful to understand culture and all that, but at the end of the day (and I know you agree) I really believe the Bible can be read and understood by all, whether you have a doctorate in Bible Study or are just picking it up. There’s something simply divine about it. =)

  • Dakota Lynch

    Thanks for this good post. Your last paragraph does an excellent job of tying everything together and driving your point home. Indeed, “every word in the Bible was put there on purpose.”

    As we encounter awkward Bible stories, these are some great questions that will often help us discover why they’re included:

    1. What does it say about God?
    2. What does it say about people?
    3. What does it reveal about Christ?
    4. Are there commands to obey?
    5. Are there errors to avoid?
    6. Are there examples to follow?
    7. Are there promises to claim?
    8. Are there principles to live by?
    9. Are there ways to serve Christ better?
    10. Are there ways to love others (friends, enemies, strangers)?
    11. Are there temptations to avoid?
    12. Are there thoughts or desires to subdue?
    13. Are there sins to forsake?
    14. Are there reasons to worship.

    (Disclaimer: I didn’t come up with this list on my own, but was introduced to it by my wife who keeps the list near her Bible.)

    Ultimately, the Bible exists so “that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). I don’t know about you, but it definitely gives me hope to read about the mistakes of people like Abraham, Peter, David, etc. By getting these very raw insights into the blunders of their everyday lives, I’m increasingly convinced that the grace of God is big enough for my everyday life, too.

    • Thanks for sharing, Dakota! Those are great questions to add to the list. I appreciate the insight!

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