By Crystal Warren Miller
As a society we have lost our ability to spot a jerk and acknowledge that he is, indeed, a jerk. If I had a missile-launcher on my car, soon I would single-handedly take care of all the minor jerks on the highway. (This is why we should never install dashboard missiles.) But oh, yeah, I can say I know what a jerk looks like when I'm behind the wheel of my car, and Mr. Jerk Number One (it says "Number One" on his license plate--my first clue) just turned in front in me without using his fancy turn signal that was factory-installed by one of the Detroit car manufacturers at no charge. No, I'm talking about a genuine personality flaw that screams JERK ALERT--STAY BACK.
Indeed, God withheld His missile-launcher on the dashboard of His Super-Powered God-Car many a-time, just because the poor soul didn't have a clue--and his heart was still with God. The Jewish People are to be admired. They have no problem telling us all about their jerkiest ancestors. There's a lesson in this for all of us. No matter how much of a Jerk we've been, God suffers long the fools and jerks. Here are five jerks pulled out of the Old Testament.
Jerk Number Five: Manoah, of the Danite Tribe of Israel, husband to a sterile and childless wife, Mrs. Manoah. (Find his story in Judges 13.)
Manoah is good guy. He has a wife, who can't get pregnant--and back in the day, this was not good for the wife, no matter what the reason--but Manoah stays with her. The Israelites (children of, a long line of jerks) had been really stupid and evil, so God zapped them for forty years into the hands of the Philistines.
But, the Angel of the Lord was sent to Manoah with a message--his wife was going to have a baby--a son! This son wasn't just going to be any little boy, either. He was going to grow up to be Samson, the strongest man in the world, who would put the Philistines in their place.
Suddenly, despite the good news, Manoah moans, "Oh my God, I've seen my God! We are doomed to die! We have seen God!" (Duh, the Angel of God has just told the jerk that He is going to save the nation of Israel, and now [Manoah] is worried God will kill him!)
The only sensible one in the whole story is Mrs. Manoah. She rolls her eyes, sighs, and tells Chicken Little, "If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering from our hands, nor shown us all these things or now told us this."
Jerk Number Four: Samson, son of Manoah of the tribe of Dan, who couldn't even blame alcohol for his jerk-ism. (See his story in Judges 14-16.)
Mr. and Mrs. Manoah were obeying the no haircut and no booze deal for their Miracle Baby, but they just couldn't say no to the now-manly (and spoiled) Samson. Samson goes into the town of Timnah and gets an eyeful of a pretty little Philistine woman. His mom and dad do the proper parental whining, "Can't you find some nice girl among our relatives?"--but to no avail. Samson stomps his size 18's and says, "But I want that babe, dad!"
Even when a lion comes out and nearly mauls them on the way to get the woman for Samson, Samson and his dad still don't have a clue. So he marries the woman in spite of his parents' whining. They let him. They could've told the big brute "No," but they don't.
While Samson destroys most of the Philistines single-handedly, he is a real jerk when it comes to women. You know the story. Samson tells Delilah the truth about his secret powers of strength. He is such a jerk! He's so self-centered, it's not until he's had his eyes poked out after that haircut and is tied up to a couple of columns, while Philistines walk by and laugh and poke him with sticks that he finally gives in to God and asks for one more chance.
God allows him to kill himself (along with about three thousand Philistine Dagon worshippers loaded into the temple,) because even though God knew Samson was a jerk when it came to women, He is gracious and gives him the last jerk of the columns and a laugh to the death.
Jerk Number Three: Abram, Father of the Entire Jewish Nation, later called Abraham, husband to Sarai, later called Sarah, father to Isaac. (His story is in Genesis 12-25.)
God comes to Abram and tells him to leave his home in Haran and head out for a land God Himself would give to him. He makes the awesome promise to Abram that He is going to make Abram into a great nation, that He'll bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him. All the people of the world would be blessed through Abram. Wow. Heady stuff!
So, Abram packs his camels and away they go, never mind that he's 75 years old. Sarai must have been some woman to just say, "Ok, honey, whatever you think." Anyway, because of a famine, they all slipped into Egypt because things began to look bleak. This is where Abram loses it and becomes a total jerk.
Against what I am sure was Sarai's better judgment, she allows her husband of a too many moons ago to convince her to tell the Pharoah that she's just Abram's sister (which was true, but only half-true.) Sarai was gorgeous for an old lady and the Pharoah is thinking she is a real babe.
Of course, it gets worse. Abram never says a thing to stop it when Pharoah sends a whole bunch of livestock in exchange for Abram's Sister Sarai to be taken into his palace, supposedly to be his new woman! Abram still doesn't say anything, so God being God, rolls His Holy Eyeballs to the Heavenly Ceiling and zaps all those Egyptians with afflictions and diseases.
The Egyptians figure it out that it's all because of Sarai, "You, jerk Abram! Why didn't you tell me she was your wife? Now get outta here before your God kills us all!" It's no wonder Sarai was 90 before she had a son. She probably didn't speak to him for all that time.
Jerk Number Two: Abram, once again. (See this particular story in Genesis 16)
Abram also gets the number two slot of jerks of the Old Testament because Sarai gets an Egyptian servant probably out of that fiasco back in Egypt. She's sitting there figuring God must've somehow got the whole deal wrong--that it wasn't really her whom Abram was supposed to have this promised child by, but maybe they better do something before one of them croaks off.
So, Sarai, who obviously was having either a bad hair day or else PMS and her without her chocolate in the burning hot desert, comes up with a plan to get the promised son and the bijillions and gadzillions of Star Search Potential Family whom none would be told by Simon that they are the "worst."(Well, we could debate this point.) Hagar was young and cute and Sarai thought, "Surely God must mean for her to have this baby, not me!" And then she probably asked Abram if she looked fat, and would he like, instead, to have Hagar to get a baby.
Abram is a total, complete jerk. He totally forgets God, forgets poor Sarai and all the stuff he put her through by dragging her away from their family. He forgets how he left her to the Pharoah and the Egyptians because he was such a coward and didn't trust God. He just says, "Well! If you insist!"
This time both Sarai and Abram went too far--but not so far that God doesn't honor his promise in spite of Abram, who could've said, "No, Sarai, your butt doesn't look fat in that robe and we'll just wait and see what God wants to do. Now, sweetie, go have a nice chocolate-covered beetle and everything will look better tomorrow." God still gave them a better tomorrow--and us, too!
Number One Jerk in the World: Adam, First Guy of the World, husband to Eve, Father to Cain and Abel, Namer of Everything on Earth. (See his story in Genesis 2-5.)
Adam gets to be number one jerk, because frankly, he started it all amongst us humans. He didn't stand up to Eve at the Tree. He let her wander off and let her talk to strangers. (This is the main reason your mom always told you never to talk to strangers. It's because the First Mom passed this lecture down through the generations to you. She knew. She knew talking to strangers would get you into trouble--big trouble!)
So God said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life." He said it'd produce thorns and poisonous mushrooms by the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you're fat as a pig and get Mad Cow disease from eating hamburgers. From dust you were taken and to dust you will return.
With that, God killed animals to make them clothes and later PETA persons would throw paint on them. Then, He kicked them out of the best location on earth and none of us have enough money to buy our way back into it. (God is the originator of "Location, location, location.")
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You may have noticed I didn't include in this jerk lineup anyone who was totally evil or that God wiped off the face of the earth with the flick of His eyebrows. No, in fact, all of these guys might even have been some of the people God calls the "apple of His Eye." These are all guys who should've trusted and known better. Guys whom God loved and was merciful to and gave the benefit of the doubt to after they showed God how they wished they would've made better choices.
Some guys like King Ahab, or Prince Absalom, or King Saul--well, they just never really showed God that they were truly sorry. They didn't try to do better. They were Jerks and stayed Jerks.
This list shows that even if we do a thing to qualify us for "Jerk of the Year," there is hope. There's a God who is merciful and good--truly good--Who really cares about us. He is longing for us to say to Him, "I'm the biggest jerk in the world, God. I'm sorry. I accept Your Gift of Your Son to cover my total jerk-ism, and I will now focus on You instead of myself. I'll read about all the jerks of the Bible and figure out how to be more like Jesus instead of copying the jerks."
My favorite line in the whole Bible says:
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5: 8 NIV)
When someone does something, which labels him in my book as "Total Jerk of the World," I try to remember, "While we were still jerks, Christ died for us."
Then I pray God gets to the heart of that Jerk before I launch my dashboard cruise missile.
© Crystal Miller. All text and graphics, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted © in her name, Crystal Miller, and are protected by United States copyright law and international copyright law under the Berne Convention.