James: A Commentary on The Book of Job

wenni-zhou-463395-unsplash

THE BOOK OF JOB is a portal into an unseen war, a tribute to the glory of God in creation, and a testimony to the fact that people inevitably disappoint each other and great men are only men after all. With so much to unpack, it can be very confusing, and many scholars have written commentaries to help readers understand it. The Bible is its own best interpreter, however, and if you want to unlock the The Book of Job you need only read The Epistle of James.

That’s right–just flip ahead to the New Testament.

Oh, I know Job is only mentioned once in James’ letter, but every verse in The Epistle of James is relevant to The Book of Job.

Job’s life was a perfect model of the “pure and undefiled” religion that James wrote about, and when Job takes inventory of his life in chapters 29 and 31 of The Book of Job, it’s almost as if he is saying: “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18 NKJV).

James must have had Job in mind when he wrote that we all stumble in many things, we should be quick to hear and slow to speak, the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God, mercy triumphs over judgement, and “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16 NKJV). He must have been thinking about Job and Job’s friends when he wrote about the destructive power of the tongue and warned against worldly wisdom, favoritism and pride.

See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity…–James 3:5-6 NKJV

Continue reading “James: A Commentary on The Book of Job”

Dusting Off The Arab Hero of The Bible

andrew-gloor-576199-unsplash

BEFORE MOSES DELIVERED the Ten Commandments to the tribes of Israel, before the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and before Muhammad founded Islam, there was a mighty son of the East who lost everything and wanted to enter God’s court with boldness (“like a prince”).

Jews, Christians and Muslims honor him. Scholars are puzzled by him. Even in his own lifetime, he was a legend and a riddle. He was truly his brother’s keeper, and yet his name means “hated”–he suffered because he was hated, and then he was hated because he suffered. His name has become linked with persecution and perseverance, immortalized in what is possibly the oldest and most ironic book in the Bible (a book that is revolutionary, exotic, and often misunderstood). But while a crude and irreverent imitation like The Shack gains a cult following, his ancient story gathers dust…

Who is he? He’s Job, of course; and in the next several posts, I’m going to dust him off.

When and how did an Arab sheikh get written into the Hebrew scriptures? No one really knows. But Jews love a survivor, they love someone who wrestles with God, and so it was only natural for them to adopt him as one of their own.

What would Job say to us if he were alive today? He might have some choice words, like “Don’t shoot the wounded,” or “Better keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than open your mouth and prove it.” Or, on second thought, he might bite his tongue and not say anything at all. Continue reading “Dusting Off The Arab Hero of The Bible”

A Letter To The Man In Orange: Uncensored

img_20161118_195917
My photo.

DEAREST UNCLE BUD,

How are you? Had any visitors lately? How’s your new prosthetic working?

Yes, the trip was ok and everyone’s fine.

Flying with El Al afforded fifteen solid hours to get pre-acclimated to Israeli bluntness and the rich sound of spoken Hebrew. The gate at Los Angeles International Airport is very remote and hard to find (just like the Israeli embassy in San Fransisco is located in an unmarked building and, once inside, deliberately disorienting). The jet was roomy and clean, the staff professional, the food tasty. Most of the passengers were Jewish, and so there was a lot of camaraderie and sarcastic humor going on. There was also a lot of seat-shuffling, because some of them didn’t want to sit with members of the opposite sex.

The sophisticated young lady banker to my left chatted with me in a refreshingly candid way and shared her things as though we were old friends. The elderly lady to my right overflowed her seat like a big pillow and doted on me with shocking warmth. “We need people like you,” she sighed, patting my leg. A helpful lady in the row ahead taught me some fun Hebrew phrases (“Is my accent cute?”). She had a dark complexion and her traditional turban made her look like a Gypsy fortune-teller. “Be very careful,” she warned me, almost as if she were gazing into a crystal ball, “Stay away from crowded places.”

My best adolescent friend was a Gypsy girl from Romania. Do you remember her from when you were at our house, the last time you escaped? Her adopted grandparents were quite the globetrotters, if you remember, and I used to like to sit on a camel saddle at their house. So now I’m traveling and everyone looks like a Gypsy to me. Maybe one day I’ll see a Gypsy staring back at me from the mirror… Continue reading “A Letter To The Man In Orange: Uncensored”