Job & The Chariot of Fire

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“Then ADONAI answered Job out of the whirlwind… ‘Now gird up your loins like a man; I will question you, and you will inform me!'”–Job 38:2-3 TLV

THE MORE I READ The Book of Job, the more I’m convinced that it wasn’t meant to explain the problem of suffering. The suffering itself is a decoy–like the fiery chariot that seperated Elijah and Elisha, when Elijah was transported to heaven in a whirlwind (2nd Kings 2:11). The real subject matter is in the whirlwind, for it is the whirlwind that narrows our focus onto God, making no effort to tame Him. The whirlwind is where our souls are calmed and quieted, like King David when he said, “I do not concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me” (Psalm 131 NKJV).

The God of the whirlwind bows to no one. He’s not some indefinable cosmic energy that we can tap into, but He’s not a flat orthodox figure either. He is not an entity that will morph to suit our fancy or a cracked fresco on the ceiling of a Byzantine monastery. He is who He is.

But He is unchangeable, and who can make Him change? Whatever His soul desires, He does.–Job 23:13 TLV

In chapter 28, Job declares that true wisdom, like gold and precious stones, is hidden in the depth far beyond the surface of things; and, by the same token, those who approach The Book of Job with logic and presumption, reasoning away the mysteries of the supernatural, have already missed the point.  Continue reading “Job & The Chariot of Fire”

James: A Commentary on The Book of Job

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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

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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”

Revenge of The Broken Horse

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I KNOW WHERE WILD HORSES roam free as the wind. It’s a peaceful place, high in the hills, where there are no fences. I’ve taken a few friends there, when the sun was sinking behind the white peak of the volcano.

I’m not a cowgirl by any stretch of the imagination, but I do love horses in my own way. I always have. I think I’d hardly be human if I didn’t love horses. And horses in the wild are especially beautiful. They’re shy and curious at the same time, and violent and playful, and their thundering hooves drum the anthem of the free.

The Bible contains a famous eulogy to the horse–a poetic tribute that almost jumps off the page (remember that awesome scene in Secretariat, with the Edwin Hawkins Singers belting “Oh Happy Day”?)

Do you give the horse its strength, or clothe its neck with a flowing mane? Do you make it leap like a locust, striking terror with its proud snorting? It paws fiercely, rejoicing in its strength, and charges into the fray. It laughs at fear, afraid of nothing; it does not shy away from the sword. The quiver rattles agains its side, along with the flashing spear and lance. In frenzied excitement it eats up the ground; it cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds. At the blast of the trumpet it snorts, ‘Aha!’ It catches the scent of battle from afar, the shout of commanders and the battle cry.–Job 39:19-25 NIV

One day I realized that, although a circus of wild animals are described in this chapter, these verses are a picture of a warhorse, and warhorses are not wild.

I have to imagine a warrior on this horse’s back, even though a warrior is not mentioned, because he is implied by the horse’s disciplined and extraordinary behavior.

Wild horses, as beautiful as they are, don’t gallop into the clash of arms, “devouring the distance.” They don’t tremble with excitement at the signal of the trumpet, and they would almost certainly spook at the first glimpse of any shiny weapon. A horse without a master would perform badly in this context, but when a horse and rider function as one they become something truly amazing.

An unbroken horse, free as the wind, is beautiful to behold. But an unbroken horse never plowed a field, or won a race, or carried a king into battle…

To The Unborn

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My mother and me.

PRECIOUS,

When I was little, a man on an airplane asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Naturally, I hugged my doll close to my heart and said, “I just want to be a mommy.” (I took that doll everywhere, and then I lost her somehow and cried about it for years.)

I was raised to be a housewife, like my mother and my grandmothers and my great-grandmothers. I grew up amid the sub-cultures of two extremely large and traditional families. When one of my cousins from my mother’s family married one of my cousins from my father’s family, I was related to nearly everyone at the wedding. One of my cousins called me the morning of the wedding to ask if she could borrow something to wear. She’s the mother of eleven, soon to be a grandmother. So, obviously, our cradle has been crazy blessed, and the fact that I haven’t yet done my duty to society is so unorthodox, by our standards, it’s almost immoral. But it isn’t because of an absence of desire on my part.

God calls those things which are not as though they are–and I do the same.

Nothing is as painful as love that has nowhere to go, no way to spend itself, and so it makes me happy to think that there is something I can actually do for you today. I just have a few things in my heart that need to get out, and I won’t try to be witty or poetic. I’ll do this now, and someday when I have you in my arms, fresh and sweet with promise, I’ll gladly put my pen away and probably never reach for it again.

The grandmother who I never met became a mother when she little more than a child herself and died young. “No wonder,” people gasp, “after giving birth nineteen times!” But if they asked her she would have told them that delivering all those babies was the easy part. It was actually the child-rearing more than the child-bearing that put her in an early grave.

The pretty teacups that she left behind were all broken and glued back together. Her homemade dresses were folded tenderly away in my grandfather’s dresser drawers.

She deserved her own Taj Mahal for all the cloth diapers she washed by hand. Continue reading “To The Unborn”