Why Do They Say Job Was Patient? I Say He Was Wise

keyboard-648440__180I recently filled out an author interview for a blog, and one of the questions asked, “What is your favorite Bible verse?”

The question made me chuckle because, as I’ve often stated (either here or elsewhere, I’m not sure), I don’t have a favorite anything. I can’t decide on a favorite color, favorite movie, favorite book, song, food, or anything else. When someone asks, “What’s your favorite __________,” I usually try to weasel out of answering.

But I didn’t this time—because for once, I knew what to say! The answer I gave isn’t really my all-time favorite Bible verse ever (because there is no such thing). But I’d been thinking about a particular verse recently and the truth it conveys, so I declared it my favorite at the time.

The fact is, I’d not only been thinking about that verse, but I’ve been contemplating another passage in the same book and thinking I might blog about it. So here I am, finally breaking my long blog silence, for better or for worse.

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If I had a favorite book of the Bible, Job would be in the running. It’s one of the most mind-blowing, multi-layered sources of immeasurably deep wisdom I’ve ever encountered. Every time I read it, which is once or twice a year, it takes my breath away all over again.

Many Bible scholars believe it to be the oldest (first written) book in the Bible, with Job having lived in the same time frame as Abraham. Whether or not that’s true, there’s no disputing that it was written thousands of years ago.

Modern man likes to think of himself as more intelligent and sophisticated than the primitives of old – more “evolved,” in today’s lingo. The thinking is that people used to be cruder than today, with less sensitivity, more violent. I might be wrong about this, but I get the impression the prevailing attitude is that the ancients weren’t all that bright but—to give them the benefit of the doubt—did the best they could with their limited intellectual and moral capacities.

A serious look at the book of Job reveals the opposite. The portion that arrested my attention recently is Chapter 31. Because it’s rather long, I won’t reproduce the whole text here, but if you’re interested, hop over to Bible Gateway where you can read it in its entirety. This link will take you to it in the King James Version, but if you prefer a different one, you can change it once you’re there.

To refresh your memory (or fill you in if you’re not aware of what’s going on here): Job was a wealthy, influential guy, considered an exceptionally righteous man by everyone. But when Satan accused him of only being good in order to get good things from God, God told Satan he could make things go badly for him just to prove that Job’s faith was real.

Long story short, Satan made things go very badly for Job, until he was left with nothing but a body full of sores and a less-than-supportive wife who advised him to curse God so He’d kill him and put an end to his misery.

He also had a few friends left. Though apparently most abandoned him in his hour of need, three guys who heard about his misfortunes traveled quite a distance to come and comfort him. A fourth—a young man named Elihu—makes an appearance as well, though I’m not sure if he was a local fellow or if he came from afar.

file000704919536In any event, these guys are no more helpful than his dear wifey. They accuse him of hideous crimes and urge him to repent. They haven’t a shred of evidence to support any of their charges, but they assume he must deserve everything that happened to him, or God wouldn’t have allowed it; because he’s suffering so, he must be hiding some terrible secrets. They say, “Come on, man, out with it! Confess your sins, and God will forgive and restore you!”

But nothing’s ever that simple, is it? Job knows he’s been honest before God and man his whole life. He doesn’t know what’s going on, but he does know it’s not the result of anything he’s done wrong. He tries to reason with his so-called friends, but to no avail.

In answer to their charges, he says (and I’m condensing and paraphrasing):

I made up my mind long ago not to ogle a woman. Why do you accuse me of lusting? I’m not so foolish as to think God wouldn’t know about it and hold me accountable. If I’ve been dishonest in this or any other way, may God reveal it. Let others steal food off my table and banish my offspring from the land.silhouette-702200__180

If I’ve been tempted by a woman or been drawn to my neighbor’s wife, then let another man take my wife as a slave. For it would be a heinous crime for me to lust after another woman.

If I treated my employees unfairly and ignored their complaints, how could I stand before God? If I’ve withheld what’s owed to anyone, if I’ve allowed others to go hungry or cold when I had the means to help them, if I haven’t given of my own goods to help those in need, then let my selfish arm fall from my body.

If I’ve put my confidence in money instead of God’s providence—if I’ve taken pride in my possessions—if I were ever so much as tempted to worship anything above Jehovah God—this would be worthy of severe punishment.

If I ever wished ill to those who hated me, it would be a sin to be repented of. If I have ever taken anything that wasn’t mine, or caused any harm to anyone, then let thistles grow in my fields instead of wheat and noxious weeds instead of barley.

I’ve said all I have to say and will speak no more.

file0001488187756Okay, granted—people in those days tended to be a bit wordy. But they also had a highly refined sense of morality. There’s nothing crude or unsophisticated about Job’s ideas of righteousness.

Did you catch what he said was a “heinous crime”? Being attracted to a woman who was not his wife. Heinous. Criminal. How does our enlightened society see it?

Does the average person today think dishonesty demands retribution? How do we feel about treating others unfairly? Do we shrug it off, or convince ourselves it’s no big deal?

Do we wish bad things would happen to people we don’t like? And do we feel justified in doing so? Or do we fall on our faces before God and repent of that sin?

Contemplating this chapter caused me to realize how far we are from God’s holy standard—as if I needed another reminder.

But yes, I think we all need regular reminders of this. When we lose sight of what God’s holiness requires, we grow comfortable with our flawed understanding of righteousness.

It’s also important to realize humanity isn’t evolving into a kinder, gentler organism. We’re all filthy—all of us!—and unable to redeem ourselves. That’s especially important to understand for those who are lost in their sins. But those who are redeemed (saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ) dare not lose sight of what we’ve been saved from as well as the holy lives we are called to.

That old guy Job? He might have been practically a caveman, but he knew some things we moderns have forgotten. Are we too enlightened to learn?

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A Tulip By Any Other Name

magnolia blossoms 04.13.15Instead of writing about what I’d planned, I’ve decided to entertain (or bore) you with some thoughts and memories prompted by a Facebook conversation.

In a previous post, I showed photos of our old magnolia tree (new to us, but it appears to be a rather old tree) just beginning its first bloom in several years, according to the neighbors. When my friend Kimberli commented on Facebook, “That tulip tree is gorgeous,” it sparked a brief discussion about the names of trees.

2015-05-02 10.47.12Before I get into that, though, an update about the tree in question: shortly after posting the photo, a hailstorm shredded all the blossoms. Though the tree looked rather dejected after that, it pulled itself up by its smooth-barked bootstraps and produced a few more blooms, as you can see in the photo on the right.

It seems to be the sort of tree that likes to have the last word, so I’ve decided to humor it by talking about… words.

It’s interesting how so many objects, common and otherwise, are called different things in different locations. We could all come up with a dozen examples without thinking about it too hard — such as, how people refer to carbonated beverages in different parts of the country (soda, pop, coke).

A grocery store advertised a sale on swai fillets a few years ago. Though I like fish, I’d never heard of that kind before. So I looked it up and found that what American fish markets call swai, other people know as iridescent shark or Siamese shark (though it’s not a shark), tra, sutchi catfish, shark catfish, striper, striped Pangasius, and other names.

The foliage and blossom of what Ohioans call a tulip tree.
The foliage and blossom of what Ohioans call a tulip tree.

So it  came as no surprise when Kimberli said that where she lives (North Carolina, I believe), they call trees like ours something other than what we call them. Then my sister added that she, too, recently heard magnolias referred to as tulip trees. She also commented that one of tree that we call tulip grew down the street from us when we were kids.

I don’t remember the tree from our old neighborhood. However, my sister’s memories often differ from mine, partly because we’re different people but also because of the age difference. (I won’t tell you which of us is older.) I remember a catalpa tree, which we kids called a cigar tree, but not a tulip. Of course, there could have been one outside my bedroom window for all I know. The fact that I don’t remember it doesn’t mean there wasn’t one.

Nevertheless, I have plenty of memories — and fond ones — of tulip trees. Our first house (which I’ve always thought of our little house in the big woods, though the woods weren’t very big) had several of them on the property. I loved living there, and I loved the beautiful trees, with their impressive height, yellow flowers in the spring, welcome shade in the summer, and beautiful yellow foliage in the fall.

I remembered a photo we took of our little husky mutt, Cucumber, at the foot of one, so I rummaged through the old snapshots. Couldn’t find any good pictures of the trees, mostly because they were too big to fit in a photo. But I located that one with the dog, as well as some others in which the trunks of the trees could be seen.

So, if you want to know how to identify what my sister and I call a tulip tree, you’ll have to look at the photo above that I stole from Wikipedia. But here are a few shots of the towering tulips in my memory.

Cucumber looked like a Siberian husky, but she was a mixed breed. Though only about 35 pounds, she was a bloodthirsty hunter. There was no prey she wouldn’t take on, whether a bird,Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 1.54.47 PM fish, raccoon, or a 250-pound hog. (I needn’t tell you who came out the winner in the latter battle.) One day in 1983, she chased a squirrel up one of those tulip trees and waited, poised to spring, for it to come down. When I say she waited, poised, I mean she waited the whole time in that position without moving a whisker. I don’t know how every muscle in her body didn’t cramp up.

The squirrel knew she was there and was wise enough to not try coming down. After what seemed like half the afternoon, it hopped to another tree, and that permitted Cukie to change position at last.  My memory of the details is about as dim as the picture itself, but I think the squirrel got away, but Craig and I got cricks in our necks in sympathy for the dog.

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 2.02.37 PMHere on the left is another shot of those tulip tree trunks. The note in the photo album says the picture was taken in March of 1983. If you look closely, you can see Emily (in the red snowsuit) and Shelley (in blue) playing on the swing set. In the snow. Which, I guess, is why I took the picture. That, and because it’s just plain a pretty scene.

See the picnic table? It did more than collect snow, as you can see from the picture, below left, of a family picnic on that table and in the shade of those tulip trees, in 1981.

The lady standing is Craig’s mom; the two at the table are his sisters, Pam and Gail. And the little girl is our oldest daughter, Emily, who would have been three years old that summer. Also below, on the right, you can see Craig and his dad cooking burgers on the grill. In my photo album, I gave that photo this caption: “No, this is not wilderness camping, it’s our backyard.” Note that they’re sitting at the foot of one of those tall tulip trees.

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Yes, that was our backyard when we lived in our “little house in the not-so-big woods.” Quite a bit different from our little town yard now — but at least we still have a tulip tree. Just a different kind!

I was going to talk about words, wasn’t I? Okay, let’s talk about Book #2 in the Gannah series, Words in the Wind. Remember last words in the book? You don’t? Okay, then, I’ll tell you:

…the end.

 

 

 

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