When God shows up…

PLR 1999

Naked Came I... So Will I Return

“Who is this who darkens counsel with words devoid of knowledge? Brace yourself and stand up like a man; I shall put questions to you, and you must answer.” The Book of Job 38:2-3.

When I was a kid my friends and I would often wander to the edge of our neighborhood park and into the woods and play by the creek that ran close by. Having no decent game systems, and having parents that knew the value of fresh air and exercise, we were pretty much forced to use our imagination to come up with things to do. As long as our parents knew where we were, who we were with, and that at least one of us had a watch to get back in time for dinner, we were pretty free. When we tired of games, we would often sit by the creek and just talk about silly things that kids talk about. Sitting in the midst of nature, one question that often came up for discussion was, “If you could ask God one question, what would it be?” Most of us came up with typical questions like, “Why is the sky blue?” Some of the more creative would want to find out who would win if Spiderman fought Batman, or if the water in the toilet really swirled the other way in Australia, and what is up with koala bears and kangaroos anyway? Where did they come from? The more brave among us would want to know why his parents split up, or if his big brother was in heaven or not. We never really expected to find out the answers to these questions. We all had a childlike faith that God was real, but we understood that he was busy up in heaven running the universe, and we would just have to try to be good and wait until we died so we could ask him in heaven. Throughout The Book of Job, Job continually asked God the question, “Why me?” He wanted to know why he was suffering, he wanted to know who God thought he was to allow such disaster to fall on him when as far he knew, he did everything that God required of him to be blessed. Job also made long poetic speeches about his desire to die and get relief from his suffering. He wanted answers, but I think he expected to get those answers when he was dead and in heaven. I think Job was just as shocked and surprised as everyone else when God actually showed up.

I also think he was equally as surprised by God’s answer. He was certainly humbled by the experience. Anyone who thinks that God doesn’t have a sense of humor and a sense of irony and sarcasm has not read The Book of Job. The first thing God says to Job and his friends is pretty much, “Who do you think you are to try to describe me? Not one of you knows what you’re talking about!” Then he tells them to man up and try to answer his questions. I think it is ironic that God doesn’t just come down and sit with Job, and say something like, “Well, Job, running the universe requires a lot of knowledge and understanding about everything that is going on right now and how it all relates to everything else, and how all that relates to both the past and that relationship of elements and events will determine what happens in the future, so you see it’s all very complicated and hard for you to understand, but just trust me, I’ve got my reasons for allowing the things I do.” No, God shows up and blasts Job with question after question putting Job in his place. Earlier in the text, Job questions God, “Have you the eyes of flesh? Do you see as a mortal sees? Are your days as those of a mortal or your years as his lifespan?” The Book of Job 10:4-5. He’s basically fed up with God, and he asks him, “Do you know what it’s like to be human? To feel pain? To feel the fear of death?” His tone implies he wants to end the questions with, “You big meany!” Now God responds to Job with his own set of questions in which he is really countering Job’s inquiry with, “Well, do you know what it’s like to be God?” God is not looking for Job’s pity, but he wants Job to realize that there are things about life that he simply is not able to understand. God is basically telling Job that he will answer Job’s questions if Job can first answer his. He asks Job a sequence of questions that can be divided into four sets, each revealing a deeper understanding of God’s character, and the Lord does not hide from his own sarcasm when he deals with Job.

The Lord’s first questions to Job are, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? Tell me if you know and understand. Who fixed it’s dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line over it? On what do its supporting pillars rest? Who set its cornerstone in place, while the morning stars sang in chorus and the sons of God all shouted for joy? Who supported the sea at its birth, when it burst in flood from the womb– when I wrapped it in a blanket of cloud and swaddled it in dense fog, when I established bounds, set its barred doors in place, and said, ’Thus far may you come but no farther; here your surging waves must halt’” The Book of Job 38:4-11. God is essentially saying, “Dude, I don’t remember seeing you around when I made this place. I don’t remember asking you for help or advice, so maybe you should be a little more careful about how you question me.” In this first set of questions God deals with the creation of the universe, including the vastness of stars that he keeps track of, and the cycles of nature on the earth, “Which is the way to the home of the light, and where does darkness dwell? Can you then take each to its appointed boundary and escort it on its homeward path? Doubtless you know, for you were already born. So long is the span of your life!” The Book Job 38:19-21. God is establishing himself as the Creator. He is the author and designer of life, and it was his Word that spoke it into being, his hands that brought the materials of chaos together and built them into something structured and ordered: A system in which everything works together to sustain life on this tiny little planet in the universe he designed. Modern scientists have discovered that even the very cells and molecules that we are made up of have little-engine-like parts that work together to keep us moving and growing. There is a Designer to the life that we are a part of, and the Lord is simply making it clear to Job, “I made this place; therefore, I make the rules.”

The next set of questions the Lord asks Job are about various kinds of animals. He begins with the most wild and free, the lions, the mountain goats, the wild asses, the wild oxen, the ostrich, and he asks Job if he is the one who is able to take care of all these animals and if they even need humans to tame them to survive. The Lord then speaks of who made the horse and gave it purpose, “Do you give the horse his strength? Have you clothed his neck with a mane? Do you make him quiver like a locust’s wings, when his shrill neighing strikes terror? He shows his mettle as he paws and prances; in his might he charges the armored line. He scorns alarms and knows no dismay; he does not shy away before the sword. The quiver rattles at his side, the spear and sabre flash. Trembling with eagerness he devours the ground and when the trumpet sounds there is no holding him; at the trumpet-call he cries ‘Aha!’ and from afar he scents the battle, the shouting of the captains, and the war cries.” The Book of Job 39:20-25. The Lord ends this set of questions with discussing the freedom of the hawk and the eagle. God is now establishing himself as our Sustainer. Not only did he make this place, but he is the one who keeps it going. He is the one who takes care of the wild animals, and it was he who created some to serve man, even to serve him in battle. God is telling Job, if I take care of the wild animals, I will certainly take care of you. This is much like Jesus’ statement thousands of years later, “I tell you not to be anxious…look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow and reap and store in barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than the birds?” The Gospel of Matthew 6:25-26. This promise, however, is for those who faithfully serve God and put their trust in him. As discussed in an earlier post, those who reject God and follow their own wisdom cause trouble for themselves and eventually for others. Why shouldn’t we follow God’s rules? It is not as if he made them only to be cruel and to test our obedience. The Lord gave us rules to follow for our benefit. Let’s say you receive a gift of a brand new car from the person who designed and built it. He has left instructions for you on the best way to take care of it; how often the oil needs changed, how often you should wash and wax it, and the limits you should put on yourself when driving it. However, when it comes time to take care of the vehicle a buddy tells you not waste your time with it. “Come on,” he says, “I never change the oil in my car, and it runs fine! Let’s just ride these babies as fast as they can go! The guy who designed these things just wants to keep all the fun to himself.” Who would you trust? Your buddy, or the designer of the car?

At this point, God takes a break questioning Job about his credentials, and he deals directly with Job‘s attitude. The Lord pauses and says to Job, “Is right for a man who disputes with the Almighty to be stubborn? Should he who argues with God answer back?” The Book of Job 40:2. Earlier, Job did a lot of boasting; he said things like, “If only I could see God, I would tell him to his face how unjust this whole thing is!” God is saying, “Well, here I am. What did you want to say?” Job knows he cannot answer any of the Lord’s questions; he understands the point the Lord is making, he replies, “I put my finger to my lips. I have spoken…I shall do so no more.” The Book of Job 40:4-5. Once again, God tells Job to man up, because he has a few more questions for him. The next question God has for Job is the most dangerous of them all; “Would you dare deny that I am just, or put me in the wrong to prove yourself right? Have you an arm like God’s arm; can you thunder with a voice like his?” The Book of Job 40:8-9. Earlier we talked about Job’s weakness of character and we discussed how Job implied that he could do a better job than the Lord. While he acknowledged that he lacked God’s power, he felt that he was more just than God when he said, “I call out to you, God, but you do not answer, I stand up to plead, but you keep aloof. You have turned cruelly against me; with your strong hand you persecute me…Yet no beggar held out his hand to me in vain for relief in his distress. Did I not weep for the unfortunate? Did not my heart grieve for the destitute? Yet evil has come, though I expected good, and when I looked for light, darkness came.” The Book of Job 30:20-21,24-26. I believe that the Lord is taking direct issue with these remarks. These verses imply that Job had a problem with pride, and God is putting Job in his place. He is saying, “Do you really want to go there Job? Don’t talk trash that you can’t back up.” The Lord goes on to almost mock Job and tells him to put on all his glory and righteousness and begin to judge the wicked and proud himself and bring them to humility. “If you can do that,” God says, “then I’ll step back and let you save yourself.” When we are put in stressful situations, we often do or say things we regret, and we use the stress to excuse ourselves. I’m not really like that, we think to ourselves, I was just under pressure! The truth is, when we are under pressure, our real selves get squeezed out. All the ugly parts of our personality and soul, that we masterfully learn to hide from the world so well that we deceive even our own hearts, gets exposed. I think that God allows us to go through trials and hard situations so that we can own up to the truth of our weaknesses, so that we can repent and try to change, and so that we can live honestly with ourselves, with our fellow man, and most importantly before God. This is what God is doing with Job here; Job was so righteous, and so well-liked by his community, he was unable to see the pride hidden deep in his heart. God allowed Satan to play this little game, so that Job could discover his sin and deal with it. In this set of questions God reveals himself as our Teacher and Disciplinarian, in other words, a Parent. Not only does he have the right to make the rules because he is Creator, not only does he continue to take care of us as the Sustainer of all life, but he further expresses his love to us by teaching us the best way to live and then disciplining us when we go astray, even when (perhaps especially when) we are unaware of the problem.

While he is on the subject of pride, the Lord goes on to describe two beasts whose identity has been debated by many educated men who, like Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, need to put God’s Word into their own preconceived ideas of the world. However, with a close attention to the details of the description, any child could easily identify both of these creatures. The Lord calls the two beasts he describes the Behemoth and the Leviathan. Considering that every other natural description in the text conforms to our modern understanding of the scientific world, commentators of Job have tried to describe these beasts with animals we are familiar with today. Among the many identities they try to conform them to are the hippopotamus, the elephant, the whale, and the crocodile. The only one that comes close is the crocodile, but the Lord describes these beasts as being nearly impossible for man to overpower, and they certainly cannot be captured. As fierce as crocodiles are, men who live among them are able to get the upper hand when necessary.

Read the description with an open mind: the Behemoth is clearly a dinosaur. Look at how the Lord describes him: “His tail is rigid as a cedar, the sinews of his flanks are tightly knit; his bones are like tubes of bronze, his limbs like iron bars. He is the chief of God’s works, made to be a tyrant over his fellow-creatures; for he takes the cattle of the hills for his prey and in his jaws he crunches all the beasts of the wild” The Book of Job 40:17-20. Now, you might have your Bible open right now and thinking, No way, Pete, that’s just a really big crocodile. Well, what is a really big crocodile, but some kind of a dinosaur? And since when do crocodiles wander all the way out of their swamps and rivers to devour the cattle in the hills? The reason modern scholars cannot accept these beasts as dinosaurs is because the Lord describes humans interacting with them, and according to man’s wisdom and understanding of the natural world, dinosaurs were clearly extinct millions of years before humans evolved, so these must not be dinosaurs. You can call me as crazy as Sarah Palin, but I believe that man and dinosaurs existed together. I have come to this understanding more from my literary and history background than from my religious studies. Every ancient culture from every part of the world has dragons as a part of their myth, religion and history. Every one of them. The dragon was worshiped in the ancient Orient; he was a part of creation myths for the Aborigines in Australia. In Europe he was feared and fought; the Grendal Creature that the Epic Hero Beowulf fights is clearly reptilian, and Beowulf later loses his life in a fight against a fire-breathing dragon. The legends of sacrificing virgins to dragons to appease their wrath come from Africa. Dragons were an important part of both the Mayan and the Aztec culture and religion, and a North American tribe, the Illini, tell a legend of a dragon-type creature called the Piasa who ravaged their land near the Mississippi, until the Great Spirit taught one of their warriors how to defeat it. A lot of myths and epics have their origins in real and true events, but with ancient man’s lack of understanding about the natural world, and as the “fish” gets bigger every time the tale is told, the myths and legends of the dragon became more fantastic and dragons became symbolic of powers man could not understand. However, the fact that there are dragon legends in such a variety of people groups and cultures that had no contact with each other tells me that at some point a long time ago, and probably during Job’s time, there were large reptilian creatures walking around that scared the crap out of human beings. The Lord’s description of the Leviathan is evidence of the dragon legend in Middle Eastern culture.

If the Behemoth is a dinosaur, the Leviathan is clearly a real-live-fire-breathing dragon. Look at the Lord’s description of this beast: “How fierce he is when roused! Who is able to stand up to him? Who has ever attacked him and come out of it safely? No one under the wide heaven. I shall not pass over in silence his limbs, his prowess and the grace of his proportions…Who has ever prised open the portals of his face where terror lies in the circuits of his teeth? His back is row upon row of shields, enclosed in a wall of flints…His sneezing sends out sprays of light, and his eyes gleam like the shimmer of dawn. Firebrands shoot from his mouth, and sparks come flying out; his nostrils gush forth steam like a cauldron on a fire fanned to full heat. His breath sets coals ablaze, and flames issue from his mouth. Strength resides in his neck, and dismay dances ahead of him. Close-knit is his underbelly, no pressure will make it yield. His heart is firm as a rock, firm as the nether millstone” The Book of Job 41:10-24. Have you ever seen a whale or a crocodile breath fire? You might be thinking, Dinosaurs, maybe there is some truth to that explanation, but Dragons? No way, that’s just nuts! Well, it’s not as crazy as it seems. There are many theories by credible scientists about the possibility of a fire breathing dinosaur. Let me give you a modern example of how it might have worked. Have you ever been at a party and your best friend gets really drunk and decides he wants to show everyone a cool trick? (Maybe it was you who wanted to be the center of attention!) So, he drops his drawers, bends over and sticks a lighter in front of his butt-crack while he lets one out. As a result, all of your other friends are disgusted and don‘t invite you over anymore, and your best friend has singed the hair on his butt and can’t sit comfortably for a few days. Our bodies produce methane gas, and methane gas is flammable. Some paleontologists theorize that some dinosaurs may have expelled their methane gas from their mouth, and either from clicking flint-like bones on their jaws together to make a spark, or by producing an electrical current similar to an electric eel, or even by producing other chemicals and that produce a flammable reaction when mixed, the dinosaur produces a flame coming out of his mouth. No one knows for sure how it worked if it did, but it is scientifically possible for an animal to breath fire.

No matter what the identity really is for the Behemoth and the Leviathan, the Lord wants to make it clear that no matter how fierce these creatures are, he is in control of them. He ends the description of the Leviathan with, “He has no equal on earth, a creature utterly fearless. He looks down on all, even the highest; over all proud beasts he is king” The Book of Job 41:33-34. Whether these beasts were real or not, I believe that they are symbolic of Satan himself. It is curious that Satan plays such an important role in the beginning of Job, but he is never specifically mentioned again. After the Lord proclaims himself as Creator and Sustainer of the earth and all living creatures on it, and after he shows Job he is man’s Teacher and Disciplinarian, the last point he makes is that he is even in charge of the most fearsome creature on earth. He calls that creature “the king of all proud beasts.” Certainly, that is a fitting description of Satan. It was pride that got him in trouble in the first place as he rebelled against God and tried to take the throne of heaven believing he could overpower his Creator. Since he could not defeat the Almighty, he set his sights on everything that God loves. Since God gave us free will, Satan knew that we would be vulnerable to manipulation, and he first appears in man’s narrative disguised as a snake in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve chose to believe Satan over God, they put themselves under Satan’s authority, and we’ve been subject to temptation and prone to evil ever since. Throughout scripture Satan is often symbolized with the image of a dragon. In the last book of the Bible, the Apostle John states, “The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent who led the whole world astray, whose name is the Devil, or Satan; he was thrown down to earth, and his angels with him” The Revelation of John 12:9. The last revelation of the Lord’s character to Job is that he is man’s Protector. Whether he is protecting us from physical harm or from spiritual rebellion and death, God watches over us and seeks to protect us from our ultimate enemy, Satan. Recall that while Satan was the one who destroyed Job’s life, it was the Lord who gave him permission to do it. I believe that Satan needed permission from God for Job because Job was such a righteous person. God gave him permission because, as we will see, it ultimately worked out for Job’s good. However, I don’t think Satan always needs permission from God to mess with all humans. Satan often gets his permission straight from us. Through scripture, God revealed the best way man should live to receive blessing, but we often rebel against God and choose our own way. Satan’s tactics have not changed since Eden. He disguises himself as something good or innocent, and the manipulation begins. If we have a close relationship with God, he will give us the wisdom we need to avoid the temptation, but if we submit to Satan’s lies, we give him permission to wreck havoc in our lives. The Apostle Paul states, “Put on the full [spiritual] armour provided by God, so that you may be able to stand firm against the stratagems of the devil. For our struggle is not against human foes, but against the authorities and potentates of this dark age, against the superhuman forces of evil in the heavenly realms” Ephesians 6:12.

When he gave us free will, God gave us the ability to choose our masters. Since we are so prone to sin, the only way we can truly be free from Satan is through Jesus Christ, but even this does not guarantee our physical protection, Jesus himself said, “In this world you will have suffering” The Gospel of John 16:33, and he tells us that in the same way that he and all the prophets before him were persecuted, we will be also (The Gospel of John 15:20, The Gospel of Matthew 5:11-12). God often calls us to make sacrifices in this present life to achieve a higher spiritual purpose that we may not understand, but we must trust that he has an ultimate good in mind, even if it is not for us personally. For instance, he may bring someone else to a new relationship with him and eternal salvation through the witness of our suffering with dignity. This is the case with Job and with so many martyrs since. Earlier in the text, Job rebukes his friends for not trusting in his reputation of being a good man; “I beg you, turn and look at me: am I likely to lie to your faces? Think again,…for my integrity is in question. Do I ever give voice to injustice?” The Book of Job 6:28-29. But Job could not convince his friends to trust him. He was saying to them, “You guys know me; you know I’ve never done anything so bad to deserve this kind of punishment before, what makes you think I’d fail in my righteousness out of the blue like this?” God is essentially saying the same thing to Job through this series of revelations about his character. He is telling Job, “You know from your teachings and your experience that I am good; you know I don’t do anything without a reason; what makes you think I would leave you hanging now?” There are a number of reasons why God may choose to remain silent when we are struggling and experiencing trials of our own. Sometimes, like Job, he is trying to teach us a lesson, or strengthen us in some way. Often, whatever God is up to simply can’t be comprehended by human intelligence. The knowledge of the situation and the reasons behind God’s actions (or seemingly lack of action) is beyond our understanding. The Lord often says in scripture, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways…But as the heavens are high above the earth, so are my ways high above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts” Isaiah 55:8-9. In the same way, sometimes we are just not spiritually mature enough to be able handle the whole truth. Even the most mature Christian on Earth is still like a child to God. Anyone who has children knows that there are some realities about life that young children are better off being protected from, and some kids mature faster than others. God may choose to withhold certain revelation from some until they are responsible enough to handle it. The author of Hebrews says, “It comes to this: you need milk instead of solid food. Anyone who lives on milk is still an infant, with no experience of what is right. Solid food is for adults, whose perceptions have been trained by long use to discriminate between good and evil” 5:12-14. However, I think that more often God does reveal to us what is going on, and we are either too busy to listen or we simply don’t trust him, so we choose to ignore all the warning signs he places in our path. Then we cry out, “Why me, God?!?” God’s main point to Job is simply this: “Trust me. I’m God; you’re not.” He establishes himself as the Creator and states: “I made this place; I know the best way to run it.” He establishes himself as the Sustainer of Life and states: “I continue to make the universe work together in harmony for your provision.” He establishes himself as our Teacher and Disciplinarian, basically our Parent, and states: “If you humble yourself and listen for my wisdom, I will give it to you, but if you don’t follow my guidance, there will be consequences.” And lastly, he establishes himself as our Protector and states, “If you acknowledge me and seek obedience to my ways, I will place you under my protection which ultimately leads to salvation from sin and rebellion.” God is saying, “When times are hard for you, no matter how bad it gets, you need to trust in my proven character and rest in peace that I have an ultimate good that I am bringing about.” Later, the Apostle Paul states that “in everything, as we know, he co-operates for good with those who love God and are called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28. God never actually directly answered Job’s “Why me?” question, he just leaves it at the revelation that there are some things Job doesn’t understand, but he needs to trust that God is good and that he’s got a plan. We will soon see the good that God brings into Job’s life; in the next and last section of Lessons from The Book of Job we will look at Job’s redemption and restoration, and see that he gained much more than riches from his ordeal.

 

  • All scripture references are from The Oxford Study Bible: Revised English Bible with the Apocrypha.

 

 

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Roads Go Ever Ever On…

December 22, 2009

Spiritual Applications of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings

Her son was having trouble going to bed again. I waited downstairs while she attempted to reason with a defiant three year old. Scanning her bookshelf, my eyes fell upon a hardback set of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. I picked it up and thumbed through it until there was peace upstairs. Finally, she reappeared.

            “That’s a great series, have you read it?”

            “No,” I said, “I own it though; I was hoping to read them before the movie comes out.”

            “Well, you better get started,” she laughed, “that’s only a few months away!”

And I’m glad I did. This series of books kept me inspired during my return to college and journey to finally get my bachelors degree. Long story short: I got married my freshman year of college right out of high school, had a kid, and dropped out. After the second child came along, I began taking classes part-time, but after a divorce, I was forced to get a second job just to make ends meet. The deferment of my dream to finish college and become a teacher seemed certain. Was this my fate; to stay in a series of dead end jobs that gave me no fulfillment, no sense of purpose? What kind of legacy would I leave my children? “Dad never finished college; he just gave up on his goals.” When things seemed darkest and most impossible, an opportunity to return to school full time appeared, but just like the Ring Bearer and his companions in Tolkien’s epic, this journey would come with many sacrifices and have an uncertain ending. In The Lord of the Rings, the evil forces of a once defeated Lord Sauron are rising up again. This Sauron once gained power through a Ring he wrought in secret. Through a series of seemingly meaningless events, this Ring came into the possession of Frodo Baggins, a hobbit of Middle Earth. When the power of the Ring is discovered, nine companions representing five different races of Middle Earth are chosen to carry the Ring to the only place it can be destroyed; the furnace of Mount Doom in the heart of the land of the enemy. The fellowship is eventually broken up, and Frodo and his servant and friend, Samwise Gamgee, must complete the quest on their own while the rest are forced to defend what’s left of Middle Earth in battle.

As I read The Lord of the Rings I was constantly inspired by the innocent determination of the four hobbits, Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin, the quiet confidence of Legolis, the elf, the gruff stubbornness of Gimli, the dwarf, the strength and valor of the men, Aragorn and Boromir, and the wisdom of Gandalf, the wizard. Right from the beginning, Tolkein began to teach me through Gandalf. I doubted my ability to handle going back to school full time as an adult with two kids to take care of and help to provide for, but in the second chapter of the first book, The Fellowship of the Ring, I read Gandalf’s advice to Frodo as he doubted his own ability to complete his task. Frodo was wondering how he ended up in such a situation and Gandalf encouraged him with, “Such questions cannot be answered…you may be sure that it was not for any merit that others do not possess: not for power or wisdom, at any rate. But you have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and wits as you have” (95). I have determined to do likewise in my own adventures. I don’t know if I “have been chosen” to teach, but I am certain that God desires us to use the talents he’s given us for the good of others, and ultimately for the good of his kingdom. For me, teaching English made sense. In his forward to The Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien states, “As for any inner meaning or ‘message,’ it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical” (10). However, Tolkien is a Christian, and I think that God took advantage of his imagination. There are many life lessons and principles in his epic that come straight out of the Bible. The more I read these great books, and the more I watch the movies, the more treasures I find. I will only mention a few here.

The Ring of Power, wrought with evil intention, corrupts and ultimately destroys any good in anyone who possesses it and wields its power no matter how good their intentions are. Not even Gandalf, with his wisdom and strength of many years, was willing to risk the temptation of the Ring. Yet, for a time anyway, the innocent and pure heart of Frodo, the hobbit, was able to bear the burden of the Ring. Hobbits are childlike creatures, smaller in stature than men, and they possess a joy, peace and innocence in living that only children seem to possess in our world. It is no wonder that Jesus said if anyone wishes to possess the Kingdom of Heaven he must become like a little child, and likewise, the greatest among us will be like a little child (Matthew 18:2-4). If we work to put down our pride and seek to live a simple life of trust in God and his provision and his wisdom, if we become like little children, we also will be able to resist temptation when evil comes our way; however, if we trust in our own wisdom, and desire glory for ourselves, we will not be able to withstand the burden of our enemy, Satan. Only through childlike faith in Jesus can we be saved. We need to learn to trust in our Heavenly Father, and through that trust we can regain the childlike imagination to dream the impossible. 

Children are not as concerned with the lust for power and domination that has caused so much grief in the world, but as we all know, they do succumb to greed. Every parent cringes when they hear their bright-eyed, lovely child screech “Mine! Mine!” when friends are over. Likewise, Frodo finally succumbs to the power of the Ring at the end of his journey. Gollum is a creature who once possessed the Ring for many years. It is rumored that he was once very much like a hobbit himself; however, overtime the Ring eventually possessed him and slowly turned him into a wretched creature whose only thought was consumed in lust and greed for his “precious,” the Ring. Gollum tracks down Frodo and tries to kill him in order to take back his “precious.” Frodo gets the upper hand and has many opportunities to put Gollum to an end, but he heeds the advice of Gandalf to take pity on him. When he is finally standing at the furnace of Mount Doom, Frodo is unable to complete the purpose of his journey and destroy the Ring for his own greed to possess it. However, Gollum once again appears and fights for the Ring. He gains possession of it, but only to fall into the fire in the fight, thus destroying himself and the Ring. Gandalf’s advice for pity, and Frodo’s faithfulness to follow through is the principle that Jesus teaches us to show mercy to our enemies, and to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:43-48). We are to trust in God’s judgment and his justice, and just as Jesus died for us while we lived as enemies of God through our rebellious and sinful actions, we are to show the same love for others in hopes of their repentance. Additionally, we see the principle that God works all things out for the good of his purposes (Romans 8:28). We learn that even the purposes of evil can be manipulated to result in good. If Frodo had justifiably killed Gollum early in his journey, Gollum would not have been there to take the Ring from Frodo. Frodo would have eventually died at the hands of Sauron who would have taken possession of the Ring for his evil purposes, and if Frodo somehow did survive, he would have become like Gollum. However, Gollum’s life was taken only by his greed, and through no intentions of his own, he ended up saving Frodo from the pitiful fate he succumbed to.

Another Biblical principle found in The Lord of the Rings is that the trials and persecution of evil in our lives are often used to build character and train us for a greater purpose (Romans 5:4-6). We learn this in the journey of the hobbits and of King Aragorn. Aragorn first appears in the epic as Strider the Ranger, a mistrusted nomad who could use a bath, but we quickly learn the Rangers roam the land for the protection of travelers and they help anyone who is in need. Aragorn happens to be the sole heir in the broken line of the kings of men. There are many ancient prophecies that point to his purpose in Middle Earth, but he is at first unsure of himself and his ability to accomplish what he is called to do. As he walks out his journey and gives his life in service to others simply trying to help, he passes through many difficult trials that only increase in intensity. However, with each trial he survives he gains more confidence in himself and more honor from others. At the end of his journey he is a man with the strength and stature of a warrior, yet he is a warrior who possesses humility and wisdom from his experiences. He is a man worthy to take the crown of a king. Additionally, the hobbits, perhaps losing some of their innocence, gained much wisdom and strength in their journeys. When they were placed in the midst of violent battles, Merry and Pippin learned how to be valiant warriors. Upon returning to the Shire, their homeland, the group of hobbits found it overrun by a number of ruffian men. Merry and Pippin rallied together the hobbits and developed key battle strategies that enabled them to take back their home. This was their initiation into spiritual maturity, into adulthood in a sense. Before their return, Gandalf warned them of the dangers at home, but assured them they could handle it, “I am not coming to the Shire. You must settle its affairs yourselves; that is what you have been trained for…you will need no help. You are grown up now. Grown indeed very high…” (Tolkien, The Return of the King, 341).

In the same way, Sam, who faithfully remained with his master and friend, Frodo, developed leadership skills and eventually became the mayor of the Shire. In my opinion, Sam is the most important character in the series. If Sam had not been so devoted to Frodo, Frodo would likely not have made it. We are called to carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), Sam would often give up sleep, food and water to keep Frodo going, and at the end of their journey when Frodo could no longer walk at Mount Doom, Sam literally picked him up and carried him up the mountain. What a beautiful picture of servanthood! Jesus teaches us that whoever wants to be the greatest must become the least and the servant to all (Matthew 20:25-28). Sam, the man in the background, is the true hero of the epic. He always put others before himself, and he never sought any recognition for his sacrifices. Since Frodo had such long contact with the power of the Ring, he was plagued with unrest and was unable to stay at peace in the Shire. This testifies to the reality, that there are consequences from prolonged exposure to evil, whether we have spent much of our lives in sin, or if we suffered greatly at the hands of evil men. In Frodo’s case, he made a great sacrifice for the sake of others, and he also gained wisdom in his journey. He was given the honor of living among the elves and with Gandalf in the Grey Havens, a type of heaven, where he would be at peace, but he had to leave the home he loved and fought to protect. Sam is the most upset, but with the elf-like wisdom he had gained, Frodo explained to his faithful friend, “It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them” (Tolkien, King, 382). Both Sam and Frodo teach us that we are to be willing to sacrifice our time and money, our very lives, for those in need. Most of us will not find ourselves on epic journeys to save the Earth; however, we are all wrapped up in the epic battle between good and evil everyday of our lives whether we choose to accept it or not. The choices we make often have epic proportions. Who knows how far and deep into the soul of a man the seed of a good deed may go, and how much fruit that seed may bear in others. Likewise, we don’t really know the consequences of our selfish actions either. We must be willing to follow the example of Jesus, and take up our cross daily for the common good of our fellow man.

And so this reality has hit home to me. I have already made many sacrifices for the protection of my children through my divorce; I have been forced to sacrifice many adult-relationships in order to spend quality time with my children during my time in school. Higher education was not cheap, and choosing to become a humble high-school-English-teacher has forced me to make many financial sacrifices for both myself and my children. Yet despite these trials, despite the daily battles I face for and with my students, and my battles with a world full of temptations that would lead me to destruction and distortion of the truth, I know I am doing what my God has called me to do. I have made many mistakes along the way: I have gone down wrong paths; I have given up true treasure for the sake of fool’s gold; I have fallen many, many times. Yet each time, my God has sent my fellowship of friends, brothers and sisters, to help me and encourage me in the journey, and this help assures me that he too is walking with me; and that, despite my foolish detours, he is constantly guiding me back on the right path and taking me further along to become the man he has called me to be. I have learned through the Word of God, and I have been vividly reminded through Tolkien’s imagination, that humility brings honor, trials produce strength and character, and often doing what is right and needed comes with great risk and sacrifice; yet we must persevere and always do what is right. The Lord of the Rings is a masterpiece. Tolkien’s ability to communicate truth through fantasy is as incredible as it is inspiring. Had it not been for the movie coming out when it did, I might have put off reading this classic series, but typical of his actions for his children, God lovingly brought it to me when I really needed the inspiration, at the beginning of my own new adventure.   

  • Tolkien, J.R.R. The Lord of the Rings. Parts 1, 2, & 3. Ballentine Books, New York: 1983.

Peter L Richardson
Fall 2001, revised December 2009.

“Roads Go Ever On”
 -John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever ever on,
Under cloud and under star.
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen,
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green,
And trees and hills they long have known.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone.
Let others follow, if they can!
Let them a journety new begin.
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

Still ’round the corner there may wait
A new road or secret gate;
And though I oft have passed them by,
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.

Old Testament prophecy of the Messiah

Nake came I... PLR '99

“But I know that my vindicator lives and that he will rise last to speak in court; I shall discern my witness standing at my side and see my defending counsel, even God himself, whom I shall see with my own eyes, I myself and no other.” The Book of Job 19:25-27

“Do not suppose that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to complete” Matthew 5:17. According to Christian Theology, Jesus is the fulfillment of all the law and the prophets in the Old Testament. The prophetic books of the Jewish scriptures speak of a Messiah that will come and bring fulfillment to the promise God gave to Abraham, the father of Jews, that all nations on earth will be blessed through his seed, the promise that God gave to the Moses, the giver of the God’s Law, that a great prophet will rise up from among them, and the promise God gave to King David that one of his own descendants will rise up on the throne and establish a kingdom that will last forever. Some prophetic books are focused mostly on the fate of the nation of Israel and the nations around them during the time that the prophet lived, but many speak of the Messiah coming in a future age who will bring salvation to both the Jews and the Gentiles (anyone who is not a Jew) through restoring the broken connection between God and man, judging those rebellious toward the Lord, and establishing a kingdom of peace and righteousness that will last forever. While many expect this Messiah to come as a powerful warrior, Christians believe that he has already come in the person of Jesus, and that he will return again to establish his kingdom and begin a new age for mankind.

The life of Jesus has very specifically fulfilled many prophetic scriptures, the most famous of them are found in Isaiah Chapters 42-55. Jesus also said that he came to fulfill the law as well. The first five books of The Bible are considered to be “the Law.” These books record the origins of mankind and then narrow it down to the origins of the nation of Israel, and they include the recording of the Law that was given to Moses on Mt. Horeb. According to the Law, each person was supposed to travel to the temple in Jerusalem at least once a year and make elaborate sacrifices to atone for the sins they had committed. This was obviously burdensome and impractical, and many Israelites disregarded the Law completely or attempted to make up their own compromises which led them to follow other gods. Eventually, God’s judgment, which he made clear in the Law, caused the nation of Israel to be destroyed by the Babylonians. When the Persians became the next world conquerors, they allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple, and we finally meet Jesus during the rule of the Roman Empire.

Jews expected their Messiah to come in power and restore Israel to it’s former glory and then some, but Jesus came as a carpenter with no religious training to speak of. He is considered by Christians to be the fulfillment of the Law through his dieing on the cross as an innocent man. Many prophetic books indicate that the Messiah will be the son of God, and he will live a pure and perfect life. The death of Jesus on the cross as a sinless man is said to be the last sacrifice that God requires of mankind. Because Jesus was innocent and sinless, he was able to take the punishment of death in our place, and his sacrifice gives us access to God. Those who choose to believe in Jesus as the Messiah and choose to follow his teachings are restored to the Father in what is called a “new birth.” They receive the Holy Spirit into their being, and through the Holy Spirit’s guidance, they are able to have a free and open relationship with God without the burden of the guilt of sin. It is believed, as many of that time testified, that Jesus also rose from the dead three days after his ordeal on the cross, thus proving his power over death and giving credence to his claim to be the Son of God. Christians believe that Jesus is very active in the earth today for those who are willing to serve him and that this is the time of witness and testimony in order that all mankind will have the opportunity to hear “the gospel,” the good news about our forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with the Father. It is in the next age that Jesus will return as a warrior-king and establish his kingdom of peace and righteousness. Those who have chosen to reject Jesus and his teachings will be left to fend for themselves without the benefit of God’s grace, and will be lumped together with Satan and the other fallen angels who rebelled against God in a place that is popularly called Hell where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” Matthew 8:12.*

So what does all this have to do with Job? Well, I believe that there is evidence of Jesus’ existence in The Book of Job, and there are a few scriptures that point to him and the purpose he would fulfill nearly two thousand years later. What I find the most fascinating about this is that The Book of Job is considered to be the oldest book in The Bible by many scholars. It is very possible that Job was written during Abraham’s time. If this is the case, then we have evidence of prophesy of the Messiah before Israel even existed. This is more evidence that the Messiah is for all people, and that Jesus is not just a new idea from religious zealots needing a pie in the sky fantasy to justify their pitiful existence, but that Jesus has truly been around since the beginning, and he has been a part of the plan all along. I’m sure there is more evidence than what I have observed, but I am going to focus on four sets of verses in The Book of Job that stand out to me.

The first set of verses are not so much an expression of a Messiah’s existence, but rather an expression of the need for one. Ironically, as Job becomes more desperate and passionate in crying out to God, his revelation of God’s plan seems to increase, although it seems that Job doesn’t always understand the depth of what he is saying. During Job’s first defense to Bildad, he states, “God is not as I am, not someone I can challenge, and say, ‘Let us confront one another in court.’ if only there were one to arbitrate between us and impose his authority on us both, so that God might take his rod from my back, and terror of him might not come on me suddenly, I should then speak out without fear of him, for I know I am not what I am thought to be” The Book of Job 9:32-35 (italics mine). In this speech Job is again expressing that he is being punished unfairly, and he wants to be able to stand before God and state his case, but he knows he is too sinful of a creature to stand before God and live. He is wishing for someone who can stand before God and speak on his behalf, someone who can both relate to him and to God; in other words, someone who is both God and man. Is this not Jesus? Job states that if he stands before God, terror and fear will seize him; in our time, we have Jesus as our arbitrator who gives us access to God without fear and condemnation. In the New Testament, the author of The Letter to the Hebrews echoes Job’s cry when he speaks of Jesus in the following passage: “Ours is not a high priest unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tested in every way as we are, only without sinning. Let us therefore boldly approach the throne of grace, in order that we may receive mercy and find grace to give us timely help” Hebrews 4:15-16.

Later, during his first defense to Zophar, Job proclaims, “If he wishes to slay me, I have nothing to lose; I shall still defend my conduct to his face. This at least assures my deliverance: that no godless person may appear before him” The Book of Job 13:15-16 (italics mine). We already talked about this verse in a different context in an earlier post; but to get at a possible layered meaning we need to look deeper into the original language of the text. Many things are lost in interpretation when we do not know both languages very well; nowhere else is getting the right interpretation correct than in the scriptures. Wars have been waged, and many blasphemies have been committed as a result of a misunderstood or misled meaning of scripture. I don‘t think misunderstanding these verses will have those kind of consequences, but digging deep reveals some very interesting ideas. First of all, according to the footnotes in the Oxford Study Bible (c.1992), verse 15 can also be translated as, “Though God slay me, I shall wait for the deity.” Just a subtle difference in wording, but what a difference in meaning! In the first version, Job almost sounds like a rebellious teenager giving attitude to a parent: “Whatever, God, I don’t care what you do to me, I’m gonna say it to your face!” The second version shows a very different Job who expresses absolute faith in his God, that even though things are bad now, he knows if he waits long enough God will deliver him. Deliverance. That is another word we need to take a close look at. All poetry has a lot of wordplay in it. A good poet will often use a word that has multiple meanings and the poet may very well intend for more than one meaning of the word to be applicable and true. For a good example, check out Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 135” (see below). In this sonnet, Shakespeare makes a play on the word “will.” As he repeats it throughout the sonnet, depending on the context, it is used as a verb, a noun, and his name; sometimes it expresses all three uses at the same time. I believe this is the case for the word deliverance in verse 16. I don’t think the poet knew the depth of what he was saying, but as all scripture is God-breathed, or inspired by God (Second Timothy 3:16-17), I believe that God directed the author of The Book of Job to choose this particular word. It is too much of a coincidence. Deliverance could also be translated as salvation. This particular Hebrew word for salvation is literally translated as Jehovah saves. That Hebrew word is yeshua, and Yeshua is the Hebrew name for Jesus. So ultimately, what, or rather who, assures Job’s deliverance? It is Jesus. Job next states that “no godless person may appear before him.” It is Jesus’ sacrifice in conjunction with our repentance that allows us to be forgiven and appear righteous before God.

The next set of verses appears in Job’s response to Eliphaz’s second accusation and with this statement Job proclaims outright in the existence of a figure in heaven that is a legitimate description of Jesus. Job cries out, “Let not the earth cover my blood, and let my cry for justice find no rest! For now my witness is in heaven; there is One on high ready to answer for me. My appeal will come before God, while my eyes turn anxiously to him. If only there were one to arbitrate between man and God, as between a man and his neighbor” The Book of Job 16:18-21 (italics mine). Job again pleads for an arbitrator between God and man, someone who can plead Job’s case before God without being destroyed by God’s glory and holiness. In other words, someone who is pure and righteous before God. However, in the previous verse, Job makes a statement of faith that his Witness is already standing before God, and Job identifies this Witness as God when he calls him, “One on high.” How can God plead Job’s case against God to God? Logically, this makes no sense, but paradoxically it becomes true in the person of Jesus. As stated before, he is our arbitrator before God, and being the Son of God, he is God as One of the Trinity: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit, in fact, who inspires Job to make this statement of faith, and who is the author of all scripture, and who continues to dwell in and among man to this day in order to inspire us, and lead us into wisdom and understanding of God’s ways.** Just as Satan stood before God and accused Job of not having enough integrity to stay faithful to God, he accuses all of us before God, and challenges him to the truth, that even though God loves us, we are all rebellious and unworthy of eternal life and the peace that comes with it; therefore, we deserve death. The Apostle John testifies through his vision of heaven that Satan is “the accuser of our brothers, [and] he…day and night accused them before our God” Revelation 12:10. This why we need Jesus to be our Witness to stand before God, the Father, day and night. Jesus testifies that he has justified us through his blood. God, the Father, knew that offering free will to his creation would bring about rebellion, so in his love for us, he offered himself up, in the person of God, the Son, to take the punishment we deserve so that those who choose to serve him could be justified in his eyes. The author of Hebrews states, “Jesus holds a perpetual priesthood, because he remains forever. That is why he is able to save completely those who approach God through him, since he is always alive to plead on their behalf. Such a high priest is indeed suited to our need: He is holy, innocent, undefiled, set apart from sinners, and raised high above the heavens. He has no need to offer sacrifices daily,…he did this once for all when he offered up himself” Hebrews 7:24-27.

What more can I say? Job makes at least one more statement of faith concerning a figure in heaven who will testify to God and save Job from his plight. Job states, “But I know that my vindicator lives and that he will rise last to speak in court; I shall discern my witness standing at my side and see my defending counsel, even God himself, whom I shall see with my own eyes, I myself and no other” The Book of Job 19:25-27(italics mine). This is probably Job’s strongest statement of faith in a Savior who can stand before both God and man; this is such a strong, statement, in fact, that many worship songs directed at Jesus are based on this scripture. Those of us who become aware of our sin and our need for redemption are able to deeply connect with these verses, and when they are put to song we are able to make Job’s passionate plea the cry of our own hearts as we gratefully bow before our Savoir, our hope for righteousness. In most translations of The Bible the word “vindicator” is translated as “redeemer.” Whatever language you use, it is Jesus who redeems us from the price we should have paid for our sin, it Jesus who vindicates us and sets us free from eternal suffering, it is Jesus who died for us and saved us from our sin-nature, from our very selves. The Apostle John testifies in his vision of heaven, “the accuser of our brothers…is overthrown. By the sacrifice of the Lamb, [Jesus], and by the witness they, [our brothers], bore, they have conquered him; faced with death, they did not cling to life. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you that dwell in them!” Revelation 12:10-12. It is in John’s Revelation that Jesus, the Messiah, is prophesied to come again in power as a warrior king. He will wage a final battle against Satan, who began the war in the beginning of our created time by trying to usurp the throne of God. When Jesus has Satan completely under his foot, he will sit in judgment on all peoples of the earth from all the ages. Those who sought after him and who chose to serve him will receive mercy, grace and freedom from their sins once and for all. Those who chose to live in rebellion and follow their own selfish desires will be judged and be banished from the presence of the Lord. The choice is yours.

*It is popular to believe that Hell is a place of torture from God, but I don’t believe this to be true. It is my opinion that in Hell, God is just giving both fallen angels and unbelieving people what they wanted in the first place, which is to be free from Him; to not have to follow his way, so they can go their own way. However, God is the source of all goodness on earth, so if they become separated from God, they will all lose his grace. There will certainly be torment in Hell, but it won’t be at the hands of God; people are just mean. Think of the atrocities mankind commits when we still have God calling out to us and offering us grace and mercy. Now imagine a place where there really is no God, and all beings follow their own selfish impulses without restraint. That, in my opinion, is Hell.

**The Trinity is a name given to the paradox that we serve one God who exists in Three Persons. It is debated by many theologians whether there are three distinct persons acting and thinking in complete unity, and therefore One Being, or if there is simply One God who expresses himself in three distinct ways. For me, I am content to rest in the fact that his ways are higher than my ways, and that I may never understand this mystery, even when I get to heaven. I have had enough experience with all three expressions of God to know they are real, and God testifies to me through my spirit and through his Word that “the Lord is One.” Some aspects of our Faith require faith and simply can’t be understood with our human brains.

  • All scripture references are from The Oxford Study Bible: Revised English Bible with the Apocrypha.

 

Peter L Richardson

“Sonnet 135”
-William Shakespeare

Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy will,
And will to boot, and will to over-plus;
More than enough am I that vex thee still,
To thy sweet will making addition thus.
Wilt thou, whose will is large and spacious,
Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine?
Shall will in others seem right gracious,
And in my will no fair acceptance shine?
The sea, all water, yet receives rain still,
And in abundance addeth to his store;
So thou, being rich in will, add to thy will
One will of mine, to make thy large will more.
     Let no unkind, no fair beseechers kill;
     Think all but one, and me in that one Will.

An interview with Curtis Jackson and Ethan Freeman

My Name is Drew

L-R: Ethan Freeman, Rob Graves, Curtis Jackson, Zach Schroeder

I live to write down my life and act it out as I go, To feel everything, Put it on paper, And let it show.    from “Jeff’s Song”      -My Name is Drew 

If you haven’t heard of the band, My Name is Drew, you are likely to soon. The members of this peculiar band are all seniors in high school and are just waiting for the freedom to break out on the local music scene. The band consists of Ethan Freeman (lead vocals and guitar), Curtis Jackson (lead guitar and vocals), Zachary Schroeder (bass), and Rob Graves (percussion). They recently organized and headlined a benefit concert at Glasgow High School, where all of the band, except for Rob, attend. I had a chance to catch the show and I was duly impressed. Not only do these boys write good music and play it well, they put on a great show that is full of energy. Traditionally, bass players are subdued and fade into the background; however, Zach is never in one place at a time, dancing and running around the stage like a madman. Ethan and Curtis both are comfortable bantering with the audience while introducing songs, and Rob constantly keeps the beat that gets the audience out of their seats and dancing. I caught up with Ethan and Curtis, the principal songwriters, after a long day at school to talk about the band.

Ethan looks like your average, everyday, middle-class high school student. With hair a bit long, but combed and kempt, and the beginnings of scruffy beard, Ethan sports a green tee with a white bird decal under a red and black soccer jacket, and he seems encouraged and interested in the interview. He wouldn’t look a bit out place hanging out with the jocks. Curtis, on the other hand, is all rock-n-roll. Working on a Sudoku book throughout the entire interview, Curtis seems disinterested in talking about himself and looks like he might have dropped out of the 70s, minus the bell bottoms. Curtis wears tight jeans that look painful, topped off with a brown Reliant K t-shirt under a black oversized unzipped hoodie. His dress and his long, scraggly hair suggest an age old anti-establishment attitude, but a few minutes with him reveals his attitude is not of rebellion, but rather of choosing to exist above all the drama that life brings.

Curtis and Ethan have been neighbors and friends since they were young children, but they never really considered playing together in a band until My Name is Drew began to evolve. A few years ago, Zach and Rob played together in metal band that was not destined for stardom. After they broke up, Zach and Curtis began jamming together; eventually Zach brought in Rob, and Curtis brought in Ethan. Once they became an official band, they needed a name. It seems the question they get asked the most is where their name comes from; they actually argued about who had to tell the story. It turns out, one day at band practice, they were arguing about what the band’s name should be, until Curtis’ older brother, Drew, came in the room and exclaimed, “My name is Drew!” That’s what stuck.

The musical influences of the band mates are as varied their personalities; among the bands they listed are Oasis, Reliant K, Coldplay, The Foo Fighters, Mute Math, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pink Floyd and the Beatles. It is no surprise they have such diverse interests; when listening to their brand-new, self-titled release, it is hard to pin down what style of music they fit into. Almost all songs have an acoustic base, which make them simple and accessible to all types of music lovers, but these guys are no strangers to amplification; they are not afraid to make some noise. However, they don’t hide behind distortion as many bands do. They are all skilled and gifted musicians; Rob and Zach keep strong, yet intricate, beats that keep the audience’s feet moving, and Ethan and Curtis fill in the gaps with melodic guitars and harmonizing vocals. Additionally, guest musicians, who often join the band on stage, help add variety with instruments such as the flute, violin, and saxophone. My Name is Drew describes their sound as Pop-Punk-Alternative.

Describing his inspiration for writing music, Curtis rubs his hand over his face and sighs, “For me it’s just jamming and getting into a place where I feel like I’m in the music, no longer in the physical world. It’s spiritual.” Ethan confirms and mentions that when Curtis brings a new song to the band, he presents it as an expression of emotion and feeling, rather than just teaching them the song’s chords and melody. Ethan writes most of the lyrics for the band, and he says he is inspired by life in general: “Things you think about when you are alone when you have time to think, like when you‘re staring at the stars. My ignorance: I write about things I don’t know but want to find out, but I like to write about happy things.” Curtis affirms that Ethan’s into nature, and when asked about the other band members’ source of inspiration they laugh and agree that, “Rob would disagree about everything we just said!” After taking some time to reflect on his work, Ethan states, “I want people to look past the lyrics and see the meaning behind them.” The band’s songs are not overtly Christian; however, most of the lyrics will cause anyone who thinks deeply to contemplate about the concept of God and his relationship and relevance with today’s world. Ethan and Curtis state that everyone in the band is a Christian, and they consider their music God-inspired, but they are not a Christian band. Curtis explains, “The band is not the witness; the band can take me to new places and help me meet new people, but our focus is on living as an example and not being preachy.”

Both Ethan and Curtis state that fame is not important to them; they both would be happy just to be able to make a living off the band and not have to work a 9-to-5 job. Ethan, however, admits, “I do dream about waking up on a tour bus and heading out to play Wembley Stadium!” They have the talent and the skill to make that dream come true. If you want to find out for yourself, click on their link on the sidebar to hear some of their songs and look for a My Name is Drew gig near you.

Peter L Richardson

Part II: God’s Unfathomable Wisdom

Naked came I... PLR '99

“And he said to mankind: ‘The fear of the Lord is wisdom, and to turn from evil, that is understanding!’” The Book of Job 28:28

Chapter 14, Job’s elegy on death which closed the first cycle of speeches, was closely aligned with Ecclesiastes. Likewise, Chapter 28, closes the last cycle of speeches, and it ends with the same conclusion as both Ecclesiastes and Proverbs: Wisdom can only come from seeking God. This speech is Job’s last words to his friends before he makes his final plea to God to hear him and either explain his punishment or give him justice and let up. It is no coincidence that Job ends his debate with his friends with a little sermon on finding wisdom. For more than twenty chapters worth of words, he and his friends could not come to any real understanding over why Job’s life had become such a disaster. Job’s friends couldn’t open their minds to the possibility that not all suffering was the direct result of personal sin, and Job knows he’s missing something, but he just doesn’t know what it is yet. This is a turning point for Job. He realizes that most of man’s pursuits in life are meaningless, and he understands that we achieve understanding by following God’s laws, but wisdom is something that most humans never truly acquire. Job knows wisdom only comes from God, but he does not yet understand the depth of relationship he is able to have with his creator. He begins this speech with observing man’s superior intelligence on the earth and our ability to do almost anything we desire.

1There are mines for silver
and places where gold is refined.
2Iron is won from the earth
and copper smelted from the ore.
3Men master the darkness;
to the farthest recess they seek
ore and gloom in deep darkness.
4Foreigners cut the shafts;
forgotten, suspended without foothold,
they swing to and fro, far away from anyone.
5While grain is swinging from the earth above,
what lies beneath is turned over like a fire,
6and out of it’s rocks comes lapis lazuli,
dusted with flecks of gold.
7No bird of prey knows the path there;
the falcon’s keen eye cannot descry it;
8proud beasts do not set foot on it,
and no lion passes there.
9Man sets his hand to the granite rock
and lays bare the roots of the mountains;
10he cuts galleries in the rocks,
and gems of every kind meets his eye;
11he dams up the sources of the streams
and brings the hidden riches of the earth to light.

Mankind was created in God’s image. We are intelligent beings; we are superior to all other beasts on the earth; we can reason and think for ourselves; we are not slaves to instinct; we can make judgments about what the best course of action is for not only ourselves, but for those around us. We have the amazing ability of free choice, and what do we usually choose to spend our time doing? It is all about the almighty dollar. This passage is so revealing about mankind and our lust for power and riches. It makes me think of Tolkien’s dwarves in The Lord of the Rings. Obsessed with gems, they dig deeper and deeper into the mountains, cutting themselves off from the sunlight, from nature, and all other intelligent creatures of Middle Earth. What is peculiar about man is that we are willing to spend most of our time in dark, dangerous, inhumane places in order to gather pretty things that we will barely have the time to enjoy for the sake of gathering more and more and more of them. Have we changed at all in the last 4,000 years? Not much. Think about the banker who spends all of his time in pursuit of being a VP or CEO and never gets to see the wife and kids. At first it is all for them, but later it is about the ego and the acquirement of wealth. His kids may have the best toys and the best education, but did they have a father? Or what about the politician who spends all his time trying to save the world with his faithful and understanding family supporting his noble pursuits; his good deeds give him a sense of entitlement, and in his arrogance he only embarrass himself and his wife when he is busted with his mistress. What about the kid on the streets who presumes he has no future? He finds his power through a gun and dealing death to his younger peers. Should I go on to describe our celebrities? You don’t even have to have any talent to be one anymore! Those of us who never got past a simple life can smugly feel we are not like those crazy rich people, but we all worship them in one form or another. Consider why American Idol is so popular. Our idols are not wood and stone, we worship by the light of television sets and on the screen of the internet. With all of our intelligence and our God-given talents, do we use them to make the world a better place; do we use them to serve God and others, to build better relationships with our wives, husbands, kids, parents, neighbors and enemies? Or, like the men of Job’s age, do we spend all of our time and energy gathering up riches when we should be seeking after wisdom? Job continues:

12But where can wisdom be found,
and where is the source of understanding?
13No one knows the way to it,
nor is it to be found in the land of the living.
14‘It is not in us,’ declare the ocean depths;
the sea declares, ‘It is not with me.’
15Red gold cannot buy it,
nor can its price be weighed out in silver;
16gold of Ophir cannot be set in the scales against it,
nor precious cornelian nor sapphire;
17gold and crystal are not to be matched with it,
no work in fine gold can be bartered for it;
18black coral and alabaster are not worth mention,
and a parcel of wisdom fetches more than red choral;
19chrysolite from Ethiopia is not to be matched with it,
pure gold cannot be set in the scales against it.
20Where, then, does wisdom come from?
Where is the source of understanding?
21No creature on earth can set eyes on it;
even from birds of the air it is concealed.
22Destruction and Death declare,
‘We know of it only by hearsay.’

I think this part of Job’s little sermon on wisdom is for those who actually wish to acquire wisdom, but they are just looking for it in all the wrong places. Though Job was speaking to an ancient audience, we can make parallels with his words to modern man. He begins with the fact that wisdom cannot be found in the ocean, in the depths of the earth. Today, most of “enlightened” society basis all their wisdom on science. The study and pursuit of science is noble, and even godly, (the Lord calls us to take dominion over the earth, Genesis 1:26-29); however, the material world cannot teach us the meaning of life, it can only teach us how to understand the material world and thereby, make life a bit easier. Of course, wisdom can be drawn from analogies of the scientific world, just look at the parables of Jesus, but Jesus was only using something we understand to explain deeper spiritual truths. Wisdom cannot be found in science.

Job then goes on to compare the search for wisdom with the search for riches again. Is he being redundant here? Perhaps, but we can again draw a modern analogy with this section. How much money, time, and effort is spent for the average American to get to and finish higher education? Of course the pursuit of knowledge is an honorable goal, but is knowledge the same thing as wisdom? Many people don’t understand the difference between the two, including, unfortunately, many college professors. Knowledge is all about gaining facts and learning how to do things. The next step is understanding. Understanding is about finding out “why” the facts are important and “why” we should or shouldn’t do those things. Wisdom is the “reason” those things are worth knowing and doing in the first place. Most university students never get past the stage of knowledge because the truth is, most university professors have an agenda they want to indoctrinate their students with; they don’t really want their students to learn to think for themselves, they want their students to learn to think the way they do. Therefore, only the brilliant discover understanding. Understanding comes with looking past the facts and thinking about all the possible consequences, good or bad, and making the right decisions based on the knowledge you have gained. Understanding requires you to think for yourself. Wisdom, however, is available for everyone; it has nothing to do with education. Wisdom requires you to use your innate sense of right and wrong, and to know what is truly important in life so that you do make the right decisions. I have friends who never graduated from high school that have more wisdom than some of my colleagues who like remind everyone of the title “Dr.” in front of their names. Wisdom cannot be found in riches, status or knowledge.

In verse 21, Job tell us that nothing on earth has seen the source of wisdom, and not even the birds who are up in the sky can see it. This could be a reference for those who are seeking wisdom through false religions; all those who look to the “sky” to find the answers in life. Many ancient religions are based on astronomical events and calendars. Even today, people try to find truth and a good fortune that depends on what month they were born in, or the next time Saturn will line up with Jupiter. There are people who think wisdom will come through meditation or through a certain amount of self-imposed trials and works. They will climb the proverbial mountain to talk to a hermit who has separated himself from humanity for the sake of illumination and enlightenment. But how can an old man who fled the idea of dealing with the world’s problems a long time ago help you understand what your calling in life is? Solomon, in The Book of Proverbs, actually personifies wisdom as a female child that plays before the Lord as he creates the world; this suggests that there is more wisdom in the innocence of a child than in all the learnings of an old man. As I’ve stated in an earlier post, Christians are not immune to this works mentality. We can lose the understanding of and the reasons why we serve Jesus in the first place. Wisdom is not found in religion.

The last part of this section refers to those people who have faced many trials, even death, and come back from the experience “wiser” and with a deeper understanding of the world and the purpose of their lives. You can see it on the faces of those who have served in battle, and knew they were fighting for a worthy cause. It is deep in the eyes of those who have been oppressed and abused in life, but they have managed to keep their integrity and even overcome the oppressor, if only in their spirit. It is in the memory of those who have sacrificed their lives in any way for someone else or for some noble cause. But as close to wisdom that Destruction and Death can bring us; they still cannot offer humanity the full picture, the full understanding of what wisdom truly is. And the answer turns out to be surprisingly simple. Job goes on:

23God alone understands the way to it,
he alone knows its source;
24for he can see to the ends of the earth
and observe every place under heaven.
25When he regulated the force of the wind
and measured out the waters in proportion,
26when he laid down a limit for the rain
and cleared a path for the thunderbolt,
27it was then he saw wisdom and took stock of it,
he considered it and fathomed its very depths.
28And he said to mankind:
‘The fear of the Lord is wisdom,
and to turn from evil, that is understanding!’

If you want to acquire wisdom, there is only one place you can go: to God, our Creator, our Heavenly Father. He is the source of everything; therefore, he is the fountain of wisdom. First we need to deal with what it means to “fear” the Lord. Contrary to many critics of our God, he does not want us to cower in fear of him like a helpless child cowers in fear of an abusive parent. God is love. The word “fear” here means to stand in awe of, or to have a deep abiding respect for. We often stand in awe of God’s creations, the grand mountain ranges, the natural waterfalls that flow down into lush valleys of rich vegetation, the colorful flow of the clouds at dusk with the deep orange circle in the sky that just an hour ago was too bright to look at, the power of thunder and lightning and the wind and the rain, the depth of the sea, and the beauty of the milky way from a distance… We often have a deep abiding respect for people who sacrifice themselves for others, or who push their skills and talents to a level never before seen in our time, or who are just all around good people who make us smile whenever we see them. This is what God expects from us, because this is what he deserves. He is the source of all talent and skill, and he is the source of all goodness. But I believe that fearing God requires us to go one step further than knowing this to be true about God’s character; I think that what God wants us to do is to actually know for ourselves that he deserves our awe, respect and adoration. In order to truly know wisdom, we need to seek out a relationship with God. Knowing that God exists, and that he’s a nice god, and that he must be pretty smart to have made all this cool stuff for us, just isn’t enough. We must communicate with him. When we are lost and confused, we need to seek his guidance; when we are tempted to act selfishly in a way that will harm ourselves and those we love, we need to ask for his help; when we know we need to do something that scares us, or we simply can’t do it without a miracle, we need to call on him. The second part is simply learning what God considers to be evil, and then doing our best to not do it. Turns out, even though it often feels good in the moment, evil is only the choices and actions we make that are harmful to ourselves and to others around us. God doesn’t just doesn’t make up rules for us in order to see if we’ll follow them or not, and then keep a tally of who is the biggest sinner in the universe. The idea here is that he created the world; therefore, he knows how things work around here. He knows which choices are going to be the most beneficial for humanity and those which are going to be the most harmful. He loves us, so he wants us to make the best choices. Wisdom is simply knowing God, and knowing him will give us the understanding of how to best live our lives, both in general and on a deeply personal level. The choice is up to us on how deep of a level of relationship we seek.

The skeptic will say, “Where is he? If he wants us to have wisdom, why does he hide himself?” The primitive mind will declare, “You can’t see God and live, all sinful creatures will die before him!” Yet, God is not so hard to find, and while we cannot stand before him in our fallen state; he does make a way for us to know him and communicate with him. The way is Jesus. In the same personification mentioned earlier by Solomon from Proverbs, Wisdom is said to call out to mankind, but we either choose to ignore her, or we are too wrapped up in ourselves to even notice her. The Father is constantly sending us messages, constantly trying to communicate with each one of us individually. Don’t worry that there are so many people in the world and there is just one God. He’s big enough to know each and every one of us intimately. The problem is, will you choose to know him? Will you seek for the signs and “have ears to hear”? The Apostle Paul, in his Letter to the Romans, states that the creation itself testifies to God’s existence (1:19-20), and that a wise and righteous man will seek to know him and do right, while the depraved man will go his own way (2:14-15). We have the very scriptures themselves. Have you read both the Old and New Testaments? In almost every age up to Jesus and the Apostles, God has spoken through his prophets, and this “Word of God” testifies to who God is and it makes clear the way he desires his children to live and to act. Do you hear what the Holy Spirit is whispering to you today? The sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross gives us direct access to the Father through the Holy Spirit. Each of us who choose to know God, and follow Jesus, have a deposit of the Holy Spirit within us. Through the Holy Spirit, God chooses to live with us, among us, and in us in the now. We do not have to wait for death and heaven to speak with him and to hear back from him! I don’t understand Christians who don’t believe that God speaks to us today. How can you have a relationship with someone who never talks to you? God is all powerful, why wouldn’t he make a way to speak with us? Of course, we must learn to hear his voice, and our hearts will often deceive us, but we have the scriptures as our guidance and our check to help us learn the voice of our Creator and help us to make wise choices that lead to good on the earth. If anything leads you to contradict the scriptures, it is your flesh and not from God.

What about all the people who have never had a chance to meet Jesus? Many Christians will disagree with me, but this is what I believe: Jesus says “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man comes to the Father but except by me” The Gospel of John 14:6. The scripture is clear that all religions don’t lead to the same place. Jesus just formally separated himself from all other religions with this statement. However, the scripture states elsewhere that “when you seek me, you will find me; if you search wholeheartedly, I shall let you find me, says the Lord” Jeremiah 29:13-14. I believe that all individuals who are genuinely seeking for Truth, who genuinely want to know who God is, and who want to have the wisdom and understanding to live a righteous Life before their Creator, even if they die before discovering Jesus is the Way, they were already on the path to Jesus, and the path to Jesus is eventually the way to the Father. I believe these individuals, no matter what generation or culture they come from, are saved. I have come to this conclusion, mostly because of the sins of the church, or at least those who claim to be in the church. Consider the man who lives his life righteously before his Creator and submits himself to an understanding of right and wrong and makes personal sacrifices for others. When this man meets a conquistador who makes him a slave and puts a sword to his neck and tells him to submit to his superior religion, and does all this in the name of Jesus, I have a hard time believing that this man will go to hell because he chose to die instead of submit to what a wicked man claimed was his religion. There are endless scenarios both modern and ancient, and only God himself really knows the true intentions of our hearts, so I say to you, don’t risk it. Seek after Wisdom, listen for her call in the streets. Submit to the truth that there is a Creator, even many nonreligious scientists are claiming that the theory of evolution is flawed and there is evidence of an Intelligent Designer (see the documentary, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed). If this God is real, talk to him. Ask him to give you signs that lead you to the Truth, ask him to give you “ears that can hear.” I can tell you from my experience: he is longing for you to hear him. He even crossed the divide, became flesh, died for the punishment you deserved, and then came back to life in the flesh just to get your attention. It’s worth looking into.

  • All scripture references are from The Oxford Study Bible: Revised English Bible with the Apocrypha.

Peter L Richardson