“The Three Amigos” Isn’t As Ridiculous As You Might Think

What You’ve Missed…
* We’re in the book of Exodus now, and three-hundred years after the time of Joseph, all of Abraham’s descendants, The Israelites, have become slaves in Egypt.  They’re pretty pissed about it.
* About this time, Moses is born.
* Around the age of forty, Moses takes the law into his own hands, becoming the world’s first vigilante hero, when he murders an Egyptian guy who’s beating up some Hebrew dude.  (I’m thinking the local papers referred to him as “The Sackcloth Sucker-Puncher.”)
* Around the age of eighty, Moses doesn’t encounter God-As-A-Talking-Tornado, but rather, God-As-A-Talking-Bush-On-Fire.  (Not to be confused by The-Now-Not-So-Implausible-Singing-Bush from The Three Amigos.)
* God-As-A-Burning-Bush tells Moses He is going to rescue the Israelites from slavery, and that Moses will act as His mouthpiece.  Moses goes all King’s Speech, whining about his stutter, and so God brings Aaron (Moses’ older brother) on board to announce to everyone all the things God speaks to Moses.
* Finally…God gives Moses an awesome staff that He turns into a snake from time to time.  (Finally answering the question, “What do you get the man who has everything?”)
* Got all that?

Day 34
Daily Reading: Exodus 7-9

Whew…let’s all take a breather, because that’s a lot to digest.  Go ahead and grab some coffee or a quick smoke break or something.  I’ll wait.

So old man Moses is taking direction from God on how to get the Israelites out of Egypt, and because he’s human, and because God can be confusing, he protests and questions some of God’s plan.  But in the end he trusts God and does as he’s asked, providing the people of Egypt the craziest experience of their lives.

You see, God doesn’t just want to rescue His people from slavery, He also wants Pharaoh to know He is The One True God.  So He puts on a little display to demonstrate His power.  And we’re not talking about a mind-blowing Pink Floyd laser light show.  For starters, when Pharaoh refuses to let the Israelites go, God turns the Nile River into blood.  He doesn’t stop with just the Nile, but all the water in Egypt (including the water in jugs, cups, storage basins, etc.) also turn to blood.  And it lasts for seven days.

Let’s just stop and imagine this for a second.  You’re meeting someone for lunch, and as you take a sip of your water, you realize it’s blood.  The whole restaurant realizes what’s happened at roughly the same time, and people start screaming and freaking out.  Or maybe you open the washer to discover your clothes aren’t pink because you washed colors with the whites, but because they were “washed” in blood.  Or perhaps you’re standing around the water cooler at work (do people actually do this in real life, or just in Dilbert?) when all of a sudden you and your co-workers find yourselves standing around the blood cooler instead.  (Or think about if it happened while you were in the shower.  That’s something straight out of The Shining.  And that gives me the heebie-jeebies.)

I think you get the idea.  This is not a normal thing.  People notice when ALL of the water in their life turns to blood.  That’s a pretty strong showing of power in my book.  But apparently Pharaoh didn’t think so, because he didn’t let the Israelites go.  In fact, his own royal magicians also turned water into blood (Exodus 7:22) which is pretty impressive.

So God moves on to Phase Two and produces a plague of frogs.  Frogs start showing up everywhere, including people’s ovens (Exodus 8:3) which makes me wonder if they were instantly incinerated, or whether they were special “plague frogs” that were a lot harder to get rid of.  (Also, it says that Pharaoh’s magicians summoned frogs too…which makes me wonder if they could have had the most amazing magic show Vegas has ever seen.)  But again…can you imagine what that was like for everyone in Egypt?  Think about the noise at night alone when millions of frogs are croaking at once.  Or the fact that you’d be walking on frogs (living and squashed) everywhere you went.  That would get really old, really fast.

So Pharaoh relents saying he’ll let God’s people go…but as soon as the frogs are gone, he changes his mind.  This pattern of relenting and then changing his mind continues as God brings more plagues on Egypt, setting the standard for a man struggling through some very serious commitment issues.  During this time God also brings on a plague of gnats, a plague of flies, a plague destroying all the livestock in the country, a plague of boils appearing on everyone and a plague of hail.

Seriously…think about if this was you.  First, all your water becomes blood.  Then your house, car, workplace and everyplace are covered in frogs.  Then you’re constantly covered in gnats ALL THE TIME.  And if that isn’t enough, later you’d be covered in flies everywhere you went.  (I don’t think anyone is gettin’ “lucky” while this is happening either.  Being covered in gnats and flies tend to really destroy the mood.  So on top of suffering, everyone’s also in a major “dry spell” which I’m sure upped the tension in Egypt a hundred-fold.)

Later, all the animals around you die.  Then you’re covered in boils and finally everything you own is destroyed by hail.  That’s a rough couple of weeks right there.  And what if you found out the reason for it all was because the leader of your country was acting like a complete turd?  I imagine Pharaoh’s approval rating would be zero, and that the Occupy Egypt movement would be more of an Angry Violent Mob Out For Blood Movement.  (Though being out for blood would be slightly ironic.)

So…yeah.  Evil dictators are the worst.  Also, between this and the book of Job, I think God is doing a pretty solid job of showing us that having a fairly normal life, without being covered in boils, is a pretty huge gift in-and-of itself for mankind.  Welcome to the book of Exodus.

The Bible Has Better Dragons Than Harry Potter

What You’ve Missed…
* More crying out from Job.  (No real surprise there.)
* Some young punk named Elihu comes out of the woodwork dropping some serious wisdom on the old men around him.  (Score one for the young guns!)
* God responds to Job from a passing tornado.  It isn’t pretty.

Days 30 and 31
Daily Readings: Job 38-42

As a lover of stories, I’ve seen my fare share of twist endings.  (I’m one of the rare people who admit to not only being surprised at the end of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, but but actually liking it too.)  But the end of Job caught me completely off guard, for a couple of reasons.  Not the least of which is the fact that God himself throws some sarcasm Job’s way.

Before I go any further…let’s remember that God is speaking to Job from “the whirlwind” (Job 38:1)  I’m thinking of this as some form of tornado.  Now, I’ve never seen an actual tornado, but since I have seen The Wizard of Oz, Twister and almost a full episode of Storm Chasers, I feel qualified enough to say that tornados are pretty intense.  Including ones that are talking.  And especially if they’re intentionally humiliating you.  So, that’s crazy enough in and of itself.  Here is a man who was humbled by a talking tornado.  I’ll let that register a minute.

Moving on.  God in tornado form is asking Job if he’s ever commanded the sun to rise, where he was when the foundations of the earth were laid, and whether or not he knows how to get to the gates of death.  But to drive the point home, God gets straight up sarcastic with Job saying, “But of course you know all this!  For you were born before it was all created, and you are so very experienced!”  Daaaang.  That’s a serious burn, people.  Job just got burned by God.  Hard.  (I think it’s at this point Job starts to realize he’s outmatched in a big way.  And since David and Goliath hasn’t happened yet, I don’t think he’s holding out too much hope for a major underdog victory here.  Rather, he’s probably wetting himself.  Possibly while curled up in the fetal position.)

So, God-as-tornado kicks off the crazy ending, but things continue to progress.  God doesn’t simply let Job off the hook with some heady questions, but rather goes on to describe how immense, how powerful, how incredible some of His creations are.  He begins to describe a creature that cannot be tamed by men, then goes on to describe an even more powerful creature that can only be handled by God himself.  We’re not talking lions, tigers or bears (oh my!) here people.  God has taken us into the realm of Behemoth and Leviathan.

So what are Behemoth and Leviathan?  Well….  (My Bible’s footnotes say there is a dispute of whether or not these are actual, earthly creatures, or mythical beasts of ancient literature.)  As an educated man, I struggle to write the following…but I think God might be talking about…dragons.  That live in the sea.  Seriously.  I’ll let you check out the description of Behemoth for yourself (Job 40:15-24) while I touch on Leviathan.  Now…I realize that saying the Bible talks about ocean-dwelling, fire-breathing dragons may be ridiculous, and possibly even slightly insane…but I don’t know what else to think.  Here are some of the descriptions of this bad boy…

-“Who can penetrate its double layer of armor?” (Job 41:13)
-“When it sneezes, it flashes light!  Its eyes are like the red of dawn.  Lightning leaps from its mouth; flames of fire flash out.” (Job 41:18-19)
-“Its breath would kindle coals, for flames shoot from its mouth.” (Job 41:21)
-“Leviathan makes the water boil with its commotion.”
(Job 41:31)
-“Nothing on earth is its equal, no other creature so fearless.  Of all the creatures, it is the proudest.  It is the king of beasts.” (Job 41:34)

Okay.  What?  This thing breathes fire?  (The beast is also described as having scales like shields, terrible teeth and strength more terrifying than anything known to man.)  Tell me that’s not a dragon.  And God seems to be talking about this thing as if it’s real.  I mean, really real.  As in, this is not Puff the Magic Dragon.  As in, The Loch Ness Monster is an adorable puppy compared to this thing.  As in, this thing exists, and it will wreck you.  In a big way.

It is more powerful than any other creature.  It is beyond man.  We are not talking about your garden variety Harry Potter Hungarian Horntail here.  This sucker would use the Horntail as a chew toy.  God is using Leviathan to show Job that He is ultimate.  The most ultimate of beasts, beasts we can’t begin to compare with, are still beasts He created.  He is more ultimate than the most ultimate thing on earth.  That’s what’s so interesting…it’s as if God expects Job to know what He’s talking about.  To know what Leviathan is.  And God seems to be acting as if it’s real.  He’s talking about a creature with red eyes that breathes fire and lives in the ocean.  Thanks Jaws, “Don’t go in the water” is right.  Except, Jaws, you just became a guppy.

So yeah…make of that what you will.  But if you’re a Christian…this is in your holy book.  Your God is talking about some pretty wild stuff.

And just when you think you’ve reached the pinnacle of crazy endings, God goes and pulls one last twist.  After God speaks, Job repents, walking away humbled and awed by his Creator.  God seems to not just forgive this prideful, slightly arrogant guy, but blesses him as well.  At the end of the story, God has returned to Job DOUBLE what he originally lost, and provided him with more children.

A lot of people stop there saying the point of the story was that Job was a man who honored God, and so God blessed him.  But after reading, I think the point was that Job had a complete change of heart.  Not only did he become more humble and reverent toward God, but it says he also included his daughters in his will (not common in those times), which to me says that he became grateful for everything in his life after his run in with God.  He seems to appreciate his life and loves the people in it more than before.  His entire outlook on existence seemed to be changed by his encounter with The Creator.

Talking tornadoes, dragons of the sea, and a man’s life changed forever.  Now that’s what I call an ending.  And that’s what I call crazy.  Thanks for the ride Job.

Old People Are Funny

What You’ve Missed…
* Job insults his friends.
* His friends insult him back.
* Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.
* You’re now pretty much fully caught up on 25 chapters of the book of Job.

Day 25
Daily Reading: Job 22-25

One of the reasons I’m often reluctant to read the Bible is because it doesn’t offer much in the way of comedy.  Sure there may be some incredible action stories, and definitely some intense drama…but I’m a comedy guy.  What?  Caddyshack’s on?  Yup, my plans for the day just fell apart.  Huh?  You Netflixed Monty Python and the Holy Grail?  Yeah, I’ll happily invite myself over to be the third wheel on your movie night date.  You’ve never seen a man laugh himself off the couch as he watches a taco and grilled cheese sandwich fight to the death?  Clearly we aren’t spending much time together.

Turns out I was wrong.  I’m finding the book of Job to be as entertaining as most classic comedies.  In fact, it is a classic comedy.  Job is really just Grumpy Old Men.  It’s basically a bunch of old dudes sitting around insulting one another.  Here’s a loosely paraphrased exchange between Job and his buddies over the course of about 20 chapters:

Job: “God is out to get me.  I wish I were dead.”
Bildad: “Shut your cakehole you old windbag.  God isn’t out to get you.”
Zophar: “God isn’t punishing you half as much as you deserve, you old coot.”
Job: “Well look who knows everything!  You’re about as good of a friend as the IRS.”
Eliphaz: “Hey Four Eyes!  You’re so old and so blind you’ve turned away from God.”  (That was a major, major burn back in the day.)
Job: “You guys should go into the ballooning business with all that hot air you’ve got.  You’d make a fortune!”
Bildad: “Geez man, not even my grandson babbles as much as you, you crazy fool!”

And so on.

It’s fantastic!  But not just because it’s hilarious…but because these are real men struggling to work through deep questions about God’s nature.  They’re judgmental. (Job’s friends are convinced his misfortune is a result of his own sinful action for which he should repent.)  They’re prideful.  (Job continually proclaims himself pure and righteous, playing the “victim” card.  And like all men, each one in this story is convinced he is absolutely right.)  But they’re not all bad.  These guys display some wisdom too.  (Job’s friends constantly remind him that God is good and powerful.  They remind him that God honors those who honor him, and that men are maggots compared to God, so who are they to cry out against Him?  And Job still proclaims God to be the all mighty and all powerful Creator.)

This is real life.  This is a story about a guy who has good friends who speak the truth to him.  It’s also a story about a guy who doesn’t want to hear the truth, but rather, for his friends to rally around his pain.  I love it.  It’s so genuine, so real.  Everyone involved thinks they’re the one who’s right.  Now this is something I can relate to.  I bet we all can.  We’ve all given amazing advice to friends who seem to choose to make life harder on themselves by not listening to us right?  (What are they?  Crazy?)  And we all have friends who can’t believe we don’t listen to them more, despite constantly telling us it’s for our own good right?  (Who do they think they are?  Our parents?)

In the past I always thought Job was some kind of biblical hero or the example of how a truly good man deals with unfortunate events in life by staying positive and thankful towards God no matter what kind of crap hits the fan.  However, he isn’t perfect.  He’s a normal guy.  I’ve decided Job is just a guy like me who means well, and loves God, but can be a real jerk sometimes.**

Man this is good stuff.

**I love when people leave comments, but let’s just say there’s not much of a need to elaborate on this particular issue from those who know me.  Thanks.