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.

It’s Never Cool to be Emo

What You’ve Missed…
* Jacob moves to Egypt.  He gives his final blessing for all twelve of his sons before he dies.  (It’s actually pretty dramatic and theatrical.  Richard Roeper would probably consider it a bit over the top, but then again, he didn’t think Snakes on a Plane was that great either, so what does he know?)
* Joseph mourns his father, then he dies.  (Very UNdramatically I might add.  Booooo.)
* Genesis ends.  (One down, sixty-five to go.)

Day 19
Daily Reading: Job 1-4

Yup, you read that right.  We jumped from Genesis to Job.  (Keep in mind this is a chronological Bible…and apparently scholars believe the story of Job takes place around the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Basically it’s a, “Meanwhile, over at Job’s Ranch…”  type of situation.)

So, the first couple of chapters of Job are pretty nuts.  For starters God is bragging to Satan about how awesome Job is.  How he’s a man of integrity who stays away from evil. Did you catch that?  God is bragging about Job!  Think He still does this?  I like to think God brags about me from time to time.  (I mean, if you saw how incredibly humble I am, you’d be pretty impressed too.)  Anyway, Satan says he wants to test Job, and God ALLOWS it (under the condition Job is not harmed physically.)  You’d think God would tell Satan to get lost, that Job (who God claims to be the finest man on the Earth) is off limits.  But that doesn’t happen, and Satan goes off to do his thing.

Satan has a bunch of crazy desert raiders steal and kill all of Job’s livestock and servants.  Then a powerful wind comes in, knocking down the house where ALL of Job’s children were partying, killing everyone inside.  (Thinking ahead to parenthood, I’m tempted to use this story to scare my possible future teenage daughters away from parties.  “Remember what happened to Job’s children honey?  They partied.  And they died.”)  After all the dust has settled, and Job realizes he’s lost nearly everything in his life, he worships God, reminding us that the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh awayeth.  (Job’s attitude is hard for me to accept, seeing as I get pretty upset at little things.  Like when I lose a game of Words With Friends…which is all the time.  I’m making grumbling sounds I don’t know how to adequately write out right now.)

Cut back to heaven and God is still bragging about Job and Satan is still really annoyed by it, so he gets God to agree to another test for Job.  This time God says Satan can do anything he wants, except kill him.  So Satan covers him in boils from head to toe.  (Now, I don’t mean to cause division, but I’d imagine Job would have a hard time reading Your Best Life Now in this condition, especially if he’d heard God say all this suffering was cool by Him.)

Seriously…God is simply allowing Job’s life to turn to complete crap overnight.  He doesn’t console him, or promise him it will get better.  He doesn’t reach in to save him or heal him or anything.  He just let’s Job suffer.  And this is a man He loves.  A man He brags about!  What the heck God?  I mean, the whole “God gives and God takes away” thing is great in theory…but if this is what it looks like in the practical sense, well, I don’t know how I’m supposed to really handle that.  (I like the first part waaaay more than that second part.)  And I really like the idea that, “His ways are not our ways” but I like it when it helps me to keep on keepin’ on when I can’t explain things for myself.  But here…God’s way is to let someone He loves simply suffer.  I mean, I guess it’s a test for Job, but still…I like the “His ways aren’t our ways” deal when it’s convenient, not…inconvenient.  I like it when it makes things easier, not harder.

Anyway…so Job finally shows that while he may be God’s favorite, he’s still totally human.  After sitting around in silence with his friends for seven days, wallowing in his misery, he finally explodes into the most depressing speech ever, cursing the day he was born.  He actually says he wishes he’d been born dead.  How much more depressing, morbid, and emo can you get?  Eat your heart out George Bailey, this guy can outwhine you any day of the week.  (I mean the character from It’s a Wonderful Life, not my friend George Bailey, who shares the same name, and who in fact, is pretty optimistic about most things.)

As the suffering continues, Job’s buddy Eliphaz tries to encourage his friend, reminding him to be confident in God.  He reminds Job that God is just and powerful.  He encourages him to take heart and endure.  But I doubt Job really listens to him because with a name like Eliphaz, well, let’s just say I bet Job thinks he’s more like Elispaz than anything else.  (To be honest, I don’t know Job’s response.  I haven’t read that far yet.)

Eliphaz…that poor guy. I bet middle school was tough for a guy with a name like that.