Thursday, January 13, 2011


My last big paper at Oxford was about how G. K. Chesterton's novel The Man who was Thursday could be read as a re-telling of the book of Job (it totally is, btw). That meant that I had to do a lot of research and thinking about the book of Job, the first two chapters in particular. These two chapters set the stage for the rest of the book, so we're going to look at them today.

The first five verses serve to establish the upright character of Job, who "feared God and turned away from evil." He does sin occasionally (see 7:20-21), but on the whole, as far as Old Testament man can be, he is "blameless and upright."

The next verse, 6, marks a change of setting. We are no longer looking at Job on earth, but are at the day "when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them." Supernatural beings, fallen and/or unfallen, have come before God, and God asks Satan, "From where have you come?" Satan responds, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it." This seems like a kind of challenge that Satan is throwing at God. His reply is very specific and almost redundant, like when you want to make a point. God asks "Where have you come from?" and Satan says, "Just, you know, walking around on earth--you know, where I live, where I hold dominion. The earth, whose inhabitants I stole from you. Just walking around there, you know. Doin' my thing."

If it is a challenge, God certainly rises to the occasion, meeting it with a challenge of his own. "Have you considered my servant Job?" Basically, God is saying, "Oh, you've been walking around on earth? Did you happen to see my servant Job? You'd remember him--blameless, upright, turns away from all evil... you know Job. Did you happen to see him while you were walking around on earth?" God refuses to let Satan's implicit claim to the earth stand, and instead presents him with proof that, although he may walk the earth, he doesn't control it.

It's clear from Satan's response that he has considered Job, and that it's a bit of a sore spot, because he instantly goes on the defensive. "Does Job fear God for no reason?" Satan asks. "Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side?... But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face." Satan admits God's initial premise--that Job fears God and avoids evil--but then makes a counter-argument. "You're so proud of Job? You think he loves you, that he serves you selflessly? Take away all the stuff you've given him, then, and we'll see what happens." Now, Satan genuinely believes this, that Job's love for God is motivated primarily by what has been given to him (as it apparently was for Satan himself). He really thinks he can win this.

Then comes the most interesting part of the story--God agrees to the test. God quite literally places Job into Satan's hands, with the only restriction being that Job must live.

So to recap--Satan comes before the Lord, fresh from "going to and fro" on the earth, and God immediately takes the opening Satan gives him to bring up Job, the counter to Satan's implied dominion over the earth. Satan ups the stakes, claiming that Job is only in it for what he can get, and God accepts the challenge. Thus Job, a mere man, becomes the focus of all the inhabitants of heaven and hell, with both angels and demons watching to see what Job will do. If Job persists, Satan's challenge is soundly defeated, but if Job falls...

That's the point of the whole book, really. Job suffers not as a result of his sin (as his three friends+Elihu maintain). Job suffers because he has been chosen as the subject of the great celestial wager, whether man may persist in loving and obeying God even when all visible and physical reasons for love and obedience have failed. It is an opportunity for great glory or great shame, as all trials are.

So, I totally plan on returning to Peter pretty soon. This was just something I was thinking about while I was doing chores.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Light in the darkness

There is a man who walks the Shadowlands, and to earthly eyes, which see things dimly in that dark place, there is perhaps nothing remarkable about what humans so ignorantly call his "life." But the eyes of heaven see clearly, and this is what they see.

They see a warrior, strong and bold. In his hand he holds a sword of light, and everything he sees, he sees by the light of the sword. He strides the earth, even larger in spirit than he is in body, and he brings the light of the sword into many places darkened by shadow. The armies of heaven, assembled in honor of the great warrior, watch the darkness hurl assault after assault at the man, and they watch the man stand firm through all of them, upheld by the light of the sword.

But the final blow is yet to come, and this the man can not withstand. The blow falls, unseen but not unfelt, and the man staggers. He grows weak, and seems to shrink. His steps no longer shake the ground, and soon he cannot even stand. He falls to his knees, but he holds tight to the sword, taking comfort in its light even as the darkness closes in around him.

But wait! The darkness halts it's advance, then flees as a light brighter than the sun surrounds the man. And out of the light comes another man, burning brightly, and a voice that sounds of battle and victory says, "Rise, warrior, for the night is over." The King, the great Captain of the hosts of Heaven, has come to welcome the soldier home. The man, still on his knees, sees the holes in the feet before him. He begins to fall forward, but nail-scarred hands raise him up, and the King says, "Be proud, my brother! Do you not remember, as I do, those years of glorious battle against the darkness? Have you forgotten how you held my sword tightly when the whole world tried to take it from you? Look around you! Do you not see the armies of heaven, come here to give you homage? I know what it is to be wrapped in darkness, and I know well the courage and steadfastness with which you faced it. Come and receive the victor's crown."

"The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne." Revelations 3:21
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