John T. Willis

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Paul admonishes Christians in 2 Corinthians 11:2-3:

"I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But am am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by its cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ."

Our relationship to God through Jesus Christ is like a "chaste virgin" or a "bride" promising to be faithful to God through Jesus Christ alone. But there are many beckoning voices summoning all of us to turn after tantalizing possibilities in life, which seem to be very promising, but turn us away from God.

This prayer of Walter Brueggemann articulates our needs for God:

You in your harshness, dismissing,
devising evil. . .
You in your mercy, seeking,
You in your harshness and in your mercy,
You puzzle us,
You bewilder us,
You keep us off balance,
You are you are . . . perhaps because of our fickleness,
drive you to extremes,
press you to craziness,
impel you against your better self.
We in our fickleness, waywardness, hard-heartedness,
we imagine we are in response,
but we may be at the outset setting you into vertigo.
We in our empty failure . . . you in bewilderment,
we waiting for your better self . . . you here and there,
past vertigo,
back in balance, calling and waiting,
softly and tenderly,
wishing us home with you.
We yearning to hear your call, afraid to hear,
because it means return through the mists of harshness,
through the risk of mercy,
in a journey we fear and crave,
want and dread,
pledge and renege,
start and hesitate, in all our double-mindedness.
So reach us with your single-mindedness,
give us new, single hearts of flesh
that pulse with praise and trust and obedience,
with all our heart,
with all our mind,
with all our strength, toward you, then our true selves.
We pray in the single-minded name of Jesus. Amen.

With all the voices around us constantly, daily, powerfully, may we lift our eyes to the Creator and Sustainer of life itself.

Abundant Blessings Today and Forever

John Willis

Three Conferences Affecting Job's Vital Concerns

After several blogs dealing with Introductory Matters in preparation to study the Book of Job, with this blog, we begin to launch SLOWLY into the Book of Job itself.

The composer or author of the Book of Job describes THREE CONFERENCES or "meetings" or "assemblies" ABOUT Job in Job 1-3. Ironically, Job himself does not interact with the "particpants" of any of these "conferences." They all talk or act ABOUT Job, not directly TO Job. After each "conference," certain events occur, and Job responds in some way. In this blog, I want to "sketch" these "three conferences" in Job 1-3. In later blogs, I will try to go more in depth with regard to each conference, the ensuing events, and Job's responses. Here, then, is an outline of Job 1-3.

Introduction: The composer of the Book of Job describes the significant pieces of information important for understanding the whole Book of Job. Job 1:1-5. Here are the introductory significant pieces of information.
a. Job comes from the land of Uz. Verse 1.
b. Job was a "WISE MAN," demonstrated by the fact that he was "one who feared God and turned away from evil." We discussed this in a previous blog. Verse 1.
c. Job was a "VERY HEALTHY MAN," demonstrated by the fact that he had 7 sons and 3 daughters. Obviously, his wife also was healthy. Verse 2.
d. Job was a "VERY WEALTHY MAN." He had numerous possessions. Verse 3.
e. Job was very conscientious [meticulous, scrupulous, "religious"] to obey all of God's practices. So, when Job's children held a feast, Job would send and sanctify them and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all, for fear that one of his children sinned and cursed God in their hearts; these sacrifices would appease God for their forgiveness. Verses 4-5.
[As the story of the Book of Job unfolds, Job's PROBLEM is his tremendous LOSSES: first, his wealth [Job 1]; then his health [Job 2:1-10]; and finally his wisdom [the fear of the Lord] [Job 2:11-3:26].

The Three Conferences--Job 1:6-3:26.
I. The First Conference. Job 1:6-12. The first conference takes place in heaven. The participants are: God, "the sons of God" [the heavenly beings]; and [the] Satan. [As a sideline, the next two blogs will go into detail about [the] Satan].
AS A RESULT of this first conference, certain significant events occur in Job's life, and Job responds in a certain way. Job 1:13-22. [Later blogs will go into detail on all this].
II. The Second Conference. Job 2:1-6. The second conference takes place in heaven. The participants are: God, "the sons of God" [the heavenly beings]; and [the] Satan.
AS A RESULT of this second conference, certain significant events occur in Job's life, and Job responds in a certain way. Job 2:7-10. [Later blogs will go into detail on all this].
III. The Third Conference. Job 2:11-13. The third conference takes place on earth. The participants are: three friends of Job: Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Ultimately, they will set with Job on the ground 7 days and 7 nights, but say nothing--nor does Job respond. [Later, the composer of the Book of Job indicates to the hearer or reader of this book that Elihu and most likely several other people were gathered on this occasion as well--see Job 32:1-5].
AS A RESULT of this third conference, certain significant events occur in Job's life, and Job responds in a certain way. Job 3:1-26.

This sketches Job 1-3. Next, we will turn to the first and second conferences. BUT, in order to do this, we must first spend some time talking about this character "[the Satan]" in later blogs.

How are you doing in the Book of Job so far? Are you learning anything? Am I suggesting some things bothering you, or raising questions for you, or wondering about some of these things about you? Share your ideas with me--with your friends--with your church--with your community.

John Willis

Friday, August 28, 2009

Make Me An Instrument

There is a powerful prayer attributed to the 13th century AD [CE] saint Francis of Assisi, although this prayer in its present form cannot be traced back further than 1912, when it was printed in France in French, in a small spiritual magazine called La Clochette (The Little Bell) as an anonymous prayer, as demonstrated by Dr. Christian Renoux in 2001. This prayer has known in the USA since 1936 and Cardinal Francis Spellman and Senator Hawkes distributed millions of copies of the prayer during and just after World War II.

Here is this prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow low;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.


At Highland, we love to sing a rendition of this song often. This song strikes at the very core of godly living. Take a little time each day. Dwell on each line. Let it sink deep into your heart and life. God will change YOU.

Let me hear from YOU. Share these thoughts with everyone around you. Abundant Blessings.

John Willis

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Setting the Stage for the Book of Job--Part V

Job 28:28 identifies "wisdom" as "the fear of the Lord." "The fear of the Lord" is THE CENTRAL THEME of the Wisdom Literature of the Hebrew Bible, including the Book of Job. BUT, what does the expression "the fear of the Lord" mean?

Now, "fear" is a term which has various meanings depending on the context of each verse and each context. By way of introduction:
A. Fear might mean "human fear" or anxiety IN CONTRAST TO "fearing God." Study Isaiah 8:12-13; Matthew 14:26-27; Hebrew 13:6.
B. Fear might mean "dread" or "terror" of a calamity or affliction. Study Proverbs 1:33; 1 Peter 3:13-15a; 1 John 4:18. In THIS sense, "fear has to do with punishment."
C. Fear might mean "fearful prospect of [eternal] judgment" in hell. Study Hebrew 10:26-27.
BUT, NONE of these definitions applies to "the fear of the Lord" in the Bible.

TWO AVENUES of study help one understand the meaning of "the fear of the Lord."

I. Parallelism. [We studied the principles of "parallelism" in a previous blog].
A. Fear means "stand in awe of"--Malachi 2:5: "He FEARED me ,
and STOOD IN AWE OF my name."
See also Psalm 22:23.
B. Fear means "reverence" or "honor." Exodus 20:12 says: "HONOR your father and mother," but Leviticus 19:3 says: "Ye shall FEAR every man his mother and his father." See also Hebrews 12:9; Psalm 103:13. Some of the English versions of some of these text read "revere" or "reverence" rather than "fear."
C. Fear means "respect" or "regard highly." Luke 18:2 says: "In a certain city there was a judge who neither FEARED God nor REGARDED man." Here "fear" and "regard" are interchangeable words. See similarly Exodus 9:20-21; Romans 13:7.
"Fear" does not mean "dread," "terror," or "horror," but "honor," "respect,"
"reverence," "standing in awe of," and the like.

II. Relationships. Five relationships in the Bible use the term "fear."
A. A slave "fears" his master. Malachi 1:6; Ephesians 6:5-7; 1 Peter 2:18-20. These references do not refer to "harsh" masters, but loving masters. So, here, "fear" means "respect" or "honor," not "dread."
B. A citizen "fears" his people. Joshua 4:14; 1 Kings 3:28; Romans 13:7.
C. A child "fears" his or her parents. Leviticus 19:3; Hebrews 12:9; Psalm 103:13
D. A wife "fears" her husband. Ephesians 5:33; 1 Peter 3:1-2.
E. Jesus "fears" God. Hebrews 5:7.

Now, this brings us to the PRIMARY ISSUE of the Book of Job.
1. The book of Job describes Job as a person "who FEARS GOD" and turns away from evil--Job 1:1, 8; 2:3. Hence, Job was a WISE person.
2. Some scholars argue that the "primary issue" in the book of Job is human suffering. I agree that suffering is a great concern in the book of Job, but I think this is NOT the CENTRAL PRIMARY ISSUE. See below.
3. Some scholars argue that the "primary issue" in the book of Job is Job's patience or impatience. Well, the book of Job DOES discuss the issue of Job's patience. But I think this is not the primary issue.
4. Some scholars believe the "primary issue" in the book of Job is THEODICY, the vindication of God's justice in permitting evil to exist in the world, that is, why the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer. This is certainly a big issue, and this appears in the book of Job, but I think this is not the primary issue in the book of Job.

Having said all this, I am convinced that Job 1:9 "brings out" THE PRIMARY ISSUE of the book of Job, emerging from the words of Satan: "Does Job FEAR GOD for nothing?" In other words, Can or should a person serve God faithfully through life without desiring as the motivation as a reward?

Admittedly, there are several important religious ideas in the book of Job, and we will discuss each of these in the following blogs. But for introduction, I am proposing that THE PRIMARY ISSUE in the book of Job is: Can or Should a human being serve God unselfishly? Will a person remain faithful to his Creator even if his circumstances are filled with "good reasons" to doubt and even denounce the way God is dealing with him? Will he worship God just because God is worthy of praise and honor, or in order to receive God's blessings and gifts? This is the PRIMARY ISSUE in the book of Job. And I imagine, this is our problem for life as well.

How do YOU respond to this? Share your thoughts with me--with others.

John Willis


I enjoy watching hawks soaring high in the sky, then suddenly swooping down to the ground to snatch a prey across the landscape and then back up into the clouds. Each spring and fall, I am amazed at the formations of geese as they migrate from south to north and later from north to south. God equips creatures like these with a marvelous member of birds called WINGS.

The Bible frequently refers to "wings" as a metaphor of God and human beings. Here are a few memorable passages.

1. Deuteronomy 32:11-12: "As an eagle stirs up its nest,
and hovers over its young;
as it spreads its WINGS, takes them up,
and bears them aloft on its PINIONS,
THE LORD ALONE guided him;
no foreign god was with him."
God is like a female eagle, who takes up her young, bears them aloft into the sky, and transports them to safety, as God brought the Israelites out of Egypt to the land of Canaan. Exodus 19:4 uses the same metaphor.

2. Psalm 36:7: "How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in SHADOW OF YOUR WINGS."
As a mother hen protects her chicks, so God protects his vulnerable, caring children. A similar figure occurs in Isaiah 31:5:
"Like birds HOVERING overhead,
so the Lord of hosts will PROTECT Jerusalem;
He will PROTECT and deliver it,
he will spare and rescue it."
Jesus uses the same metaphor in Luke 13:34.

3. Isaiah 40:27-31 assures God's fearful, anxious people in Babylonian exile:
"Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
'My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God?'
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary,
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will be exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint."

What an uplifting promise of God for all his faithful people. God buoys us up when disasters and failures and disappointments and fears and pitfalls surround us like mounting up with wings like eagles. In 1953, Stuart Hamblen wrote this song:

Stanza 1: Teach me Lord, to wait right down on my knees
Till in Your own good time You answer my pleas;
Teach me not to rely on what others do,
But to wait in prayer for an answer from You.

Stanza 2: Teach me Lord, to wait while hearts are aflame,
Let me humble my price and call on Your name.
Keep my faith renewed, my eyes on Thee,
Let me be on this earth what you want me to be.

Chorus: They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength,
They shall mount up with wings like eagles.
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
Teach me Lord,
Teach me Lord, to wait.

As you face each day, my hope and prayer is that God will carry your burdens like female eagles buoy up their young higher and higher in the sky.

Share your thoughts and dreams with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Setting the Stage for the Book of Job--Part IV

A major term in the Wisdom Literature is "wise" [Hebrew chakham] or "wisdom" [Hebrew chokhmah]. The term "wise" or "wisdom" occurs 28 times in the Book of Job: Job 4:21;5:13; 9:4; 11:6; 12:2, 12, 13; 13:5; 15:2, 8, 18; 17:10; 26:3; 28:12, 18, 20, 28; 32:7, 9 13; 33:33; 34:2, 34; 35:11; 37:24; 38:36, 37; 39:17. "Wise" sometimes refers to human beings, and sometimes to God.

In the Hebrew Bible, the term "wise" or "wisdom" has a variety of meanings, depending on the context. Here are the different usages:
1. Skilled--as a seamstress--Exodus 35:25; as a carpenter--Exodus 31:6-9; as a silversmith--Isaiah 40:20; as a sailor--Psalm 107:23-27.
2. Judgment or discretion--in guiding the affairs of state--Genesis 41:33; 1 Kings 3:9, 12 ,28.
3. Shrewd, crafty, cunning--2 Samuel 13:3; Job 5:13.
4. Know how, knack--Proverbs 16:14.
5. Sharp, smart, intelligent--Hosea 14:9.
6. "Wise people," as magicians, sorcerers, enchanters--Genesis 41:8, 24; Exodus 7:11, 22.
7. Understanding [as a synonym]--Job 12:2-3; 26:3; 38:36.

BUT, in the Wisdom Literature and in the Book of Job, primarily "wisdom" is equivalent to "THE FEAR OF THE LORD." Note these key texts:

Proverbs 9:10: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of WISDOM,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

Proverbs 1:7: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise WISDOM and instruction.

Proverbs 15:33: The fear of the Lord is instruction in WISDOM,
and humility goes before honor.

Psalm 111:10: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of WISDOM;
a good understanding have all those who practice it.

The BEGINNING of WISDOM is the ESSENCE of WISDOM. The point is: What WISDOM is all about or equivalent to is THE FEAR OF THE LORD.

Job 28:28 makes this very clear: "Behold the fear of the Lord, that is WISDOM;
and to depart from evil is understanding."

Hence, "Wisdom"="The Fear of the Lord" is FUNDAMENTAL to understanding THE ESSENTIAL thought of the Book of Job. We will continue this thought in the next blog.

Let me hear from YOU. Share these ideas with others.

John Willis

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Here I Raise My Ebenezer

In 1758, Robert Robinson wrote the song: "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing." John Wyeth's "Repository of Sacred Music" was put to music in 1813. For approximately 200 years, Christians have sung this song throughout the world. Here are the three stanzas:

Stanza 1: Come, Thou Fount of ev'ry blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, Call for songs of loudest praise;
Teach me ever to adore Thee; May I still Thy goodness prove,
While the hope of endless glory Fills my heart with joy and love.

Stanza 2: Here I raise my Eben-ezer; Hither by Thy help I've come;
And I hope by Thy good pleasure Safely to arrive at home;
Jesus sought me when a stranger, Wand'ring from the fold of God;
He to rescue me from danger Interposed His precious blood.

Stanza 3: O to grace how great a debtor Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness like a fetter Bind my wand'ring heart to Thee;
Never let me wander from Thee, Never leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.

In my opinion, the thoughts of this song are beautiful and uplifting and inspiring. I do not know whether Christians and churches still sing this song or not. I REALLY wish we would keep THIS song alive. It communicates a GREAT MESSAGE of God.

Having said all this, as a serious teacher and preacher of the Bible, would you allow me to make a few observations about ONE LINE in this song. It is the first line of the second stanza:
Here I raise my Eben-ezer; Hither by Thy help I've come.

1. Observation 1: Visiting with my students and my church and other churches where I have taught and preached, over five decades or more now, most people have no idea what this line really means. Here I raise my Eben-ezer. What does this mean? Where did this line come from?
Well, it comes from 1 Samuel 7:12, and one needs to study and think about and pray over the context of 1 Samuel 7:5-14. The Philistines had defeated the Israelites in two battles, and in the second battle, the Philistines killed the priests Hophni and Phinehas and captured the ark of the covenant. 1 Samuel 4. The Philistines took the ark of the covenant to the temple of the Philistine god Dagon, where Yahweh embarrassed Dagon in his own temple, in which Dagon lost his head and his hands. Tumors broke out through the land of the Philistines. 1 Samuel 5. The Philistines sent the ark of the covenant back to the Israelites, and the Israelites kept the ark of the covenant at Kiriath-jearim for 20 years (1 Samuel 6:1-7:4).
Now, Samuel instructs the Israelites to gather at Mizpah. The Philistines think the Israelites are going to rebel against the Philistines, and the Philistines attack the Israelites. Samuel beseeches Yahweh to intervene, and Yahweh overthrows the Philistines. To CELEBRATE this mighty act of God, "Samuel took a stone [Hebrew "eben"] and set it up betwen Mzpah and Jehanah, and named it Eben-ezer; for he [Samuel] said, 'Thus far the Lord has helped [Hebrew 'ezer] us."
This is why is it imperative that our teachers and preachers MUST learn Greek and Hebrew. This is a WORD PLAY communicating a tremendous biblical truth: "Eben-ezer" means literally "stone of help." The monument that Samuel set up to commemorate this event means "stone of help," because up to this point in the history of God's people "The Lord has HELPED us." What a great lesson God's people can learn from this text, properly understood.

2. Observation 2: The Bible presents MANY WORD PLAYS which God uses in scripture to communicate His truths. But God did this in Greek and Hebrew. In the New Testament, a few examples are: Messiah; Barnabas; Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani; Marana tha; Hosanna; etc.; etc. NO!!! NO!!! NO!!! Certainly not all Christians need to know Greek and Hebrew. This is NOT my point. However, we MUST have qualified people who know Greek and Hebrew to keep the people of God "on track."

3. Observation 3: In our text, God "helped" his people. One line of thought [or assumption] is that the "helper" is INFERIOR to the one helped. If so, God's people are SUPERIOR to God. A great parallel is Psalm 121:1-2 [using the Hebrew word `ezer]:
"I life up my eyes to the hills--
from where will my HELP come?
My HELP comes from the Lord [Yahweh],
who made heaven and earth."
Now, according to Genesis 2:18, Yahweh says: "I [Yahweh] will make him [the first man] a HELPER [Hebrew `ezer] as his partner." Many people have assumed and thought and argued that THEREFORE, a woman is INFERIOR to her husband--or, a woman is INFERIOR to a man. Now THINK--Is this concept biblical? If so, God is INFERIOR to human beings, BECAUSE God HELPS people. In my opinion, this just does not make sense. We get caught in a hierarchy that is JUST NOT BIBLICAL. Women walk hand in hand as "partners" to men, NOT as INFERIORS. Read the Bible.

How do YOU respond? What are your ideas? Share with others and with me.

John Willis

Monday, August 24, 2009

Setting the Stage for the Book of Job--Part III

Large sections of the Bible are in POETRY. MOST of the prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible are in POETRY. MOST of the WISDOM LITERATURE of the Hebrew Bible is in POETRY. PSALMS is totally in POETRY. In addition, there are several lengthy POEMS sprinkled along in narrative sections of the Hebrew Bible. A few examples are: Genesis 49; Exodus 15:1-18; much of Numbers 23-24; Deuteronomy 32-33; Judges 9:8-15; 1 Samuel 2:1-10; 2 Samuel 1:19-27; 22; 23:1-7; 2 Kings 19:21-28; etc.; etc. The New Testament also contains several significant portions of poetry. A FEW examples are: Matthew 6:9-13 [the prayer Jesus taught his followers]; Luke 1:46-55 [the Magnificat], 68-79Philippians 2:6-11; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 3:16; 2 Timothy 2:11-13; etc. You will notice that MANY quotations from the Hebrew Bible in the New Testament are from texts in the Hebrew Bible, and hence are in POETRY [here I am not listing these].

NOW, the Book of Job is almost entirely in POETRY. The ONLY prose sections of the Book of Job are Job 1-2; 32:1-5; 42:7-17. Accordingly, it is IMPERATIVE to understand Hebrew poetry IF one wishes to understand the Book of Job. Unfortunately, the old King James Version and American Standard Version printed these texts as PROSE, and thus did not faithfully present the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible. YOU MUST use a good translation that presents POETRY in CORRECT POETIC form. Otherwise, often you will not see the thrust of the text.

There are some "very minor" features of biblical POETRY, as "recurring refrain" or "chorus" occasionally, alliteration, and the like. However, THE PRIMARY CHARACTERISTIC of the Bible [Hebrew Bible and New Testament] is PARALLELISM. ONLY by learning and observing the principles of PARALLELISM that one may understanding the biblical text. Biblical poetry is NOT like well-established modern poetic forms, like sonnets and the like. Your properly equipped teacher and preacher will help you learn and appreciate and understand biblical PARALLELISM.

Briefly, in this blog, it is absolutely necessary to introduce PARALLELISM for a proper understanding of the Book of Job. As we work through the chapters, we will keep returning to applications of parallelism to specific texts. But, as an introduction, here are the SIX MAJOR types of biblical PARALLELISM. I will give only one example of each, with a few comments. As a broad definition: Parallelism is the repetition of similar or related thought or grammatical structure in adjacent lines or verses. Often, parallelism consists of TWO LINES, but this may be THREE LINES or FOUR LINES, and sometimes more.

1. Synonymous Parallelism. This consists of two parallel lines which essentially have the same meaning.
Proverbs 16:18: "Pride goes before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall."
When I first began preaching, I made this into a FOUR point sermon. I could WOW my audience to distinguish between "pride" and "a haughty spirit," and between "destruction" and "a fall." Now that I have learned Hebrew, and STUDIED the Bible more correctly, it seems laughable to me at my former ideas. This is "synonymous parallelism." These two lines essentially SAY the same thing: If a person is "proud" or "haughty," that person is destined to "destruction" or "a fall." This is simply HOW God works in human life.
For the Book of Job--Job 3:25: "Truly the thing that I fear comes upon me,
and what I dread befalls me."
This is ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL IN THIS TEXT, because here "fear" clearly means dread, terror, horror, and the like. In later blogs, I will try to demonstrate that "fear" has various meanings. So by no means does "fear" always or even regularly mean "dread" in the Bible or in the Book of Job. But sometimes it does, as in Job 3:25.

2. Antithetic Parallelism. This consists of two lines in which the second line stands in contrast to the first line. This is NOT a CONTRADICTION. Here is one illustration.
Proverbs 10:7: "The memory of the righteous is a blessing,
but the name of the wicked will rot."
Such a passage sharply distinguishes between characteristics of the righteous and the wicked from the biblical perspective. Further, in THIS verse, "name" MEANS "memory" in the obvious sense of "track record." In other passages, "name" has other meanings. Each text must determine the meaning, and PARALLELISM is IMPERATIVE for correct understanding.

3. Emblematic Parallelism. This consists of two lines in which the alternate line offers a simile [using "like" or "as"] or metaphor [a comparison not using "like" or "as"].
Proverbs 25:14: "Like clouds and wind without rain
is one who boasts of a gift never given."
This simile is very appropriate for West Texas. Often, we have rising clouds with lightning and thunder, but it does not rain. This is LIKE a person who promises to give a gift to a friend, but never does that.

4. Stairlike or Climactic Parallelism. This consists of two lines in which the second line goes back to the first line and completes the incomplete first line.
Psalm 29:1: "Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength."
As the hearer listens to the first line, he or she is leaning forward to completing the statement, but it never happens. Then, the composer starts again in the second line and completes the thought of the first line. "Ascribe to the Lord . . . " [WHAT? Line one never says]. BUT, line 2 completes the thought: "Ascribe to the Lord GLORY AND STRENGTH."

5. Alternating Parallelism. This consists of alternate half-lines or lines, giving an a-b-a-b structure. Here is a clear example.
Micah 1:4: "Then the mountains will melt under him [God]--a
and the valleys will burst open--b
like wax under the fire--a
like waters poured down a steep place--b"
This alternations makes clear that the idea is:
The mountains will melt under God like wax under the fire;
and the valleys will burst open like waters poured down a steep place.
[Some modern poems follow an abab pattern, and this often happens in the Bible].

6. Inverted Parallelism. This consists of half-lines or lines which have an abba pattern. One example is Psalm 137:5-6b:
"If I forget you, O Jerusalem,--a
let my right hand wither!--b
Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,--
If I do not remember you--a"
It is very easy to see that "forget" and "not remember" in verses 5a and 6b are parallel--they have the same meaning. The two middle lines are a little more difficult in verses 5b and 6a. Actually, a withered hand and a tongue cleaving to the roof of the mouth is quite parallel and equivalent WHEN one realizes that the composer of Psalm 137 is a "singing" (with the mouth) "harp player" (with the right hand)--the two things which are nearest and dearest to his profession and ministry (note verses 2-3).

As we work "tediously" through the chapters of the Book of Job, you will find quickly that PARALLELISM is IMPERATIVE to understanding this book. Be patient. Study. Pray. Read different English translations. Study commentaries [not just one] and scholarly articles.

This may be "academic" for some of you. Please forgive me. But, this is absolutely essential to understanding the Book of Job properly.

Let me hear from YOU. Share your thoughts with those around you. I need to learn. Give me your insights. Blessings to all.

John Willis

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sea Shells

Over many years of traveling around the world, my wife and I have been greatly blessed by walking along wonderful beaches of many countries in Canada, Hawaii, Greece, Israel, New Zealand, Singapore, Africa, etc. One of the great wonders which intrigue me is collecting sea shells washed onto the sand lapping at the shore. In our home, we have a huge collection of all shapes and sizes and colors. Come see our collection some time. Each is unique and marvelous. This is one of God's mysterious, beautiful creation.

A sea shell is a hard, protective outer lay created by a sea creature, a marine organism. The shell is part of the body of a marine animal. In most cases, a shell is an exoskeleton, usually that of an animal without a backbone, an invertebrate. Many sea shells are mollusk shells, including snail shells (gastropods), clam shells (bivalves), tusk shells (scaphopods), chitons (polyplacophorans); then there are crustacean shells, horseshoe crabs, echinoderm tests, and brachiopod shells. Small octopuses sometimes use an empty shell as a sort of cave for hiding and protection.

The scientific study of collecting and classifying shells is called conchology. Specialists and amateurs frequent efforts to learn and appreciate sea shells. Several clubs and societies unite by shared interest in shells, such as Florida and California, where the marine fauna is rich in species. Some countries use various types of shells as musical instruments, for example, in Korea. Many countries around the world use marvelous shapes and colors of shells for decoration.

There are a few references to various types of sea shells in the Bible.

1. Psalm 58:8 includes a metaphor in a curse or malediction:
"Let them [the wicked] be like the SNAIL that dissolves into slime;
like the untimely birth that never sees the sun."

2. Job extols wisdom using this comparison in Job 28:18: "the price of wisdom is above PEARLS." Of course, a pearl is a gem produced as a secretion by oysters [an oyster is a bivalve mollusk] that harden.

3. Jesus warns God's people in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:6: "Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your PEARLS before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you." [As you know, there is a daily or weekly cartoon entitled: "Pearls before Swine"].

4. Jesus tells a parable in Matthew 13:45-46: "The kingdom of heaven is like amerchant in search of fine PEARLS; and one finding ONE PEARL OF GREAT VALUE, he went and sold all that he had and bought it."

5. In 1 Timothy 2:9, Paul instructs that women "should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their air braided, or with gold, PEARLS, or expensive clothes."

6. Revelation 17:4; 18:12, 16 describe the extravagance of evil Babylon [Rome] as adorned with many expensive luxuries, including PEARLS.

7. In the description of "the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God" in Revelation 21, in verse 21, the text says: "And the twelve gates are twelve PEARLS, each of the gates is a single PEARL, and the street of the city is pure gold, transparent as glass."

For centuries, human beings worldwide have treasured pearls [a hardened secretion by oysters] as valuable materials.

All of these marvelous creations are the work of God. They dazzle our lives. How can one see all of these blessings and fail to see bright windows in the world of the work of God? I hope you enjoy sea shells. They bless the heart and the life.

What are your ideas? What are your experiences? Share these wonders with your family, your friends, your church, your community, your country. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis