John T. Willis

Thursday, October 29, 2009


I am so thankful that the just published November 2009 issue of National Geographic includes an article with pictures on kingfishers. When we spend our summers in New Zealand, after I come home each day from my teaching classes, we enjoy watching the kingfishers beside the Pacific Ocean. These kingfishers perch in trees or on posts, watching for small fish and minnows. Suddenly, they plummet into the ocean and come up with a catch. Their characteristics and colors are very intriguing.

Kingfishers are small to medium sized brightly colored birds in the order Coraciiformes. There are approximately 90 species of kingfisher. They all have large heads, long, sharp, pointed bills, short legs, and stubby tails. Most species have bright plumage, and usually it is very difficult to distinguish between males and females.

Many species of kingfisher live in tropical areas. Many live in forests. Like other members of their order, they next in cavities, usually tunnels dug into the natural or artificial banks in the ground. The kingfishers were traditionally treated as one family, Alcedinidae with three subfamilies, but follows the 1990s revolution in bird taxonomy, the three former subfamilies are now usually elevated to familial level. This was supported by chronomosome and DNA-DNA hybridisation studies, but challenged on the grounds that all three groups are monophyletic with respect to the other Cariciiformes. This leads to them being grouped as the suborder Alcedines.

The six species in the Americas are four closely related green kingfishers in the genus Chloroceryle and two large crested kingfishers in the genus Megaceryle. Kingfishers range from the African Dwarf Kingfisher, which is 4 inches long to the Giant Kingfisher, which is 18 inches long. The familiar Austrailian kingfisher knows as the Laughing Kookaburra--Dacelo novaeguineae--may be the heaviest species, which sometimes exceeds one pound.

Kingfishers are another example of God's wisdom, diversity, beauty, and intrigue. Surely, I hope YOU enjoy and appreciate kingfishers. But far beyond this, I hope YOU appreciate the CREATOR of kingfishers and ALL of his creation.

What are YOUR experiences with kingfishers? Share your experiences with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Elihu--Part 1 [Introductory Considerations]

A new personality suddenly bursts on the scene in the Book of Job--a man named Elihu. Job 32-37 [six chapters] deal with Elihu and his speeches. There is no mention of Elihu earlier in this book [chapters 1-31], and there is no mention of Elihu later in this book [chapters 38-42]. Hence, many scholars think Job 32-37 are a later addition to the book, and think that Elihu's speeches are irrelevant to the issue in the Book of Job.

In next few blogs, we will work through Job 32-27, the speeches of Elihu. In this first blog, we will deal with a few introductory matters concerning Elihu.

I. The man Elihu. The Bible says almost nothing about Elihu.
a. Job 32:2, 6 says Elihu's father was Barachel, but the Bible never refers to this person elsewhere in scripture.
b. Job 32:2 says Barachel was a Buzite. Genesis 22:20-21 identifies Buz as a nephew of Abraham, and Buz had a brother named Uz, which might be related to the land of Uz, in which Job lived--see Job 1:1.
c. Job 32:2 says Elihu was "of the family of Ram." 1 Chronicles 2:9, 25, 27; Ruth 4:19 suggests connections of Ram with the tribe of Judah.
d. SO, there is so little information, it is impossible to determine who this person was. Evidently, this is not important, especially in the story of the Book of Job.

II. The Genuineness or Authenticity of the Speeches of Elihu--Job 32-37. Put another way: Were Job 32-37 original in the Story or Book of Job? As one might suppose, there are two major views.
A. Many scholars argue that Job 32-37 are a later insertion into the Book of Job. They defend this view based on five arguments.
1. The rest of the book of Job never mentions Elihu, and it is particularly important that Yahweh never refers to Elihu at the end of the book in Job 42:7-17.
2. The style of the introduction to Elihu in Job 32:1-5 has a ponderous, redundant, and obviously scribal style.
3. Job's challenge to meet God in a fair court trial in Job 31:35-37 calls for the response of God in Job 38:1ff, not for Elihu's interruption in Job 32-37.
4. Unlike Job's three friends--Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar--, Elihu quote Job verbatim several times, and addresses Job name several times. Elihu's speeches give the impression of being carefully studied and formally presented.
5. Several terms in Job 32-37 are in Aramaic, not in Hebrew.
*OKAY--I know this view very well, and I fully understand the arguments. BUT, I am far from convinced. I believe that the biblical text makes it quite clear that Job 32-37 belongs meaningfully in the Book of Job. The Hebrew text and all the ancient versions include these chapters. There is no reason to deny them, or assign them to a later hand.

B. Many scholars think that Job 32-37 belongs to the Book of Job. Here are at least SOME of the arguments which I suggest to support this view.
1. Often in scripture, the biblical composer or author introduces a person without preparation "out of the blue." One example is the prophet Nathan. The reader works through 1 Samuel 1-2 Samuel 6, and has no clue that a person named Nathan might belong to the books of 1-2 Samuel. "Out of the blue," the author of the Books of Samuel suddenly presents Nathan the prophet without any warning or introduction in 2 Samuel 7. Nathan appears further in 2 Samuel 12 and 1 Kings 1.
2. The flow of the text of the Book of Job fits in well in Job 32-37. Job and his friends had spoken many words, but had gotten nowhere. Even the reader of the book just cannot wait to jump into this discussion. SO, it makes all the sense in the world for another person to "chime in" to shed light on the issues of this book.
3. Job is "angry" and "young" (Job 32:2, 3, 5, 6), but this does not make him wrong. Jesus was in his early thirties--was Jesus wrong? Timothy was young when Paul converted him and worked with him in his missionaries activities--was Timothy wrong? I am quite old, but daily I learn much from young people, and I hold them in the highest regard.
4. Elihu repeatedly invites Job to interrupt Elihu at any time and show that Elihu is wrong (Job 33:5-7, 32-33), but Job never responds. Either Job ignores Elihu or thinks Elihu has nothing to say, or Elihu is beginning to "get through" and "touching" Job's heart. In my opinion, the flow of the text suggests this last option is correct.
5. If Elihu is proclaiming a message which is correct, there is no reason why God should respond to Elihu. Elihu is preparing Job to listen to God. Elihu stands in the anteroom or waiting room or lounge preparing Job to enter into the presence of God. As we will see, Elihu's ideas are very much like God's ideas as stated in Job 38:1-42:6.
6. The attitude of Job's three friends--Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar--is to defend their own traditions and attempt to defeat Job in this debate. They are cold to any feeling toward Job as a human being deeply suffering and disturbed. In contrast, Elihu is very understanding and compassionate toward Job. Elihu sincerely desires to "comfort" Job and try to help Job in Job's great distress.

III. The Introduction in Job 32:1-5 set the stage for Elihu's speeches. This introduction is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT here and in the entire Book of Job.
A. Verse 1 gives the REASON Job's three friends stopped speaking in the debate. This verse explains why Bildad's speech was extremely short--recorded in Job 25:1-6, and Zophar does not speak at all when his turn to speak for his THIRD SPEECH. Job's three friends quit speaking because "Job was righteous in his own eyes." Anyone who has studied the speeches in Job 4-31 must agree that this is undoubtedly correct. Job was righteous in his own eyes--and dared to challenge God to meet him in a fair court trial.
B. Verse 2 explains the REASON Elihu became angry. First, Elihu became angry because "Job justified himself rather than God." Again, this is undoubtedly correct. Hence, Elihu was justified in being angry.
C. Verse 3 explains Second, Elihu became angry because Job's three friends "found no answer" in response to Job's arguments, and yet they "declared that Job is in the wrong." Elihu is quite correct. The arguments of Job's three friends are baseless. I think Job himself was wrong. BUT, certainly Job's three friends were also wrong. And YET, they insisted that Job is "wrong." It is very easy to accuse another person to be "wrong," but often a person cannot show WHY that person is wrong. NOW, Elihu will suggest another way to deal with Job's view.
D. Elihu wanted to interrupt Job and his friends earlier, but he restrained himself BECAUSE "they were older than he," and thus wanted to be respectful. Verses 4-5.
It is always good for a person to be quiet and let others speak fully and completely. "Speech is silver; silence is gold." But when the debaters run completely out of arguments and thoughts, it may be time for someone else to offer another approach to the problem. Elihu does this, and this changes Job's heart and life, as we will see.

This is quite enough here. Think through these introductory thoughts. Share YOUR thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Sunday, October 25, 2009


In eastern Australia and Tasmania, there is a very unique animal called the Platypus. This is a semi-aquatic mammal. It is one of five extant species of monotremes, the only mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young.
The technical term of the platypus is Ornithorhynchus anatinus, a Latin term meaning "bird snout duck-like."

Europeans first learned of the platypus in 1798, and were baffled by this egg-laying, venomous, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed animal. The male platypus has a spur on the hind foot that delivers a venom capable of causing severe pain to humans. The platypus appeared as a mascot at national events and is featured on the reverse of the Australian 20 cent coin. The platypus is the animal emblem of the state of New South Wales.

At first, naturalists thought the platypus was a fraud or a hoax. Some assumed a duck's beak was sewn onto the body of a beaver-like animal. But the platypus is another READ creature made by God. The body and the broad-flat tail of the Platypus are covered with dense brown fur that traps a layer of insulating air to keep the animal warm. The Platypus uses its tail for storage of fat reserves. The webbing of the Platypus is more important on the front feet and is folded back when walking on land. Unlike a bird's beak, the snout of the Platypus is a sensory organ with the mouth on the underside. The nostrils are located on the dorsal surface of the snout, while the eyes and ears are located in the groove set just back from it, this groove is closed when swimming.

The Platypus weighs between 1.5 to 5:3 pounds, and is between 17 and 20 inches long.

Our God is a very diverse creature. God is so creative. Each animal, each plant, each planet, each star, EACH PERSON is unique. What a mighty God we serve!!!

I hope YOU appreciate and respect the Platypus. But much more than this, I hope YOU stand in awe of the CREATOR of the Platypus, and all his creations.

How do YOU react? Share YOUR thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Here Is My Signature! Let the Almighty Answer Me! Job's Third Response to Bildad--Part 5--Job 31

Job has yearned for "the good old days"--recorded in Job 29. Then, Job has proclaimed that NOW he is suffering tremendously without just cause--recorded in Job 30. Then, we come to the climactic conclusion of his long monologue recorded in Job 26-31.

Job 31 contains the highest religious and moral standards found in the entire Bible, Old or New Testament. Job's standards are sterling. If all Christians would live up to these standards, their lives would be marvelous. But for Job, the problem is that in spite of the fact that his religious and moral standards are "blameless and righteous," God is making Job suffer without just cause. Hence, Job once again challenges God to meet Job in a fair court trial, in which case Job will prove that Job is right and God is arbitrary and making Job suffer unjustly.

Job 31 lays out numerous outstanding standards for the highest type of godly living. In this blog, we will simply follow the text through this chapter. Job declares:

I. I have not lusted after a virgin in my heart. Verses 1-4. Job is well aware that God sees all human thoughts, words, and deeds. (See Proverbs 15:3). Keenly knowing God's presence, Job diligently resists all temptations to lust after a virgin. I have heard and read preachers and teachers who declare that in Old Testament times, God was concerned ONLY with external sexual acts, but when Jesus came, God became interested in matters of the heart. Obviously, this view is incorrect. God has ALWAYS been concerned with the heart. God knows our inmost thoughts, and our thoughts are indicators our of true lives.

II. I have not been false or deceitful in dealing with others. Verses 5-8. Job is so certain of his righteousness that he proclaims that if he has used a "just balance" in business transaction, he prays that he will sow and another eat, or let what grows for him be rooted out.

III. I have not been unfaithful to my wife and committed adultery with the wife of another man. Verses 9-12. As in verse 1, Job openly states that the "problem" here is the heart--verse 9. Job affirms that his "heart" has not been enticed by another woman and committed adultery with her. Job is so certain of his righteousness that if he has committed adultery, he prays that another man will commit adultery with Job's own wife.

IV. I have not mistreated by slaves. Verses 13-15. In Bible times [Old and New Testaments], people [including Christians] had slaves--see Ephesians 6:5-9; Philemon; 1 Corinthians 7:21-24. But many "masters" do not treat their "slaves" AS "slaves." This is true of Job. Job asserts that if one of his slaves brought a complaint against Job, Job listens and respectfully honors the complaint. Job reasons that master or slave is created by God, therefore we are all equal before God. What a high moral standard!!!

V. I have done my very best to help the needy in every way. Verses 16-23.
a. Job says he has not deprived the poor, the widow, or the orphan whatever their need might be. Just the reverse: Job has raised orphans and guided widows. Verses 16-18.
b. Job says he as supplied the poor with clothing and shelter. Verses 19-20.
c. Job explains that he defended orphans in court cases. Verse 21.
d. Job is so certain that he is righteous that IF he has failed to help all these people, Job prays that his shoulder blade would fall from his shoulder and his arm be broken from its socket. Otherwise, Job could never "face" God. Verses 22-23.

VI. I have always trusted in God, not in wealth and not in any other god. Verses 24-28.
a. "Gold," "wealth," "getting much," is THE GOAL of millions of people on earth, and this has been true throughout human history. BUT, God firmly insists that he does not "trust" in gold or "have confidence" in wealth or "rejoice" in many possessions. Verses 24-25.
b. Many cultures in the ancient Near East worshipped the sun, moon, and stars, and this is still true in some cultures today. Job proclaims that he has never been "secretly enticed" in his "heart" to bow down before the sun or "thrown a kiss" to the moon in symbol of worshipping this distant place. Verses 26-27.
c. Emphatically, Job states that if he had trusted in wealth or other gods [creations of the one true God], this would be "iniquity" and he would have been "false" to the one true God. Verse 28.

VII. I have not rejoiced in the tragedies of my enemies. Verses 29-34, 38-40.
a. I often talk with people who seem to think that in Old Testament times, God taught his people to return good for good and evil for evil, but Jesus came and taught people to return good for evil. One cannot find such a view anywhere in scripture--certainly including the Old Testament. In Job 31:29-34, 38-40, Job declares clearly that he would never rejoice over the afflictions of his enemies, nor would he deliberately attempt to hurt his enemies.
b. The great German scholar wrote: "If chapter 31 [of the book of Job] is the crown of all the ethical development of the Old Testament, verse 29 is the jewel of that crown." Several Old Testament passages teach the say thing--see Exodus 23:4-5; Proverbs 20:22; 24:17-18; 25:21-22; 1 Samuel 24:17. This teaching permeates the Bible. Jesus' teaching is Matthew 5:43-48 is NOT a repudiation of the Old Testament, but a repudiation of a "warped interpretation" of the Old Testament by certain Jewish teachers in the days of Jesus. Verses 29-31.
c. Job reminds his hearers that he has openly welcomed all "strangers" and "travelers" in his home. Job was very hospitable. Verse 32.
d. Job affirms that he has not been hypocritical, pretending that he is one way when actually he is quite different. Job refuses to allow the feelings and demands of a multitude influence Job's commitment to God. Verses 33-34.
e. Job openly asserts that he has not gained "wheat," "barley," or any of its "yield" by means of hurting the "owners" of other fields or even his enemies. Verses 38-40.

VIII. In view of this bold defence, Job concludes by challenging God to meet Job in a fair court case to prove that Job is just and God is making Job suffer without just cause. Verses 35-37.
a. For one last time, Job LONGS to have a FAIR OPPORTUNITY to meet God in court: "Oh, that I had ONE to hear me!"--Just anyone, especially God. Verse 35a.
b. Job throws out the gauntlet:
"Here is my signature!
Let the Almighty answer me!"
Job has written his court case at length: I am righteous, and God is making me suffer without just cause; and NOW he SIGNS his signature--JOB. Then, Job DARES God to sign the NEGATIVE reply to agree to meet Job in a fair court trial. Verse 35b.
c. Then Job reverses the possibility to let God have the opportunity to go first in this court trial.
"Oh, that I had the indictment written by my adversary!"
Let God write out HIS court case and length, God's INDICTMENT levelled against JOB. God is Job's ADVERSARY. Verse 35c.
d. Job says: If God would just appear and give me an opportunity to meet God in a fair court trial, I would go throughout the land of Uz carrying this "debate agreement" for everyone to see; I would wear it like a "crown" on my head so all could see. Verse 36.
e. Then, at the court trial, Job asserts that he would "give an account of ALL his steps"--Job has this all worked in detail. Job has no doubt in his mind that Job is right about this. And Job would "approach" God in this court "like a PRINCE"--forehead to forehead, eye to eye, chin to chin, fist to fist--and I would defeat God in this debate.

What a chapter!!! What a challenge!!! How do YOU respond to Job's final words in this long monologue? Is Job right and God is wrong? Some of my friends think so. Sorry. I think not. Oh yes, if I were in Job's place, at this point in his spiritual journey, I probably would have done as badly or worse. But, this is NOT the end of the story. There are eleven chapters left in the Book of Job. Hold on tight. Hang in there. Let's see what happen.

Share YOUR thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis