John T. Willis

Saturday, November 14, 2009

God's First Speech--Job 38:1-40:5--Part 3--God's Incomprehensible Birds

In God's First Speech, God concludes by parading three birds which he created. One again, God's point is that no human being can explain why each type of bird has its specific characteristics or how one can control that bird. God alone can do this. This portion of God's First Speech appears in Job 38:41; 39:13-18, 26-30. After this, God makes a concluding remark to Job (Job 40:1-2), and Job gives a very brief response (Job 40:3-5).

I. The Raven. Job 38:41. The raven survives only by seeking, attacking, and eating its prey--usually a rat or a small rabbit or some other type of rodent. The raven does this without any help by human beings. Yet, the raven survives and flourishes. Why is this? Because God has created the raven in just this way. No human being can explain the characteristics of a raven, nor can they control the raven.

II. The Ostrich. Job 39:13-18. It seems that an ostrich could never survive, yet it does and does this quite well.
a. The adult ostriches lay eggs on the ground, and then essentially abandon their young. Yet, the young gives birth, grows, and survives. Verses 13-17.
b. Once the ostrich becomes an adult, it runs swiftly and powerfully, and out maneuvers a horse. Verse 18.
An ostrich is quite different from a raven. But the ostrich does very well. Why is this? Because God has made the ostrich with just these characteristics. No human being can explain why the ostrich acts as it does. Nor can a human being control an ostrich.

III. The Hawk and the Eagle. Job 39:26-30. The hawk and the eagle fly high above the earth. It lives in rocky terrain and makes its nest there. The eye of the hawk and and eagle is very keen. It can see a prey at a very long distance. It swoops down swiftly, catches the prey, and brings it back to its young in the nest. Why is this? Because God has made the hawk and the eagle with these precise abilities and skills and characteristics. Human beings cannot make this happen, nor can they control these powerful creatures.

IV. After Yahweh's First long Speech, Yahweh asks Job pointedly:
"Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?" Job 40:1-2.
As we have discusses throughout Job's speeches, Job often "finds fault" with God, accuses Job of making Job suffer without just cause, and challenges God to meet Job in a fair court trial. Now, Yahweh appears and reprimands Job for his ignorance and lack of the knowledge of God.

V. Job responds briefly and humbly:
"See I am of small account;
what shall I answer you [Yahweh]?
I have spoken once, and I will not answer,
twice, but will proceed no further." (Job 40:3-5).
Remember that Job had claimed that IF God would just appear and give Job a chance to defend himself: "I would fill my mouth with arguments" (Job 23:4). However, when God appears and speaks, Job has absolutely nothing to say. Job concedes that God WINS THE DEBATE--hands down!!!
Why doesn't the Book of Job end at this point--at Job 40:5? What follows gives the answer to this. God is not interesting in WINNING ARGUMENTS, but in WINNING PEOPLE!!!
There is a tremendous for all of us today. Many assume that "true religion" or "Christianity" is based on "correct arguments." The Bible teaches that this as far from the truth as possible. God is interesting in transforming hearts. And thus, God now turns to his Second Speech.

Stay with us!!! What are YOUR insights about God's First Speech? Share YOUR ideas with your community, your church, your family, your friends. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Armistice Day

War is always horrible. For various reasons, tribes, peoples, nations engage in war against other tribes, peoples, nations. We all desire peace. But war is a reality, and thus we have to deal with this reality as best we can.

For people in the United States of America, we recognize Remembrance Day or Armistice Day every year on 11 November. Initially, this commemorates the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiegne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Fron, which occurred at 11:00 a. m.--the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of 1918.

Italy commemorates the day of the Armistice of Villa Giusti on 4 November. Poland calls this day Polish Independence Day. After World War II, the name of this holiday was changed to Veterans Day in the USA and to Remembrance Day in countries of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Armistice Day continues to be an official holiday in France and in Belgium, known in Belgium as the Day of Peace in the Flanders Fields.

Many people throughout the world take a two-minute time of silence at 11:00 a. m. as a sign of respect for the approximately 20 million people who died in the war. Beginning in 1939, the United Kingdom moved the two-minute silence to the Sunday nearest 11 November in order not to interfere with wartime productions.

Here in Abilene, Dyess Airforce Base, ACU, and other locations throughout this city commemorated Armistice Day this year. Our young people honor older people who gave their lives in military positions around the world. Evelyn and I and 37 ACU students spent a day at Normandy, where we viewed the crosses honoring those who had died in the war. These are sobering times.

We pray for peace. And we honor those who enable us to live in relative peace right now. I for one do not take for granted all the sacrifices people contribute to defending promoting this and other nations. I hope YOU share these sentiments.

What are YOUR experiences? What are YOUR thoughts? Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

God's First Speech--Job 38:1-40:5--Part 2--God's Incomprehensible Animals

After God presents some of his inanimate creations on the universe and on planet earth, God next discusses five animals which he has created. Job 38:39-40; 39:1-12, 19-25 describes these five animals. In each case, God makes two major points:
A. Human beings cannot do the feats of these creatures.
B. Human beings cannot control or invent the activities or practices of these creatures.
Here are this discussion of these five animals.

I. The Lion. Job 38:39-40. God challenges any human being to hunt and kill and eat the prey of a lion as it crouches in its den or lair. How humorous to think of a human being running after a gazelle, jump on its back, bite its jugular vein, tear the animal apart, drag it to its den, and eat its raw. It is unthinkable that a human being would do such a thing, but this is vital to the survival of a lion. God's work is amazing. God does these things without human aid.

II. The Mountain Goat. Job 39:1-4. God challenges the conception, gestation, birth, and upbringing of a mountain goat. All this happens in the wild apart from human beings, yet their young grow up and become strong, and in time become independent from their forebears. God is marvelous. God does these things without human aid.

III. The Wild Ass. Job 39:5-8. God challenges the customary activities of the wild ass. The wild ass is born in the wild, grows up, and lives independently and very well. It avoids the city and refuses to allow a human being ride on his back. It eats pasture on the mountains and in the fields. God does wondrous things. God does these things without human aid.

IV. The Wild Ox. Job 39:9-12. God challenges the temper of the wild ox. No human being dare attempt to tame the wild ox or make it work in the field like a domesticated ox or mule. How humorous to think that a wild ox would spend the night in the crib of a human being. No human being could possible harness and drive a wild ox. The temper of the wild ox will not allow this. God is wise and powerful. God does these things without human aid.

V. The Horse. Job 39:19-25. God challenges the skill and dexterity of a horse. It would be preposterous to think of a human being ride on a hippopotamus or a rhinoceros or a crocodile. But a horse is "made" for riding and battle in war. A human being mounts on a horse, and with training, trains the horse to do marvelous feats and lead armies into battle and engage in competitive races and numerous others things. God's creation is captivating. God does these things without human aid.

Job does not respond to God's challenges. It is obvious to everyone that human beings cannot do any of these things, yet God does these things regularly. SO, how can any human being be in a position to question God's work in dealing with human suffering. Job's criticisms of God are completely inappropriate. And God makes this very clear by raising all these questions having to do with God's creative work throughout the universe and on earth.

What are YOUR thoughts about these five creations of God? How do YOU react to God's treatment of Job's complaints throughout Job's speeches? Share YOUR ideas with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Open My Eyes

One of the numerous prayers found in Psalm 119 appears in verse 18:
"Open my eyes, so that I may see
wondrous things out of your law."

Such a prayer assumes that we are blind spiritually. We SEE much physically, but spiritually we are often blind. The whole account about the man born blind related in John 9 essentially deals with the problem of "blindness" and "seeing." The man born blind was blind "physically," BUT the Pharisees who rebuked Jesus for opening the eyes of this man could see physically, but in reality they were blind spiritually.

This chapter ends with these words in John 11:35-43:
"Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, 'Do you believe in the Son of Man?' He answered, 'And who is he, sir?' Tell me, so that I may believe in him,' Jesus said to him, 'You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.' He said, 'Lord," I believe. And he worshipped him. Jesus said, 'I came into this world for judgment so that hose who do not SEE may SEE, and those who do SEE may become BLIND.' Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, 'Surely we are not BLIND, are we?' Jesus said to them, 'If you were BLIND, you would not have sin. But now that you say, 'We SEE,' your sin remains."

In 1895, Clara H Scott wrote a song conveying this thought:

First Stanza: Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp, and set me free.

Second Stanza: Open my ears, that I may hear
Voices of truth Thou sendest clear;
And while the wavenotes fall on my ear,
Everything false will disappear.

Third Stanza: Open my mouth, and let me bear
Gladly the warm truth everywhere;
Open my heart, and let me prepare
Love with Thy children thus to share.

Refrain: Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready my God, Thy will to see:
Open my eyes, illumine me,
Savior divine!

I hope these thoughts lift YOUR heart. Share YOUR thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Monday, November 09, 2009

God's First Speech--Job 38:1-40:5--Part 1--God's Incomprehensible Inanimate Works

In tandem with the speech[es] of Elihu, and especially the conclusion related in Job 36:24-37:24, God now breaks his silence and begins to speak to Job, BECAUSE Elihu has properly prepared Job to listen to God.

God delivers two speeches. The first speech appears in Job 38:1-40:2, and Job replies in Job 40:3-5. God's first speech falls into three parts. The first part declares God's incomprehensible inanimate works in the universe and one earth. This is recorded in Job 38:1-38. This falls into eight sections.

I. God first sets straight the relationship between God and humanity. Job 38:1-3. Job assumed that Job, a human being, had the right to speak first, and put God in judgment. Job declared that he could beat God in a fair court trial. God responds by making two points.
a. Job speaks with "words without knowledge." Verses 1-2. We human beings think we know "everything." Not so. We are very, very, very ignorant. God knows everything, and we need to learn to listen to God.
b. It is not appropriate for a human being to initiate a conversation with God and show God is wrong. Just the opposite: The appropriate approach is for God to question human beings and then allow human beings to response. Verse 3.

II. God now fills the air with questions for Job and every human being to answer these question. First, God discusses the creation of the universe. Job 38:4-7. God created all that is. Where were human beings watching and working there? Human beings are not in any condition to explain how God created all that is. God challenges Job to explain all this. Job does not reply.

III. Who made the sea and determined that it could go thus far and then stop, making a clear distinction between the sea and the dry land? Job 38:8-11. No one can explain this or cause it to happen. Job cannot respond.

IV. Why do we live each day partly in light and partly in darkness? Why is the world like this? Can any human being make this happen? Job 38:12-15. Job cannot respond, nor can any human being.

V. Can any human being enter into the depths of the sea, death, or the expanse of the earth? Job 38:16-18. This is incomprehensible for any human being.

VI. Where do light and darkness and snow and rain come from? We experience all this, but it is beyond our origin or our ability to cause all this to happen. Job
38:19-30. The language here is highly metaphorical. The picture is that "light" or "darkness" or "snow" or "rain" lives in houses or storehouses, and when God needs any of these things, he goes to these houses and brings out whatever he needs or desires.

VII. Can anyone make or explain the constellations of the sky, the Milky Way, the Big Dipper or Bear, Orion, and other constellations? To think of such a thing is incomprehensible for us human beings. Job 38:31-33.

VIII. Can anyone explain clouds, waters, lightning, the mind of a human being? Of course not. Job cannot respond, nor can we. Job 38:34-38.

God's point is that life is not about "understanding" God or "comprehending" God, but to love God and appreciate God and fear God and worship God and serve God. Next he will discuss animals and birds. This will be very interesting. Stay with the text.

What are YOUR insights? Share YOUR thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


Most encyclopedias and dictionaries begin with "aardvark" in alphabetical order. From childhood, I have always been intrigued by aardvarks--I guess by the word and the shape of the animal.

Aardvarks are widespread throughout Africa. Aardvark--Orycteropus afer [afer is from Africa]--is a medium-sized, burrowing, nocturnal mammal native in Africa. People call this creature "antbear," "anteater," "Cape anteater" from the Cape of Good Hope, "earth hog" or "earth pig." "Aardvark" is from the Afrikaans or Dutch meaning "earth pig" or "ground pig," because early settlers from Europe thought it looked like a domesticated pig.

However, the aardvark is not related to the pig. Instead, it is a sole recent representative of the obscure mammalian order Tubulidentata, the most distinctive characteristic is their teeth. The closest relatives of the aardvark are the elephant shrews, sirenians, hyraxes, tenrecs, and elephants. The aardvark's teeth do not have a pulp cavity. Rather, each tooth has a cluster of thin, upright, parallel tubes of vasodentin, with individual pulp canals, held together by cementum. The teeth have no enamel coating and are worn away and re-grow continuously. The aardvark is born with conventional incisors and canines at the front of the jaw, which fall out and are not replaced.

The body of the aardvark is stout with an arched back and is sparsely covered with coarse hairs. The limbs are of moderate length. The front feet has lost the pollex or "thumb", resulting in four toes, but the rear feet have all five toes. Each toe has a large, robust nail which is somewhat flattened and shovel-like, appearing to be between a claw and a hoof. The ears are disproportionately long, and the tail is very thick at the base and gradually tapers. The greatly elongated head is set on a short, thick neck, and the end of the snout has a disc, which houses the nostrils. The mouth is small and tubular, typical of species that feed on termites and ants. The aardvark has a long, thin, snakelike protruding tongue and elaborate structures supporting a keen sense of smell.

The aardvark weighs from 50 to 65 kilograms, and it is 1 to 1.3 meters long, reaching to 2.2 meters including the tail. This creature is pale yellowish gray and often stained reddish-brown by soil. Its coat is thin and its primary protection is its tough skin. Often the aardvard sleeps in a recently excavated any nest to gain protection from its predators.

An aardvark emerges from its burrow in the late afternoon or shortly after sunset, and forages over a long home range covering 10 to 30 kilometers, swinging its long nose from side to side to pick up the scent of food. When it detects a concentration of ants or termites, it digs into it with its powerful front legs, keeping its long ears upright to listen for predators, and takes up an astonishing number of insects with its long, sticky tongue--as many as 50,000 in one night. The aardvarks' claws enable it to dig through the extremely hard crush of a termite or ant mound quickly, avoiding the dust by sealing the nostrils. The ants and termites cannot bite the aardvark because of its thick skin.

The aardvark excavate deeply into the ground. Only mothers and young share burrows. It attacked in the tunnel, it will seal the tunnel off behind itself or turn around and attack with its claws. The gestation of aardvarks is seven months, and produce a single cub. The little cub can leave the burrow after two weeks, and soon eats termites and ants in large number.

I have an idea that God had a lot of fun creating the aardvark. Think of all these characteristics and behaviors. This is just another example of God, our marvelous Creator and Sustainer. I hope YOU appreciate the aardvark and all of God's works. Just look around, and you will be amazed. Let me hear from YOU. Share YOUR ideas with others.

John Willis

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Elihu--Part 7 [Human Beings Cannot Comprehend God]--Job 36:24-37:24

Elihu concludes his speech[es] declaring that no human being, including Job, can even begin to comprehend God--God's nature, God's works, God's feelings, God's purposes, God's ways in the world, including human life. Clearly, Elihu beautifully prepares Job to listen to God, and ushers Job into God's presence, which will follow immediately in Job 38:1-42:6.

This final speech or section of Elihu's speech is recorded in Job 36:24-37:24. This falls naturally into two parts, as indicated by the emphatic new introduction in 37:14: "Hear this, O Job."

I. Elihu proclaims that Yahweh is "great, and we do not know him"; "the number of his years is unsearchable"; Yahweh "does great things that we cannot comprehend" [note especially Job 36:26; 37:5]. Elihu illustrates this by describing a thunder storm. Job 36:24-37:13.
a. Elihu reminds Job that earlier generations had "sung" great songs portraying God's "mighty acts." All people have viewed this, and everyone watches this from afar. 36:24-25.
b. Elihu declares forthrightly that God is great, and we do not know him; the number of his years is unsearchable. 36:26. How absurd it is for a human being who lives at most 100 years of age can comprehend the powerful, eternal, wise God of the universe who has always existed and always will exist.
c. Elihu gives his example. Notice he begins with the word "For" in 36:27. God brings clouds and causes rain: Can ANYONE understand HOW this happens? Oh yes--we can describe these phenomena on earth. But HOW does this happen? Can WE make this happen? God is incomprehensible. By rain, God "governs peoples and gives food in abundance." The Bible claims that God causes rain and through rain causes seed to produce plant to produce food. We seem to think this just happens at Wal-Mart or at the grocery store. Verses 33:27-33.
d. God's thunder is powerful. The Bible calls thunder "the voice of God." God commands snow and rain to fall on the earth. Animals retreat because of the thunder and rain and snow. God does all this "to accomplish all that he commands them" for various purposes: (1) for correction or punishment; (2) for the land; (3) for love. In all these, GOD DOES NOT ALLOW this. On the contrary, God CAUSES IT TO HAPPEN. 34:1-13. The idea that God "allows" rain to fall or plants to grow is a modern scientific idea, but is not biblical. Note especially Job 36:31; 37:12-13.

II. Elihu now challenges Job to explain HOW God works in the world. Job 37:14-24.
a. Elihu pauses and emphatically challenges Job to "stop and consider the wondrous works of God." verse 24. Job has been talking and arguing and contending. Elihu says it is time to STOP--and listen to God. We all need this advice.
b. Does any human being KNOW HOW God causes lightning and clouds? God alone does "wondrous works" and God is "the one whose knowledge is perfect." Verses 15-17. Human knowledge is always imperfect. God's knowledge is perfect. Remember that Elihu has already made this point in Job 36:4.
c. Can a human being spread out the skies. Human beings cannot "draw up a court case" against God because we are "in the dark." This is absurd and out of place. Verses 18-20.
d. Elihu points to God's whirlwind coming "out of the north." "Around God is awesome majesty." We human beings cannot find god. God is great in power, justice, and abundant righteousness. Verses 21-23.
e. The ONLY position of human beings is to "fear"=stand in awe of God. Obviously, God "does not regard any who are WISE IN THEIR OWN CONCEIT." Verse 24. Once again, Elihu emphasizes that Job's problem--our problem--the human problem--is pride, self-centeredness, ingratitude. Job was "blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil," and Job was very PROUD about his righteousness. This is OUR problem. The Book of Job reveals our problem, and attempts to help us to deal with this problem.

What are YOUR responses to Elihu's speech in Job 36:24-37:24? Share YOUR ideas with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Fort Hood Tragedy

We were all shocked and mesmerized by the horrible homicides at Fort Hood, in which a man murdered eleven innocent people and hurt 34 more. It is beyond our comprehension to understand how anyone could commit such a crime. Our emotions are in turmoil. We become angry. We are frustrated. Our hearts go out to the numerous families who have been affected. Where do we turn? How do we cope with such terrible actions?

Through history, people have done similar terrible events. Adolf Hitler murdered millions of innocent Jewish people in the early months of World War II. Herod murdered several members of his own family. Henry VIII is notorious for such crimes. We just cannot imagine why people do such terrible things.

Walter Brueggemann wrote a prayer addressed to this kind of events. Perhaps this will be helpful. Brueggemann entitles this prayer: God's Gift in the Midst of Violence.

The world trembles out of control.
The violence builds,
some by terrorism,
some by state greed
dressed up as policy,
violence on every side.

You, in the midst of the out-of-control violence,
We confess you steadfast, loyal, reliable,
but we wonder if you yourself are engaged in brutality.
We confess you to be governor and ruler,
but we wonder if you manage.

We in the midst of out-of-control violence,
we in great faith,
we in deep vocational call,
we in our several anxieties.
We--alongside you--in the trembling.

This day we pray for freedom to move
beyond fear to caring,
beyond self to neighbor,
beyond protection to growth,

That we may be a sign of steadfastness,
that anxiety may not win the day.

You are the one who said, "Do not be anxious."
And now we submit to you.

As each of us face our tragedies, the only place to turn is to God for strength, for help, for comfort, for healing, for hope.

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

John Willis