Job 3-4 B

We have a returning guest writer today! Tiffany Jensen is sharing her response from today’s chapters:

This past year and a half has been full of disappointment and heartache for my husband and I. Even though most of our trials have not been quite as extreme as Job’s, I find myself agreeing with him when he says “why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in?” (Job 3:23). But like Job, I had friends that came to my side with encouragement. I don’t know much about Eliphaz who tries to speak encouragement to Job; or about their relationship. However, I can picture him wanting to comfort someone he cares about. It’s brilliant how he starts out. 

“If one ventures a word with you, will you be impatient? Yet who can keep from speaking? Behold, you have instructed many, and you have strengthened the weak hands. Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, and you have made firm the feeble knees.” Job 4:2-4

The first thing Eliphaz does is acknowledge the validity of Job’s despair then he encourages him. I love how he points out that Job has always been there for those around him and now it’s time for him to let other people strengthen him. I’m sure when Job was pouring into other people’s lives he never thought about it coming back around when he most needed it. This part of Job’s story makes me so grateful for the ways God provides. Especially when that provision comes through community. There’s nothing better than a friend calling or stopping by when you’re having a rough day, or a rough year. 

Is there someone God has been laying on your heart? I urge you to call or drop in on that person. Live in the community God so beautifully designed for us.

-Tiffany


Thank you, Tiff!

 

-Carly

Job 1-2 B

For whatever reason, I open the book of Job today feeling like I’ve already read it too many times. It’s a bit of a bummer and it’s long. Plus, it addresses one of the most popular debates in history, making it feel like a worn out topic. But thank God His word addresses such a topic!

I grew up assuming this book was a narrative like much of the rest of the Old Testament. This time, I will read it like it might be: an elaborate parable. It’s filed away under wisdom literature and not historical narrative, so why not? We don’t take Proverbs, Psalms, Ecclesiastes or Song of Songs as narrative, so why would I spend time trying to decide when and where and how this all took place? Do friends really sit for days together and talk in poems? Do people really own things in symbolic round numbers? Did a Biblical writer really overhear the conversations in heaven and on earth to record this tale? This could have been written by Solomon for all we know. Thankfully, it doesn’t matter, because the purpose and occasion for the book are timeless and universal.

Cultural mythologies have their place. A story doesn’t have to be a documentary to be profound, in fact, aren’t we more swept up in sagas like The Lord Of the Rings, Harry Potter or Star Wars than we are of Ken Burns documentaries?

I invite you to come along with me into a study of the symbolism and literary craftsmanship. Maybe this isn’t a new concept and you’ve always read Job this way. In any case, let’s find our new eyes for this tale as old as time.

-Bethany

Songs of Solomon 7-8 B

“I am my lover’s and he claims me as his own. Come, my love, let us go out to the fields and spend the night among the wildflowers. Let us get up early and go to the vineyards to see if the grapevines have budded, if the blossoms have opened, and if the pomegranates have bloomed. There I will give you my love.” 7:11-12

I love the imagery here. Partnering up with someone and delighting in all life has to offer together.

It made me think of my friend Emily. Anytime she is sharing something personal about her life on social media, she presents it as an experience with her husband. (She’s probably like that in person too, but our friendship is long distance and primarily hinges on social media.) Whether it’s her job, plans she’s looking forward to, her experience in nature, health struggles or her relationship with the Lord, her husband is intertwined in the story. It’s so lovely and wonderful, like he’s just an extension of her own life. He’s not just a side character in her story, they’re mutually writing one together.

Why do you think this book is in the Bible? It’s easy to think the Bible is a list of strict, exclusive rules that don’t leave room for humanity. It’s only easy to think that if you don’t read it very often!

God embraces every part of our humanity. There’s isn’t anything he doesn’t “get” or acknowledge. He makes room for it all and he’s in and for you, every single part of you.

-Carly

Song of Songs 5-6 B

Earlier, I mentioned how true love is a gift from God. It’s not something everyone has the privilege of experiencing, and sometimes, that’s on us. We don’t seize opportunities when we should.

We know this woman loves this man, but we find a strange, yet relatable moment between them:

“I have taken off my dress, How can I put it on again? I have washed my feet, How can I dirty them again? My beloved extended his hand through the opening, And my feelings were aroused for him… I opened to my beloved, But my beloved had turned away and had gone! My heart went out to him as he spoke. I searched for him but I did not find him; I called him but he did not answer me.” (5:3-4, 6)

She takes him for granted and has a moment of laziness. Now you come? She wonders, now that I’m tucked into bed? But then at the sight of him, she realizes how ridiculous this is and jumps up to invite him in. It’s too late, and now she’s a little beat up about it.

I think at some point in each of our lives we let love slip away, because we’re tired and don’t want to make the effort. It’s too easy to stay in bed all cozied up. Introverts are lousy with memes about how much they adore a night in.

Relationships must be cultivated and it takes work. Sometimes we don’t have the great love we desire, because we don’t work for it. We want the other person to work, to arrive at a convenient time, to fulfill all our needs.

I’m reminded of the dream sequence in The Princess Bride when Buttercup gets booed by the old hag. “Because you had love in your hands and you gave it up!” Thankfully the story doesn’t end there, and true love has a chance, but not without effort!

Can you think of a relationship in your life that could use some extra effort? Think of a way that you can inconvenience yourself today to love another. There are a lot of gardening analogies in this book. What, in your relationships, needs tending, pruning, watering, etc.?

-Bethany

Song of Songs 3-4 B

These chapters are so graphic and weird! It feels so sneaky, reading other people’s love letters. I really enjoyed Bethany’s response to these chapters from last time around, definitely give it a read.

Love is accessible to everyone, even the unloveable. Maybe it won’t be romantic love, but it’s even better. Unconditional, irrevocable, relentless and perfect love lavished upon us by the God Who Is Love.

How do you experience his love? Lately for me, it’s been through my kids. Their love for me, their mother whom they did not choose, is so pure and so strong. My relationship to them constantly reminds me of the love available to me in the Heavenly Father.

What about you? Who models God’s love to you?

-Carly

Song of Songs 1-2 B

I’d like to start off this tantalizing book with my favorite verse to quote out of context:

“Don’t stare at me because I’m dark.” (1:6)

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get into the goods of the context.

Our leading lady is introduced as a Shulamite. What does that mean? I copy-pasted some things from Wikipedia:

A Shulamite is a person from Shunaam (Hebrew: שׁוּנֵם), a small village located in the possession of the Tribe of Issachar, near the Jezreel Valley and south of Mount Gilboa (Joshua 19,18).

Shunaam is where:

• The Philistines encamped when they came against Saul, the first king of Israel (1 Samuel 28:4).

• Where Abishag, King David’s companion in his old age, came from; (1 Kings 1:1-3)

• Where the prophet Elisha was hospitably entertained by a wealthy or prominent woman whose son Elisha later revived after the son died. (2 Kings 4:8)

At the time Solomon crafted this piece of literature, the first two points would have meant something to him. I will note that Issachar is a very unpopular tribe. Who do we know from that tribe? I’ll be real impressed if one of y’all can think of someone. All I know (and only because I was just told) is Abishag.

Solomon knew her: the beautiful young lady chosen to keep his aging father warm, and also whom his brother, Adonijah, wanted to marry once dad died (1 Kings 2:13-25). This request got Adonijah killed, as Solomon said, “Why are you asking Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him also the kingdom—for he is my older brother—even for him, for Abiathar the priest, and for Joab the son of Zeruiah!’” (22‬)

She was a beautiful nobody, but she became an object of great desire. A beautiful woman from a small, insignificant village, who captured the attention of the royal family.

Perhaps when Solomon decides to write a love poem between a king and a lowly village woman–embarrassed by how tan she is, since she has spent her life working in fields–he is inspired by Abishag. In fact, some scholars think this woman is Abishag.

But speaking of scholars, no one can agree on what this book means or why it’s in the Bible. It’s just there, making people blush, and inspiring us to think about love.

It’s easy to know what broken relationships look like, but we love to epitomize love’s potential. Not everyone gets to experience true love in their lifetime. Most scholars studying this book can agree, love is a gift from God. In our broken world, it certainly isn’t a given. So wherever we can find it, we must cultivate it and cherish it, thankful to God for the gift that it is.

Take some time today to reflect on the love in your life. The people, moments and memories. Thank the LORD for these beautiful gifts.

-Bethany

Esther 9-10 B

“Mordecai recorded these events and sent letters to the Jews near and far, throughout all the provinces of King Xerxes, calling on them to celebrate an annual festival on these two days. He told them to celebrate these days with feasting and gladness and by giving gifts of food to each other and presents to the poor. This would commemorate a time when the Jews gained relief from their enemies, when their sorrow was turned into gladness and their mourning into joy.” 9:20-22

Mordecai has experienced the ultimate turn-around. He goes from dreading an impending genocide of his people to celebrating their victory over their enemies. And I love the way he chooses to celebrate! It’s how I wish America celebrated Christmas. Feasting, gladness, homemade gifts and generosity to the poor. That is what it looks like to celebrate when God has done something great. Did God financially bless you, when recently you were clobbered with debt? Throw a party, invite a ton of people and don’t forget to generously tithe to the needy. When God is generous with us, he expects us to be generous with others.

Maybe he’s bringing relief to you in other ways, like your health. Stop and acknowledge what he’s doing, and take the time to celebrate, even the smallest victories. Because if I’ve gleaned anything from the book of Esther, it’s that things can turn on you in an instant.

Monday morning we start the Songs of Solomon!

-Carly