15th February 2011

Poet Laureate

“Have you been to the countries of snow and examined the treasure of hail that I hoard for the time of distress, for the day of encounter and war? What path tread the rays of the Light and how spread the winds over earth? Who cut for the typhoon its course and a road for the lightnings to shine?”
Job 38:22-25 (Fenton)

I’m generalising of course, but, in the main, Christians are very ordinary in outlook. They are earnest, yes; dedicated, very much so; undoubtedly wanting to live life to the Christian fullness that John talks about in verse 2 of his third letter.But they tend to be just ordinary, unremarkable, mainstream human beings. Not that I’ve got anything against being a mainstream human being. As they say, ‘I are one too’.

But God is so much more. Study the passage above. Here we see God the artist, the poet, the weaver of subtle pictures in words. Many Christians will read that passage and then set about analysing it to work out how God can store snow, or how he makes a road for lightning to travel along. That rather misses the point. God is using poetic language, highly poetic language at that, to make the point as strongly as he can to Job that he, God, not only controls the weather as necessary, but he creates it and knows exactly how each facet of it works. All this was being said to Job in the midst of the ‘father of all thunderstorms’ (verse 1). Please forgive the pun!.

As we read our Bibles we need to differentiate between the factual, the picturesque, the descriptive, the poetic, even the downright funny. Who can charge God as having no sense of humour when reading about Balak and his talking ass (Judges 4.-5.)?

At times we appreciate God the artist when we see the beauty of a golden sunset, or the towering clouds of a summer thunder storm, but when we turn to the Bible, we tend to treat every word as literal, factual and—well, very ordinary, even dull. Our Bible isn’t ordinary or dull. It has every emotion set within it, often in poetic words—there’s conversation, there are even a couple of play scripts. We must learn to read the Bible as the writings were intended to be read and to lift ourselves from our everyday, mundane thinking to the towering thoughts of the greatest Being in the universe. Don’t read the Bible as a newspaper or a novel—it is so much more.

Heavenly Father, thank you so much for preserving for us your Bible and having faithful men translate it as faithfully as they knew how, to give us your thoughts, your wishes for our welfare. Help us, we pray, to read it, to think about it, to come as closely as we can to how you want us to understand your words, the words of life. In Jesus’ name we pray.

Study by John Stettaford 

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