Jackal’s brother

“I wept for slaves,” Job continued, the light in his eyes dimming with the dying embers of the campfire. “I grieved for those in need, yet now the assembly laughs at me.”

Job walked over to the fire pit and sunk down low to intensify the heat on his burning skin. The three friends, likewise, encircled the hole and took their places in the dirt.

Silence fell for several minutes until Job opened his mouth once again.

“Men whose fathers I wouldn’t trust to dine with the dogs of my flock, these men, younger than me, they laugh at my condition and taunt me. These are the dregs of society, weak, hungry, wasting away in the wild. Having been cast out of their community, they find their dwelling in holes and under rocks. They’re nameless ruffians with no legacy, and yet they are after me. These whom I once showed my sympathy now push me forcefully to the side of the road as they pursue their next victim.

“My soul is spilled out inside me, and the pain gnaws relentlessly. My clothes have become disheveled, choking me at the collar.

“The darkness wrenches my bones. In the late hours, I stand up in the empty assembly room and cry out to God for help. I get silence in return.

“God Most High, I stand up, and you stare blankly at me. How cruel you’ve turned out to be, persecuting me with your mighty hand. Tossing me to the wind, I ride the storm of the inevitable doom that comes to all. Can you blame me? You’ve cast me into the mire, and I am one with the dust and ash. Who among those buried in rubble would not stretch forth a hand for salvation?

“I’m a brother to jackals and a friend to wild ostriches. I howl dirges with my lyre and pipe while my insides quiver and burn with the heat of affliction. My skin rots in blackness and peels away into the dust.”

Inspiration: Job 30

Otherworldly wisdom

Job lifted himself from where he lay and stood silent before the company of men who had come to challenge him during his crisis. Needing a friend, he was surrounded by accusers. Needing companionship, he was swallowed in loneliness.

When he spoke again, the timbre of his voice was coated with boldness.

“The God who has stolen my rights and wrenched my soul still lives. And as long as his Spirit moves through my nostrils, I will not lie. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but as long as I live and breathe, my integrity stands. I refuse to release my grip from righteousness, and my conscience is clear.

“What good are my godless enemies when God cuts their throats? Their pleas for help will fall on deaf ears. Let me teach you a lesson about my God since I’ve mistaken you for wise men.

“God’s gift to those wicked who prosper will meet death by sword or famine. The stores of silver they’ve heaped for themselves and the rooms of fine clothing they acquire will be divided up among the just and the innocent. In an instant, their wealth, built up like sticks in the wind, will be swept away, and they awake in terror, in the knowledge that they have nothing. They are nothing.”

Job walked through the threshold of the tent and out into a black night. The campfire smoldered, and Job stood in its dying heat.

“We mine silver and refine gold,” he said. “We smelt copper after digging down into the deepest darkest places for ore. We make bread from the earth, the place where stones are sapphires, its dust, gold.

“Down below, where men search for all things, no falcon can access. No beast can tread. The lion is powerless over it. Yet humanity fashions tools to turn the ground. We move mountains by the root. We carve into the rocks and dam up the waters. Anything once hidden, we have brought to the light.

“Yet wisdom, we haven’t found. Understanding is still buried. We can’t fathom its worth, because it doesn’t belong in the hands of the living.  The ocean can’t contain it. The gold and precious jewels cannot buy it.

“From where do wisdom and understanding come? Death and the grave have heard rumors, but only God knows the way to them. He’s neither short-sighted nor ignorant of anything in the earth, for he brought them into existence. When he weighed and measured the wind and the waves, commanded the rains and channeled the lightning, he declared wisdom and established it.”

The three men exited the tent, and Job turned to face them. His eyes shown like polished rubies as if possessed by some supernatural fire. He spoke the following words with a voice like rolling thunder:

“Behold, fear God. This is wisdom. Turn your back on evil. This is understanding.”

Inspiration: Job 27, 28

Tragic loss

One afternoon, Job was deep in meditation when a servant rushed into his tent. He was short of breath, and his clothes clung to his heaving chest, heavy with sweat.

“My lord,” he rasped, clinging to the goatskin flap of the doorway with one hand, and holding a piece of splintered ox yoke in the other. “While the oxen plowed and the donkeys fed on straw, a small band of Sabean horsemen swept in and slaughtered every servant in the field except for me.”

As Job opened his mouth to respond to the man, another servant came in behind him. He smelled of acrid smoke and looked as if he hadn’t bathed all season.

“God’s fire rained down on every side, my lord. Your shepherds and flocks are consumed! I alone made it out of the pasture alive.”

The first servant spoke again. “The Sabeans, they carried off your livestock.”

While he was still speaking, a third servant, a child near collapse entered the tent. His face had the pallor of death, and his clothes were caked with blood.

“My God!” Job offered a hand to steady the young boy, then lead him to a dimly lit corner to lie down. “What news, dear boy?”

The boy’s eyes gazed into darkness, and his throat rattled with short, labored breaths. “The Chaldeans,” he sputtered, coughing up phlegm and blood. “Your servants… your camels…”

Job called for a skin bag, and with it, slowly poured water into the child’s mouth.

“Rest now,” Job said like a father to a dying son. As he turned to address the others, another man appeared under the threshold.

“We were all eating and drinking together with your sons and daughters, when a violent wind came against the house and struck it down, crushing everyone in attendance except me.”

With that, Job fled his tent and tore his robe. The messengers followed after him in silent haste, dumbstruck by the magnitude of such absolute chaos against the holy man.

“Get me a knife,” Job cried, his knees hitting the hard ground.

A servant returned and held out a short blade. The anguished man took it by its bone handle, and the servant backed away.

Job took the knife and began scraping it across his scalp. Thick clumps of bloody hair fell around him, and when he finished shaving his head, he put himself flat on the ground and prayed.

“I came into the world with nothing, and I shall return to the dust with nothing,” he chanted. “God gave to me, and God took away from me. God’s name is praised.”

The men went away amazed as Job repeated the words over and over.

After he finished praying aloud, Job sat still, his spine as straight as a winter-stripped tree, and he silently repeated the name of God until the sun descended behind the lonely mountains of Uz.

Fiery end

The two visiting angels asked Lot, “What other family do you have in Sodom? Round everyone up and get out of here. We’re on a mission from God to annihilate the whole place.”

Lot ran to the houses of his future sons-in-law by the light of a pale moon and warned them about what was about to happen. They thought he was joking and didn’t pay any attention to him.

The next morning, the angels jostled Lot from sleep and said, “Wake up! Take your wife and daughters and go, unless you want to die with the wicked.”

Lot was moving too slowly, and his wife was frantic, trying to pack everything they owned.

“There’s no time for any of this!” the angels beckoned. “It’s now or never.”

The angels literally took Lot and his immediate family by the wrists and forced them out of the city.

“What about my sons-in-law?” Lot protested.

“They’re toast. Now, run for your lives and don’t look back,” they warned with a stern countenance. “Don’t stop anywhere in the plains. Run until you reach the hill country or you’ll be swept into oblivion.”

Lot argued, “Please, masters, you’ve shown favorable kindness by saving my family and me, but I can’t go to the hills. I wouldn’t survive a week in the wild.” Lot motioned over to the other side of Gomorrah and said, “Look, that small town is close enough to escape God’s wrath.”

“Fine,” one of the angels answered. “I’ll spare this small area for your sake, but hurry. I can’t bring down fire until you get there.”

Lot, his wife, and his daughters arrived at Bela by daybreak. (Afterward, the town was renamed Zoar, or “Little.”)

As fire rained from the sky over Sodom, Gomorrah, and the rest of the plains, Lot’s wife, who was straggling behind, turned to look at the devastation behind them. At that moment, her body changed into a salt mound.

Meanwhile that morning, Abraham exited his tent at Mamre Oaks and stood on the road where he and the Master had spoken before. Looking out to the southeast, he saw smoke rising like a smoldering fire pit from the sear-marked plains of Jordan.

Inspiration: Genesis 19