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Hebrews to music

Hebrews 3

This year I started putting the book of Hebrews to music as a memorisation aid. I’ve now done chapters 1-11 and only have 2 more chapters to go, and then the whole book will be put to music.

A few chapters into the process I started thinking that it would be really cool if other people could have access to the music so that they could either memorise it too, or just be blessed by listening to Scripture.

But since I’m in Tanzania and am a one-man band with just an acoustic guitar and a microphone, I need some help.

Does anyone out there know anyone who could help me record, produce and eventually distribute an album of Scripture put word-for-word to music? Any ideas at all? I don’t really know where to start.

I’ve attempted to record chapter 3 and do some mixing by myself, so here’s a taste.

For those who are interested, I used the NIV translation, but before writing music for each chapter I went through and made a few edits – mostly I was trying to make key terms a bit more consistent and make the translation a bit more transparent to the original Greek (I’m a Bible translator, I can’t help myself), so the result is a slightly more literal translation than the NIV, but it’s not much different. On principle, I did not make any changes to words for the sake of the music, so once the text was set I had to work with it as it was (which was sometimes quite a challenge – you trying putting ‘Melchizedek’ to music!).

Juvenile hawk

I saw this bird in our yard today. I think it’s a juvenile East African Yellow Billed Kite (a type of Black Hawk I think, but my more bird-brained friends would probably know more). I’m guessing that its parents just kicked it out of the nest and the swooping is part of that, but I’m not sure. It was walking around our yard all day because it can’t fly yet. Is that normal, or is there something wrong with it?

Mature EAYBKs are mostly brown, and their beaks are yellow. This one has a black beak, with yellow behind it. Perhaps the beak changes colour.

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Broken arm

DSC_0265 (Large)We met this old man a few days ago. He said his arm had been broken when a motorcyclist hit him, then drove off. When I saw his arm it didn’t look good. His hand was really swollen, he couldn’t move his fingers much, and something was sticking out in an ugly way just below his wrist. He’d gone to the hospital and they said his arm was broken and they could re-set it for 100,000 shillings (about $60, or half a month’s pay).

I talked to him for a while about Jesus. He said he was catholic. I prayed for him and told him how much God loves him, and about 10 minutes later he was able to move his fingers. The swelling had gone down too. It was one of those things where you think, “Maybe it wasn’t so swollen before, because it doesn’t look that bad now.” By the time he left he could clench his fist.

This morning he showed up to say thanks (and to ask for a little more money to buy food). He had gone back to the hospital and they said, “Your arm’s not broken. Here’s some panadol.” There’s barely a bump now. Weird, I could’ve sworn there was a bone sticking out the other day….

2 + 2 = 4!

I was just reading the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, and something clicked for the first time, and I feel a little silly that I never saw this before. When Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, he waited two days before leaving the place where he was (the Jordan river). I’ve always thought that it was odd that he delayed, almost like he wanted Lazarus to die. Except when I just read it, I realised that when Jesus arrived in Bethany Lazarus had already been dead four days. The messengers who told Jesus probably left Bethany while Lazarus was alive, but sometime during their journey Lazarus died. If Jesus had left as soon as he heard the news that Lazarus was sick, Lazarus would still have been in the tomb for two days when Jesus got there. Jesus didn’t let Lazarus die. He let him stay in the tomb two days longer. Which is interesting in itself, and there’s probably more to it that I don’t understand.

In v15, after telling the disciples that Lazarus is dead, Jesus says to them, “I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe.” Doesn’t this sound a bit strange? Why would Jesus be glad for their sakes? If Jesus had been in Bethany when Lazarus was sick, what would Jesus have done? I think he would have healed Lazarus from his sickness. He healed everyone that came to him in faith. But the disciples had seen Jesus heal hundreds (maybe thousands) of sick people. He was glad for the disciples sakes that they would be able to see God’s resurrection power working through Jesus to bring someone out of a 4-day sealed tomb. The Gospels are so interesting, and I see new things every time I read them…

More Jesus!

The Simbiti language team recently traveled to a Simbiti area to start checking their translation of the Jesus Film! Last year our team translated the Jesus Film into Kabwa and Zanaki, and on two beautiful starry nights we stood with hundreds of other people watching the first showing of the Jesus Film in those languages. Please pray for the Simbiti people – “how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? (Rom 10:14)”

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Much of the Simbiti area is on a peninsula accessible by ferry.

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In case you missed it, here are some pictures from the Kabwa and Zanaki Jesus Film showings:

AslanI have been contemplating this question for a while: When did Satan realise that the Cross was his demise? I’ve thought about it a lot, and have a few theories, but nothing concrete. So I was surprised to stumble across this quote from Ignatius, a first century believer who lived and died sometime between about 35-117 AD, and who wrote a letter to believers who were in Philadelphia (Turkey), in it saying:

And indeed, before the cross was erected, he (Satan) was eager that it should be so; and he “wrought” [for this end] “in the children of disobedience.” He wrought in Judas, in the Pharisees, in the Sadducees, in the old, in the young, and in the priests. But when it was just about to be erected, he was troubled, and infused repentance into the traitor, and pointed him to a rope to hang himself with, and taught him [to die by] strangulation. He terrified also the silly woman, disturbing her by dreams [Pilate's wife? Matt 27:19]; and he, who had tried every means to have the cross prepared, now endeavoured to put a stop to its erection; not that he was influenced by repentance on account of the greatness of his crime (for in that case he would not be utterly depraved), but because he perceived his own destruction [to be at hand]. For the cross of Christ was the beginning of his condemnation, the beginning of his death, the beginning of his destruction.

1 Corinthians 2:8 – None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (ESV)

I’ve often wondered why Satan would participate so readily in an act that would bring about his own demise, but I don’t think he realised what was going on until there was so much momentum that he couldn’t stop it. As Aslan would say, he didn’t know the Deeper Magic…

The book of Job almost shipwrecked my faith. I had never spent much time reading it, but I thought I knew what it was about:

God wants to prove a point with Satan, so He sends all sorts of troubles to Job. Job endures and eventually cries out to God, “Why have you done this to me?” God responds, “Who are you, a mere man, to question me?!” God never answers him, Job humbles himself, and God eventually restores him.

I used to think, “Jesus goes to great lengths to describe God as a loving father. Didn’t he basically say, ‘If you ask God for a fish, he won’t give you a snake’? It sure seems like Job got a snake.” There was a time when I said to God, “Fine. You’re all-powerful, all-knowing, above all. But I’m a better father than you. I’d never do that to my kids.” I didn’t realise that God was trying to say to me, “Neither would I!”

My problem was that I hadn’t paid attention to what the book of Job actually said, I’d just assumed I thought I knew what it meant. Then I did a study of it, and paid attention to what the book actually said, and here are some condensed thoughts from it.

The source of Job’s troubles

God was not the one who came up with a plan to destroy Job. God was actually quite proud of Job. Satan conspired to destroy Job. Satan comes to “Kill, steal and destroy” (John 10:10). Jesus, who is the exact representation of God’s essence (Hebrews 1:3), comes to bring abundant life! So why did God allow Satan to oppress Job? I’m not quite sure. I suspect that after the Fall and before the Cross, Satan had certain freedoms to operate in the world. But Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). I don’t think Satan has these freedoms anymore (at least, not in the same way). And either way, God doesn’t sit in heaven planning destruction for His people. God is love (1 John 4:8).

Why did God rebuke Job’s three friends?

God rebuked Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar “because [they] have not spoken of me what is right” (Job 42:7). You can pretty much ‘ignore’ most of their speeches, because God rebuked them for the counsel that they gave.

Why didn’t God rebuke Elihu?

Elihu was that young guy that spoke right at the end, and basically rebuked Job and his friends. Most people brush over Elihu’s speech. Even some commentaries say that it doesn’t add much to the conversation. Oh, how far from the truth! The reason that God didn’t rebuke Elihu is because Elihu was right. Elihu’s speech agrees in essence with God’s speech. I think we get lost in the archaic sounding poetry of all the speeches and think that everyone basically says the same thing, but that’s not true. Elihu rebukes Job for the same reason that God rebukes Job!

Why did God rebuke Job?

This was the biggest surprise. God didn’t rebuke Job for questioning Him! God rebuked Job because Job accused Him of being unjust. In the beginning, Job doesn’t turn against God or accuse God of wrong-doing, but by the end of his speeches he is convinced of his own righteousness, and that therefore God is unrighteous in his treatment of Job. What a horrible sin! Job’s sin wasn’t that he attributed his downfall to God (that’s another discussion); it was that he said,

“I will maintain my righteousness” (27:6)

and,

“Oh, that I had someone to hear me!
I sign now my defense–let the Almighty answer me;
let my accuser [God] put his indictment in writing.
Surely I would wear it on my shoulder,
I would put it on like a crown.
I would give him an account of my every step;
like a prince I would approach him” (31:35-37).

I would wear my indictment like a crown and like a prince I would approach Him?! It’s no wonder God roars from the whirlwind! Elihu responds to Job with,

“But you [Job] have said in my hearing–
I heard the very words–
‘I am pure and without sin;
I am clean and free from guilt.
Yet God has found fault with me;
he considers me his enemy’” (33:8-10).

and,

“Job says, ‘I am innocent,
but God denies me justice.
Although I am right,
I am considered a liar’” (34:5-6).

Job basically had said to God, “I am faultless, and yet you have unjustly found fault where there is none!” That maligns God’s character.

Elihu goes on to say,

“Can he who hates justice govern?
Will you condemn the just and mighty One?” (34:17)

and,

“To his [Job’s] sin he adds rebellion;
scornfully he claps his hands among us
and multiplies his words against God” (34:37).

After Elihu finishes, God speaks not to Elihu, but to Job, out of a storm, by giving a long list of his credentials for governing the earth and managing justice. This climaxes with,

“Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
Would you discredit my justice?
Would you condemn me to justify yourself?” (40:7-8)

There’s Job’s problem! God accuses Job of the same thing that Elihu accuses Job of doing: “Would you condemn me to justify yourself?” God’s not angry that Job questioned Him; He’s angry because Job exalted himself above God!

How did God deal with Job’s sin?

Job has basically committed the worst possible offense imaginable – he has defiantly shaken his fist in his Creator’s face and said, “I am better than you!” (As I write this, I’ve just realised that that’s what I had been doing too: “I’m a better father than you.” I hadn’t planned that irony…)

What punishment should this wrathful, evil, unjust, unloving, ‘snake-giving’, vengeful, cruel, tyrant of an unrighteous god give to Job?

He blesses him.

Job merely says, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (42:5-6), and so God “made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before” (42:10). What a response from God!

Obviously, there is a lot more to the book of Job, and there are a lot of questions that I haven’t addressed (e.g., 1:6,21-22, 2:3, 36:11-12), but hopefully this is enough to spark some discussion, and, if you, like me, have struggled with the book of Job, perhaps this will encourage you to look at it with fresh eyes and see in it the God who is loving, and yet just, who doesn’t plan our downfall, but who sent his son to earth to get rid of Satan’s schemes once and for all and give us life… abundant life.

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