Now that the Lenten Season is upon us and the 40 day countdown to Easter has begun, this is good time to review some fascinating Bible stories that are worth knowing and pondering for their deeper meaning.
The three stories selected are personal favorites because they are filled with supernatural mystery and many unanswered questions that baffle Bible scholars to this day.
In all cases Bible quotes are italicized and taken from the widely used New International Version. (NIV)
1. Job 1: 6-12
This is what happened when God and Satan had a little chat.
Job, the main character in the Old Testament Book of Job, was wealthy and richly blessed. He had a wife, ten children, many servants and numerous flocks. The second sentence in verse 1:1 described him as: “The man was blameless and upright he feared God and shunned evil.”
Job’s celebrity status was further described in verse 1:3,
“He was the greatest man of all the people in the East.”
Unfortunately, being THAT awesome landed Job in the middle of a famous (and ultimately very painful) smack-down between God and Satan.
In verses 1: 7-8, Satan, along with other angels presented himself to God. When God asked Satan where he has came from, Satan replied, “roaming through the earth and going back and forth from it.”
Then, because Job was the equivalent of God’s “teacher’s pet,” God bragged about Job to Satan saying,
“Have you considered my servant Job?”
(God is then quoted as saying what was previously stated in verse 1:1) “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
However, Satan was not impressed because Satan thought Job’s faithfulness to God was a result of Job living the lifestyle of the rich and famous.
Thus, Satan asked God in verse 1:9, “Does Job fear God for nothing?”
Satan explained to God his theory that if Job’s good fortunes were to suddenly disappear then Job would turn away from God.
“But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has and he will surely curse you to your face.” (Job 1:11)
Satan’s words set in motion a classic conflict between good and evil, faith and non-faith. Poor Job was about to get zapped with God’s permission.
God had the utmost faith in his servant Job, but also acknowledgesd Satan’s viewpoint:
“The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” (Job 1:12)
Whoa, take a deep breath and let’s analyze that passage.
God told Satan that he could do anything he wanted to make Job’s life a living hell, just short of killing him so God and Satan could determine the strength of Job’s faith.
Yes, this is a cruel experiment and totally unfair to Job, but this passage is also filled with great meaning for we learn that Satan is under God’s power to inflict harm on Job and the degree of harm is DEFINED by God.
Does this mean that God defines the boundaries of suffering in our own lives?
Does God allow tragedy to occur as a test of our faith?
In Job we learn that God is sovereign and that the devil can not act without God’s permission.
Do YOU believe this is true?
Is God still more powerful than Satan?
You will have to read the Book of Job to find out if Job passed this horrific test of faith.
Meanwhile, here are some notable passages.
Job, as God said, was an exemplary man of faith and while undergoing multiple tragedies he uttered these memorable words which speak volumes about the human condition and life itself:
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21)
On the other hand, Job’s wife does not provide any comfort for while he is suffering she says,
“Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die! (Job 2:9)
Finally, here is the BIG question in the form of Job’s response to his darling wife’s rant:
“You are talking like a foolish woman, Shall we accept good from God and not trouble? (Job 2:10)
So have a few beers and ponder all those.
2. Genesis 14: 18-20
Mysterious Melchizedek: Is this a disguised Jesus making a cameo appearance in the Book of Genesis?
One of the Bible’s greatest mysteries involves a king named Melchizedek. This king appeared to Abram literally out of nowhere and blessed him in the name of “God Most High.” The blessing took place a few chapters before God changed Abram’s name to Abraham which means “Father of many nations.” (Gen:17-5)
Here is the complete account of Melchizedek’s and Abram’s encounter as it appears in Genesis 14:18-20.
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine.
He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram saying,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.
And blessed be God most High who delivered your enemies into your hand.”
Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
It is indeed strange that Melchizedek appears and then disappears in only 54 words.
The next time we read Melchizedek’s name is thousands of years later in the New Testament Book of Hebrews.
There, Melchizedek’s mysterious appearance in Genesis is sliced and diced, shedding light on what COULD be Melchizedek’s REAL identity.
Hebrews Chapter 6:20 addressed this issue in the following way:
“He (meaning Jesus) has become a high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”
Then the first sentence of Hebrews Chapter 7 begins:
“This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him.”
Furthermore, Hebrews 7:1-3 translates the meaning of Melchizedek’s name as: “king of righteousness”; then also “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” Without father or mother, without genealogy, beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.”
For more discussion of the Melchizedek/Jesus connection, I recommend reading all of Hebrews Chapter 7, but first let’s head back to Genesis 14:18-20 where Melchizedek makes his one and only brief Old Testament appearance.
Melchizedek is unusual because Bible characters always have some identifiable roots and context, but Melchizedek has none. He hails from Salem which is short for Jerusalem and in Hebrew the word Jerusalem is connected to the word, “peace.”
Genesis states that Melchizedek’s first action was to give Abram some bread and wine and then a blessing. In response, Abram forks over “a tenth of everything.”
Now, since Abram was a wealthy man, a tenth of everything was a substantial amount to give away to some strange king who did not even ask for it. In fact, as you can read in the 54 word account that Abram does not even speak to Melchizedek.
So what was it about Melchizedek that made Abram respond with silence, generosity and reverence?
Did Abram instinctively know that Melchizedek was the most holy messenger sent by God? Perhaps Abram did not feel himself worthy of addressing Melchizedek?
So now is the time to ask the all-important question that has been bantered about for centuries,
“Was Melchizedek the Old Testament “pre-figuration” of Jesus?”
The Book of Hebrews Chapter 7: 11-18 compared him to Jesus representing “God Most High” as both high priest and king, in addition to someone who was worthy of receiving personal offerings usually reserved only for God.
Then, is it a coincidence that after Abram meets Melchizedek in the next Chapter of Genesis (15) God makes his official Covenant with Abram?
Here now is your BIG question to ponder:
Do YOU think Melchizedek could be Jesus making a quick cameo appearance in Genesis?
If not, then how do you explain the mysterious Melchizedek and his interactions with Abram?
3. Mark 15:38
4. Luke 23:45
5. Matthew 27:51
Call housekeeping: The temple curtain is torn the moment Jesus dies on the cross.
As chronicled in the Old Testament Book of Exodus in Chapter 26:31 the Lord commanded that in the Tabernacle (the place where God dwells among this people — the forerunner of the Temple) there was to be constructed “a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen with cherubim worked into it by a skilled craftsman.”
The purpose of the curtain or veil was to “separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place” where the Ark of the Covenant was to reside. The Ark was an elaborate chest that contained the two tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were inscribed. By the way, this was the famous Ark that inspired the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark.
According to the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the curtain in the temple shielding the Ark of the Covenant was “torn in two from top to bottom” the moment that Christ died on the cross. (Mk 15:38)
So what was the significance of this unusual and mysterious event?
The NIV Study Bible notes and later, Chapters 9 and 10 in the Book of Hebrews indicates: “The tearing of the curtain signified Christ’s making it possible for believers to go directly into God’s presence.” In other words, Christ’s death opened up a direct passageway to heaven and never again can any curtain separate man from God.
Now here are three BIG questions:
Do you believe that this could have actually happened? After all, the curtain was no small ordinary flimsy cloth but rather huge and tall, made of substantial material.
Why do you think the curtain was torn?
What force was capable of “tearing this long curtain from top to bottom?” (Also keep in mind that in Matthew 27:51 it reads that the “earth shook and the rocks split” at this same moment and other Gospels mention “darkness that came over the land.”) Could these phenomena have indicated God’s wrath over the crucifixion of Jesus?
What message was the tearing of the curtain supposed to convey to those inside the Temple who had jurisdiction over the Most Holy Place and were public enemies of Jesus?
Certainly these questions point to true mysteries and supernatural occurrences with answers only explained and derived from faith.
In conclusion, all of the Bible stories explored in this piece were especially selected to stimulate discussion in regards to your own faith journey and religious beliefs.
Please comment if the desired effect was achieved and if you would like to see more discussions of Bible passages. You can even go ahead and recommend a few!