|Photo:Trounce/Wikimedia Commons (used by permission)|
Since Junior B. is competing right now in a National Bible Bee competition, and I'm just about to finish my fourteenth or fifteenth year reading through the entire Bible (I have now officially lost count), it seems appropriate to do a literary Bible edition of this year's Best Of series.
Actually, I rarely like Bible editions of things. Apples to Apples is much better with the secular version, because how can you put adjectives like Goofy and Weird and Wicked and Confusing next to words like Jesus or Ark of the Covenant? It just isn't funny. It's much better to pair up such adjectives with a generic noun like Marriage or the White House. Then at least you can laugh.
But in literature, it's different. In literature you can celebrate the fact that the best of Books, crafted by an infinite Creator God, contains some of the most rich descriptions of battles and sacrifice, friendships and feuds, long journeys and reconciliations and healing. A hallowed book where the sun stands still for a day, and a river turns to blood, and holy God becomes accursed Lamb, bearing our sins in the most cruel death known to the world at that time. The Bible is the source of everything we consider epic in the other books we read. And it deserves ultimate study and consideration.
I have chosen the following Best Of people, not because they are perfect, nor because they are the top in the category. They are simply the ones I love the most after a decade and a half of reading through the Scriptures.
My favorite sidekick in Scripture is Jonathan's armor bearer. You never know much about his age, his religious beliefs, or his life--but following a young master up the hill to a bunch of hostile Philistines shows that he had courage and skill in warfare. Other honorable mentions go to the slave doctor, Luke; Paul's beloved son in the faith, Timothy; and David's mighty men.
And his armor-bearer said to him, “Do all that is in your heart. Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you heart and soul.” ~1 Samuel 14:7
My favorite heroine in Scripture is Jehoshebeath in 2 Chronicles 22, who rescued her baby nephew, the rightful king, from his grandmother, Athaliah. We're given few details as to the rescue--only that she hid him in a room. But every time I read those few verses, I can taste the fear and feel pursuit breathing down my neck as if I were the one hiding him. Other honorable mentions go to Anna the prophetess, Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist, and Lydia, the first convert in Philippi.
One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.
|David and Jonathan, Doré's English Bible|
I am torn here between Jesus and Peter and David and Jonathan, and so will include both. Peter was included in Jesus' intimate circle of friends; I never knew enough about James to really connect with him, but Peter is identifiable for a lot of people--he's the audience of the Gospels, if you will--always asking the questions that you and I would ask if we were there. Stumbling, falling--clinging to Christ through it all. Honest and blunt in a way that few of Christ's followers dared to be. And the way Christ was patient with him and showed him mercy always warmed me.
As for David and Jonathan--I think every tragic sacrifice of friendship in literature must stem from them.
I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
you were very dear to me.
Your love for me was wonderful,
more wonderful than that of women.
~2 Samuel 1:26
|Five daughters of Zelophehad, |
The Bible and Its Story Taught by One Thousand Picture Lessons
There are a lot of siblings in Scripture. Not all of them got along very well (*sideways look at Joseph's brothers.*) Even Jesus' siblings didn't believe or support his ministry, forcing him to give the care of his mother to John instead of one of her own children. But the most interesting group to me is the five daughters of Zelophehad. They lived in a time and a region where women were property along with animals and lands. But because they were part of God's chosen people, Israel, they benefited from the Lord's tender love and care for the female sex that surrounding cultures didn't have. Instead of being shy and surrendering their right to their father's land, they came to Moses for justice, and their case not only won them an inheritance but also revealed God's law of daughters having equal civil rights with sons.
And the LORD said to Moses, “The daughters of Zelophehad are right. You shall give them possession of an inheritance among their father’s brothers and transfer the inheritance of their father to them. ~Numbers 27:6-7
Definitely David. He has one of the best stories in all of Scripture, and aside from Jesus, probably the largest amount of space. A young man who slew giants in the strength of the Lord, matched wits with kings and defended sheep from lion and bears--who became a mighty king grappling with the sins of others and his own heart. His psalms are the heart-cry of millions. David's story is that of a man who was so flawed, so earnest, so dedicated to the Lord--a story where God's providence and power and forgiveness are portrayed in every line. And the root from which descended the Messiah, our Savior.
“Thus says the LORD: If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night will not come at their appointed time, then also my covenant with David my servant may be broken, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and my covenant with the Levitical priests my ministers. ~Jeremiah 33:20-21