Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Writings

The Writings is a collection of poetic and wisdom books. These books are Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. In Christian Bibles, these Old Testament texts are typically placed between the historical books and the prophets. These books are organized a little differently in the Hebrew Bible, where they are grouped with other books that some considered to be of similar vintage (the Ketuvim).

Poetry is a link to all these books. Job and Song of Solomon are both long poems. Psalms is a collection of songs, but these lyrics can be read as poems and follow poetic forms used in the other books. Proverbs and Ecclesiastes also use poetic forms; the contrasting or comparing couplet in particular is used in much of Proverbs.

These books also deal with subjects that can be difficult. Job suffers incredible loss, and has long debates about sin and suffering with friends who are supposedly there to comfort him. Many psalms are songs of praise and thanksgiving to God, but in some the psalmist, especially when it is David, freely expresses grief, anger, disappointment and fear. The wisdom literature collected in Proverbs sometimes shrugs its shoulders hopelessly at folly, and Ecclesiastes takes a very dark view of life. Song of Solomon deals frankly with passion and physical love in marriage, possibly to the point of eroticism.

These books address tough issues, but they do not offer easy answers. Sometimes the best they can offer is trust God. Trust God is good advice. Even so, we often would like to hear something else. We’d rather have an answer, or find strength in ourselves or our communities, or be assured that we can reason it all out on our own. We’d rather do almost anything instead of trust God.

Because of this, these books can be tough going for both the faithful and nonbelievers. I encourage Christians to read these books. Come prepared with an understanding of the more straightforward parts of the Bible. You’re going to wrestle with challenges in your life, and you’re not always going to have easy answers, or answers you can even understand. Wrestling with these books, prayerfully and faithfully, can help you prepare to deal with the strange difficulties of real life, where prayer and faith seem to be all you have and even that doesn’t seem to be enough.

You may find these books troubling, especially if you are a new Christian and you’re still seeking answers and encouragement to help you live your new life. You may find yourself asking, “Why would God including this in His Word? Why would he bring up these issues and say things about the I cannot fathom?” I don’t know. Trust God.