September 26, 2008
An Ass and His GrassHow much can be learned from a donkey? Plenty. Here's Donkey Tale #5 as we near the halfway point in our Fortnight.
My sister and I have been slowly making our way through the DVDs of the Planet Earth documentary series created by the BBC. First aired on television in 2006, it won an Emmy for its phenomenal footage, some of which has never been caught on video before. If you haven't seen any of the series, you should rent it or borrow it. Today, if possible. (It is, after all, Friday. What else do you have to do this weekend??)
Even if you're not usually into documentaries, especially ones about nature, you should give it a try. It's fascinating, beautiful, awe-inspiring, incredible. I have an even deeper sense of awe and worship for a God who is able to think up and create animals, plants, climates, ecosystems, surviving together in a delicate balance, dependent on each other, and each with just the right characteristics to help them survive and thrive in the place they live.
Now, granted, according to the Bible, we were created above the animals. After God created humans--in his own image--he said, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground" (Gen 1:28 TNIV). We certainly have abilities and capacities that animals can't imagine (imagination most likely being one of them!). And yet, because God is almighty and all-powerful and all-wise, plants and animals are pretty darn complex. In fact, we can learn from them, as scientists and lovers of nature and the producers of Planet Earth know well.
Job knew this too. In some ways, it's surprising that Job thought he needed to learn from anything or anyone. He was, after all, "the greatest man among all the people of the East" (Job 1:3). Yet verse one fleshes out "greatest": he was "blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil."
So it seems that, though Job was extraordinarily wealthy, he was also humble. He didn't take what he had for granted. And he had a lot: "seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys" (1:3).
Verse 3 also says that Job had a lot of servants, so while I'm sure Job himself didn't care for his animals, I'm guessing he knew quite a bit about what was happening with them. I imagine him taking walking tours of his vast property, checking in with servants and shepherds, meeting with his managers to see how flocks and herds are doing, what food is needed, how many new animals were born, etc. The sheer numbers of his animals make me inclined to say he was an expert in his time on sheep, camels, oxen and, of course, donkeys.
With that many animals around, it's only natural that Job would have them on the brain. So it's only natural that, when Job's "friend" Eliphaz (give me a donkey any day over a friend like this) starts judging and accusing Job of sin as the cause of his misfortune, Job uses animals as an analogy to illustrate his innocence:
The answer, of course, is no. And I'm guessing that Job's "domesticated" donkeys were always well-fed, always well taken care of, so they just might have been the quietest donkeys in Uz--no complaints, no obnoxious braying for no good reason.