The Land of Uz and the Land of Us

Job’s geography speaks to the unchanging nature of biblical truth.

When we read that Job lived “in the land of Uz,” it sounds odd to our modern ears (Job 1:1). Job might as well have lived in the Land of Oz. Our unfamiliarity with Uz makes it easy to dismiss.

The Land of Uz and the Land of Us

(Photo: Mountains of Edom and Arabah from Timna Park. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The mention of the “land of Uz,” as well as many other geographical references in Scripture, can appear to be throwaway statements.

But they’re not. Not at all. Why?

The land of Uz too closely resembles the land of us.

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From Bahurim to Susa—God Turns a Curse into a Blessing

The Lord’s Providential Ironies Flow from Benjamin’s Tribe

One of the dark moments of King David’s reign saw him shuffling barefoot over the Mount of Olives, fleeing rather than facing a fight with his rebel son Absalom.

From Bahurim to Susa—God Turns a Curse into a Blessing

(Photo: Sunrise over the Mount of Olives. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

After David made his way over the summit, he passed below the Benjamite village of Bahurim. There a loudmouth named Shimei hurled rocks at David’s passing entourage. But the curses Shimei chucked hurt worse. David’s response was stellar:

My son who came out from me seeks my life; how much more now this Benjamite? Let him alone and let him curse, for the LORD has told him. Perhaps the LORD will look on my affliction and return good to me instead of his cursing this day. —2 Sam. 16:11–12

Centuries later, another Benjamite named Shimei would play a role in providing blessing to David’s line. In fact to all Jews.

And to you.

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What’s Your Motive? There’s One Way to Tell

How Tisha B'Av & the Burnt House Examine Us

I find it fascinating that when the New Testament talks about God judging our motives, it uses the metaphor of a burnt house. In Jerusalem, one site I pass always begs the question: “What’s your motive?”

How Tisha B'Av & the Burnt House Examine Us

(Photo: The Burnt House in Jerusalem. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Some call it coincidence. Some call it Providence. But according to tradition, both the First and Second Temples (in 586 BC and AD 70) were destroyed on the same date in history. Tisha B’Av marks the 9th day of the month of Av—the fifth Jewish month. During the exile, the Jews instituted a fast to commemorate the Temple’s destruction. After they returned to Jerusalem, they asked God a question about Tisha B’Av:

Shall I weep in the fifth month and abstain, as I have done these many years? —Zechariah 7:3

Their question made sense.

They had observed the fast in exile, but should they continue to fast on Tisha B’Av now that they were building the Second Temple? God’s answer to their question reaches beyond them to the heart of why we do what we do.

One question gets to the heart of our heart.

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Why Facing the Facts Begins with Faith

Your Faith Has More Facts Behind it Than You Think

Today you will be told to face the facts. Usually, that means bad news. You don’t have the money. The doctor’s report looks grim. Time is running out on your biological clock. Facing the facts is hard.

Why Facing the Facts Begins with Faith

(Photo by Photodune)

But think about it: facing the facts isn’t our problem. It’s that we fail to face all of the facts.

God has facts to factor into our thinking as well.

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Jerusalem’s Water Gate—Where the Source of Truth Gushed

Why You Need to Wall Off Your Time with the Bible

The best way to make sure we respond positively to the opportunities God provides us is to prepare ahead of time for them. But how do we anticipate those moments? The Lord has shown us how.

Jerusalem’s Water Gate—Where the Source of Truth Gushed

(Photo: Scribe copying the Scriptures. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

At the end of the exile, God moved the heart of the pagan King Artaxerxes to allow Ezra—a scribe and priest—to return to Jerusalem in 458 BC. Fourteen years before Nehemiah returned to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, Ezra returned to rebuild the people. He did it by calling them to return to the Word of God.

Ezra shows us both how to prepare for the opportunities God provides and how to protect ourselves from what threatens them.

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The Wilderness of Zin— Inspiring Awe but Not Obedience to God

Some of God's blessings come only against impossible odds.

I thought I understood the wilderness wanderings of Israel. Then I traveled through the wilderness. On my summer visits there, I never had to check the forecast. It only fluctuated from blistering to broiling.

Machtesh Ramon at sunrise.

Photo: Machtesh Ramon at sunrise. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.

After a searing hike through this wilderness, a traveling companion of mine boarded the bus, his shirt sweat-soaked. He collapsed in his seat, and someone asked him if he now understood why the Hebrews grumbled and failed in obedience to God.

He took a long gulp from his canteen and then blurted, “I’m with them!”

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Geographic Ironies of Jesus and Herod the Great

The Places Associated with Herod's Death Speak with a Twist

The Bible loves poetic irony. Think of Joseph’s brothers, hat in hand before the brother they betrayed. Or Haman—hanged on his own gallows. But one of my favorites has to do with the geographic ironies surrounding the death of Herod the Great.

Geographic Ironies of Jesus and Herod the Great

(Photo: The Herodium where Herod the Great was buried. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Like an ugly cover on a great book, the places of Herod’s death bookend the life of Jesus.

They give lasting lessons to us who walk through them.

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The Levitical Cities—God’s Word Made Accessible to You

Finding it is the easy part. The next step is the tough one.

I am convinced God is far more concerned that we know His will than we are. In fact, He has gone to great lengths to help us understand what we need to know. But we have a problem.

The Levitical Cities—God’s Word Made Accessible to You

(Photo: Tel Jokneam, one of the 48 Levitical Cities. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

We often treat the Bible as a simple reference book—kept handy on the shelf for those moments when we need inspiration but not something we see as essential for daily living.

But God’s will is found in God’s Word. If we want to find His will, we must read His Word. It’s often that simple—and yet, it’s also difficult. But it needn’t be.

In fact, God has always made His Word accessible to us—today more than ever.

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Kursi—Choosing Between People, Pigs, and Priorities

Why is it sometimes we regret the wrong things?

Sometimes in the swell of our emotions, we make promises we don’t mean. On one occasion, two individuals approached Jesus and declared they would follow Him wherever He went.

Kursi—Choosing Between People, Pigs, and Priorities

(Photo: The steep slope at Kursi beside the Sea of Galilee. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

But Jesus’ response to them indicated that their hearts were more devoted to comfort and to family than to Him (Matt. 8:19-22). It happened in Jesus’ day, and it happens in ours.

We’ve all done it. Sometimes we’ll express our spiritual desires in terms that really boil down to boasts:

  • I’ll have my quiet time every morning for the rest of my life.
  • I’m willing to follow God wherever He leads me.
  • I will love people more and need them less.

Overwhelmed by the moment, we’ll express our feelings in terms of commitments we’d like to do. But often, we come to regret our words.

The problem is we’re regretting the wrong thing.

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Mount Sinai—Why You Need God’s Word First

At first it didn’t make sense. God redeemed Israel out of Egypt in order to lead His people into the Promised Land. But the journey to Canaan began, remarkably, by God leading the Hebrews away from it.

Mount Sinai—Why You Need God’s Word First of All

(Photo: The Mountains of Sinai from Jebel Musa. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Instead of taking them east to Canaan, the Lord directed them southeast for three months to Mount Sinai. There God entered into a covenant with Israel and gave them His commandments.

True, God could have led them straight to Canaan. After all, what better place to receive the Holy Bible than in the Holy Land? But the Lord wanted them to have His Word before they walked in His plans for their future.

This principle hasn’t changed for us.

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