My favorite taste is sour—sour candies, pickles, anything with lemon, sour cherries, you name it—I love it! Some people may prefer savory, or sweet—or the newcomer to the block, umami—but the one basic taste I’ve never found to be anyone’s favorite is bitter. I’m not surprised! In fact, the word I’ve seen most used in definitions of the word bitter is “unpleasant.”
It never ceases to amaze me how Jesus shows up in the dark and difficult places of our lives. One such example is told in Luke 8.
Jesus, already being thronged by crowds of people eager to hear His words, is begged by Jairus, a cleric and a man of some importance, to come to his home and heal his dying daughter.
—A retelling of Acts 8:26–40
I could never forget the day of the operation, when I was only seven. That was when I became a royal eunuch, destined to serve in the palace of the kings and queens of Ethiopia. I would never have my own family, never be looked at as “normal”—and I would always have to abide by special rules, and would not be allowed to do the things that normal people do.
Jesus gave a simple command: “Love your neighbor.”1 However, “neighbor” is pretty vague, and some wise guy asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”2 Jesus answered with the story about a traveler on the way to Jericho who was ambushed by thieves, beaten, robbed, and left for dead. Two people passed him by but didn’t stop to help.3
I can speculate on what each might have been thinking as he passed that poor guy on the side of the road.
Once upon a time, in a faraway land called Uz, there was a guy named Job. He was definitely one of the best guys around. He feared God and avoided evil. He was generous, kind, hardworking—overall, a good, godly man.1
Not only was Job a good guy, he also had a pretty great life. He had money, land, livestock, and servants. He had a wife and ten children.2 He was healthy. He was a respected figure in the community and had friends everywhere. Everyone knew who Job was.3
One of the best-known stories in the Bible is also one of the strangest. Nearly everyone, it seems, knows about Jonah and the whale. It’s a Sunday school favorite. But it’s also one of those perplexing tales that makes one wonder, Why, God, why?
The first mention of Jonah in the Bible1 establishes that Jonah was alive circa 800–750 B.C. and was from the town of Gath-hepher in Israel, a few miles from Nazareth. He apparently already had a reputation as a prophet when God called him to prophesy against Nineveh, the capital of Assyria.
I’ve always thought Prince Jonathan, the son of Israel’s first anointed king, is an amazing example in the Bible of honor and integrity. Think about it: he was logically expected to succeed his father, King Saul, as king—but the prophet Samuel anointed the boy David instead.
Now, if I were in Jonathan’s position, I think I would have succumbed in one of two ways. Either I would have become consumed with envy, feeling that I had been dealt an unjust hand. Or I would have not cared about the affairs of the kingdom from then on.
I had a basic knowledge of who Hagar was through the various illustrated Bibles I had read as a child. But this year, after deciding to read through the Bible cover to cover, I came away from her story with new perspectives on God’s individual love for each of us.
Two dreams were the start of Joseph’s troubles.
“Listen to this dream,” Joseph told his 11 brothers. “We were out in the field, tying up bundles of grain. Suddenly my bundle stood up, and your bundles all gathered around and bowed low before mine!”
Jesus told a story about forgiveness that pokes at my heart and conscience every time I hear it.1 It tells of a good king whose accountant brought to his attention that one of his servants owed him an enormous amount of money, something to the tune of billions of dollars if measured in today’s money. An amount so huge that there was no possible way this servant could ever repay the debt.