Babylon

June 21, 2007
by John Stuart

Job 38:19 – What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? (NIV)

When I read this verse recently, it reminded me of the beginning of an old nursery rhyme that always puzzled me. Perhaps you remember it as well:

    How many miles to Babylon?
    Three score miles and ten.
    Can you get there by candlelight?
    Yes, and back again.
    If your feet are nimble and light,
    You can get there by candlelight.

I can remember reading this from a colourful book when I was about five years old. I can still see the picture in my mind of children in nightshirts carrying lit candles, walking across the hills under a starry night sky. It was an eerie picture, because all of the children looked as though they were sleepwalking. As I read the words out loud, it sounded more like an incantation or a spell. The whole rhyme was mysterious and I could never work out its meaning.

Sometimes the Bible is enigmatic, too. The thirty-eighth chapter of Job expresses an ancient understanding of nature. God has storehouses of snow and hail; light and lightning have their own secret place. Nowadays, we think of these ideas as quaint and old-fashioned, non-scientific and out-dated, but to Job and his peers, these things expressed the mysterious and magical qualities of God's power.

Our world has grown up a lot since the days of Job, and even since the days of my childhood. In this age of instantaneous information which overloads and overwhelms us, we've lost some of that element of mystery which keeps God sacred in our hearts and, strangely enough, brings peace to our souls. Perhaps it's time that we reclaimed the ancient mysteries of God by rediscovering awe and reverence. Job's descriptions may be unscientific, but there is something timeless and changeless, winsome and wonderful in them which pleases our souls. And in this complicated, computerized, and commercialized world, isn't it reassuring to know that there are some things which only God can explain?

Prayer: Almighty God, Your ways are mysterious and beyond our imagining at times. In midst of our busy, noisy world, help us to reclaim the stillness and quietness of resting in Your holy presence. Grant us the gift of awe and reverence; bless us with the surprising joy of sacred sanctuary. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

About the author:

John Stuart <traqair@aol.com>
Knoxville, Tennessee, USA

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