Fire Flew From His Fingertips — Another CDB Exegesis


In the arena of contemporary music, a lot of fluff exists.

Let’s face it, there are a lot of songs recorded in the last 75 or so years that serve no purpose beyond mindless entertainment.

But then, there are the songs with depth, the songs that mean something, the songs that beg to be analyzed and discussed.

Songs like “The Devil Went Down To Georgia.”

I would hope you’re familiar with this American classic. But, if you’re not, you should be. Take this moment to listen to the video below. I’ll wait.

OK, welcome back. Don’t you feel better now?

I’ve read any number of good analyses of the song, like this post looking at the silliness of the bet and disputing the outcome. Or this one that, at greater length, reviews the performances of the two competitors, and also concludes that the devil won.

I’ve dipped my toe into those waters before myself, in a post in which I argued that the golden fiddle was just a loss leader to win more souls.

But I had the song stuck in my head the other day, and had a different thought.

Maybe the point wasn’t really about the bet at all. Maybe the song is really all about artisanship, about integrity.

Because it’s true — it’s hard to make a case that Johnny’s overall performance was indisputably that much better than the devil’s. I mean, really, enough that THE DEVIL, lord of evil, would just say, without contest, without any other judge, that Johnny had won? It’s hard to buy.

Maybe the devil was just his own harshest critic. He clearly took his fiddle playing seriously and was proud of his skill. Maybe, in that contest, he realized he wasn’t where he wanted to be with his playing. Maybe he’d gotten complacent. The overall performance was great, to be sure, but maybe Satan realized he’d become too dependent on his band of demons. No doubt they were a great combo at hell banquets, but the contest was supposed to be purely about the one-on-one fiddle playing, and the devil’s calling in his session musicians. That’s fine if it’s about the musical end result, but if it’s supposed to be about pure fiddle-playing virtuoso skills, it’s crap.

Maybe the devil gave Johnny the golden fiddle because he was disappointed in himself. I hope that after the song ended, the devil went back to hell, rosined up his bow, and started practicing again, playing purely for the love of the instrument, getting his skills back where he knew they should be.

And, after all, after that, you never hear about anyone else beating the devil in a fiddle contest.*


*Ignoring the, to me, non-canonical “The Devil Comes Back To Georgia,” which doesn’t really say what happened in the end anyway. The video is kind of awesome, though.

The Gospel of Job


This is not the blog post I was planning on writing.

The blog post I was planning on writing was called “Sometimes The Enemy Wins,” and it was going to talk about the fact that sometimes Satan does get his way, and what happens when he does. I may yet write that blog post sometime, but not today.

In it, I was going to write about the times in scripture that Satan tests people, including my favorite prayer in the Bible. But as I was planning that post, I got caught up on the story of Job, and got to thinking about it in a way that I never had before.

Job’s one of the better-known stories in the Old Testament. There’s this guy, Job, and he’s a pretty awesome and upstanding guy. So Satan comes up and visits God in heaven one day, and is generally putting humanity down, and God’s like, “You seen my boy Job? He’s pretty awesome.” And Satan says that Job’s only all about God because God treats him so good, and if that changed, Job would turn on a dime.

So God says, go for it, and gives Satan permission to test Job, to take away all the cool stuff he’s got and see what happens. So Satan blows up his sheep, and kills his kids and turns his skin into something out of a horror movie. And all Job’s friends come by and tell him he should admit it’s his own fault, and his wife comes out and says he should just curse God and die and get it over with.

But Job, true to God’s assessment, stays the course, and doesn’t curse God. And so, at the end, God shows up to talk to him, and Job’s all, “Dude, … the hell?” And God’s all “OK, look, I’m God, who are you? ‘Cause, um, yeah, unless you’re God, you really don’t have much ground to tell me I’m doing my job wrong, because you couldn’t begin to understand it, much less do it.” God, pretty much by definition, has to be a pretty humble guy, in as much as that He is, by definition, infinitely awesome, and thus can’t really do justice to how awesome He is without taking an infinite amount of time. But the end of Job is one of those rare times where He kind of points out, just a little, that He is, in fact, rather amazing.

And so Job is blessed with new sheep and kids and clear skin, and they all live happily ever after.

And because of this story, we hold Job up as a pretty commendable guy. Even those who don’t know his story may know his name from the phrase, “the patience of Job.” And we put this story down in the W column in the God versus Satan scorecard, and, while we perhaps acknowledge that it’s a messy story to deal with in some ways, chalk it up to the virtues of being virtuous.

But …

What I got to thinking about was, what if it wasn’t. What if this was one of the stories were Satan “wins”? What if Satan had been right, and when he took everything away from Job, Job says, “This is crap; up yours, God!”? How is it different? What do we do with that story then? Would it have even made the Bible with a different outcome?

And what I came up with is this — I’m not sure it would matter.

In fact, it’s really not hard to imagine pretty much the entire book playing out the same way, save that one small detail. God brags on Job; Satan tests him. His friends and wife all give their little pep talks. Job curses God. And God shows up once again and still says, “OK, look, who are you?” and still makes Job understand that His ways are not our ways, and that He is above our ability to comprehend; that it’s not our place to second-guess the job He does unless we fully grasp the job requirements. God still restores his sheep and kids and skin, and everyone still lives happily ever after.

Because, ultimately, the lesson is this — it’s not about us.

God doesn’t show up and tell Job, “Hey, man, great job; you deserve to have everything restored! Congratulations!”

God shows up and says, “Job, son, it’s not about you. It’s about Me. It’s about grace.” And then He demonstrates that.

And we love the other side of grace.

We love that when Christ died on a cross on Good Friday a couple thousand years ago, it meant that our sins, our failings, our fallenness don’t have to matter. It’s not about us; it’s about Him. He paid the price so that we don’t have to. And that’s a rather agreeable thing.

But we sometimes lose sight of the fact that the opposite is just as true. Grace also means that when Christ died on a cross on Good Friday a couple thousand years ago, it meant that our virtue and our good deeds and our righteousness don’t matter, either. If our good deeds mattered, then by definition our sins would have to also, since they affect our good deeds.

None of this, of course, is license to act without thought of Him and His ways; we follow His path not to earn anything, but because He laid the path out because it was best for us.

It just means that it’s not about us. It’s about Him. Our sins and our virtues, our failings and our righteousness, are all irrelevant; however good we are, it’s still not good enough to earn salvation. When Christ paid the price for our salvation, He paid it in full, with no room left for us to pay off any part of it through our own merit.

The Gospel of Job is this — in His grace, we don’t have to worry about the end of the story, because we aren’t the ones writing it.

Ultimately, it’s about Him.

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