The Four J’s: An Introduction to Character

This week on The Allender Center Podcast, Dr. Dan Allender introduces a new series engaging the sweeping, chaotic, sometimes terrible and sometimes glorious stories of four characters in the Old Testament: Jacob, Joseph, Jeremiah, and Jonah. Dan says that, while this might feel like a diversion from our usual podcast categories, summer is the perfect time to think about stories, characters, and why they matter.

The arc of the reading of a character is to somehow be caught up in the redemptive history of how God’s kindness and wildness and, frankly, mystery, plays out through broken yet unique human beings like us.

Before diving into these four particular stories, this week Dan talks about how much we miss out on when, instead of letting ourselves get swept up in the depth of character and the movement in a story, we look for a tidy moral and a way to apply it directly to our lives. “Stories are not told in the scriptures for the sake of morals or principled living,” says Dan. “The task is just to be caught up in a story—caught up long enough, thoughtful enough, that you actually begin to find something deeper than principles, something of the heart and passion not only of the character, but the way God uses that character in the larger redemptive story of life.”

After reading two excerpts from Robert Pinsky’s The Life of David, which was partially responsible for Dan’s fascination with character in the Bible, Dan shares about why these “Four J’s” are so intriguing to him: Jacob the deceiver, the manipulative supplanter who goes on to wrestle with God and become the namesake for God’s people; Joseph, an entitled poser with a complex and epic story framed in the experience of injustice; Jeremiah, the weeping and raging prophet who seems cornered into his awful calling; and Jonah, the prophet who flees God before being captured by God in a fabled and hysterical way.

“How can you not be intrigued?” Dan asks. “What we’ll do is consider these four remarkable characters and what they invite us to ponder about the nature of how God writes stories, and therefore how He writes your story—not principles to be lived, but far more a passion to be followed.”

“The heart of God wants us to think about narrative, character, about story. […] There’s something about the human heart, what it accomplishes, where it takes us toward, that becomes then the compelling entry not just into a story and its sweeping narrative, but into the unique characters that play the role of inviting us to consider the heart of God.”