I watched The Book of Eli again. And again, it’s left me with a feeling of determination, of gravity, of sober-mindedness about my faith in God and my desire to serve Him well to the end.
Just to let you know, this will contain major spoilers. So if you’ve never watched it, watch it first, if you like, then come back. I’ll wait.
But a warning: it is rated R, and in the case of this movie, that could stand for raw and rough, but also for revelation. There are several instances of very strong language and many scenes of disturbing violence. Normally I wouldn’t recommend a movie with that level of crudeness, but the context in which it’s used in this movie is not gratuitous but conforms to the grave time and situations within the story. If you’d still rather not watch it, read on anyway. I’ve included enough of the story that you won’t miss out on the message.
So why would I watch a movie with such violence and vulgarity? Because it is an excellent allegory of our lives--as messy and ugly and painful as they can be—as we walk with the Lord.
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“You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." 2 Corinthians 3:3
A man named Eli wanders through a barren land some thirty-one years after an apocolyptic destruction of the earth and most of its inhabitants. He carries only a backpack and a few weapons which he skillfully uses against the violence he finds at nearly every turn in this lawless land.
Eli guards with his life the contents in his backpack: a book. But not just any book. It is the only copy of the Bible left on earth. He’s been traveling with it since the destruction and his job is to take it west. Why? Because a Voice told him to.
The Voice leads him through peril after peril.
Eli comes to a futuristic old west town of lawless men, run by one deranged man whose goal is to find a Bible. He knows there is power in the Bible and he wants power. He’s managed to enslave a group of people, including a blind woman and her daughter.
The man discovers the contents of Eli’s pack. Eli takes off in a hail of bullets, leaving several bodies in his wake. Eli is unharmed.
Eli is back on the road, dutifully headed west, when he discovers the teenage daughter of the blind woman has followed him. They find shelter for the night where he removes his most guarded possession from its cocoon and begins reading. The illiterate girl asks him to read to her and he begins to recite scripture from memory.
She asks him if he reads it every day. He responds, “Without fail.”
As they continue on in their journey west, the deranged man and his band of not-so-merry men have found Eli and the girl. After a gunfight, Eli finds himself standing in the middle of the men while the ringleader has a tight hold on the girl and a gun pointed at Eli. Eli has hidden the Book, and the man wants it. Eli stands in total confidence that the protection he’s known for thirty-one years will continue.
And then, Eli is shot. He stumbles and his face twists with confusion.
The man snarls at Eli, “Where’s your protection now?” And we wonder the same thing. Why would God allow him to be hurt? And even more, why would God allow him to be placed in a position where he feels he has to give up the Bible to this abusive, power-hungry man?
Eli gives up the Book’s hiding place, it is taken and the men are gone with the girl. Eli gets back on the road and continues his journey west, led by the Voice, as if nothing has happened. The girl musters some courage of her own, and finds her way back to Eli.
They reach the ocean where they cross by boat to a sanctuary. The guard asks him why he’s there. He says he has a copy of the King James Bible. The girl looks at him quizzically, and so do we.
They enter the sanctuary where they meet with the proprietor who is in the process of collecting a library of books which have become precious in this post-war era. He’s never seen a Bible. He, the girl and Eli sit down. Eli asks for some paper.
Meanwhile, the man is back in the old west with his stolen Book of Power. The Book is opened and we see the pages but there are no words, only raised dots. The blind woman stands in front of it, having no clue as to the treasure that lay right in front of her. He screams at her to read it. She throws her hands down in anger, and she feels the dots. Time stands still for her as she realizes this is a Bible, a Bible she can read.
Back at the sanctuary, Eli begins to recite the Bible, from memory, word by word, verse by verse:
Gen 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
Gen 1:2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the
deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
Gen 1:3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
We are taken up close and we see Eli’s eyes, and suddenly realize that he is blind. And yet, he sees more than anyone because the truth of God is written on his heart. It is the light from the sun and the voice of God that led him, gave him discernment, and filled him with wisdom to walk across the country for thirty-one years, facing death at every turn, fulfilling his mission. And so it is with us.
My friends, our life in Christ is a journey, and we’ll most surely encounter struggles, pain and evil along the way. And God will use those times of trial in ways we may not ever know until we stand with Jesus in heaven. Because Eli was shot and the girl’s life was at stake, he had to release the Bible. No doubt the Voice told him to, a Voice with which he had become very well acquainted. And in doing so, the Word of God that gives freedom to the humble was taken back to a lawless town and the truth was spoken. Ironically, the man who wanted to use it for his own gain lost the very power he coveted.
And because Eli persisted in doing God’s will, the Bible was produced again en masse, and its message filled a lost and dying world. Eli sums up his belief about the Bible’s message by saying it’s about doing more for others than for yourself. And so it is. Rather than saving Himself, Jesus Christ died for us so that we can be saved and live with God forever. And this is the message we carry in our hearts.
Whatever comes along on your long and winding road--the good, the bad and the ugly--our ultimate purpose is to carry the Lord, and with Him, the inspired Word of God, in our hearts. We are the living letter of God given for our own lost and dying world. Keep focused, keep true and finish well.
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”
2 Timothy 4:7-8 kjv