Jonah and the Puzzle Ball

IMG_0044I like to explore. I’m curious about the world around me and that includes restaurants I haven’t eaten in before and places I haven’t been to before. Far away places … and day trip places.

Anytime I put in my search engine something like “10 little-known places to visit in the Chicago area,” I would see Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art. Hmm … wasn’t sure what a Lizzadro was and wasn’t too sure about lapidary either – though I knew it had something to do with gems.

This last weekend I finally visited and now I know a lot more.

Lapidary is the process of making art from stones, gems and minerals. (This is also what the artist is called.) Lizzadro is the family who started and owns the museum.

I would highly recommend you visit – however, the purpose of this blog is not to be a travel agent.

My purpose is to encourage parents and teachers to involve kids in Bible study.

And that’s how the museum ties into what I’m saying.

One of the most fascinating pieces displayed is an ivory puzzle ball. (Most of the art pieces displayed are antiques.) Unbelievably, the ball has 24 different layers, all carved from the same piece of ivory, all separated, but connected. The layers are inside one another. The carver started with one sphere, carved a hole to the center, cut layers (within the sphere) and then decoratively carved each one. (Can you even imagine the skill it would take to carve those inner spheres?) The puzzle is to line up the holes.

When I first walked past the ball, I saw delicate carving in the ivory and admired the pattern – then I noticed that there were spheres inside.

Think about the Bible lesson you’re teaching your class or a truth you’re working on at home with your personal kids.

We can appreciate the surface, the shallow version of the account, but how much better it is to dig deeper, to peel away the layers and get deep into what the Lord is saying to us?

We read about the Bereans in Acts 17. These people weren’t content with simply hearing a message, accepting it and going on with their lives. No, they examined the Scripture. They wanted to make sure that what they were being taught was true. They wanted to know what God was saying in His Word.

In a puzzle ball – each layer has beauty and depth in itself (and is a work of art), but how much more intricate and intriguing is the complete ball – a sum of all the layers.

In studying a biblical account – each layer has value. Together we have a complete picture of the character or event and its significance.

IMG_0045To illustrate – let’s look at the book of Jonah.

Layer #1 – Dramatizing a story about a man and a fish. (God provided a fish – the Bible says nothing about a whale.)

Layer #2 – Emphasizing Jonah’s disobedience.

Layer #3 – Identifying Jonah as a prophet. Giving the account an actual location by looking Nineveh and Tarshish up on a map.

Layer #4 – Learning about the customs of the day. What did it mean to cast lots?

Layer #5 – Thinking about the other men in the boat – why were they so afraid?

Layer #6 – Defining some of the words used. Ask the kids which words they don’t understand and then define them.

Layer #7 – Discussing Jonah’s prayer.

Layer #8 – Explaining the plant/gourd.

Layer #9 – Talking abut the comparisons between Jonah and Christ.  (See Matthew 12)

The first Jonah-layer is good – at least kids would get the basics of a book of the Bible, but as we peel off the layers and dig deeper, we obtain more and more details about the prophet. Kids get a good understanding about Jonah, his message, and who he is in the overall “sphere” of the Bible.

In Proverbs we read: An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. (Proverbs 18:15)

 By equipping our kids with knowledge we are paving the way to wisdom. We are providing spiritual nourishment that will enable them to be strong in their faith. We are building a foundation that can last for eternity.

Let’s do this one layer at a time.

(If you live in the Chicago area and would like to do a day trip with your kids and show them the puzzle ball – the Lizzadro Lapidary Museum is located in Elmhurst, Illinois. The museum is located in the middle of Wilder Park in a residential area – so not difficult to get to. The museum has been there since  1962,  but next summer they are moving to an updated location in Oak Park.)


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