Monday, June 29, 2009

Give and Take

Job continues his response to his friends in verses 7-25 of chapter 12. He tells his friends that God is in control, the very birds of the air and animals can attest to this. Wisdom is not just reserved for the aged, the common sense of our experience can tell us much. He says that just as the tongue discerns taste, so the ear can discern words, and the words in this case do not fit the experience. So what is one to trust?

Job makes his understanding of God's power and authority clear in his reply. His words in this chapter seem to foreshadow later words of a coming messiah, and especially the words of Jesus mother from Luke chapter one-

51He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.

As Job stated earlier, the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord. In his deeds and understanding, if we consider him the object of play in the divine game between God and Satan, he is coming closer to giving God a "checkmate." Refusing to allow his reverence for God to rest upon blessing or favor. How many other mortals can truly say their love for God exists without condition of favor on this earth?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Purchasing God

Job responds once again to his friends, and the points he makes in chapters 12 and 13 are powerful. To start, he gives us these words from verses 4-6 in chapter 12:
It's easy for the well-to-do to point their fingers in blame,
for the well-fixed to pour scorn on the strugglers.
Crooks reside safely in high-security houses, insolent
blasphemers live in luxury; they've bought and paid for a god
who'll protect them.
We are again faced with the theme that too often the downtrodden bear the blame for their misfortune. When we look toward earthly comfort and success as the measure of character, those who don't live up to our standard of living don't measure up to our standards of character either. Job accuses his accusers of enjoying the prosperity of a god they've bought and paid for rather than the spiritual prosperity of the true God. I wonder if we rely too much on the prosperity of a god that is bought and paid for, mistaking the riches of this world for the riches of God. All the while, looking out at the world and seeing its misfortune as a result of its "wayward" ways.

Job is beginning to see his suffering in light of this fact and the world view that he once shared with his friends has been shaken. Perhaps our worldview could use a little shaking as well.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

More of the Same

I'm sure that Job found the arguments of his friends quite tiresome by the time his third friend spoke. (They each have several speeches left) I have found them quite tiresome myself. Here is a sample of what Zophar says to Job in chapter 11:

14 if you put away the sin that is in your hand
and allow no evil to dwell in your tent,
15 then you will lift up your face without shame;
you will stand firm and without fear.
16 You will surely forget your trouble,
recalling it only as waters gone by.
17 Life will be brighter than noonday,
and darkness will become like morning.
18 You will be secure, because there is hope;
you will look about you and take your rest in safety.
19 You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid,
and many will court your favor.

How many troubled souls are bombarded with the admonition to just get right with God so that you're troubles may be lifted. Depression, family strife, troubles at work, we are so quick to blame these misfortunes on a lack of faith or a strong relationship with God. When we put forth these arguments, it's just more of the same. Like the third friend Zophar we are simply telling the Job's of this world that you must not be the right kind of Christian if you're suffering so much because God just wouldn't let that happen.

Prosperity theology is alluring; the idea that a little faith will bring us all the worldly happiness that God wants for us anyway. But even Christ promised- "in this world you WILL have trouble." (John 16:33) He tells us to take heart because he has overcome this world.

Can Job stand firm and take heart that God is truly good?

Monday, June 22, 2009

You Just Don't Know

If you are a regular reader (do I have regular readers?) you know that I've been writing about the book of Job for a few weeks now. If you've gotten behind, feel free to catch up here. I've always appreciated the cosmic question of this book, but I'm only now beginning to really see the scope of Job's relationship to God as it relates to all of humanity's relationship. I've gotten to chapter nine in which Job continues to curse his life, and I'd planned to skip over chapter ten as he does much of the same. But something stood out to me, read these verses:
4 Do you have eyes of flesh? Do you see as a mortal sees? 5 Are your
days like those of a mortal or your years like those of a man, 6 that you must search out my faults and probe after my sin-

If Jacob physically wrestled with God, I think that Job is taking on a mental battle here. In reading these words, I found my own voice crying out to God. How can he see things from our perspective? He is all-powerful God, but how could it be possible for Him to understand the existence of the finite? It might seem fair and just for us to suffer so, but does God really know what we're going through here?

This sounds like a great place for Christ to enter, a messiah that is fully God yet fully human, to not only understand, but to take on the suffering of humans so that we may reconcile with God.

Next we'll see what Zophar has to say.

Friday, June 19, 2009

You Call This Comfort

Bildad speaks, the second of Job's friends in chapter 8. He seems to be a student of "those who forget history are destined to repeat it." He begins with the recent past. This is verse four of chapter eight: "When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin." So Job should see in the example of his children. He tried to intercede on their behalf, but God punished them for their transgressions.

Bildad calls on the name of our fathers and says in verse eight: Ask the former generations and find out what their fathers learned. We see from the past that evil begets suffering so it is only logical to conclude that Job is being persecuted for his transgressions. In many ways, Bildad repeats some of the logic of Eliphaz.

Job responds in chapter nine, affirming some of the arguement, admitting his sinful nature shared with all of humanity, but as for his affliction he still maintains that he has done nothing more than any other member of humanity to bring this upon himself. Job finds himself at a point where his experiences do not match his understanding. His friends are stuck in the "mental sets" of the past, but Job is in the midst of a cosmic "cognitive dissonance." He recognizes his situation on some level for what it is-- a unique circumstance that defies the wisdom and knowledge handed down from the ages.

Too often, we find ourselves in this experience. What we know doesn't fit with what we experience so we continue down a destructive path of business as usual and use the same tried and true strategies for solving problems when those strategies no longer apply. Job is at the cusp of understanding and continues to hold on to faith even in the midst of his suffering.

What will his friends say to this?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cry Mercy

Eliphaz has advised Job that he should confess his sins and beg mercy from God. If Job cries out now and goes through the empty motions of repentance for wrongs he's convinced have not occurred he's simply reaching out to God again for reward in the form of relief from his trials.

This situation doesn't make every plea to God for mercy or relief an expression of evil, but in this morality story, Job is certain that he has not brought this on himself. To go to God with an empty confession signifies a relationship where one's connection to deity is purely based in what one gets in return. This was Satan's argument to God. So what will Job do, will he take the advice of Eliphaz or maintain his innocence?

We see his reply in chapters 6 and 7. Job's misery invokes great feelings of pain. The man is at his end. He cries out to God in his reply, but not as a bargain begging for an end to suffering in exchange for a plea of guilt. Job seems to cry out that suffering is the plight of humanity. He pleas with God to see his suffering and ease up on him a bit. He doesn't claim that humanity is free from sin and deserving of favor from God, but he questions why humanity would be deserving of such hardship. He seems to be moving toward a reasoned argument with God that perhaps things have gotten out of hand; he understands that this world will bring troubles, but why must we suffer just for being alive.

Eliphaz' words offered no consolation for Job. Lucky for him he's got two more friends among him.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Divine Behavior Management

Eliphaz continues his advice to Job. Here are a few selections from chapters 4 and 5:
8 As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it.
6 For hardship does not spring from the soil, nor does trouble sprout from the ground.
17 "Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.
First he asserts that trouble doesn't come from "nowhere." In his observations of life, those who plow and sow wrong shall reap wrong. Psychologists call this the "Just World Phenomena." Many of us are stuck in the world view that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. Of course our world is full of cause/effect and probability; sex is likely to lead to pregnancy, deceit is likely to lead to strained relationships, aggression is likely to be met with retaliation. The danger of this thinking lies in how it leads us to judge those who face unfortunate circumstances, or blaming the victim.

In our search for meaning in this world, this attitude can serve our society well as individuals are motivated to "do good." But in regards to social justice it also makes it easy to lack sympathy for those who are down and out. So far, we don't seem to have any indication that Job "deserved" this in any special sense. If anything this tragedy comes as a result of him being so righteous.

Eliphaz asserts that God must be putting Job through this trial for some reason, that Job must have erred in some way to bring this misfortune on himself and his only hope is in throwing himself at the mercy of God. This thinking must be tempting for Job, he seems to be at the end of his rope, but wouldn't that play right into the plan of Satan. What will Job choose?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Eliphaz Speaks

Then Eliphaz from Teman spoke up: "Would you mind if I said something to you? Under the circumstances it's hard to keep quiet.
You yourself have done this plenty of times, spoken words that clarify, encouraged those who were about to quit. Your words have put stumbling people on their feet, put fresh hope in people about to collapse. But now you're the one in trouble—you're hurting! You've been hit hard and you're reeling from the blow. But shouldn't your devout life give you confidence now? Shouldn't your exemplary life give you hope?
Job's friend Eliphaz begins by offering hope. How well does he do? It looks good at first, but read carefully. Especially the last two lines. This sounds like ancient talk for "everything happens for a reason" or "I'm sure God had a plan in this" or maybe even a little more harsh, "I know how you feel" or "you're not the only one that's been through this." How many times have these words been used to comfort a grieving soul. Will they bring comfort to Job?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Better off Dead

We find Job in chapter 2 verses 11-13 visited by his friends. He must have been in a bad way. These friends barely recognize him and all of them sit in silence for three days. Imagine a time when things seem so bad that all you can do is pause....

....when you're so stuck that all you can do is "be" and the only reason you're doing that is because you can't "not be." Job would prefer to "not be." After three days, Job finally speaks, and for all of chapter 3 he curses the day he was born. He has finally assessed his situation and determined that he would have been better off having never been born. He still refuses to curse God, but listen to this. "Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure, who are filled with gladness and rejoice when they reach the grave? Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in?"

Quite an eternal question. I've heard many people raise the same question. Why would we even bring children into this world questions, or I don't even know why we're here any more questions. Job wanted to know why we were even created if our lives were destined for so much pain and sorrow. This is the same theological question that seems to prevent so many athiest thinkers from considering the Judeo-Christian God.

Luckily for Job his friends are there, maybe they will give him a good answer.

Monday, June 08, 2009


Satan has approached God once again. In God's response we hear that Job "still maintains his integrity." So given the power, Satan strikes the health of Job. He afflicted the man with sores from head to toe, surely Job would realize that God is not worthy of his praise after this.

But his wife says to him using some of the same language as God "why do you maintain your integrity." I have found that word intriguing. In my search I've found meanings including honest, perfect, whole, blameless, and many others. The original Hebrew word is only found five times in the Bible. Integrity is more than telling the truth and being honest. Those things ruin integrity because the "holistic" nature of our "selves" is broken when we deceive others and put on a face. Integrity is the perfection of completion, of being whole and unified.

In the beginning, God created and it was good. As humans we desire a connection with something bigger and many of us find that in God. We know inside that there is something bigger and we desire to be a part of it. Job recognizes that apart from God he is nothing. We see this in his words of "naked I came and naked I go, the Lord gives and takes, blessed be the name of the Lord." Job's wife encourages him to give up his integrity, to curse God and die, but Job realizes that to curse God is to deny his own identity. Job follows God not because of prosperity and not because of life, Job follows God because he knows that is what he was made to do.

So now, Job's challenge is even greater. My wholeness is in God, I am because of Yahweh; I in God and God in me. Apart from God I am nothing, but why do I suffer so?

The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life."

So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

His wife said to him, "Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!"

He replied, "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?"
In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Sabeans, Fire, Chaldeans, and Wind

It all seems to come down in an instant. (Job 1:12-2:6) Life just works that way sometimes. One minute everything is great; the next, well you know the story. So Satan's question is put to the test. Do we only consider God because of the rewards he offers?

As Job's children gather to celebrate, the bad news begins to flood in. First the oxen and the donkeys: all that would plow the fields and make it productive, his source of produce and nourishment gone. Next it is the sheep: for fleece and meat, his source of clothing and sustenance gone. Then the camels: his means of travel and trade of surplus goods, his source of income and wealth gone. Finally, his children: who would have been the heirs of his labor but after this tragedy perhaps they would have been the strength and help for rebuilding, but no, they too are gone, along with all of his servants.

Job has lost nearly everything. His earthly possessions, his source of income, and his very children. Surely Satan has won. How could God (especially a just and loving God) do this? Why should I worship a God who cannot keep me from tragedy such as this? But not Job. Naked I was born and naked I will die, blessed be the name of the Lord. Maybe there is hope for humanity's relationship with God. I don't just love him because I'm blessed with many treasures. At least I've got my health, I woke up and drew breath this morning, I'm glad to be alive.

I guess it's time for Satan part II. Organisms are designed to survive. Of course a righteous man can bear losing everything without cursing God, skin for skin, he's still just interested in saving himself, even in tragedy he wouldn't risk that by cursing God. But touch his body, take his health, take his comfort, and you will see. This man of yours is only yours because of what he gets in return.

Is it so? Maybe I can release my treasures, but deep inside, do I long for God out of a sense of self-preservation and survival instinct? Perhaps Job has an answer.

Job 1:12-2:6
The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger."

Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

One day when Job's sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother's house, a messenger came to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, "The fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, "The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"

While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, "Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother's house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four
corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised."

In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

On another day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them to present
himself before him. And the LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?"

Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it."

Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless
and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason."

"Skin for skin!" Satan replied. "A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face."

The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life."

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


For the last year or so, the story of Job has continually found its way into my thoughts and I'm not really sure why. It is an intriguing story raising many questions about the nature of God and humans and our relationship with each other. I haven't really taken the time to explore my thoughts or try to figure out why it has been such a recurring idea in my brain lately, but I'm going to give it a try over the next several posts. So here we go.

Reading Job 1:1-12 Job is first described as so good it is almost sickening. He is blameless and upright, his kids seem to be courteous and kind, he even offers a sacrifice every morning thinking "just in case my kids have offended God." We see that on top of this, he is also richly blessed. Ten children, thousands of livestock, many servants, and the wealth and time to enjoy regular feasting. I see a Ned Flanders type in Job, but I don't think old Ned had nearly the life that Job did.

That's one thing that makes Flanders such a funny character; he doesn't really get anything for his piety except for a hard time from Homer. So far, this story of Job makes perfect sense. He was "blameless and upright" therefore he was "the greatest man among all the people of the east." Good things happen to good people, right? If it didn't work that way then there is no sense in trying to be "good people." That seems to be Satan's arguement.

Satan says to God "does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan seems to challenge God's faith in humanity, at least as it is represented in Job. Of course these people who you bless are going to love you, but do they really love and respect you? I think not, they merely seek your favor in hopes of prosperity and comfort.

Is Satan correct? Do people really love and honor God or do they simply play the game in exchange for a comfortable life or perhaps for eternal security? Maybe Job will know the answer. We'll see next time.

In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.

His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, "Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts." This was Job's regular custom.

One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?"

Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it."

Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil."

"Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face."

The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger."

Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.