Today's Reading: Job 1-5
I have to admit, I don't like what I read today. I don't like the image of humans being like chess pieces in a game between the LORD and Satan. This kind of "competition" seems trite to me, not to mention cold and calculating. I guess I need to get past that before I can see what God wants me to see in these chapters.
The first 2 chapters read like an Aesop fable. Lots of repetitive dialogue that makes for good story telling. There is this sparring between God and Satan and interestingly, God is quite certain of his servant Job's integrity.
There are some incredible gems in these 5 chapters...sips of God's word that I want to roll around on my tongue like fine wine...and they seem to come from the mouth of Job.
"Naked I came from my mother's womb,
And naked I shall return there.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the LORD." 1:21
This, of course, became part of the liturgy of the worship of the faithful and was used in times of suffering. It really challenges me. Could I say such a thing if both my children were killed and all my worldly possessions wiped out? And even if I could say it, could I really mean it? Could I still bless the name of the LORD?
And then, in chapter 2, when Job's wife's anger is her reaction to her deep pain and bitterness, Job responds:
"You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?"
Job would be a challenging husband to have, don't you think? At least the Job of the first 2 chapters.
Thank goodness for chapter 3. Now, I can begin to relate to Job. I've had times in my life when pain was great and sorrow overwhelming, and death began to look like a friend. Though Job's words in 3 might not be as "faithful," they certainly seem more authenitic and truthful. "I am not at ease, nor am I quiet, and I am not at rest, but turmoil comes." 3:26
And one more thing, everybody jumps on Job's three friends and criticizes them for what they say, but really! When have three of my friends come when I was distressed, wailed and wept with me, torn their clothing, thrown dust on themselves and then sat IN SILENCE with me for 7 days? (2:12,13) I'd say that's pretty amazing.
Now, Eliphaz does have some sharp things to say:
Job, you've been a wise counselor to others but now that you are suffering, you are impatient and can't heed your own counsel. 4:3-5
(It's true that it is much easier to give counsel from the seat of comfort than to receive even our own counsel while sitting in the chair of despair.)
"Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope? 4:6...can a human be just before God? Can a human be pure before the Maker?" 4:17
If I were you, says Eliphaz, "I would seek God and would place my cause before God...happy is the one whom God reproves, so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty." 5:17
Wow! Today's reading gives me so much to ponder, it is almost too much to sort out. What would be the faithful response to suffering? Acceptance, silence, submission? or would God like us to wrestle with the incongruities of life? does God like it when we are honest and say, "I really don't understand what you are doing with me at this moment!"
Day four, and already I've hit the hard questions of life...nothing like starting out the year in theological and spiritual overload.