Season After Pentecost – Job’s story comes to its conclusion (The Old Testament Passage)

Then Job answered the Lord:
I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42: 1-6, 10-17)

Job, the contrite; Job, the humble.

I have written about Job many times over the years. And one of the things I have noted about him was that he regularly sacrificed to God on his children’s behalf thinking that during their times of feasting they may have offended God. I found, and I continue to find, it interesting that Job did not teach them how to honor God or celebrate without risking offending God. And that he thought God needed to be appeased on a regular basis. It does not seem to reflect a close knowledge and relationship to God. BUT when God has displayed all of the wonder and might of the Almighty, Job has a much clearer view and understanding of God. So yes, Job the humble, Job the contrite.

And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring. The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters. He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers. After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations. And Job died, old and full of days.”

What do you value, beloved reader? Family and friends? Property and possessions? Prestige in your community and faith circle? Long life and good health? You would think from reading about Job all those things would be yours . . . . if you were blessed by the Lord. But this is where the story of Job goes off track for me. Job become humble and contrite, and was rewarded with many things. I have known of people who were just as humble and contrite as Job, more so perhaps. Or were humble and contrite towards God from the very beginning, and did not receive as many “blessings.”

It is an interesting situations with those who are truly humble and contrite; they are grateful for what ever is in their life. They don’t need to riches brought to them, or possessions bestowed on them. They are content with what they have, and know their worth in their community and faith circle. Maybe Job was a completely new man, and I am just being unduly cynical concerning Job.

I want to be clear, beloved reader, that being in close and abiding relationship with God is not a guarantee of “worldly” good fortune. Being in close and abiding relationship with God is its own reward. And I encourage you to that; we are in the year of renewal and recommitment to God. And the story of Job fits well into that theme.

May the Lord God who desires relationship with us above all things walk closely with you day to day. Selah!

Season After Pentecost – The Lord speaks to Job, and we listen in. (The Old Testament Passage)

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?” (Job 38:1-7)

To be questioned by the Lord is not an easy thing to withstand. I do not speak entirely from experience because I cannot remember a time that I challenged God as Job did. But that is not to say I have not had the Lord correct me and redirect me.

When I first read this portion of Job, or at least when I read it as an understanding young adult, I was blown away. I guess it so took hold of me that I did not dare question God – at least not to the extent that I experienced Job doing. But the Lord and I have had conversations, many conversations, about what going on in my life and in the world around me. Read more of the Lord’s questions of Job.

Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, so that a flood of waters may cover you?
Can you send forth lightnings, so that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’?
Who has put wisdom in the inward parts, or given understanding to the mind?
Who has the wisdom to number the clouds? Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens, when the dust runs into a mass and the clods cling together?

Can you hunt the prey for the lion, or satisfy the appetite of the young lions, when they crouch in their dens, or lie in wait in their covert?
Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God, and wander about for lack of food?” (Verses 34-41)

The questioning of Job continues for three more chapters. Next week we will look at what happened next. If you are curious, go ahead and read ahead. My favorite part is about the leviathans!

And if you question the Lord, and I if you do so you do it humbly and meekly, may our God answer you with all the compassion that is the Divine. Selah!

Season After Pentecost – Hanging out with Job (The Old Testament Passage)

Then Job answered:
Today also my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy despite my groaning.
Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his dwelling!
I would lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.
I would learn what he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me.
Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power?
No; but he would give heed to me.” ( Job 23:1-6)

I have been reading off and on a book about making prayers of lament to God as opposed to praising God. The book’s premise is that we praise God so often that we ignore the fact that we can mourn and lament about our situation to God. There are many biblical passages that make lament to God and can be used in our modern times and situations. This portion of Job gives a good portrait of someone being to God their troubles and difficulties, and expecting to be heard.

“There an upright person could reason with him, and I should be acquitted forever by my judge.” (Verse 7)

The Lord God welcomes all who come to the Divine to contend or plead. Do not think, beloved reader, that the Lord God will turn away or not hear the Lord’s children pleading and crying.

Job, however, feels his experience is different. If you read verses 1 to 6 carefully you will hear that Job has NOT presented his case to God because he does not feel he can find God.

If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.” (Verses 8 – 9)

Later on in the chapter Job says,

God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me; If only I could vanish in darkness, and thick darkness would cover my face!” (Verses 16-17)

Job talks a great deal about God, but does not often talk TO God. We learned last week that Job made sacrifices to God and had knowledge OF God. But there is not much proof Job interacted with God. And that I find interesting.

I looked more closely at the scripture passages in the coming weeks, and I discovered we do hear more of the story of Job. “Check in” next week to hear more about Job. And, beloved reader, I encourage you to bring all things to God, talking to God about your joys and sorrows. Shalom!

Season After Pentecost – A Psalm that is very relevant to Job (The Psalms Passage)

Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and mind. For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in faithfulness to you. I do not sit with the worthless, nor do I consort with hypocrites; I hate the company of evildoers, and will not sit with the wicked.” (Psalm 26:1-5)

Job thought he was a good man, holy, righteous, and deserving of good things. But when God allowed the Evil One to have its/his/her way with Job, Job’s faith was shaken and tested. If you know the story of Job, you know how it all came out. But if you do not, I am not going to tell you. The story of Job continues next week, and at that point I will reveal the ending – but not just yet. If you are curious, read the book of Job yourself.

I wash my hands in innocence, and go around your altar, O Lord, singing aloud a song of thanksgiving, and telling all your wondrous deeds. O Lord, I love the house in which you dwell, and the place where your glory abides.” (Verses 6 – 8)

You may think you are a good person too, holy, righteous, and deserving of good things. But then when adversity and crisis come upon you, your faith is shaken and tested. It would be an unusual life if you did not have adversity and crisis come upon you at one time or another. And how you dealt with it would say a great deal about it you.

Did you weep and wail? Go to the Lord asking the Divine how that could have happened to you, of all people? Did you go to the Psalms, and find comfort there? Or other biblical passages that spoke to your feelings and condition? Did you vent and rail against the Lord in anger? Or plead with the Lord for rescue? Did you have faith and conviction that the Lord would see you through? Or did you abandon God, thinking the Lord has abandoned you? If that is so, then this year is for you, to come back to God.

“Do not sweep me away with sinners, nor my life with the bloodthirsty, those in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes.” (Verses 9 and 10)

It is at times of trial and adversity that things could go either way; to be “swept away with sinners” or to draw closer to the Lord. Those are not the only options of course. And we can pick and chose how we respond and deal with our problems. Again, Job is a good story of how one can make those choices.

But as for me, I walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me. My foot stands on level ground; in the great congregation I will bless the Lord.” (Verses 11 and 12)

It takes conviction and faith – not necessarily great because I do not want you to think, beloved reader, that it is beyond you – to praise God in the midst of adversity. Once again, the story of Job . . .

I hope and prayer, beloved reader, that your times of trial and adversity are brief and swift in the passing. I know that God is faithful even when we think all things and hope is lost. I could tell you page after page how I have seen that true in my life and how it continues to be. May you find it so for yourself. Selah!

Season After Pentecost – When hard times come upon you (The Old Testament Passage)

There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” (Job 1:1)

So begins the story of Job.

I read the book of Job in its entirety as a young adult when I had my first job after graduating high school. I was nanny to four children – 4 month old twins, a three year old and a five year old. How I managed that job, I will never know. I last 4 months. It was not the childcare that finally got to me; it was having to assume more and more responsibility for running the household. Because the mother of the four children had started schooling for being an RN, I had charge of the children all day, and than some evenings I had them too. The father of the children also worked during the day, and did what he could to help out in the evenings. But as any parent knows, parenting that many children and at those ages is a two person job. And I just had not bargained for that!

But, back to the point I was making; I started reading Job when I encountered my first stressful situation after high school. It helped to read and know that I was not the only one in history who felt burdened and pressed upon. And that even older and more mature adults can and need to say “uncle!” I give up! Also, that older and more mature adults felt that someone was just plain “out to get them!”

One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.” (Job 2:1-3)

It is important to note, beloved reader, that God still finds Job innocent and undeserving of what happened to him – the loss of children and property. It was important to me, when I was exhausting myself daily doing that job. I felt that I had lost all of my innocence and naivete about working. I just was not prepared for it, just as Job was not prepared for what happened to him.

Then Satan answered the Lord, “Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives. But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, he is in your power; only spare his life.” (Verses 4-6)

I caught a cold, and because I was on the go all day the cold just kept getting worse and worse. Ask any young parent how easy it is to get better from a cold while you are tending to children and household tasks. Fortunately I went home weekends. But in the two days of being home, I would just start to get better when Sunday night I had to go back out to the farm (did I mentioned they lived on a farm in a drafty farmhouse?) ready to pick up my duties for the next day and week. I had that cold for over four weeks until I finally started to recover!

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes.

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Verses 4-10)

What I went through was probably no worse than any other young parent – although having to do care for 4 children under the age of 5 years old is probably not something a typical 19 year old would have to do. It certainly prepared me for parenthood! But it also brought me closer to God. The 4 month old twins started to bond with me, and I with them. The three old also became my shadow. We had cuddle and storybook time. The five year old knew enough that I was not her mother and we had many tough times. But I was told by relatives of the family that they could see a difference in her, and that she was becoming a more pleasant child. Those same relatives asked and begged me not to quit at Christmas time. But I just could not do it anymore!

I did not “curse God and die” although some nights I felt exhausted to death. But I knew in those four months I had done something important, and something important happened to me. I “grew up” in a way I had not done before. I had been saddled with more responsibilities than any nineteen year old should be, and I survived it. I saw first hand and close up that children and parenting is hard work, and that parenting does not necessarily come naturally. And I drew closer to God, which has stood me in good stead in the intervening years. When you have no one to rely on, and there are innocents who are relying on you, you quickly come to know where to turn to for true and lasting strength.

We have one more week of the story of Job. And we will see how Job is faring with his trials and tribulations. May you, beloved reader, find strength and endurance in God. Selah!

Not rejoicing at another’s ruin

“If I have rejoiced at the ruin of those who hated me, or exulted when evil overtook them . . . . let thorns grow instead of wheat, and foul weeds instead of barley.” (Job 31:29, 40 from Job 31:29-40)

Having run out of things to say, I turn to my friend, Albert Barnes: “Job here introduces another class of offences, of which he says he was innocent. The subject referred to is the proper treatment of those who injure us. In respect to this, he says that he was entirely conscious of freedom from exultation when calamity came upon a foe, and that he had never even wished him evil in his heart. The word “destruction” [or “ruin”] here, means calamity, disappointment, or affliction of any kind. It had never been pleasant to him to see one who hated him suffer. It is needless to remark how entirely this accords with the New Testament. And it is pleasant to find such a sentiment as this expressed in the early age of the world, and to see how the influence of true religion is at all times the same. The religion of Job led him to act out the beautiful sentiment afterward embodied in the instructions of the Savior, and made binding on all his followers.”

I am intrigued with what Barnes refers to as “another class of offences [sic]”. It is very likely that the past few days the excerpts from Job’s statement have been different classes of offenses as found in Jewish law or some other listing; or different classes of virtues. And it may explain why there seems to be a repetition in Job’s statements; these are different ways one might sin when relating to other people. Or different ways to be in right relationship with one’s fellow believer and the rest of humanity.

Had I know there was a pattern to them, I might have commented differently; or been more patient with the seemingly long list of Job’s cries of innocence. And yet, I am also aware of the fact that all of the book of Job may have been a teaching tool for those learning faith, law, and theology. But I am just as glad to move on to the next set of verses from a different book in the Old Testament. And to see what learnings there are for us, gentle reader. Shalom for your day!

If I have withheld anything, let me be without limbs

“If I have withheld anything that the poor desired, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail . . . . . then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder, and let my arm be broken from its socket.” (Job 31:16, 22 from Job 31:13-28 )

“What have I done Lord to deserve all this?” is a cry often made by Christians. “If I have erred, let me suffer! If I have not erred, why must I suffer?” It is a question without answer. Who can say why some suffer and some do not? Job was looking for answers, and pleading his case to all who would listen. Chapter 31 of Job contains some very heart rending pleas and dramatic statements. But I, gentle reader, am not muchly (no, it is not a real word) moved.

I first read Job with serious intent on my first real job. I was a weekly live-in nanny and housekeeper for four children, twin boys about 6 months and two girls – one 6 years old and one around 3 years old and not completely potty-trained. [I lasted 6 months. But relatives of the children said I did a good job, and since they all survived my care I guess I did. BUT after having three children myself, I know from experience one more would be one too many! ] But at the tender age of 19 years old myself, it was a total deluge of being not ready for the job! So Job, a fellow suffer, was muchly appreciated.

I have no doubts that Job suffered, and when I first read the book of Job I felt his suffering. But now, looking back at my live, I know that humanity suffers, and not just the way Job did. And not always with the happy ending that Job had. So, no, I am not especially moved by Job claims of integrity and rants of unfairness.

Have you suffered gentle reader? Have you been tossed on life’s garbage heap? And how has that changed the way you have interacted with the world? Right relationships are not just for when things are going right with your world. And justice is not given out only when you have received justice. And you should not withhold the blessing of shalom to others just because you have not been experiencing it yourself.

May the shalom of your day also be the shalom for all creation. And vice versa. Selah!

Let others take what Job has toiled at . . . if he is such a terrible person

“If I have walked with falsehood, and my foot has hurried to deceit . . . . then let me sow, and another eat; and let what grows for me be rooted out.” (Job 31:5,8 from Job 31:1-12 )

[I have changed the title of this passage because it just did not fit.]

Job again asserts his integrity and authenticity. All of Job’s posturing reminds me of a book written and published many years ago – When Bad Things Happen to Good People. I do not refer to the contents, but the concept that even when a person has lived a good and blameless life, unfortunate things can happen to them. Why should Job be so surprised and taken aback that he has had “tough stuff.” Did he think that by being so good he would avoid the heartaches of life?

In the passages of the last few days, Job has sought to convince the reader that he really is a wonderful person. And if he has not been a wonderful person, than he is willing to suffer the consequences of that. Job is staking a lot on the fact that he is as conscientious a person as he claims to be.

But Job is still caught in “cause and effect”; he still believes that if he follows all the rules that live should be just grand. But if he does not do as he should, then he should be punished. But life does not always work that way. If it did, there would be no reason for people to work at justice issues and ensuring shalom for all people – those who deserved justice and shalom would have it automatically. And those who are not in right relationship with God and humanity would suffer accordingly.

But that is not the lesson that Job teaches us. Even if we are good, bad things happen. And just because we are bad, does not mean we won’t get good things. Life does not deal humanity the hand it deserves – for good or for bad. That is why it is incumbent on us to work for justice and shalom, because destiny and fate may not do what’s right. And it is not that God does not care, and does not want creation to enjoy shalom. We are the human presence of God’s intent – it is up to us. So yes, we have to be like Job, leading a good life. But we should not expect our own goodness to tip the balance in our favor just because we’re good. Sometimes we have to endure; and yes, sometimes we do not harvest what we sow.

But even if the good does not come to us in this life, God will ensure that the good comes to us in the life beyond this. That is where we stake our claim, in the kingdom of God that is to come. May you, gentle reader, hold on to the shalom you find in this world; and may the world to come hold more shalom for you than you will ever need. Selah!

BLESSING OF THE WRETCHED – And other affirming things

“The blessing of the wretched came upon me, and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban. I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame. I was a father to the needy, I took up the case of the stranger. I broke the fangs of the wicked and snatched the victims from their teeth.” (Job 29:13-16 from Job 29:1-25 )

Job was a great guy before all his problems. And he wanted people to know it. He could be counted on to cheer about just about anyone – that is where the “blessing of the wretched” came from. People in the most dire of straights felt better after is visits. Job knew what it meant to extend shalom – right relationships and justice – to others. But he did it from a position of “strength” and ability. He did NOT need the blessings, so he could bless and be a blessing to others. It is interesting to think then about how Job reacted when misfortune and travail came upon him. I do not remember any parts of Job after he was “afflicted” where he continued his visitations.

What about us? Do we bless and comfort others “easily” because we are doing well? Do we confidently pick up their spirits when we have never known what it was like to feel down. It said it takes a “big” person to reach down and help others who are not as fortunate. I say it takes a strong person to reach outside of one’s own misery to offer comfort to another.

Something to think about as you have shalom for your day.

CLEANSING – A mere “rinse” or being thoroughly “washed” by God

“And when the feast days had run their course, Job would send and sanctify (his children), and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.” (Job 1:5a-b from Job 1:1-5)

This verse serves as a prologue to the story of Job, and as such may not warrant extensive exegesis. But there are a several things that catch my attention in this passage.

First, that Job would have such a strong commitment to make sure his children were in right relationship with God according to the customs of the time. It says a great deal about parental devotion!

Second, that it seems Job could not be sure that all of his children were in right relationship with God. I am sure that is a worry that many parents have.

And third, that during the time of the Old Testament, being in right relationship with God was only a matter of burning things. From our perspective, there was a great missing in a personal relationship with God! And it is this third point that just makes me sad beyond words. The story of Job is a story of a man who thought he knew how to live a right and close relationship to God. But when calamity and misfortune came his way, it undermined everything he had understood.

I pray that you would be as devoted to your loved ones as Job. That you would be able to set aside your worry for you loved ones, knowing that they are in right relationship with God and humanity. And I pray that you are in right relationship with God – and thorough and deep relationship that lasts throughout your whole life! Shalom for you and your loved one’s day!