Monday, February 7, 2011

The bigger picture

Wading through 42 chapters of Job takes a while. The book starts with the happy, successful middle-aged guy who has it all: the honor of his peers, health, wealth, a strong faith, and a close-knit family that likes each other and is respected in the community. 

When the saga gets underway, the spiritual drama is hidden to Job, his wife, and friends. Job loses everything but his marriage and his health. Until Phase 2. That's when it goes from ugly to brutal. Everything he has, even the support of his spouse and his personal happiness, is suddenly gone. Blown away. Winked out. Stomped into the ground.

I was listening to Alexander Scoby read Job (KJV). UCB radio has a Bible reader that cycles between OT and NT books. Usually I like to read for myself, but last night I couldn't sleep, and Job caught my attention again.

It was nearly 1 a.m. by the time Job returned to health and prosperity. Only a few hours of my time, but I lay awake, thinking about the months or years of suffering between Chapters 1 and 42. His friends tried their best to understand, but could only come up with "Confess your sins to God. These horrific losses must be your fault, even if you can't think of why." God is angry with the friends for imposing on Job and God their understanding of faith's journey. The youngster with chapters of wisdom simply disappears after all his talking is done. ("Now listen to me, I have it figured out, since you older people haven't got the answers.")

His wife didn't leave him, but she was so grieved and pained that she thought it would be best for Job to die rather than suffer such agony. God doesn't chastise her, but she has the comfort of more children and a restoration of wealth, along with Job. (At least, we assume Job has the same wife: she's not mentioned again.)

In the end, there are 10 more kids. Did Job ever forget his first family? Did he trust people the same way after youngsters from families who wouldn't have dared to talk to him before his tragedy reviled him and mocked him? What did he know about humanity as well as God when he was through?

There is double the wealth, and much honor. He regains everything he has lost. Well, sort of. I cry every time I read that he is back in the community. It makes me so angry that people just abandon the weak and helpless, and run from those who lose money and status. How awful and selfish we are in our relationships.

But there's no personal vendetta in Job or in his writings. He offers sacrifices to God on behalf of his friends, which tells you something about the incredible, encompassing scope of forgiveness.

Though I sometimes feel like Job, caught in the middle as things are falling apart or not getting better, I really want to be like him at the end of his life. Steady. Respected. Loving God and others no matter what life throws at us. Grateful Not forgetting, but not holding a grudge for each day and new blessings when the old blessings have withered and died. or memories of the past so tightly that they choke today's wonders and provision. 

When it's all said and done, we know Someone came to suffer our pain, to take our losses. We can't run from life, and there's no getting around the path set out for us. On the way, God teaches us compassion and patience, so that we can comfort others, too. 

Read more:
*Some time later, the LORD spoke to Abram in a vision and said to him, "Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you, and your reward will be great."

But Abram replied, "O Sovereign LORD, what good are all your blessings when I don't even have a son? Since you've given me no children, Eliezer of Damascus, a servant in my household, will inherit all my wealth. You have given me no descendants of my own, so one of my servants will be my heir."

Then the LORD said to him, "No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.' Then the LORD took Abram outside and said to him, 'Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That's how many descendants you will have!" Genesis 15:1-5 NLT

*For God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it. . . . He whispers in their ears and terrifies them with warnings. He makes them turn from doing wrong; he keeps them from pride. Job 33:14, 16–17 NLT

*Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one anotherand all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:19-25 NIV

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