This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
POPE OPENS WAY TO HONOURING OSCAR ROMERO BISHOP OF THE POOR
Job 1 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
1 There was a man in the land of ‘Utz whose name was Iyov. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. 2 Seven sons and three daughters were born to him. 3 He owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 pairs of oxen and 500 female donkeys, as well as a great number of servants; so that he was the wealthiest man in the east.
4 It was the custom of his sons to give banquets, each on his set day in his own house; and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 After a cycle of banquets, Iyov would send for them to come and be consecrated; then he would get up early in the morning and offer burnt offerings for each of them, because Iyov said, “My sons might have sinned and blasphemed God in their thoughts.” This is what Iyov did every time.
6 It happened one day that the sons of God came to serve Adonai, and among them came the Adversary [a]. 7 Adonai asked the Adversary, “Where are you coming from?” The Adversary answered Adonai, “From roaming through the earth, wandering here and there.” 8 Adonai asked the Adversary, “Did you notice my servant Iyov, that there’s no one like him on earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and shuns evil?” 9 The Adversary answered Adonai, “Is it for nothing that Iyov fears God? 10 You’ve put a protective hedge around him, his house and everything he has. You’ve prospered his work, and his livestock are spread out all over the land. 11 But if you reach out your hand and touch whatever he has, without doubt he’ll curse you to your face!” 12 Adonai said to the Adversary, “Here! Everything he has is in your hands, except that you are not to lay a finger on his person.” Then the Adversary went out from the presence of Adonai.
13 One day when Iyov’s sons and daughters were eating and drinking in their oldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger came to him and said, “The oxen were plowing, with the donkeys grazing near them, 15 when a raiding party from Sh’va came and carried them off; they put the servants to the sword too, and I’m the only one who escaped to tell you.”
16 While he was still speaking, another one came and said, “Fire from God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants; it completely destroyed them, and I’m the only one who escaped to tell you.”
17 While he was still speaking, another one came and said, “The Kasdim, three bands of them, fell on the camels and carried them off; they put the servants to the sword too, and I’m the only one who escaped to tell you.”
18 While he was still speaking, another one came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 19 when suddenly a strong wind blew in from over the desert. It struck the four corners of the house, so that it fell on the young people; they are dead, and I’m the only one who escaped to tell you.”
20 Iyov got up, tore his coat, shaved his head, fell down on the ground and worshipped; 21 he said,
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will return there.
Adonai gave; Adonai took;
blessed be the name of Adonai.”
22 In all this Iyov neither committed a sin nor put blame on God.
I give this translation of the book of Job (Iyov) because it retains its Hebrew flavour, including the name of the hero and the name of God which out of reverence was pronounced Adonai (The Lord). Most importantly however it translates the Hebrew “Ha Satan” literally as “The Adversary” rather than leaving it untranslated as subsequent Christian writers did when they characterised him as the “Evil One”. Here the Adversary is more like a devil’s advocate, always putting forward a sceptical view of alleged holiness. He is a nay-sayer rather than an evil-doer.
The story of Iyov is one the greatest of ancient dramas, composed perhaps at roughly the same time as the classical Greek plays. Its theme is a the pervasive Jewish belief that God rewards thosw who live good lives with health, wealth and happiness. In spite of all the evidence against it, this belief is stubborn enough to survive in modern times, in all parts of the world and amongst all religions. One of the reasons for this is the desire of rich people to justify their wealth. The story of Iyov suibmits this belief to a persistent and devastating critique.
Today’s passage simply sets up the drama by telling the story in folk-tale mode. Iyov is rich and pious. God the Lord is so proud of him that he boasts to the Adversary abut him. The Adversary who has been loitering about the earth is unimpressed and lays a bet that if Iyov’s advantages are removed, he will curse God to his face. The Lord accepts the bet and allows the Adversary to have power over everything except Iyov’s life. In almost comic book fashion, a series of messengers arrive to tell Iyov that his weealth and his family have been destroyed, leaving him with nothing. The narrator doesn’t take time over this because it’s really just the prologue to the main drama which is to follow.
Naked I came from my morther’s womb
and naked I shall return there.
Adonai gave; Adonai took;
Blessed be the name of Adonai.
This harsh realism already blows any comfortable view of wealth out of the water, not to mention any comfortable view of God.A great deal of theology is done by people who live comfortably in the world and it therefore seems heartless and irrelevant to the millions of people who are poor. Throughout the history of the Christian faith there have been theologies which came from the poor-the early Franciscans, the Lollards in England, The Catholic Worker movement in the USA, for example- providing a much needed dose of reality to prevailing theologies. It’s easily seen that “Give us today our daily bread” has one meanng for the rich and another for the poor.
The book of Iyov shows how the world and God look from the perspective of someone who has nothing, not even his health. If you haven’t read it, you might like to do so along with me over the next week or two.