This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
3 (2) Iyov said,
(3) “Perish the day I was born
and the night that said, ‘A man is conceived.’
(4) May that day be darkness,
may God on high not seek it,
may no light shine on it,
(5) may gloom dark as death defile it,
may clouds settle on it,
may it be terrified by its own blackness.
(6) “As for that night, may thick darkness seize it,
may it not be joined to the days of the year,
may it not be numbered among the months;
(7) may that night be desolate,
may no cry of joy be heard in it;
(8) may those who curse days curse it,
those who[se curses] could rouse Livyatan;
(9) may the stars of its twilight be dark,
may it look for light but get none,
may it never see the shimmer of dawn —
(10) because it didn’t shut the doors of the womb I was in
and shield my eyes from trouble.
(11) “If I had been stillborn,
if I had died at birth,
(12) had there been no knees to receive me
or breasts for me to suck.
(13) Then I would be lying still and in peace,
I would have slept and been at rest,
(14) along with kings and their earthly advisers,
who rebuilt ruins for themselves,
(15) or with princes who had [plenty of] gold,
who filled their houses with silver.
(16) Or I could have been like a hidden, miscarried
child that never saw light.
(17) “There the wicked cease their raging,
there the weary are at rest,
(18) prisoners live at peace together
without hearing a taskmaster’s yells.
(19) Great and small alike are there,
and the slave is free of his master.
(20) “So why must light be given to the miserable
and life to the bitter in spirit?
(21) They long for death, but it never comes;
they search for it more than for buried treasure;
(22) when at last they find the grave,
they are so happy they shout for joy.
(23) [Why give light] to a man who wanders blindly,
whom God shuts in on every side?
(24) “My sighing serves in place of my food,
and my groans pour out in a torrent;
(25) for the thing I feared has overwhelmed me,
what I dreaded has happened to me.
(26) I have no peace, no quiet, no rest;
and anguish keeps coming.”
The last two verses sum up the lives of all too many people on this planet, those whom disaster has overwhelmed, yes, but also those who have never had the means of decent life. Iyov articulates the uselessness of life which has become the mere continuance of pain and indignity: what is the point of it? Would it not be much better never to have been born?
From that perspective the differences which characterise ordinary life-rich or poor, powerful or weak, good or evil-are unimportant and become indifferent in death. For the Jewish mind this indifferent condition is the same as the void from which creation began, so Iyov asks what is the point of creation, of the separation of primal stuff into independent identities like human beings. Even the first separation, the distinguishing of day from night, is pointless as both the day and the night of Iyov’s birth have brought forth his own pointless existence. Even the first word of creation, “Let there be Light”, is an empty utterance as it only provides light to shine on living death. Iyov’s utterance dismantles the story of Genesis and accuses the creator of a pointless drama. Why on earth did He bother, if this is the result?
Like King Lear in the storm, Iyov discovers what it is to be nothing more than a “poor bare forked creature” and he confronts the One who has given him life with the realistic estimate that the gift is worth nothing. Many millions of people today would share Iyov’s sober estimate. Although their intincts drive them to survive they know that their lives are not better than death.
How can “Our Father’s” holy name be reverenced while this is the case? Does not honouring God simultaneously dishonour those millions of suffering people? Yes, it does, as long as those who honour God are unaware of God’s desire to rule “on earth as in heaven” and are not passionately committed to his justice. Within the bounds of the conventional theology known to Iyov and still accepted by many believers today, God the Creator has made a mess and refuses to take responsiblity for it. The drama of Iyov is a journey to a better theology.