This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
BRTISH NURSE CATCHES EBOLA WHILE HELPING VICTIMS
Job 6 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
6 Job responded:
“I wish my frustration could be weighed,
all my calamities laid on the scales!
They would outweigh the sands of the seas!
No wonder, then, that my words come out stammered!
For the arrows of the Almighty find their mark in me,
and my spirit is drinking in their poison;
the terrors of God are arrayed against me.
“Does a wild donkey bray when it has grass?
Does an ox low when it has fodder?
Can food without flavor be eaten without salt?
Do egg whites have any taste?
I refuse to touch them;
such food makes me sick.
“If only I could have my wish granted,
and God would give me what I’m hoping for —
that God would decide to crush me,
that he would let his hand loose and cut me off!
Then I would feel consoled;
so that even in the face of unending pain,
I would be able to rejoice;
for I have not denied the words of the Holy One.
“Have I enough strength to go on waiting?
What end can I expect, that I should be patient?
Is my strength the strength of stones?
Is my flesh made of bronze?
Clearly, I have no help in myself;
common sense has been driven from me.
“A friend should be kind to an unhappy man,
even to one who abandons Shaddai.
But my brothers are as deceptive as wadis,
as desert streams that soon run dry;
they may turn dark with ice
and be hidden by piled-up snow;
but as the weather warms up, they vanish;
when it’s hot, they disappear.
Their courses turn this way and that;
they go up into the confusing waste and are lost.
The caravans from Tema look for them,
the travelers from Sh’va hope to find them;
but they are disappointed, because they were confident;
on arrival there, they are frustrated.
“For now, you have become like that —
just seeing my calamity makes you afraid.
Did I say to you, ‘Give me something,’
or, ‘From your wealth, offer a bribe on my behalf,’
or, ‘Save me from the enemy’s grip,’
or, ‘Redeem me from the clutches of oppressors’?
“Teach me, and I will be silent.
Make me understand how I am at fault.
Honest words are forceful indeed,
but what do your arguments prove?
Do you think [your own] words constitute argument,
while the speech of a desperate man is merely wind?
I suppose you would even throw dice for an orphan
or barter away your friend!
“So now, I beg you, look at me!
Would I lie to your face?
Think it over, please; don’t let wrong be done.
Think it over again: my cause is just.
Am I saying something wrong?
Can’t I recognize trouble when I taste it?
After the specious theology of Job’s friend, (see blog 1403) we hear the realistic voice of the man who is at the end of his tether. He’s not concerned with theological nicities but witb the facts of terrible loss and degrading disease. Yes, he may sound unwise but a donkey doesn’t bellow if it has food. A human being doesn’t howl if his wants are supplied. Job wants his friends to recognise that his bitter words come from real anguish which can’t be cured by words however wise or pious.”Is my flesh made of bronze?” he asks, challenging them to recognise his pain.
He rebukes them for not acting like true friends who give support in time of trouble. He compares them to desert streams that dry up at the hottest season of the year. He asks them to see him as he is rather than through the perspective of their religious wisdom. How can they deny his suffering? He can recognise pain when he tastes it. His knowledge of suffering is visceral and cannot be changed by words.
Of course the drama is unrealistic. Doubtless in most calamities of this sort, friends would have offered some practical help, whereas the conventions of this drama demand a debate. But still, I’ve seen situations where people who have suffered repeated calamity are shunned as if their misfortune might be infectious. And of course there’s plenty contemporary proof that blaming the unfortunate for their misfortune makes popular politics. The specious theology of Ian Duncan Smith which blames the British poor for being poor and says to people struggling in the economic quicksands, “Sorry we can’t give you helping hand; you might become dependent on our assistance”, is a notorious example. It’s probable that in the next world God’s tender mercy will place him (along with his political supporters) in a sewage pool with slippery sides where he may learn the value of a helping hand.
Our flesh is not made of bronze; we are all fragile creatures who need both justice and compassion. All people, but especially those of us who are comfortable in life, need to learn how to look at people who are suffering, without evasion.