This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
LANDSLIDE IN FUQAN CHINA
Job 9 New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)
Job Replies: There Is No Mediator
9 Then Job answered:
2 ‘Indeed I know that this is so;
but how can a mortal be just before God?
3 If one wished to contend with him,
one could not answer him once in a thousand.
4 He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength
—who has resisted him, and succeeded?—
5 he who removes mountains, and they do not know it,
when he overturns them in his anger;
6 who shakes the earth out of its place,
and its pillars tremble;
7 who commands the sun, and it does not rise;
who seals up the stars;
8 who alone stretched out the heavens
and trampled the waves of the Sea;
9 who made the Bear and Orion,
the Pleiades and the chambers of the south;
10 who does great things beyond understanding,
and marvellous things without number.
11 Look, he passes by me, and I do not see him;
he moves on, but I do not perceive him.
12 He snatches away; who can stop him?
Who will say to him, “What are you doing?”
Tsunami: “Who will say to Him, What are you doing?”
13 ‘God will not turn back his anger;
the helpers of Chaos bowed beneath him.
14 How then can I answer him,
choosing my words with him?
15 Though I am innocent, I cannot answer him;
I must appeal for mercy to my accuser.
16 If I summoned him and he answered me,
I do not believe that he would listen to my voice.
17 For he crushes me with a tempest,
and multiplies my wounds without cause;
18 he will not let me get my breath,
but fills me with bitterness.
19 If it is a contest of strength, he is the strong one!
If it is a matter of justice, who can summon him?
20 Though I am innocent, my own mouth would condemn me;
though I am blameless, he would prove me perverse.
21 I am blameless; I do not know myself;
I loathe my life.
22 It is all one; therefore I say,
he destroys both the blameless and the wicked.
23 When disaster brings sudden death,
he mocks at the calamity of the innocent.
24 The earth is given into the hand of the wicked;
he covers the eyes of its judges—
if it is not he, who then is it?
25 ‘My days are swifter than a runner;
they flee away, they see no good.
26 They go by like skiffs of reed,
like an eagle swooping on the prey.
27 If I say, “I will forget my complaint;
I will put off my sad countenance and be of good cheer”,
28 I become afraid of all my suffering,
for I know you will not hold me innocent.
29 I shall be condemned;
why then do I labour in vain?
30 If I wash myself with soap
and cleanse my hands with lye,
31 yet you will plunge me into filth,
and my own clothes will abhor me.
32 For he is not a mortal, as I am, that I might answer him,
that we should come to trial together.
33 There is no umpire between us,
who might lay his hand on us both.
34 If he would take his rod away from me,
and not let dread of him terrify me,
35 then I would speak without fear of him,
for I know I am not what I am thought to be.
Here Job speaks of his own image of God. He has learned from his tradition that God is the creator; but he has also learned from his own suffering, that God doesn’t care about justice and shows no compassion. When these two images of God are put together they generate a vision of a superthug, who is immensely powerful and intelligent and also amoral. There would be no point in arguing with this God or trying to stand up to him. Nevertheless, Job goes on arguing.
This is an especially powerful argument today, when we can see the state of the world even more clearly than Job; and we also have a more detailed account of the process of creation than him. We know the countless extinctions and measureless suffering through which life is evolving on this planet. When we call God the creator, we make him responsible for this state of affairs.
The dishonesty of much worship and theology can be seen in the way the creator is thanked for all all things bright and beautiful and and absolved of any responsibility for all things dark and ugly.This sometimes leaves believers without resource when dark and ugly things happen to them. The author of Job puts his hero in this dilemma and allows him an unusual honesty in facing it. He dares to speak of “God” as he knows him: “when the earth is given into the hands of the wicked, he covers the eyes of the judges.” That’s true isn’t it, of what Western powers have done to the Middle East and what its populations are now doing to each other-the judges’ eyes are covered so that they see evil only in their enemy. Notwithstanding these evils, the” voice of prayer is never silent nor dies the strain of praise away”, as weekly, millions of faithful people worship the blameless creator. It’s typical of such worship that the crucifixion of a human being is solely a sign of salvation.
As my readers can see, I identify with Job, and get impatient with heartless pieties that sideline suffering.