bible blog 1409

This blog offers meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:

MARADONA STARS IN POPE’S MATCH FOR RELIGIOUS PEACE Italy Soccer Peace

JOB 13
1 I know and understand
every bit of this.
2
None of you are smarter
than I am;
there’s nothing you know
that I don’t.
3
But I prefer to argue my case
with God All-Powerful—
4
you are merely useless doctors,
who treat me with lies.
5
The wisest thing you can do
is to keep quiet
6
and listen
to my argument.
7
Are you telling lies for God
8
and not telling the whole truth
when you argue his case
9
If he took you to court,
could you fool him,
just as you fool others?
10
If you were secretly unfair,
he would correct you,
11
and his glorious splendor
would make you terrified.
12
Your wisdom and arguments
are as delicate as dust
13
Be quiet while I speak,
then say what you will.
14
I will be responsible
for what happens to me.
15
God may kill me, but still
I will trust him[a]
and offer my defense.
16
This may be what saves me,
because no guilty person
would come to his court.
17
Listen carefully to my words!
18
I have prepared my case well,
and I am certain to win.
19
If you can prove me guilty,
I will give up and die.

20
I ask only two things
of you, my God,
and I will no longer
hide from you—
21
stop punishing
and terrifying me!
22
Then speak, and I will reply;
or else let me speak,
and you reply.
23
Please point out my sins,
so I will know them.
24
Why have you turned your back
and count me your enemy?
25
Do you really enjoy
frightening a fallen leaf?
26
Why do you accuse me
of horrible crimes
and make me pay for sins
I did in my youth
27
You have tied my feet down
and keep me surrounded;
28
I am rotting away like cloth
eaten by wormsbedouin prayer

Job’s helpful friends have been horrified by Job’s bitter questioning of God, and have suggested that he should simply accept his suffering and submit to God’s will which is wiser than his. Job rejects their pious platitudes He would rather argue with God than those who seek to defend Him. This is an important point in the drama. Job directs himself to God because his faith is strong. He tells his critics that their faith is a way of avoiding God; faced with God’s presence they would be terrified.

There is always a place for piety; in normal times it keeps people in touch with their tradition but in tough times it becomes essential that the tradition is still in touch with the living God. Often that means asking questions or making assertions which horrify pious people, as Job does in this drama. It’s imporatnt to be clear that piety exists in all religious traditions, not just in those that place a high value of decent liturgy. Pentecostal(Praise Jesus! as long as you’re not gay) and charismatic (“hands down thsoe who want coffee!”) have their own pieties which you challenge at your peril. The point made by the author of Job is that these pious traditions are only ways of pointing towards God and become dangerous as soon as they stop people journeying beyond their safe boundaries. In any crisis, or even in any real strengthening of faith, believers should seek the God who is beyond the “God” of their tradition. That can seem very frightening to people who have largely accepted their faith from others and have never really tested it for themselves.

In this passage Job turns from his friends to address the God he trusts but does not understand. He wants a conversation, he thinks, or at least some indication that God has heard his cries. If only God would rest from his persecution of him, he could speak and listen.

My experience as a pastor is that suffering people want to put their questions to God, and that it’s unwise to get in the way of that conversation by offering any comfortable wisdom. To encourage them and to listen to their discoveries is better counsel.Job’s use of personal prayer shows a way forward. His praying chimes with Jesus’ teaching that it should be not be done for show but out of need which the person can bring to God who knows their need before they speak, but knows they also need to speak. Above all Job wants to know why God is treating him like an enemy rather than a friend. He is suffering but even more he feels betrayed by God. His relationship with God is important to him; the reader hopes that it will be important to God.

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