Friday, June 28, 2013

The Bible Challenge: Day 179

The scriptures read are Job 1-3, Psalm 146 and 2 Corinthians 5.

Job. Don't ever let anyone tell you that the Bible says follow all of God's rules and only good things will happen to you. This book refutes that. It says, yes, sometimes bad things happen to good people. While the causes of a lot of the world's suffering are obvious, that is not always true. And it is supremely dishonest to say that there is always a rational answer to suffering. That's the Bible saying that--in this very book, the first of the Wisdom books.

Job 1. Job is established as an extremely good man. He's been blessed with wealth (lots of animals) and family (7 sons and 3 daughters). Every morning Job makes a sacrifice for each of his kids lest they inadvertently sin.

The scene shifts to the heavenly court. The angels file in, including Satan! (The name means the Adversary or the Accuser. He appears to function like a prosecuting attorney.) God asks him where he's been and Satan answers like an evasive kid: "Around. Here and there." God asks if he's seen good ol' righteous Job. Satan says, "Sure, he's good. You've made it pay for him to be good. Take away all his blessings and he'll curse you like that." God says, "Do what you want with the blessings but don't touch Job himself." Satan sweeps out.

The timing of this next scene would be comic were it not so devastating. 4 messengers, one after another, come running in to tell Job of some disaster that has wiped out his wealth and finally his children. Job reacts by tearing his garment and shaving his head in a traditionally Middle Eastern display of grief. He says, stoically, that he came into this world with nothing and can take nothing out. We have to take the good with the bad from God. He doesn't curse God.

Job 2. The scene is the heavenly court and everything starts out as before, down to Satan's evasive answer and God touting Job's integrity. Satan is having none of it. "Sure, he's holding up well. He still has his health, hasn't he? Take that away and it's curse-God time for Job." God says, "Ok, you can do what you want with his health but don't kill him." God has Satan on some kind of leash. He can't go farther that God lets him.

(BTW, if you are wondering where the writer got the lowdown on what happens in heaven or feel that God and Satan betting with Job's life and happiness is just awful, feel free to see this as an extended parable. Whether or not this was based on an actual person is not important. The point of the story is.)

Job takes his new misery stoically. Even his wife feels he should curse God and die. Job rebukes her. He is still capable of being philosophical about this, sitting on his ash heap and scraping his open sores with a broken piece of pottery.

Enter Job's friends. They, like he, live outside of Canaan (Job is in Uz or Edom). They come and simply sit with him for 7 days (rather like the Jewish mourning ritual of sitting shiv'ah.) When a friend is suffering sometimes the best thing to say is nothing, just be there for them. If Job's friends had stayed quiet, they would have served Job better. But then we wouldn't have this book debating the causes of suffering.

Job 3. Job is through being stoic. He breaks his silence and instead of cursing God he curses the day he was born. He wishes he was never born or that he was stillborn. The grave is quiet and peaceful and everyone is equal there. Job is seriously depressed. He just wants the pain to end.

Psalm 146. This is a good counterpoint to Job's lament. The psalmist expresses faith in God and in his justice. Both viewpoints are valid. C. S. Lewis once pointed out that one cannot say anything either bad enough or good enough about life.

2 Corinthians 5. Paul begins to soar. We do what we do, in part, because we have gotten a glimpse of the resurrection and we can't wait to fold up these tents, our earthly bodies, and move into better digs, our resurrection bodies. As Peterson translates it, "The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what's ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we'll never settle for less."

That's what makes us happy, no matter what happens, and knowing that we must one day face God keeps us on our toes.

All this is possible thanks to Jesus, who died so we could have his life. That makes us look at everyone differently, not based on externals. Because in Jesus everyone gets the ultimate makeover: we become new creations. God was patching up things with the world through Jesus and now that is our mission in life: letting everyone know that you can get everything patched up with God through Christ. He's made us his ambassadors to tell everyone that. Become friends with God. Jesus took the punishment for your sins so you can stop punishing yourself.

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