Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Bible Challenge: Day 194

The scriptures read are Job 40-42, Psalm 9 and Galatians 5.

Job 40, 41. Job is awestruck and speechless. God challenges Job to do God's job. Or frolic with the incredibly powerful beasts he has made. Is Behemoth an elephant or hippo or crocodile? Is Leviathan a whale or a sea serpent? Or are both mythological creatures, representing earth and sea respectively?

Job 42. Job realizes he spoke of matters beyond his understanding. What he knew of God was hearsay but now that he has seen him with his own eyes he regrets speaking so rashly.

Then--surprise!--God turns on Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar for dishonestly defending God. Job at least was honest. That is the big lesson to take from Job. God doesn't want us pretending to speak for him when another human being is suffering. None of this "your husband or father or baby died because it's God will" crap! As I said at the beginning, had his friends just kept their mouths shut and sat with him, they would have done a better job as Job's comforters. Job had to find his own answer for his suffering. No one else could do that for him. Even God, throwing all those questions at Job, seems to be saying, "If you can't understand these things about the universe, there is no way you can understand the reasons for suffering." (And really, if one could give someone an airtight, logical reason why they or a loved one is suffering, would that make them feel better? "X + Y = why you must suffer" is a formula that would not comfort anyone.) The ultimate answer for suffering is not, I suspect, one that can be boiled down into words. The ultimate answer or response to suffering is found on the cross. God in Christ becomes one of us and takes on himself the brunt of the world's evil. God takes his own medicine, so to speak. He dies. And then in 3 days time, defeats death and begins reversing the reign of evil.

What do you do when someone is suffering? Don't try to make sense of it; listen, empathize and be there for them. Love, not logic, is the proper response to suffering.

P.S. Job gets everything back, doubled.

Psalm 9. A beautiful instrumental version with a lovely video: here.

Galatians 5. In David Suchet in the Footsteps of St. Paul, he interviews noted Bible scholar Fr. Jerome Murphy O'Conner, whose theory of how Paul got his Roman citizenship is surprising. O'Conner thinks Paul's parents were slaves of a Roman citizen who gave them their freedom. And the children of slaves of a Roman citizen became Roman citizens when set free. If so, it explains why Paul uses a lot of slavery imagery when discussing Christianity.

Paul tells the Galatians not to go into slavery to the law when they have been set free in Christ. If you try to live by the law, you will do so by your own efforts and you won't be able to manage it. Your flesh will betray you. That too is a form of slavery, whereas the Spirit frees you up to love. Paul contrasts the works of the flesh with the fruit the Spirit produces in us. You really need to read Peterson's list of the works of the flesh (find it here.) The fruit (singular in the Greek) of the Spirit is simply love, the essential qualities of which Paul lists. That's how we should use our freedom in Christ.

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