Sunday 31 October
The Why Road
This is week four for us in the Book of Job. This book is an incredible window into Theodicy: which is the study of God, and why he permits suffering and evil.
We have been learning about Job who is a righteous and very wealthy man God really rates as an example to us all. “The Satan” as the book calls him to highlight his notoriety as a deceiver and false accuser appears in the heavenly council in chapter 1 and 2 extorting permission to make Job suffer claiming no wonder Job worships you, he would “curse you” if you took all his blessings away.
All he owned and his ten children were swiftly taken. Then after another heavenly council The Satan claims Job is just trying to save his own skin. So horrible pussy boils appear all over Job’s body and he sits in the dust with nothing left bar the clothes on his back, and his wife, who inadvertently gives him terrible advice, heaps more mental torture upon him. Yet he does not curse God as The Satan who seeks to deceive us and ruin us from having an amazing relationship with God has lost this life battle for a second time.
This chapter is in two parts and falls after the scene has been set. This section is written in Hebrew poetry in the original form.
1. In verses 1-10 Job curses the day of his creation and birth and
2. in verses 11-26 is his Lament – a passionate expression of his grief.
Now Job is bereft of his children and the life he had has been taken from him: “The Satan” wants Job to curse God and die, but Job directs his frustration and pain at the fact he was ever born.
This is a sub-plot of the book and is resolved in chapter 42:4-6 which we will look at next year.
This shock is meant to provoke a reaction from his 3 friends and wife, from us – and perhaps even from God – some sort of explanation might just help him.
Soon his friends will argue with him and cause him more pain, and doubt but this is not a moan of frustration saying that “life is not fair or why am I suffering like this?” That is the Why Road many people travel.
It is suggested by some commentators that today is Job’s birthday and that focusses his mind on the day he was born, and where it all started, the day he was conceived.
It is ironic that his cry is for the impossible to happen – his birth is irreversible. From verse 3 the words day and night are symbolic – night being like a soothsayer who announced Job’s birth but not with the usual happy nature of a birth. By verses 4 and 5 he says “Let there be darkness” a direct reversal of Genesis 1 “Let there be light”. (uncreation)
God is not being called on for consultation on this and that is out of character for Job – bereavement and suffering can have this kind of effect on people.
Job reflects on all the worldly influences he has seen and heard off. Deep down he knows it is foolish and wrong, but his world has tilted off its usual axis. He wants someone, even a bad source to tell him what he wants to hear – sadly sometimes people look to the wrong source for answers to their own predicament too.
Night gets cursed in verses 6 and 7. Night is often seen as pagan or a time when all kinds of sins occur. Halloween was this weekend and bad things get dressed up as fun, witches, ghouls and horror masks, with things like dooking for apples which has past connotations with divination and dooking a woman under water to test if she is a witch.
Now another destructive monster is considered – Leviathan in verse 8 and 9 an ancient Aramaic inscription asserts that Leviathan is a terrible destructive serpent – a serpent in Genesis was an agent of “The Satan”. Job calls for a complete blackout, an end to his misery and that leads him into his Lament – his grief into poetry or song.
This might not appear to be progress, but it is – it is how pastoral support works – people express how they feel and the pastor listens. He or she is not in a lonely downward spiral, but sharing their pain – a problem shared is a problem halved says the old proverb.
His illogically thinking is that he would have more peace if he were dead but even if he were in the wrong place for dead people – i.e. not in heaven. Christians know the exact opposite – heaven will bring total and complete peace, no more pain or tears or suffering.
By verses 16-19 Job is reflecting on why he was born and his daft wish that his birth could be annulled. It is just a poetic cry for liberation from his pain and grief. It is his way of processing it all.
By verses 20–22 he is coming to his senses and facing his bitter reality. The he in verse 20 is God, so Job is turning to God for help at last. “God why do you allow such suffering and distress? Job is thinking straighter and looking higher for answers as he asks “what is the meaning of our lives?”
Verse 23 states that life without purpose is meaningless but our destiny is often hidden to us, so does God deliberately obscure it from us? Does God permit suffering to test us or to make our way more arduous for any good reason?
Job has had that hedge of protection mentioned in chapter 1:10 removed but in God’s sight he remains innocent and a man of spiritual integrity but at least he has got his complaint articulated and off his chest and is moving on as he mourns.
“The Satan’s” false assertion is proved wrong once more, despite the mental and emotional torture, and physical ailment inflicted upon Job.
However, despite winning, Job remains in turmoil for some time from this point on.
Now on a day when a young child is brought for baptism, having recently arrived in the world, this is a testing passage.
New life is in the main a time for celebration, thankfulness and joy and our hope is often that the child will be blessed and have a great life. We as a church do wish this for young James for sure.
Yet whether we are at a family wedding, baptism or other significant gathering – there are some people who are experiencing all kinds of turmoil in their lives – grief, bereavement, anxiety, loss, depression etc. We all need to be sensitive to others. The Church and all Christians are there to listen and care and hopefully be able to pastorally help those in these difficult times to progress and to move on, but even more important is to help them to go to the right source for answers. To realise that an evil one wants them not to have the special relationship with their God that He delights to give them, and which can bring them real and lasting satisfaction and blessings – if they so ask for it with all their heart. The false accuser though will still be there telling us to hate life, to be depressed, to see our lives as meaningless, to die with no hope.
If anyone is struggling or looking for answers – we are here for you – pastorally, offering a listening ear and a way of hope – real hope.
Today though is a day for celebration – we wish that everyone would look up and see the Joy of Sabbath Rest and of baptism into the church of another child. It gives us joy and we will pray for baby James as we sing of this before he is presented for baptism.