Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Dinner table talk somehow rounded the corner to the biblical story of Job. My much beloved first born summed the story up to his girlfriend this way: "Job was this guy in the bible who basically got done wrong on every level." A fairly accurate appraisal, painted with the bold strokes of "black and white" first born's are known for, and without the nuances that come with being older than 22. Still, in the grand scheme, nail on head.
Since the darling girl wasn't familiar with the drama of Job, I tried to sum up the saga from beginning to end. Even as I outlined the story of Job's life, I felt inadequate to express the pathos, tragedy and hope in this complex story of a man done so wrong...and so right.
Job was a righteous man. God points out to Satan in a rare, inside look at a cosmic face off, just how proud he is of this particular mortal: "Have you observed my servant Job. There is no one on earth like him, blameless and upright; a man who fears God and shuns evil." ~Job 1:8
That foul enemy, however, is summarily unimpressed. To paraphrase his response : "Job loves you because you give him life's candy. Take away the goods, and he'll curse you for sure.'"
And as most of you know, God does that very thing. Job loses his wealth, his children, and eventually his health. His wife turns on him and his "friends" twist themselves into pretzels trying to find some way to sort this disaster (including accusing Job of some hidden sin) so it makes sense and somehow protects them from a similar fate. Job shows enviable patience with his lot for awhile. But as with any of us, his suffering leads to understandable complaining, and eventually to accusations that God is unfair.
The persistence of the trial wears Job to a thread. He, like the fictional Frodo in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings is "... naked in the dark, with nothing, no veil... between me... and the wheel of fire!"
Then the unthinkable happens. In response to Job's demands for an audience with God, the Almighty descends to speak to his prized son. What comes out of God's mouth is completely unexpected to the first time reader.
God does not chide Job for his complaining. He does not hammer him with laws or commandments. And most notably, He does not explain to Job the number he's doing on the prince of darkness through this dreadful trial. Instead, God simply shows Job Himself. In a whirlwind of poetic language, The Holy One describes His supremacy over nature, His unfathomable creativity and His vast reach. Regaled with the greatness of God, Job is overwhelmed. "My ears had heard of You, but now my eyes have seen You. Therefore I retract, and repent in dust and ashes."~ Job 42:5-6
It's unlikely that any of us have experienced a Job kind of grief. But in a fallen world, and as fallen folks ourselves, we have all suffered and known sorrow... even agony of body, mind and soul. The remedy for our confusion and bitterness is found via the same portal Job went through...passing from hearing to seeing and knowing.
In these latter times, God has graciously given his dearest and best, Jesus, to experience in His own suffering every possible "done wrong" that ever has been or ever will be. He became one of us so we would be able to see Him and know Him, and to persevere as He did, with the hope of eternal life where "every tear will be wiped away."
It wasn't enough for God that Job be righteous and honorable. God wanted far more glory for his beloved than that. God wanted to give Job Himself.
And it's not enough for God that we spin our wheels, in a back breaking effort to be moral and upright. First of all, how's that working for you? No, the letter of the law brings shame and accusation. True righteousness is forged in the furnace of grace. The cosmic plan is to make Love the be all and end all. To put an ultimate end to all the "done wrong" of this weary planet.
In the end, Job had his fortunes restored (multiplied), had more children (although the wounds of those he lost surely remained...) and every earthly gift was again his to experience. Still, it's my bet that in the great eternal future, Job will not give two whits about the sufferings he endured or the blessings he enjoyed. To see God, to know that burning love beyond all our greatest imaginings, that will be Job's treasure. He will not see himself as a man "done wrong."
Persevere friends. Look for Him in every shaft of light, in every warm embrace, in every beautiful thing that proves there is Amazing Grace. There are no formulas, no quid pro quo's, no trite and easy answers to the sufferings of this world. It can't be neatly sorted and categorized into some heady theological equation.
But there is God. Himself. Love incarnate, full of grace.
He was done wrong, so in the end, we can all be done incredibly right.
Your friend on the pilgrim road,