Day 117—My Redeemer Lives--“Windy Knowledge”—Job 15:1 – 21:34
April 27, 2021, 10:27 AM

Day 117—My Redeemer Lives--“Windy Knowledge”—Job 15:1 – 21:34

Today is a longer passage from Job, and we continue to listen in on conversations between Job and his ‘friends’ Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. Alistair, in a paper he wrote for seminary many years ago, characterized each of these men as types.

Eliphaz is a dogmatist—all people are sinners and Job simply needs to submit to God.

Bildad is a jurist (lawyer or legalist) and he defends what is perceived of as God’s treatment of Job.

Zophar is a philosopher and believes that God’s wisdom is endless, mysterious and unknowable and Job simply needs to submit to God’s ways.

In each of these cases, Job is the bad guy. He must have done something wrong, must have deserved what he got, must have displeased God in some way.

Job, to his credit, has a much clearer vision. He asserts that what has happened to him is simply unfair (boy, did I simplify a lot of Job’s words there!!). Job repeats over and over again that he does not deserve the suffering he experiences, he did nothing wrong to have earned this punishment and yet he does not sanitize or whitewash the genuine suffering that he experiences. What an amazing combination—to be completely aware of the depth of pain and suffering, to have questions for God about why this is the case, and yet to remain connected to God throughout the experience. It would have been so easy for him to simply turn his back on God, but much like our friend Jacob, Job wrestles for the blessing in the midst of having lost virtually everything he valued and loved. Well, his wife was alive as well, but we don’t hear much from her in our study. She encourages Job early on to curse God, and he won’t do that, but what mother doesn’t understand his wife’s perspective? However, she too had a choice to make whether to trust God or not. Sometimes our example carries other people with us in order to show them the path of what faith looks like, and Job's consistency of faith despite the circumstances can really do that--he's even doing that for ME centuries later!

What I have seen is that when people have an abiding relationship with God, experiences of loss and suffering can be weathered more easily, NOT easily, but more easily because when one is connected to God the way that Job is connected, there is a deeper and more complex understanding of God’s presence in the midst of challenge. Those who struggle to connect with God may find that God feels even farther way during tragedy or suffering, and this can lead to a life of bitterness and deep anger.

Our friend Job talks right to God the entire time—and note that no one else connected to this story speaks to God. Only Job seems to have an actual relationship with God, railing at God, challenging God, certainly blaming God. But Job deals directly with God, and God, though Job at first, and then later in true presence, is an actual character in this story.

Job, once again, has the most pithy and accurate words to share with his friends: “Miserable comforters are you all,” (10:2b) he tells his friends. Talk about an understatement! And he goes on to say that he, Job, could put together ‘windy words’ (useless words) the same way that his friends are doing, but he is saving his words for God. Job is going directly to the source, and his descriptions of suffering are important to read because they give words to the true nature of suffering and of being bereft of any comfort: Job has lost everything. Or rather, everything has been taken from him. And yet in the midst, some of the most familiar, faithful words from Job: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth, and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” (19:25-27) We often hear these verses at funerals because they remind us that in the midst of his greatest suffering, Job was still somehow convinced of the surpassing greatness of God, and beleives that God, in fact, is the true redeemer from all the challenges of life on Earth.

Note that Job never prays to have all his things back, or to even have his children back. The focus of the book deals directly with undeserved suffering and how the human mind, heart and spirit can deal with it in different ways.

From my perspective, Job reminds me that no matter how much I may think I understand someone’s sufferings, I don’t. I can’t. Telling people why they are suffering, giving them reasons for their suffering is often useless as well. The suffering is the center, is the thing. To simply dwell there with someone, providing no easy solutions, no easy justifications, no easy answers is just fine, because we simply cannot always know why or how suffering occurs, and we cannot always know how it will end, if it ever does.

While Job is, as I have said before,  a book of wisdom rather than a book of history, I still get very attached to fictional Job as I read along. And today, even though I know the end of story sees the restoration of everything Job holds dear, I know that Job, if he were a real person, would not forget the abyss in which he finds himself. Job would not forget the children he lost, the house where they all lived. Job would not forget the laughter he shared, the tears he shed with those he loved best. Restoration and healing do not mean that events are erased from our hearts, but the scars we bear can bring us strength for the continued journey ahead.

Do not underestimate the power of suffering in your life. Do not think that true faith erases the pain completely. Do not think that our deep connection to God magically removes images and impressions made by tragedy in our hearts and brains. Being connected to God, despite tragedy, means that we understand that God remains with us, understands us more perfectly, and sees a more complete picture than we can see ourselves.

Job asks at one point: “Will any teach God knowledge?” No. But I continually need God to share his knowledge, his perspective and his strength with me. As we see in Job’s story, true faith in God means connecting through honest communication. We may fight and rail against God, but I would rather scream out my words towards a listening, omniscient and loving creator than think of them as being thrown into an empty canyon with only my own echo for an answer.

Be blessed, and be a blessing to others,

ML

 

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