Our Season of Creation Lectionary begins with a wonderful story from the book of Job. For some of us the Book of Job is a bit strange – it seems hard to make sense of this encounter between God and Satan where Satan persuades – or dares is probably a better word - God to inflict as much suffering as possible on Job in order to see if Job will curse God. It certainly is a strange parable for us to make sense of.
But along the way there are some really important insights for us into the nature of God and God’s plan for all people.
Along the way in this story, while Job does not resort to cursing or forsaking God, he demands that God appear in court to answer Jobs charges that he has experienced injustice at the hands of God.
He has been complaining to his friends who in the end warn him not to take this matter directly to God because they all thought to do that would mean they would die.
But God does come – speaking out of the midst of a great storm – and through his words he takes Job on a tour of the whole physical universe. God’s agency in creating and governing the functioning of our world is made clear.
But why does God do this when Job’s complaint was about injustice – that God was giving him a hard time?
A couple of things come to my mind that might explain this.
I think maybe this story is a way of helping us see what God’s real purposes are, and what kinds of things are not in the purposes of God.
Back in chapter 12, Job declares that God is all powerful and then asks if God chooses to wreck something, who has the power to fix it up again?
This is a not uncommon view among people when disasters happen. People asked after that Tsunami a few Boxing Days ago “Why did God let this destruction happen?”
Here in our reading from Job today we seem to be getting the message that God does not use his wisdom to destroy things on earth – indeed that message is at the heart of the aftermath of the Noah’s Ark story – God promised never to do that again.
These words seem to be making us see that God’s work is never to destroy or crush creation, but rather to govern it – to give it the rules by which it operates, show it the limits within which it must exist. God’s job is to hold all these things together.
But I think there might have been a more important idea for Job to get from this story – and we can benefit from it too. That is, that in life – and indeed in the creation – senseless suffering does happen.
You and I are confronted with this on an almost daily basis because our TVs and the internet can bring us such news from the most obscure places in the world. The most obvious senseless suffering we see is in the aftermath of a natural disaster – an earthquake, a super storm or a tsunami. Nothing can be done by anyone to avoid these things – and so many innocent people are killed, injured or made homeless by them.
Because this story of Job is framed in terms of a conversation between Satan and God, we easily get the idea that there is some sort of divine agency in the terrible things that happened to Job. But I don’t think that is the intention of the story.
This story is meant to encourage us by helping us to understand these things.
- Senseless bad things happen.
- Sometimes bad things happen as a consequence of bad things people do.
- Regardless of the cause, God has never and never will abandon us. We will never be able to say God has left us to die.
In the end, Job is able to say:
I know, Lord, that you are all-powerful;
that you can do everything you want.
when I am so very ignorant.
I talked about things I did not understand,
about marvels too great for me to know.
And with this confession God responds to Job by showing him that life can still be good as his herds of livestock regrew and as he had more children.
May we never forget that no matter what happens to us in life God is always with us and will always show us the places in which to find faith and hope and love.