I think we get the same sort of awkward feel from the reading from Job today. The reader ended, as is our custom with The Word of the Lord. And the rest of us are left to respond. Thanks be to God. Or with this lesson is it maybe “Thanks be to God?”
It is a tough lesson for us to hear. In fact today is the day of hard Scripture passages. But the lesson from Job is a real struggle I think. I used to use the book of Job with those who were really struggling through hard times. Divorce, job loss, illness. Job speaks to those who suffer greatly. Except for the beginning, which we hear part of today. What is God doing leaving his blameless and upright servant, the one who is unlike any other on earth, what is God doing leaving him to Satan's penchant for wreaking havoc?
We pick up the story in the second chapter, after God has already given Satan the power to destroy Job's family, his oxen, his donkeys, his camels, and his sheep. Now, Satan returns to heaven to once again present himself to God. God again points out his servant Job, blameless and upright, unlike anyone else on earth. And Satan once again convinces God to test him. So Job becomes covered in awful sores from the top of his head to the soles of his feet.
Our lesson ends with ominous words from the lips of Job, “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God and not receive the bad?”
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God?
This is, of course, only a small portion of the book of Job, a book that we will hear bits and pieces of over the next four weeks. But we don't hear the whole story today. We don't hear the great conversation between God and Job today. All we hear is this absurd story of God giving over his servant to Satan with only the instruction, “spare his life.”
So what do we take away from this passage? Other than setting us up for a four week series in Job, what is the lesson? What do we hear? We hear that God and Satan know each other very well, but enemies always know each other very well. We hear that the heavenly beings presented themselves to God on occasion, but I'm not really sure that's all that insightful.
What I take away from this difficult pericope is the fact that God knows us intimately and has a lot more faith in us than it seems we deserve. God knew his servant Job, knew that he was blameless and upright, knew that he had seven sons and three daughters, knew that he had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and very many servants. But what matters is that God knew Job was faithful, not because of all of his wealth, not because of his great position in life, but because he loved the Lord his God, the Creator of all things on heaven and earth. Even though everything might be taken away, Job would be faithful, and God knew it.
I wonder if God knows that about me? I wonder if, as he sees all possibilities, he knows that if one day I lost my job, my house, and my family, that I would still turn to him and say, with all graciousness in my heart, “should we receive the good at the hand of God and not receive the bad?” Does God give me that much credit?
The book of Job is a study of the difference between religion and faith. God knew that Job had faith that superseded his religion – a religion that said his great wealth was a result of God's favor in his life.
As I watched sportscenter this morning I saw the highlights of last nights 163rd regular season game between the Minnesota Twins and the Detroit Tigers. One twins player, being interviewed after their 12th inning come from behind victory said to the reporter, “God is good. He's looked down on us all season.” And I couldn't help but think of Job. Would his response have been the same had they lost?
What about us? Shall we receive the good at the hand of God and not the bad? Is there praise on our lips for the God of all creation even in times of hardship, in times of crisis? Take this lesson from our difficult passage in Job, God knows you and loves you and gives you more credit than you probably deserve. That is great news.
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!
Thanks be to God!