The Trials of Job
Today’s Lectionary readings feature the first chapter of Job, which is to me a very odd story, worth pondering. It is also interesting to me that this is a story that all three ‘people of the book’ share, and while I have met Moslems named Ayoub (Job) I have never met a Christian named Job.
I went to the Middle East with so many misconceptions. I believed the Moslems to be anti-Christian, and was astonished when I discovered that it was OK with my Moslem friends that I was a Christian. Like all the rest of us, they would prefer I share their beliefs, but they were happy that I was a believer, and that I practiced my religion. No, it didn’t stop them from trying to discuss religious matters with me – all in the goal of bringing me over from the dark side (LOL, i.e. clearing up my errors in thinking and believing), but in these discussions, I had a lot of surprises.
I have more Moslem friends with children named Jesus than I have Christian friends. One friend has a Jesus, a Mary and a Joseph. (She also has two Mohammeds ) Noah is in the Quran, and Job, and of course Gabriel, who brought the good news to Mary, is also the angel who recited to Quran to the prophet Mohammed. How did I not know this? The longer I live, the more careful I become about what I take on as beliefs. I give thanks to God who sent me into the wilderness that I might have a better understanding of how things work in the world.
Today’s reading has some puzzles. The Lectionary defines the ‘heavenly beings’ who gathered as ‘sons of God.’ Satan is The Accuser, is in attendance, challenging God on Job’s faith – so is this before or after he has fallen from Grace? Does Satan still appear before God? I thought he was banished . . .
And what awful awful calamities befell Job because of this cosmic wager – imagine, not so much the loss of wealth, although his wealth was vast, but imagine the loss of all your sons and daughters, the loss of everything you cared the most about. And Job, righteous as he is, says the Lord gave it to him and he can take it away. Wow.
1There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. 2There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. 3He had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and very many servants; so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. 4His sons used to go and hold feasts in one another’s houses in turn; and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them.
5And when the feast days had run their course, Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt-offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, ‘It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.’ This is what Job always did.
6 One day the heavenly beings* came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan* also came among them. 7The Lord said to Satan,* ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan* answered the Lord, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.’ 8The Lord said to Satan,* ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.’
9Then Satan* answered the Lord, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing? 10Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.’ 12The Lord said to Satan,* ‘Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not stretch out your hand against him!’ So Satan* went out from the presence of the Lord.
13 One day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the eldest brother’s house, 14a messenger came to Job and said, ‘The oxen were ploughing and the donkeys were feeding beside them, 15and the Sabeans fell on them and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.’
16While he was still speaking, another came and said, ‘The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; I alone have escaped to tell you.’
17While he was still speaking, another came and said, ‘The Chaldeans formed three columns, made a raid on the camels and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.’
18While he was still speaking, another came and said, ‘Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house, 19and suddenly a great wind came across the desert, struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; I alone have escaped to tell you.’
20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on the ground and worshipped. 21He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’
22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing.
The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.