Friday, October 5, 2018

Hebrew Testament text for Sunday 7 October 2018

Job 1:1; 2:1-10        There 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.

One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. The 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.” The 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. He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.” Then Satan answered the Lord, “Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives. But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, he is in your power; only spare his life.”

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Reflection      Job is a man of grand slam success and insistent faithfulness. We meet him at the heels of a wager between God and Satan. All of his livestock are destroyed, his servants are carried away, his business decimated. A great wind collapses the house in which his sons and daughters are eating and all ten of them are killed.  “(Despite) all of this, Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing.” (Job 1.22) God wins the wager. Job remains faithful in the face of unrelenting loss, a fact God loses no time pointing out to the Satan.  “(Job) still persists in his integrity, though you (Satan) incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.” 

Furious the adversary ups the ante. “People will give up anything to save their own life…” Again, God,  betting Job will persist in his integrity, accepts the second wager and empowers the Satan to inflict unspeakable physical suffering on Job.  And indeed, though his body is covered with oozing boils and Job sends himself into exile sitting on an ash heap, when his wife confronts him saying, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God and die,” Job endures saying to his maligned wife, “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God and not receive the bad?” 

This is integrity. No matter what happens to us on the outside, our interior values, our moral principles, what we know to be true, must continue to determine how we behave. Which is to say,  our values are revealed in our daily actions. The quality of our actions bespeak the authenticity of our faith. Integrity. 

Job’s faith is established through his acceptance of blessing as well as suffering which is not to say, Job liked his suffering nor did he think he deserved it. In fact, for the next twenty-nine chapters of the Book of Job, he never stops calling out to God, asserting his innocence, despising his condition and demanding God’s attention. And therein lies the key. Job never stops calling out to God because he sees God’s hand in the good as well as in the bad. 

This melodramatic tale of enduring faithfulness and resolute integrity has much to say to us today. As we navigate our troubled times, like Job we will do well to put our confidence in God with us regardless of the raging tides of our circumstance. Like Job we must act with integrity making our daily actions line up with our hearts values; receiving blessing as well as suffering. Rather than asking, “Who is to blame?” better we should ask, “Where is God in this?” 

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