Season After Pentecost (Proper 24[29]) – The Old Testament Passage: Discerning the ways of the Lord God

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements–surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?” (Job 38:1-7)

It would seem that by the time Job has suffered from loss and illness, poor counsel from some of his friends, and words of instruction from someone younger than him – Job is a mess. He has gotten himself convinced that he has been wronged by God and that God has without good cause subjected him to abuse. God speaks out of the storm to set him straight, and to found out how he/Job became so knowledgeable about Divine things.

“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, so that a flood of waters may cover you? Can you send forth lightnings, so that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’? Who has put wisdom in the inward parts, or given understanding to the mind? Who has the wisdom to number the clouds? Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens, when the dust runs into a mass and the clods cling together? “Can you hunt the prey for the lion, or satisfy the appetite of the young lions, when they crouch in their dens, or lie in wait in their covert? Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God, and wander about for lack of food?” (Verses 34 – 41)

It perplexes me though, if the Lord God gave Satan permission to do all this to Job, why was the Lord God so surprised that Job would feel God has picked up the Divine? Now granted that Job did not know why he had been so abused, did not know that the Divine was holding up Job as an exampled of devotion and godly behavior. But Job did believe that all things come from the Lord and are moved and motivated by the Lord. The book of Job can be a perplexing one. I first remember reading Job when I was working my first job as a nanny and housekeeper for found children under the age of 6 – two of them being 4 month old infants. It seemed apropos at the time to read a book about struggling under overwhelming odds when I was struggling myself.

The aspect of the Lord God in the book of Job seems to be a very human one – bragging about a believer and being defensive about slights, not to mention other less than stellar behavior. The Lord God, the Divine, is right to question Job when Job questions the Lord. But this aspect of the Lord God is not one that invites and seems open to comforting those who struggle and are oppressed. At the time when I first read it as a young adult, I think I read it because I felt much akin to Job. But I much prefer the Lord God that is presented in the other Old Testament passage.

Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the LORD shall prosper. Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:4-12)

In the Job passage the Lord God is peeved (again, can the Divine really be peeved?) that the God-self’s might and will is being questioned. In the Isaiah passage, there is illness, abuse, and oppression – but it is heaped upon an “unnamed person” who has taken upon himself the burden of sin and transgression. We assume this unnamed person is the Messiah, and the prophecy is not far wrong from what actually happened. And that the Lord God and the Messiah had planned that the Messiah would be the salvation of humanity. Two very different views of the Divine. That is not to say they are mutually exclusive. And the aspect of the Lord God shown in Job may not be the complete understanding of the Lord. But all we have in scripture and the guidance of the Spirit to reveal the Lord God, the Divine, to us. As the week unfolds let us see what other views of the Lord God are presented to us. Selah!

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