Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Bible Jesus Read - chapter 2: Job

The Bible Jesus Read, by Philip Yancey is my current non-fiction book. I was intrigued by this book because, although I've learned many of the OT stories in school and church, I don't KNOW the old testament and the stories I've learned are slowly fading away. The author makes the point in the first chapter that we don't pay much attention to the OT anymore - we are much more NT focused. He, himself, had little desire to read or dig into the OT and only did so because he was paid to do it.

In this book, he explores four books or sections of the OT: Job, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Ecclesiastes and The Prophets. I am currently reading through the prophets in my Bible time, so I can't wait to get to that section.

Chapter 2 - Job: Seeing in the Dark

I've read Job in the past, but I did not read through the book as I was reading through this chapter...

His basic premise in this chapter is that the book of Job is NOT about suffering, rather it is about faith.

The first two chapters of the book set up the plot of the rest of the book: God and satan discuss this man, Job, and Satan tells God that Job is only faithful because he is rewarded very well for his faith. God disagrees and tells satan that Job is a righteous man whose faith is true. Satan pretty much gives God the Whatever sign, to which God's response is: Okay, do whatever you want to him, but do not harm him. In chapter 2 they have the same conversation and God gives him permission to harm Job, but he must not die.

The middle chapters of the book describe Job's suffering and the conversations he has with his friends. The last chapters hold God's magnificent speech about his power over creation and who is REALLY in control here.

What I took away from this chapter:
* Job's friends used the following logic to explain his suffering: a) God is just and fair - if you sin, God will punish you, if you are righteous God will reward you. Therefore, if you are suffering, you must have an unconfessed sin - repent and God will restore you. Job, however, maintained that he was righteous and blameless and that God was simply being unfair.
Throughout our EJ journey I have held the same reasoning - Why isn't God rewarding us when we have been obedient? Does one of us have an unconfessed sin lurking around that needs to be confessed before we will be taken care of? This book reveals how that reasoning is just false - God doesn't work like that.

* Job questions God. Job cries out in despair and even says scandalous things about God. Job gives up on the idea of God being JUST and FAIR, but he never gives up on God, he never stops believing in God and that God is present in his life - even if he is being totally unfair.
It is okay to question and doubt. God condemns Job for his ignorance of what is going on in the rest of the universe, but he doesn't condemn him for questioning and doubting him. William Safire says: "Human beings are sure to wander in ignorance and to fall into error, and it is better - more righteous in the eyes of God - for them to react by questioning rather than accepting. Confronted with inexplicable injustice, it is better to be irate than resigned."

* Job lives in a limited perspective of what is going on. Yancey says he is only privy to the ingredients of the situation and not the goal, the end result or the play as a whole. Having knowledge only of the ingredients limits his perspective to the point that he IS completely ignorant of what is going on when he questions God. Job sees God as unfair; God sees this as a cosmic battle with his reputation on the line (so to speak). God doesn't even explain himself or give Job reasons for why he is allowing his suffering.
This smacks of me having the following conversation with the girls: "I have much more incentive to win this battle. My job is to raise you to become good, well-functioning grown ups and this small battle is much more important for me to win, than for you - my incentive is greater." In a nutshell, the girls are ignorant of the larger picture and really only see the ingredients of the current situation. Wow, do I feel like that in my own life many times. Hind sight is 20-20, right? How often have I looked back and thought, "Oh. Well Holy Shit. THAT's why this happened." (excuse my profanity, that is exactly what is going through my head.) If only we could be privy to the play as a whole rather than the ingredients - life would make much more sense.

* There is a cosmic battle going on and MY faith, MY decisions make a difference. Quotes from this chapter: " Job presents the astounding truth that our choices of faith matter not just to us and our own destiny but, amazingly, to God himself." "God has given ordinary men and women the dignity of participating in the redemption of the cosmos. He is allowing us, through our obedience to him, to help reverse the pain and unfairness of this world..." "We will never know, in this life, the full significance of our actions here for... much takes place invisible to us."
It is really difficult for me to see or grasp that I matter in the grand scheme of things. It is also difficult for me to grasp that God is not the watchmaker just watching his creation as it winds down. I guess in that respect I sometimes wonder if praying really makes a difference or if life just follows a natural path and if you give it enough time it will all work out. Can prayer change his mind? But then I've experienced having my prayers answered - specifically. WHEN does God step in? Does he really, truly test us - like make things happen to test us - or is it just coincidence when things happen? Combination of both? How do you know which is which? I have a friend who does not believe in tests - his response is that God does not make children die as a way to test the parents. However, I've had times and experiences that I felt were tests... most recently when our capital campaign pledge was due to increase and we were making less money than before. I felt like the decision to continue our pledge was a test of faith - did we believe that God would provide even in THESE circumstances?
I wish I knew the answer to those questions. I feel like the actual circumstances might be a bit easier to deal with and live through if I knew they were a test - "Okay, this is a test, therefore if I choose faith, everything will be okay." Of course after writing that out I think perhaps the best response to anything - test or no test - is faith. Seems kind of like a DUH realization:)

A verse from my OT reading this morning fits very well with this chapter on Job:
Jeremiah 23:35 - "Instead of claiming to know what God says, ask questions of one another, such as 'How do we understand God in this?' But don't go around pretending to know it all, saying 'God told me this...'"
Truly, we have no idea what is going on in the universe as a whole. We have no idea how our actions, our situations affect the spiritual battle that is taking place around us. We have no idea what God's incentive is in allowing whatever is happening to happen... perhaps we are playing the role of Job in this play.


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