Lectionary Passage: John 42: 1-6, 10-17
To read this passage online, go to http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=218124859
We come to the end of the Book of Job. Job has suffered. He has lost everything. He has questioned God and expected God to give him reasons for why all these horrible things have happened to him. But the actions of God are not centered in conventional responses to wickedness and righteousness. The universe is, instead, filled to the brim with mystery and surprise and wonder. God’s answer to Job is: “Think again, Job. Open your eyes wider to the whole of the cosmos. Redirect your attentions away from what you have done to what I am doing.” This is the turning point—Job now has received a new vision of God as YHWH, creator and sustainer as well as struggler with a complex and mysterious order. It is that new vision of YHWH to which Job responds here.
Job inhabited a closed-minded world of retribution and distributive justice, where people get what they deserve, where there is a just God to see that all get what they earn based on who they are and what they do. But then Job is invited out to a new world, a world not based upon simple, distributive justice. And Job sees now that he is not the center of the world—that his relationship with God is found in his interconnectedness to all of the cosmos—that he is but a small, albeit essential, part of the wisdom of God. In other words, Job has found not an answer but a true relationship with God. In her book, Sometimes I Hurt: Reflections on The Book of Job, Mildred Tengbom says it like this: “No one could tell me where my soul might be; I sought for God, but God eluded me. I sought my brother out and found all three—my soul, my God, and all humanity.” (Page 200)
So some would like the drama to end here. After all, hasn’t Job gotten the point? But if Job has become new, we must see him act out of his newness to discover if that newness is genuine. We need to see Job back in the world again.
And so the Lord restores Job’s life. Some of us struggle with this. It gives it a sense of some sort of fairy tale ending and we all know that that type of ending is seldom, if ever, realistic. It also gives us the image of that all-too-common presumption that God somehow rewards us, accepts us, or even (as horrifying as this notion is to me!) loves us based on what we do or who we are. But think about it in the context of the larger vision to which Job and we as readers have been invited. God does not just put Job back together again. It is better. If we read it literally, it is better because Job is given more. But, again, step back and look at the larger picture. Perhaps it is a metaphor of what is to come. It says that Job’s days were blessed but it doesn’t say that others were not. Perhaps it is a vision of what the world can be when we allow ourselves to look at it through the lenses of God. It is a world of plenty in which all of Creation prospers. It is a world where we recognize family and our interconnectedness. It is a world where all receive the inheritance of the world. It is a world where we all die, old and full of days of a life to come. “And they all lived happily ever after…”
God has allowed Job to be the hero. God lets us struggle and win and when we lose our life, God gives it back to us. The point is that Job actually encountered God and his life changed. Catherine Marshall once said that Those who have never rebelled against God or at some point in their lives shaken their fists in the face of heaven, have never encountered God at all.”
God remains Job’s God. There can no longer be any talk of “reward” here—we have dispensed with that way of thinking. God has blessed Job because God loves and wants to bless Job. There is no other reason. It is not for us to ask why. Restoration is a feature of life; restoration is what God can do and does. At the end, I don’t get answers. I get a deepened relationship with God. God doesn’t come with easy answers; God comes offering presence. THAT is the Wisdom of God.
The story of Job is the story of life—our story. It does not travel in a straight, easy-to-follow line. It is not level or soft or easy. It means much, much more than that. If someone tries to present it in some other way, they just don’t get it. Sometimes life is chaotic; sometimes it’s just hard; and sometimes, through no fault of our own, it’s downright unbearable. Answers are not what we need. That’s why I like Job. It DOESN’T give you answers; it teaches you how to journey through life. So, here is what I get from the story of Job:
- Life happens (but we are never alone.)
- Some things just don’t make sense. (Perhaps we are reading them through a clouded lens, or even too MUCH correction—try wearing your contacts AND your glasses)
- We need to make sure that our images of God do not stand in the way of God’s presence in our lives or in the lives of those around us.
- God desires to be in relationship with us more than God desires for us to figure God out.
- Sometimes we need to just shut up and listen.
- Sometimes we need to just give up and let it be.
- Everything comes from God. God breathed life and it was so.
- The future is an enigma. Our road is covered in mist. There will be times when the journey seems perilous and filled with despair. But when we fling ourselves into what seems an impossible abyss, it is then that we will finally meet God.
- God is God. We are not.
- And then we will die, old and full of days, and realize that life has only just begun.
Grace and Peace,