Wednesday, May 6, 2015

May 6 - Job, Long-Suffering, Blameless, Beloved by God

Job was the kind of guy to which blame and shame won't stick. He feared God and turned away from evil thoughts and actions. Job had many sheep, camels, oxen, donkeys, and servants but he was so blameless you know what Job did? When his seven sons and three daughters would gather for a feast at one of their houses he would figure out when the feast was over and would then rise early in the morning to offer a burnt sacrifice on their behalf before God. Just in case one of them had sinned--that is to say cursed God in their hearts--Job offered sacrifices for them because of his great love and his blamelessness. This is what Job always did.

One day, though, the heavenly beings assembled before God Almighty and the Adversary came in among them God said to the Adversary, "Where have you been?"

The Adversary responded, "Oh, here and there and everywhere in between as I've been looking around Earth."

God said to the Adversary, "Well, if you've been on Earth have you noticed my servant Job? That one is unique among all people." Then, God told the Adversary all about how blameless Job was and how he offered sacrifices just in case. He continued, "Job is a man who turns his back on evil."

So, the Adversary responded, "Of course he's blameless, you haven't given him an obstacle for him to fail upon. You've fenced him in with your protection and you've blessed everything he touches. Of course, he turns to you and away from evil--you've made it worth it!"As the words of the Adversary's dismissive accusations began to register with the heavenly audience, the Adversary continued, "If you want to see how blameless and good the man is then give him some pain and see how long he praises you. He'll curse you to your face!

God responded, "So be it. I'll withdraw my protection and allow you to assault him. You cannot harm him, though. You can only take from him the parts of life you seem to think of as bribes." At these words, the Adversary departed from the presence of God.

Shortly thereafter Job's seven sons and three daughters were having one of their feasts in the home of the eldest son. Thus began one of the worst days, of not only Job's life but perhaps, of all days. A servant of Job came to him looking beaten and tired--still panting from his run--and told Job that the Sabeans had attacked the servants minding the donkeys and oxen while they were plowing and feeding. The Sabeans had killed the servants--except the one messenger--and stolen all of Job's oxen and donkeys.

As this was sinking in another servant arrived to tell Job that fire had descended from the skies and consumed the sheep and the servants who tended them. Job was already overwhelmed with his loss but as he was reeling another servant arrived and told him that the Chaldeans had come and stolen all of the camels and killed the servants who were watching over them. He was stunned and the three servants already there must have been amazed at the suddenness of this loss but even more surprised when a fourth servant arrived who looked as only somebody with terrible and life-changing news can look. He told Job that a great wind had ripped through the land where his children had been eating and the house collapsed upon them and all the servants--none had survived. The servants shook their heads at the seeming incoherence of so much death and destruction and Job seemed unable even to take all this sorrow in.

Finally, after what must have felt like days, Job stood up and tore his robe in a sign of mourning. He drew his blade and used it to shave his head. He mourned the loss and fell on the ground and wept uncontrollably at his monumental loss.

As he sobbed, he began to pray and worship even in the midst of such horror. He said,"I entered this world with nothing and that is also how I will leave this world. The Lord has given me everything I've ever had and now the Lord has taken nearly all of it away." The final sentence of his tearful worship may have been proclaimed through gritted teeth, "Blessed be the name of the Lord God Almighty." The Adversary had done its worst and been unable to get Job to sin or accuse God of wrong.
But that wasn't enough for the Adversary--the one who opposes us and God at every turn--and so the Adversary came again before God almighty before the heavenly audience. God said to the Adversary, "Where have you been?"

The Adversary responded, "Oh, here and there and everywhere in between as I've been looking around Earth."

God said, "Then surely you've seen my servant Job? Remember him? The one who is blameless and who turns toward me and away from evil? Sure you do! He's the one you were confident would curse me if he no longer had the blessings I gave him. Well, I'm sure you've noticed that he never cursed me or turned his back on me."

With a wounded ego and prideful confidence the Adversary responded, "You wouldn't let me go far enough! He is good--assuredly--but even the best humans will give anything to save their lives. Take away his physical comfort and his health and he will surely curse you!"

God responded, "So be it. You may take more from Job but you cannot kill him."

So, the Adversary left the presence of God to afflict Job with painful and open sores all over his body from the top of his head to bottoms of his feet. In his pain, Job took a piece of broken clay pottery and used it to scrape the painful, weeping sores that covered his body. He sat in the ashes of his mourning and suffered. Finally, his wife came to him--exasperated and deep in her own grief--and asked him, "Are you still refusing to curse God? Can't you see that it is God's fault that you now suffer? Maybe if you curse God, then God will kill you and you'll at least have some small comfort in that."

Job responded, "You speak foolishness! Should we happily accept the good things that God gives us and then be like petulant children when we are given the bad? Do you believe that God owes us something that God isn't giving us?" With this refusal and with every other word and action, Job did neither sinned against nor cursed God.

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