Sunday, February 29, 2004

Thinking about Job

Contribuing Writer

If your religious background is anything like mine, I’m sure you’ve heard about Job. And if you are not religious at all, chances are you’ve still heard about Job. Hope you won’t mind hearing about him again today.

You see, I just suspect Job was like a lot of us and I’ve been pondering on the comparison lately.

“Have you considered my servant, Job?” That’s what God said to Satan when God and Satan were discussing the state of things on earth a few thousand years back. Can you believe God actually pointed Job out to Satan, describing, like a proud Father, the way Job was upright and honest and good and just the best guy all around? He said all the things a good kid would want his Father to say.

And then Satan says, “Of course he’s a good guy; look at all you do for Him. He’s got it made. He’s not about to rock the boat.”

And God says to Satan, “I’ll tell you what ... I’ll back off. You can have at him. I will let you test him and see what happens. Just don’t kill him.”

I know. I know. I’m paraphrasing. Big time! But try to hear me out.

So Satan bombards Job and takes all his wealth and inflicts misery after misery after misery.

Now, through all his trials and temptations, Job has three well-meaning friends who have all the answers. They let him have it, too. Over time, I have come to think that those friends may have been Satan’s sharpest weapon.

And when they were finished setting Job straight “in love” on a few things, Job defends himself vehemently. He knows he’s done nothing wrong and he describes all his good deeds and good attitudes, just lines and lines of goodness like I know I will never be able to touch.

Then there is Elihu. Now, Elihu was the key character in the whole book, as far as I’m concerned. Elihu stepped up because he’d had it with Job and the three friends. After listening to Job’s speech on all his self righteousness (now, remember, God was the first to call Job righteous when the book began), Elihu has a few things to say that gets everybody’s attention, especially mine. I dare say the wisdom of Elihu’s words is unsurpassed in Scripture. Equaled maybe, but not surpassed.

Some folks make me cringe when they tell me they are speaking for God. I mean I just shiver right down to the bone. But Elihu, well, when Elihu “speaks for God,” he gets my attention.

But it gets better, or worse one… because when Elihu finally finishes, God Himself speaks to Job “out of the whirlwind.”

I have always wondered about those whirlwind references in scripture. Think about it with me. We can fly to the moon in just a few days. We can make it to Mars in a few years. And we earthlings just got started in space travel. We’re talking God here and whirlwinds and voices out of whirlwinds ... thousands of years ago!

Okay, I told you, I’m just thinking!

So God speaks to Job out of the whirlwind, and says, among other things, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth! Tell me if you have understanding, who ... what ... where ... how ... ” In other words (mine) God said, “If you think you know it all, just tell me this ... ”

So you see, before it was all over, Job’s righteousness, which had served him so well in the beginning, had evolved into a self-righteousness that I dare say we all experience from time to time.

So when God hushed, it was Job’s turn again, and this is what he said to his Maker: “I know You can do all things. That no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Hear me now as I ask You to instruct me, I have heard You, and now my eye sees You. I retract. I repent. I’m sorry.”

So, what’s my point in sharing with you my present take on the Job story? There’s not one, not really. I just went to sleep thinking about Job last night. Woke up thinking about him. Sat down at the keyboard to do my column this morning and he wouldn’t go away so there you have it. Thought I’d let you folks think along with me.

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