This week’s eNewsletter Feature
was written by Jim Teague,
FPCE director of communications.
Dear friends –
I am a big fan of the Book of Job in the same way I am a fan of seeing the dentist on a regular basis to prevent major dental problems.
It is one of the books of the Bible that I return to on a regular basis. Similar to seeing the dentist, I visit the Book of Job regularly as a type of spiritual maintenance. It reminds me that God is sovereign over all things — both good and bad — which is a comfort when life’s circumstances touch a nerve.
Job has been supposed by various scholars to have been written before any other books in the Bible.[i] Other studies have made a comparison between Job and the Book of Isaiah and have concluded Job to have been composed at around 8 B.C.[ii] The debate continues.
Grouped with the poetic books of the Bible along with Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs, Job is beautiful and deeply philosophical. It addresses the timeless question of why there is evil and what that says about God.
At various times in my life I have felt a kinship with Job, though I most certainly haven’t come close to suffering in any way as much as he did. It doesn’t take losing your entire family in various catastrophes to find yourself wanting answers for why things are the way they are. I’ve found myself privately wondering, more than once, about some of the same things his accusing friends brought up: Did my sinfulness bring about my troubles? Is God trustworthy? Is he omnipotent or does he just let some things spin wildly out of control and deal with the consequences afterwards?
It is interesting to me that his friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, did quite a few things right in seeking to comfort him (in my opinion). Each traveled to see their friend rather than letting him suffer alone. They wept for the sorry state they found Job in. Then they sat in silence for seven days and nights, waiting until he was ready to speak. I am one of those people who is too often “full of words” and wants to use them to try to fix something right away. Job’s friends gave him the time and space to find his own words first.
Now all of that took place in the first two chapters, and from there things went downhill. The three friends took turns humbling Job and suggesting God might have afflicted him as a means of punishment or to open his eyes to his failings. Job stood his ground and defended himself, asking God to answer his complaints.
Then, in Chapter 32, a young man, Elihu son of Barachel the Buzite, had his say after he waited until those older than he were finished. Apparently, he was also present during the lengthy back and forth between Job and the three friends.
According to the text “He was angry at Job because he justified himself rather than God; he was angry also at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer, though they had declared Job to be in the wrong.”
When I was a new believer in my 20s, I thought of Elihu as a superstar. Appropriately reverent of those older than he, Elihu nonetheless called them to account when he believed they were out of line. Now that I am many decades older, I still appreciate his defense of God (though the curmudgeon in me is tempted to suggest he be a little less headstrong and maybe shorten his presentation).
Of course, God had the final say to Job and those with him. I find it interesting (and not surprising) that God answers Job’s questions with questions of his own. Jesus was known for using similar tactics.
Job has no answer for God other than utter humility and repentance (always a good choice).
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”
– Job 42:5-6
Part of being a church family includes walking with one another through periods of unimaginable loss and grief. We seem to be experiencing more than our fair share of that during this season. Let’s pray we can be the best of friends to one another while still having our eyes open to the testimony of God creation, the uniqueness of who he is, and the incredible love he has revealed to us through the person of Jesus Christ and the awesome power of the Holy Spirit.
Sunday, we welcome guest preacher Rev. Judith Watt, who will bring a message from Job 23:1-9 and Psalm 22:1-11 entitled “Surrendering to God when Answers Don’t Come.” We look forward to seeing you all at 10 a.m. in the Sanctuary or online.
Blessed to be walking with all of you,
First Pres Director of Communications