Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Arc de Triumph

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Jun 9, Job 29-31

Today's readings are Job 29-31.

These chapters depict a turning point for Job. In them, he confesses he never thought things would turn out this way. He once had it pretty good and now longs for the days when he was respected and admired. Job, longing for the days when his resources allowed him to be generous, recounts all the good works he's done.

However, a telling thought escapes from Job’s mouth. He considered himself to be clothed in righteousness by the good works he did (Job 29:14). Job is unaware that no man is righteous (Rom 3:10) and all his good works are as “polluted garments” (Isa 64:6). Job wore his righteousness like a robe, and now the robe has been made filthy to the point that even those people that he once thought were reprehensible now look down on him.

Job recognizes that God’s wisdom is sometimes beyond any man (Job 28:12-27). He confesses that fearing God is the first step in gaining wisdom (Job 28:28). Job has been thoroughly humbled and appears to be looking at himself in a new light, even as he wonders how he got there.

The humility doesn't last. Job begins to recount the past and all the good things he has done as well as the lofty status he had in the community (
Job 29).

It’s easy to long for better days when trials come. The stumbling block that accompanies this longing is the same for Job as it is for all of us. It’s easy to filter those better days through our perceptions of how good they were and how right we were. Job is no more or less righteous in the middle of his trial than he was at the beginning. He is unknowingly in God’s classroom. God intends to refine Job and move him forward. Meanwhile, Job looks back and wishes he were there. This longing for what once was will only delay Job learning the lesson God is going to teach him. He would do well to acknowledge God is doing something, however unpleasant it is, and beseech God to reveal to him what he’s supposed to learn. Things would progress much quicker if Job would embrace the lesson rather than lament bygone days. 

In Job 30:20, Job addresses God directly for the first time. He wants to remind God of his dire situation and his cries for help which have gone ignored. He wants to know why he hasn't been answered. 

Job 31, Job enumerates his good works and pious behavior a final time. The list is impressive! He has been a good man and has done many things for many people. He has avoided sin as best he could and has been a role model for all he met.  As Job runs through his litany of good works, you can almost feel his humility slipping away and a pious pride taking over. 

Job sounds like he believes the end of his life is near. He wants to make sure his innocence is made clear. He presents a list of challenges that support his argument for his own integrity and goodness. He is presenting his case to God, saying, "If I'm going to die, keep in mind all the good I've done. At least You could admit I have been unfairly treated." 

Job's struggle has reached its peak. He has exhausted himself with his friends. They have been no help. He has maintained his integrity to anyone who would listen. He has reminded God of his innocence and piety.  Ultimately, he openly challenges God to justify His actions and explain to him what he has done wrong (Job 31:35-40). 

The one thing Job has not confessed is his thinking that God owes him an answer and an explanation. As we will soon see, one must be careful what one asks for when addressing the Creator. 

This is the root of Job’s struggle. He considers himself blameless and holds on to his righteousness as if God owes him something for being so godly. The very thing that set Job apart, his righteousness, when transformed into self-righteousness, leads Job into making demands and setting expectations of God.

How many times do we, like Job, try to fill God in on the details of our situation? How many times do we wonder if God knows? How many times do we think God must be looking the other way and would surely rectify our circumstances if we could just convince Him He is unfair? Do we ever get impatient or frustrated with God because He doesn't seem to answer our questions in a manner we would like them answered?

Just as an interesting exercise, turn from the end of Job 31 where Job demands an answer, to Job 38, for the moment, skipping over Elihu's monolog. It’s a startling revelation of what Job’s challenge to God nets him.

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