Lectionary: Job 38:1-7, (34-41); Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45
The biblical story of Job is at once sad and joyful, sobering and resplendent. It begins with a successful and good, God-fearing man who becomes the the victim of a wager between God and the Satan (!?!). In the ensuing days Job loses his property, way of life, family and health and descends into depression and a feeling of abandonment. His friends suggest logical solutions as to why this has happened and how he should respond and Job himself finally shouts angrily at God through his pain.
God’s response to Job’s outrage is to, well … give no explanation. Rather, Job is directed to both the wheels of the universe and the character of God. The opening of God’s monologue is recorded in chapters 38-42 of Job.
Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind:
2 “Who is this that questions my wisdom
with such ignorant words?
3 Brace yourself like a man,
because I have some questions for you,
and you must answer them.
4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell me, if you know so much.
5 Who determined its dimensions
and stretched out the surveying line?
6 What supports its foundations,
and who laid its cornerstone
7 as the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
34 “Can you shout to the clouds
and make it rain?
35 Can you make lightning appear
and cause it to strike as you direct?
36 Who gives intuition to the heart
and instinct to the mind?
37 Who is wise enough to count all the clouds?
Who can tilt the water jars of heaven
38 when the parched ground is dry
and the soil has hardened into clods?
39 “Can you stalk prey for a lioness
and satisfy the young lions’ appetites
40 as they lie in their dens
or crouch in the thicket?
41 Who provides food for the ravens
when their young cry out to God
and wander about in hunger?
For some reason we are drawn to a God who confirms our choices, theology, culture and priorities but the second of the Ten Commandments instructs us to not worship any likeness of any thing. Idolatry is not just worshipping random idols, it can also be building and worshipping our own image of God. We have many images of the God that we choose to worship: a parent, a theologian, an old man, a Santa Claus, a conservative, a liberal, a stern judge, a success-provider, a patriot, an angry so-and-so. We can make him either so distant as to be irrelevant or doting on our every wish.
But often God doesn’t fit into the boxes where we want to keep him. Sometimes he doesn’t ‘make sense’ and is frequently outside of any description, bias or understanding we can muster. Augustine said, ‘If you comprehend it, it is not God.’
Through much of my life I took pride in being able to answer any question or rebut any challenge to Christianity but in recent years I have become more aware and appreciative that some things are unknowable.
Perhaps it was because so many people around me had simplistic, easy answers that I gravitated to questioning and fact but ultimately they did’t fill that place inside me that was thirsty for depth and awe. Maybe it’s the humility one gains having trudged through the harshness of life, but now mystery has a place in my soul that pulls me and ultimately comforts me.
I know that God is above, beyond, beneath, and in me. Beyond but accessible and, if you think about it, shouldn’t that be the description of God? That’s why traditions of worship, prayer, meditation, reflecting on Scripture, Eucharist should be intentional and more than just quick, shallow activities.
In the end we are left with nothing more and nothing less than the love and goodness of the divine and a need to rest more and more peacefully in that trust.
Do you worship your own image of God? How?
In the end, God does not give Job an answer to his perfectly reasonable questions. How does that make you feel?
Job’s response is to accept that God is God, acknowledging that God is independent, wild and dangerous like the Lion in Narnia – but also wise and good. What is reassuring about Job’s new position?
In Colossians 1 we see that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. Jesus doesn’t show us all the answers to the mystery of God but does show us what God is like. So what does that tell you about God?
you alone are holy,
you who work wonders!
You are strong, you are great,
you are the Most High,
you are the almighty King,
you, holy Father, King of heaven and earth.
Lord God: you are Three and you are One,
you are goodness, all goodness,
you are the higest Good,
Lord God, living and true.
You are love and charity, you are wisdom,
you are humility, you are patience,
you are beauty, you are sweetness,
you are sefety, you are rest, you are joy,
you are our hope
and our delight,
you are justice, you are moderation
you are all our wealth
and riches overflowing.
You are beauty, you are gentleness,
you are our shelter, our guard
and our defender,
you are strength, you are refreshment,
you are our hope.
you are our faith.
you are our love,
you are our complete consolation,
you are our life everlasting,
great and wonderful Lord,
all powerful God, merciful Savior!
(Francis of Assisi)