Synopsis Job 24:5-26:9 6/28/2021
During the continued conversation, Job gave a long response to Eliphat. In it, he persisted in explaining that evil people do not always suffer consequences. However, Job acknowledged that evil people do live different sorts of lives. Especially, he observed that people who routinely sin seek the cover of darkness.
After this, Bildad spoke one last time. In this short response, Bildad insisted that no man can be just before God. In this way, he claimed that God was so holy that even the moon and stars are impure. How much more, he asked, is man fundamentally corrupt.
Once again, Job responded to Bildad. In it, he rebuked all three of his friends for powerlessness to encourage. Even more, he pointed to the creative power of God. Countering the idea that God created things that are essentially inferior, Job claimed that everything he created is as it should be.
Bildad claimed that nothing is pure like God. So, it follows that nothing is holy like God. Everything in creation is somehow tainted.
Job rejected this. Instead, he reminded Bildad that God was all powerful. And so, everything in creation is just as it should be.
The material world was made by God for His purposes. And, upon creating everything, He declared that it was good.
And so, it is an error to suggest that the material world is essentially defective.
“God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good. Evening came, and morning followed—the sixth day.” Gen 1:31
Synopsis Job 22:20-24:4 6/26/2021
As Job and his friends persisted in dialogue, Eliphaz made yet another attempt to encourage Job to repent. He encouraged Job to “entreat” the Lord. And he promised that if Job repented in this way, God would hear him. And, he could expect God to restore his fortune.
But Job countered Eliphaz’ encouragements. Instead, he steadfastly held to his own innocence. Specifically, he told Eliphaz that if he could find God, he would plead his case for justice. Yet, his biggest lament was that he could not even find God.
Even so, he persisted in his claim that he had remained faithful to the Lord. Following this, Job once again marveled at how evil people rarely seem to experience justice for the wrong things they do.
Job Couldn’t Find God
Job suffered grievous physical pain. Even so, the worst part of his suffering was isolation from God. He could not sense that God heard his cries.
Consolation in God
An athlete in training is willing to accept pain as part of the training process. She doens’t necessarily want the pain, but she knows that the only way to improve is through training. And very often training is both hard work and physically unpleasant. For this reason, the consolation that motivates her to overcome the pain is the knowledge that she is moving forward toward something important. This is how she interprets the pain.
Accepting uninvited pain is perhaps an even greater challenge. In response to affliction, I can make a droning lament the persists as long as the pain. Or, I can nihilistically refuse to believe that it means anything. In this way, I might stoically embrace the isolation and suffering as merely unavoidable.
Or, I could believe that there is meaning even in moments of suffering. I could accept with joy the idea that somehow, even my secret pain contributes to God’s plan in the universe. Somehow, even in pain there is transcendence. It seems like a paradox. But, truth and beauty and goodness are made manifest in suffering.
In fact, this seems to be the way of saints – a gift of encouragement to us still in the way.
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted, saves those whose spirit is crushed.” Psa 34:19
“Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matt 5:4
Synopsis Job 21:21-22:19 6/23/2021
Job continued his response to Zophar’s accusation. In this portion, he refuted Zophar’s claim that the children of evil people suffer. In fact, he pointed out that even if that were true, an evil person wouldn’t care about their progeny after death.
In this way, Job pointed out that nothing matters to someone after death. As he observed, people with pleasant lives and people with unpleasant lives both end up covered with worms. So, for evil people, death is a way to escape the justice they deserve.
Then, Eliphaz responded to Job. With sarcasm, he asked if God was reproving Job because of his righteousness.
Afterward, he lectured Job. Once again, he adjured Job to repent from whatever secret sin had caused his situation. And he assured him that God would forgive him and restore his fortunes once he repented.
Job and the Formula God
Zophar and Eliphaz argued that Job would be restored to prosperity as soon as he repented. But, because Job had not sinned, he could not repent. And so, the formula of repentance and restoration wasn’t valid for him.
God Wants My Heart
Walking with Jesus means accepting a certain detachment from the values of this world. In this way, the primacy of relationship with God becomes my central response to value. And then, every other potential value finds its place.
“My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes keep to my ways” Prov 23:26
Synopsis Job 20:17-21:20 6/18/2021
As the conversation continued, Zophar persisted in rebuking Job. Specifically, he claimed that evil people may indeed have great wealth. But he countered Job by claiming that their eventual downfall comes quickly and violently.
Yet, Job dismissed Zophar’s claim. As an alternative, he challenged Zophar by observing that not only do evil people often thrive, they also overtly reject God. And yet, God does not punish them.
Job found this perplexing and frustrating.
Job was exasperated by the conversation with his friends. Neither his nor their effort to persuade was having any effect. No one changed their position.
Talk and Revelation
In the end, evangelization is never a matter of persuasion. Instead, the issue rests on my willingness to accept revelation.
For a believer this is obvious. So much so, it is easy to forget how rare the gift really is.
“Jesus said to him in reply, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.’” Matt 16:17
Synopsis Job 19:14-20:16 6/17/2021
In his anguish, Job responded to Bildad. In what has become typical, Job laments his feelings of abandonment. And he begged that his friends would pity him rather than accuse him of wrongdoing.
Even so, Job anticipated his eventual vindication. In a rare moment of clarity, he believed that God still planned to rescue him. And then he predicted that his friends would be forced to repent from their simpleminded understanding of God.
In response, Zophar proclaimed a variation on his past theme. Namely, he argued that evil people are suddenly destroyed in a way that prevents them from enjoying their illicit gains.
Somehow, in the midst of his agony, Job still believed.
To be redeemed is the ultimate vindication. Not that this should cause envy in those who have shamed me. But instead, my anticipation is to experience the fulfillment of the thing I have set my heart upon.
It won’t be done with money, because it is no mere transaction. But it is the very working or God.
“For thus says the LORD: For nothing you were sold,without money you shall be redeemed.” Isa 52:3
Synopsis Job 18:2-19:13 6/16/2021
Undeterred by Job’s arguments, Bildad once again attempted to reason with Job. However, for the most part he merely restated his own argument. Once again, he attempted to persuade Job to believe that his misfortune was the result of some secret evil.
But Job remained steadfast. As a result, he dismissed Bildad’s simpleminded explanation. And once again, he proclaimed that God had not been fair with him.
Job Learns a Distinction
Job wanted to appeal to God because of the injustice of his circumstances. But he came to make a distinction between injustice and unfairness.
Unfairness vs Injustice
Fairness is a matter of comparison. One person compares their circumstances to those of another. And if the first person perceives they have less, the situation seems unfair.
But if God is working in me and through me in order to accomplish some great goal, there is no injustice. The resources I have are those necessary to accomplish the goal.
Despite the pain of unfairness which often provokes my natural tendency to envy, God has obviously done no wrong. In fact, if I can’t let go of my emphasis on fairness, I could be blocked from receiving the graces that are uniquely intended for me for the purposes of serving Him.
LORD, my allotted portion and my cup, you have made my destiny secure.” Psa 16:5
Synopsis Job 16:7-18:1 6/15/2021
After Eliphaz spoke, Job responded. In this speech, he castigated his friends. Not only had they not comforted him, but they also spoke simpleminded untruths about God.
The pain of his suffering combined with the pain of his useless friends overwhelmed Job. And so, he looked forward to death as his only relief from the suffering.
Job asked rhetorically, “Where then is my hope?” He no longer looked forward to anything in life except the relief of death.
Suffering in the absence of meaning is humanly unacceptable.
Perhaps for this reason, Jesus told his disciples to expect trouble. But He also encouraged them by pointing out that He had overcome the world. Their suffering was not arbitrary.
Our suffering is not arbitrary. It is filled with meaning.
“And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” Matt 10:28
Synopsis Job 15:11-16:6 6/4/2021
Job rebuked Zophar. And afterward, he addressed God directly.
But Eliphaz was offended by Job’s speech. And so, he responded once again. Specifically, he challenged Job’s claim that evil people prosper. He countered Job’s argument by observing that evil people suffer in their conscience even while enjoying material wealth.
And then, Job began a second response to Eliphaz’s rebuke. He opened by suggesting that if the situation was reversed, Zophar wouldn’t be so quick to condemn.
Job’s Golden Rule
Job said, “I could talk as you do, were you in my place.”
Suffering and Empathy
It is the strangest of all rules in life. There is, it seems, no empathy without suffering. Suffering is a watershed. It breaks the natural solipsist. Or, it hardens him forever.
“Stop judging, that you may not be judged” Matt 7:1
Synopsis Job 14:4-15:10 6/3/2021
In this midst of his suffering, Job cried out to God. In his desperate questioning, he asked if any man remained undefiled. So, he answered his own question. He observed that all humans sinned.
So, he questioned God. Specifically, he asked God why he cares about sin. He wanted to understand. If everyone is sinful, why punish sin? Why not, he wondered, just leave people alone until they die.
Job’s friend Eliphaz decided to speak in reply to Job’s questions. Almost immediately, he rebuked Job for impiety because of the way he spoke. And he suggested that Job thought too much of his own intelligence, which deceived him into thinking his impiety was appropriate.
Job’s Big Question
In effect, Job wondered why God concerned himself about sin. If everyone sins, he reasoned, isn’t this just a part of human nature?
Fallen Human Nature
Does God punish my sins in order to get retribution?
The idea of sin is not the idea of karma. With karma, I do something bad, I get something bad back. Or, I do something good, and good things will come my way.
Sin literally means absence – the absence of good. My sin is the absence of the good that should be in me.
So, I can see correction as a double negative – correction removes the absence of the good that should be in me. But, this is awkward and a little confusing.
Or, I can see correction as a positive – correction completes that which is lacking in me.
“At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.” Heb 12:11
Synopsis Job 12:18-14:3 6/2/2021
In responding to Zophar, Job claimed that there is no necessary connection between virtuous behavior and outcomes. In other words, even though he had not sinned, he still suffered. Neither his sin nor his lack of sin caused his suffering. Instead, the cause was God and it was not a matter of justice.
At this point, Job pointedly criticized his friends. All three had argued that God only rewards virtue. Furthermore, they claimed that God never allows righteous people to experience suffering.
Job’s friends failed to convince him. So much so, that he questioned their motives. Specifically, he asked them why they glossed over the fact that evil people very often have comfortable lives. Accordingly, he questioned whether they thought they were doing God a favor by defending his justness.
And then, Job addressed God with his lament. He asked God the reason that he felt cut off and abandoned.
Job was a man in pain. As such, he was looking for real answers that could help him cope.
People say, “Necessity is the mother of invention”. When nothing is on the line, then we are all free to speculate. And one answer is, more or less, as good as another.
However, when my need is so acute and so painful that I can’t cope, speculation is meaningless. At this point of need, I look for something proven to fix my problem.
Interestingly, just today the Holy Father encouraged Catholics to recite the “Jesus Prayer” throughout the day as a means of devotion.
So, here goes: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
“There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” Acts 4:12