Tag Archives: The Book of Job

Shoe Height

When I was younger, I remember one of the memory cues related to the Book of Job came in the form of a question: who was the shortest man named in the Bible? The answer was Bildad the Shuhite (shoe height). Our introduction to this “friend” and “comforter” of Job comes in the eighth chapter of the book.

FROM:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

The exact meaning of Bildad’s name is uncertain, but there is a connotation Bel has loved. Bel (or Baal) was an ancient Babylonian deity and Bildad’s initial speech urges Job to consult the ancient (possibly religious) authorities in order to understand his current suffering. Continue Reading →

Watcher of Men

Life is warfare. At least that’s how Job looks at it in Job, Chapter 7. He’s embattled. He perceives that the forces of the Universe have arrayed against him, one small and insignificant human being. I think the Blake image below is an evocative piece. Job so clearly turns his bewildered eyes heavenward, his palms empty and outward, and seems to beseech (in the vernacular) WTF?!

FROM:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

No question Job’s situation is uncomfortable, certainly justifying both anger and bitterness. He feels life pressing in on him, like a slave whose monotonous lot is looking forward to another week’s ending when he receives wages for his work (verses 1-2). Job’s situation is further complicated because he suffers sleepless nights (verse 4) and the boils on his flesh are oozing maggots (verse 5). In sum, he is without hope (verse 6). Continue Reading →

Weigh Suffering

How much does suffering weigh? A simple Google search (the weight of suffering) yields millions of hits. Some links show various books about suffering in the world, others relate to losing girth and poundage, while others focus on suffering as a path to deeper trust or (in some cases) nirvana. The contexts are sociological and philosophical (addressing questions of wealth and income inequality on one end and governmental overreach and inconsistency on the other), physical (addressing the need for a healthy body), and spiritual (entering into the sufferings of another for the purpose of transcendency).

FROM:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

Job’s suffering doesn’t line up easily with any of those foci, but the weight of his suffering is immense and Job chapter 6 provides all the miserable details in Job’s initial response to his friend Eliphaz. (My post from last Sunday summarizes how Eliphaz explained Job’s trials.) Continue Reading →

Comfort the Afflicted

Close friends can be like physicians. It’s okay if they’re present when you feel your worst and it’s okay if they’re present to help you mend. They see you at your best, but because they’re friends, they’re also permitted to see you when you’re disheveled and even teetering at what seems death’s door. Job’s friends appeared at the beginning of his journey into suffering, they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights  without speaking a word  and then they listened to him vent bitterly about his horrible situation. In essence, this is The Book of Job.

FROM:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

The simple picture above seems so expressive (to me) of the situation in which Job finds himself. Job’s friends are anxiously looking at Job, whose wife is also staring, waiting for her husband (in his present misery) to curse God and die. Hands outstretched, Job’s eyes are turned heavenward as he appeals to the God of the Universe. What’s going on, God?

Job has lived a life of integrity, and there’s an indication implicit in the above image that Job’s friends have always looked to him for answers to their perplexities. He’s been their go-to guy whenever they’ve needed advice or help. They’re looking to him now … but he doesn’t have any answers, at least not acceptable answers. He seems completely stymied by his circumstances! They’re asking him, What’s going on, Job? Continue Reading →

What Are Friends For?

Continuing my series of Sunday posts based on The Book of Job, we move to Chapter 4 in which the first of Job’s friends attempts to shed light on exactly why Job’s life has so desperately fallen apart. Even though readers of this book know (from Chapter 1) the groundwork for this earthly struggle has been laid in the heavenly realm, Job and his earthbound friends don’t. Hence, their observations resemble a freshman level college class where eager students gather to discuss Coping With Severe Stress in Ancient Times.

FROM:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

If your world (like Job’s) came crashing down around you, how would your friends explain it? How would my friends explain it? C’est la vie? Sh** Happens? Deal with it, Bro? Here’s a quarter, call someone who cares? Continue Reading →

Purposeful Suffering

In his book The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis points out:  “… the proper good of a creature is to surrender itself to its Creator.” In Job Chapter 3, this act of surrender is part of Job’s challenge. I think it’s safe to say Job was no different than me (or you?) in that he didn’t particularly enjoy suffering. However, because we’re the creatures, surrendering ourselves to the Creator’s intent may be a proper good, the right thing to do, the means through which creative objects derive their meaning … but this surrender isn’t always an easy thing for us!

FROM:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

There’s an interesting dynamic in the Book of Job. Reading the text today provides us with the exact situation … the back-story (if you will) to which Job himself wasn’t privy. We know from Chapters 1 and 2 that Job’s suffering transpires because of a heavenly conversation between Almighty God and Satan. Satan has requested permission from God to torment and cruelly sift Job in order to demonstrate that Job’s faith is worthless under heavy pressure. Satan thinks he can prove Job’s a man of fair-weather faith.

Job doesn’t know any of this. All he knows is his life has suddenly gone terribly wrong. He’s suffered huge material losses, the annihilation of his family and finally, the destruction of his physical health. Summing up his life, all Job really knows is:  Life sucks! Continue Reading →

Book of Job / 2

Last Sunday, I launched a series of posts related to the Book of Job. The initial post is here. As a bit of review, this historical character lived in the “land of Uz,” a stretch of land that lies east of Egypt, south of current day Israel and Jordan, and is roughly bisected by the Jordan River as that river flows south into the Gulf of Aqaba. The book named for Job makes this statement in chapter 1, verse 3:  … that man was the greatest of all men of the east.” Indeed, Job’s wealth alone was impressive, but he had character to boot. He was … blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from Evil.

FROM:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

But in the blink of an eye, Job’s circumstances changed! His livestock, his servants, dead and gone, his children dead, and it seemed as though every time the door opened, he received another round of bad news. (I’m reminded of that line from the Hee Haw song Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me that says “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.” That’s the kind of week Job was having.)

So here’s Job having the equivalent of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day … but what he’s not aware of is the dialogue occurring in God’s dwelling place and how that dialogue will result in Job’s slide even farther down the tunnel of misery. Continue Reading →

Book of Job / 1

During the last couple months, I’ve been studying The Book of Job. This amazing narrative with extended poetic passages provides us with details from the life of a “man in the land of Uz whose name was Job.” Most observers cite a similar theme for the book:  Why do the righteous suffer? I would agree that this is certainly the common template from Job’s (man’s) point of view.

FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

I’ve studied the book a number of times over the years. This time, I wanted to reflect a little deeper and try to go beyond my normal understanding of the book. As I dove into the first chapter, I noticed a sheet of note paper from a long-ago study of the book. I had written on the paper, “I alone escaped …” a phrase that’s repeated three times in the span of three verses in chapter 1 (verses 15, 16 and 17)! When I originally wrote the phrase down, I knew I intended to use it one day. Continue Reading →

The Secret of Happiness V

If this five-part series on The Secret of Happiness has taught me anything, it is that this topic is well nigh inexhaustible! So many and varied thoughts about what exactly The Secret of Happiness is. Resources available on the World Wide Web include writings from a multitude (both living and dead) and it would be difficult to digest them here.

Though much more could be explored, I’ve decided it’s time to wrap up this discussion. I’ll do so by contrasting the lives of two historical figures.

seghersjob

If anyone had reason to be unhappy, surely it was Job. The Book of Job presents his story by posing a penetrating and age-old question:  if God is a God of love and mercy, why do righteous men suffer? (You’ll want to read the book yourself, but I’ll summarize here.)

The book begins with God’s praise for Job (1:1, NASB) − he’s “blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.” Seven verses later, God adds there’s “no one like him on the earth.” High marks from the Creator, wouldn’t you agree?

But Satan scolds God:  Job wouldn’t be so righteous if he suffered loss; he’s only righteous because he’s comfortable, wealthy and enjoys every imaginable advantage. So God allows Satan to destroy Job’s comfort, wealth and advantages. Eventually, God permits Satan to inflict gross bodily pain − Job gets boils from head to toe.

Job’s friends commiserate with his distress and a dialogue ensues. The men opine about Job’s suffering; he responds. Notwithstanding God’s appraisal that Job is “blameless,” his friends insist Job’s suffering is due to sin in his life.

A fourth friend ultimately enlightens the trio of “friends,” maintaining God has permitted Job’s suffering as a means for purification, a stripping away of any vestige of self-righteousness, compelling Job to trust only God and God alone.

Through it all, Job remains steadfast, saying in 19:25 (NASB), “I know that my Redeemer lives.” He anticipates certain future vindication, even if it must come after his death. In 23:10b (NASB) Job declares, “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”

Hearkening back to the Viktor Frankl model, Job found meaning in his suffering. Happiness was never the focus.

ge_nikolai_9_court_of_king_solomon_1854Compare Job’s experiences to the life of Solomon. Again, if anyone has ever lead a charmed (and presumably happy) life, wouldn’t it be Solomon? Son of a king, then king himself, Solomon had power, wealth and great wisdom. He also had the vast pleasures of the world at his disposal. Unlike Job, Solomon didn’t lose everything (or anything); he engaged a rich life of excess and increase.

In the book attributed to his authorship (Ecclesiastes), Solomon comments on the futility of human wisdom, pleasure and wealth, and materialism, concluding in 2:17 (NASB), “I hated life … because everything is futility and striving after wind.” He goes on in 3:22 (NASB) to assert, “… nothing is better than that man should be happy in his activities …”

These seemingly contradictory statements come from a man, an ancient King of Israel, who realized life (in spite of its futility) is a gift from God that should be enjoyed to the fullest. He regards labor (work) as good and commends the pleasures of eating and drinking, but he also reminds us that life is fleeting. Read the book of Ecclesiastes to grasp both Solomon’s despair and his sagacity.

ASIDE  At the end of the book, 12:12 (RSV), I note Solomon warns his son:  “Of making many books there is not end, and much study is weariness of the flesh.” I guess I should take note of what the wise man says, huh?

Given Solomon’s wisdom, I think Ecclesiastes represents the best guide I’ve found for uncovering The Secret of Happiness. Here’s a distillation of Solomon’s wisdom-writing in Ecclesiastes:

    1. God is sovereign.
    2. Mankind is fallen.
    3. Death is certain and unavoidable … but, in the meantime,
    4. You’re alive and Life is a blessing to enjoy.

If there were a secret formula to ensure happiness, people would gladly pay to secure it. I wonder how many will take Solomon’s conclusions (free) to heart?

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