What is our response to suffering … a sermon on Job 1:1;2:1-10 (Year B, Proper 22)
Job’s sufferings are very well known, even outside God’s people. This book has early Hebrew ideas about how God operates, with Satan working for God, rather than against him. Everybody goes to the same place (Sheol) when they die, there is no judgement after death, so the only punishment is during this life. These ideas changed later in the OT and then dramatically in the NT.
Most of the narrative is about Job’s friends offering him ‘wisdom’ and ‘advice’ but always based on the assumption that Job has sinned, and as soon as repents, he will be healed. But in this passage, we see how it all begins.
- God – seen here as presiding like a judge in court over the reports of the angels who watch over the earth.
- Satan (the ‘Accuser’ or Prosecutor) – who seems rather too eager to perform his role.
- Job – a good and prosperous man, who has lost all his possessions (Chapter 1) and now his health (Chapter 2).
- Job’s wife – who urges him to curse God and be done with it: die.
- Is Job truly loyal to God, or is because he wants to hold onto the good things he’s got (an important lesson for rich, western Christians)?
- Would we remain loyal like Job, when stripped of everything, including our health and vigour?
I don’t know much about suffering, but I see it close by and on the TV; I also know what it is to receive well-meaning advice from ‘friends’ when in difficulties!
You will have varying degrees of direct and indirect experience of suffering. There will be no rhyme or reason to who has experienced what. But, guess what: we’re still here!
God’s answer to Job is not an argument but a revelation of his overpowering greatness and goodness. Whatever happens in life God can be relied upon. We are much better off than Job, as we have Jesus (the Defender) – now ‘we know that our Redeemer liveth’, unlike Job, who was sure that a mediator existed, but could only hope for life after death. In the face of suffering, we know God, we know salvation and we know that we are going to God after this life. Hallelujah.