Job’s friends provide a complicated situation. At first, they just sit with him. Existing with him in his sadness. But then they began to speak.
How are your groanings today? Have you groaned loud? Have you groaned with others?
Do you hear the groaning of creation? Listen to it. Join in with it.
Creation has groaned for you and me. It has waited, patiently, for those who would be called children of God to be revealed (Romans 8:19). And we join in with its groanings as we wait, patiently, for our adoption as sons of God.
When I was in elementary school, I was in Awana. I loved memorizing verses and getting the little jewels to put in the little plastic crown when I completed sections of my Bible verse booklet. I loved the competition of seeing how many verses I could recite on Wednesday night and that of my friends.
But I love now the knowledge of Scripture I was instilled with.
When I was in Awana, many of the verses we first memorized were from the book of Romans. I assume this is because Awana is a low-church Evangelical organization, which are known for them emphasis on the “Roman’s Road” of salvation.
The faith of Abraham is mentioned multiple times in the New Testament. In Romans 4 Paul dedicates the chapter to Abraham being justified by faith. In speaking about faith and deeds James refers to the faith of Abraham shown through his obedience (James 2:23). In contrast, Paul refers to Abraham’s faith alone highlighting his righteousness (Galatians 3:6). The writer of Hebrews uses the example of Abraham’s faith and obedience when speaking of those in the Old Testament who showed their faith through action (Hebrews 11:8).
Whether we profess a faith in Jesus or not, humans like to be right. In our current cultural and political climate we have a strong polarity, each side trying to be more right than the other. But none of us can be right. None of us can be pure.
Humans need God. He is our maker. He defines righteousness and purity, not us.
In today’s Psalm the Psalmist asks the questions: “Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain?” (Psalm 15:1)
The Psalmist answers their own questions: the one who is blameless; righteous; speaks truth; does no wrong to neighbor; despises vile people; honors those who fear the Lord; keeps oaths; lends without interest; and does not accept bribes. These people, the Psalmist says, “will never be shaken” (Psalm 15:5).
I cannot help think of Job, particularly since we read the beginning of Job and the Psalm today. Job was all of these things: blameless; righteous; truth speaker; did not wrong his neighbor; despised vile people but honored those who fear God; kept his oaths; lent without interest; and did not accept bribes.
But Job became shaken.
When I was in middle school in the early 2000s, it became common to call people “fool.” I honestly cannot remember why, but it was (almost) always in jest. Except when used with parents or siblings.
If I remember correctly, we used it with our parents to demonstrate how much smarter and wiser we were than them. If we were telling our parents something about our day or explaining something that pertained to us culturally but they didn’t understand it – or asked questions about it – we would say, “you’re just a fool mom.”
There are some passages which are hard to accept. I particularly find passages about slavery, treatment of women, stoning whole families for sin, and the killing of whole people groups to be difficult. I do not know what to do with them. They do not drive me away from my faith, but they give me pause.
The book of Joshua is one which gives great difficulty, especially when I think about how it has been applied throughout history. Joshua is about conquering the Promised Land; taking that which God promised to one group (the Israelites) and taking it from those who are already there (such as the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites).
During this pandemic, especially in the early months of it, people were asking if we were in the End Times, if Jesus would be returning soon. While I am sure there are still people asking this question, particularly with the unrest that has been happening and the upcoming election, I do not believe we are in the End Times as described in Matthew, chapters 23-25. Partly because I believe most of that has already happened; that those passages were not actually describing Jesus’ second coming (see Matthew 24:34 when Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened”).
But I do agree it can be hard in the midst of the pandemic to do, to act, to move forward.
Throughout Scripture we seen a doing and undoing (or an undoing and a doing). Old Testament stories are fulfilled, completed, or answered in the New Testament. Those in the New Testament are those from the Old. For instance, Jesus is called “the new Adam” and “one greater than Moses.”
All of the experiences of Jesus’ life of being born, living a sinless life, dying, and rising again are paralleled to the Old Testament. For example, when Joseph takes Jesus and Mary to live in Egypt while Herod is seeking to kill all the infant boys and then returns after Herod’s death is the parallel of the Israelites going down to Egypt to live (Genesis 46). When Joseph brings Jesus and Mary out of Egypt to live in Nazareth, it is the parallel of the Exodus.
But there are also parallels within the Old Testament itself. A story raveled, and a story unraveled.