Sunday, June 26, 2011

Scripture Sunday: The Book of Job

Job is an interesting book of the Bible because it's essentially a long case study of how God allowed one righteous man's faith to be tested. Job is a man living in the country of Uz, so he's not even Jewish, just a man that loves and serves God. The book tells us that Job has all kinds of livestock, which means that he's rich, because while today's symbols of wealth might be houses, cars, and yachts, back then a person's wherewithal was measured in camels, sheep, and cattle. In addition to his to many possessions, Job is the (apparently) proud papa of seven sons and three daughters, which is also a mark of distinction. And Job's not even one of those greedy, immoral rich guys that every one can feel morally superior to--no, his most unique trait is his holiness. Job is a good, good man and everyone knows it.

Turns out, even Satan knows how good Job is. All "the sons of God" (both angels and demons, it would seem) appear before God and God asks Satan if he has noticed Job's perfection, how there's no sin that taints him. Satan says, sure Job's righteous, but if you let me take away his stuff, he'll curse you. God says Satan can destroy everything that Job has, and Satan is very thorough. In the same day, Job loses his oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, servants, and all ten children.

After all these disasters befall him, Job speaks the very famous verse, Job 1:21--"Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord". This is an impossibly difficult thing to say, but Job manages to speak it, and I truly believe that he's right in this attitude. Loss and bereavement are so intolerable while we're experiencing them, but we rarely remember to thank the Lord for even letting us have the things and people we love in the first place. Job doesn't completely hold on to this perfectly holy attitude for long, though. His emotional condition worsens when he is struck with a painful skin disease, but he still refuses to curse God.

Job's friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar come to visit and "comfort" him, but they don't do a very good job of it. Job cries out in pain and frustration and his friends basically find diplomatic ways to say that he must have sinned badly in order for God to have punished him so. In fact, Job didn't do anything to earn his misery--the trouble befell him in order for God to make a point. In chapter 38, God himself answers Job out of a whirlwind, and asks who Job thinks he is to question God's decisions. God lists the things he has created, like the stars, the weather and the changing seasons, and he also mentions some incredible animals that some scholars believe are dinosaurs. People have tried to pass off the word leviathan as meaning "whale" or even "hippo", but the monstrous teeth and chaotic movement described in chapter 41 make Leviathan sound more like a kronosaurus:

And the Behemoth mentioned in chapter 40 has been called either an elephant or a really big ox, but its description is closer to fitting a brachiosaurus:

Anyway, as a grown-up who was obsessed with dinosaurs as a kid, I certainly like to follow these interpretations. :-)

Beyond all hope, the book of Job actually ends happily. Job and God are reconciled, God heals Job and gives him twice as much livestock and property as he owned before the big ordeal. Job even has another group of ten children, and his three daughters are so awesome, he gives them each a major inheritance. The story ends on this note: "So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning...After this lived Job an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons and his sons' sons, even four generations. So Job died, being old and full of days"(Job 42:12-17).  The moral seems to be that though the Lord's motives may be unknowable, his ultimate purpose is always one we can trust, and he loves those that love him, even when we can't perceive that love.

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