Thursday, February 16, 2017

Day 16: Job Questions God and Jesus offers rest

Day 16

Job 20-21 & Matthew 11

The readings for today contain questions from Job and words of challenge and rest from Jesus. Job continues to debate with his so-called-friends about his lot in life. Jesus continues to prepare people for the reality of his ministry on earth.

Job 20

This chapter begins with Zophar once more challenging Job. He does not believe that Job is innocent. It doesn't make sense to him. The way Zophar sees the world is very similar to today's "prosperity Gospel", the idea that God will bless those who believe and punish those who do not. This line of thinking leads to the ultimate question, why do bad things happen to good people? Zophar cannot imagine that the events of Job's life were anything other than the judgement of God for some hidden sin. His words sound harsh to us, but he is trying to get his friend to confess and therefore find relief from his suffering.
We must remember that Job and his friends were not privy to the earlier conversations in the throne room. They do not know that the evil one is tormenting Job, not God. From their earthly perspective they do not see how these acts could be anything other than punishment.

Job 21

Job begins to take God to trial in this passage. He cannot fathom this reason behind his suffering and begs God to relent, even if that means turning God's eyes from Job. In our moments of suffering it is easy to put God on trial. "If God had been there, my baby would have lived." "If God was a loving God, I wouldn't have cancer." "If God cared at all, children would not be starving." These questions are harsh, hard to hear and hard to respond to with integrity.
I do not believe that God causes us to suffer. I do believe, however, that we are not always kept from the consequences of sin, be it ours or other peoples. With this view the questions above change focus. "God was there when my baby died. What comfort can I find in that truth?" "God loves me, how can I find God's love as I battle cancer?" "God care for us all, but God told us to love one another. Why are some throwing away food while others are starving? Why are the prosperous not helping those in need?"

Matthew 11

The previous chapter in Matthew tells about the sending out of the disciples. Chapter 11 deals with John's disciples questioning Jesus' identity and with Jesus explaining that his kingdom will be very different. John sends his followers to find out if Jesus is the one. John is in prison for preaching that the Messiah was coming. Jesus reassures John and his followers. He tells them to tell John what they have seen. They have been witnesses to the miracles Jesus has performed. They have heard his teachings with their own ears. They are now to take the spirit of wisdom with them as they interpret these actions.
Jesus ends this section by talking about rest. In a busy, constantly moving world these words are hopeful. But, I do not think they mean what we think they mean. Jesus offers rest, yes, but rest does not mean an absence of doing anything. Jesus doesn't say "follow me and you will live your lives sitting on a beach enjoying cocktails." Rest is the ability to be reassured. Rest is trusting that someone else is in control. Rest is the absence of struggle, struggle for power, struggle for your voice to be heard, struggle for your place in the sun. The kingdom we are called to is one in which we can rest from our constant seeking to be on the top. A place where we seek to serve one another in love, instead of subjecting one another.

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