Thursday, February 9, 2017

Day 9 Job suffers and the annoying skinny gate

Job 1-2 and Matthew 7

Today we take a break from Genesis and enter the world of Job. His story is one of have it all lose it all and familiar to many. We also continue with Matthew, finishing up the Sermon on the Mount.

Job 1

This book has two settings, the throne room of heaven and the earthly realm. God is in his heavens and is visited by the heavenly beings, including the accuser, called Satan in some translations. It is important for us to read this not as a first hand account of what happened in heaven and earth, but as a narrative explanation of the age-old question "Why do bad things happen to good people."
This opening prologue talks about a righteous man who has been very successful. Job praises God, prays for his children, and leads an upright life. God is pleased. But the accuser says that Job would not be faithful without all of his blessings. God takes the bet and allows Job to lose all that he has been blessed to hold.
I struggle with the idea of God and Satan placing bets on the outcome of our spiritual lives when our earthly lives are put through trauma. This seems heartless and cruel for both parties. As a literary device I get it, but as a characteristic of God it seems contrary to the witness of a loving God in the whole of scripture.
How would you react to losing all that you held dear? I am amazed that Job stands upright and can claim a faith in God through this series of unfortunate events. I would hope to have such faith and conviction, but pray to never be tested in such a manner.

Job 2

We are returned to the throne room of God, which in my imagination is beginning to look more and more like a man-cave. God again points to Job as a faithful man. Satan says he is only faithful because he is still healthy. God agrees to let Job suffer physically, as long as he does not die. 
I am an able bodied woman who has very few medical issues. I cannot for a moment begin to understand what constant pain and sores might do to a persons whole being. Job's suffering is so great that when his friends come to visit they do not recognize him. Now that I is something I can understand.
I have walked with people through grief, loss, illness and pain. I have been to visit people who physically or spiritually no longer resemble who I once knew. There are times when I myself have felt torn apart by grief and loss that I do not recognize myself. And this is where the book of Job begins to speak to me personally. In the visiting of these friends, who stay silent and keep watch with Job for seven days and seven nights, I see the witness of the community of faith surrounding one another. Sometimes a ministry of presence is the best thing to offer.

Matthew 7

The Sermon on the Mount is concluded in this chapter of Matthew. The teachings found in this chapter are ones I remember plainly from Sunday School. Before worrying about your brother's blind spots, check your own.No pearls before swine. Ask, seek, knock. The golden rule. Jesus' skinny gate (a Sunday School teacher once mentioned that overweight people would not be able to enter heaven because of the skinny gate). Good fruit= Good tree. 
I think they might be reduced in my memory to bumper sticker style slogans rather than life-giving words. Reading these words with Job has helped jar my thinking.
  • Where have I let my own notions of what should be, and should not be, keep me from really seeing the world as my brother sees?
  • What keeps us both from seeing what Jesus sees?
  • What have a thrown before unworthy people, causes, things and then been surprised at its ruin?
  • Am I asking, seeking and knocking or just talking about it?
  • Am I doing unto others at all, let alone as I would want them to do unto me?  
  • When am I choosing the easy path because it is easy? Where do I dare to squeeze into the narrow path?
  • What kind of fruit tree am I really? Are my fruits shiny on the outside, but full of emptiness or self-serving?
  • Do I claim to follow Jesus, but never check his directions?
  • Is my life built on the Christ, or am I trusting in another's faith to hold me strong? (This particularly challenges me as it compares to the idea of Job's children sitting in a house feasting together when the wind blows it down. Did they rely on their father's faith rather than claiming a life of righteousness for themselves?)
What challenges are you facing with these passages? Where are you being stretched?

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