Tuesday 27 January 2015

Bible Book:

Job 1:6 – 2:10 Tuesday 27 January 2015

Psalm: Psalm 89:1-18


Although much of the Bible is presented as a fly-on-the-wallaccount of proceedings, it's hard to imagine how we could be a flyon this particular wall of the heavenly court. Clearly, the authorof Job did not sneak in and eavesdrop on the conversation in whichGod and Satan discussed Job, to whom God points as an exemplar of a"blameless and upright man" (Job 1:8). The author cannot have heardGod give permission for Satan to take away all that Job had, totest whether Job's piety was only the result of gratitude for hiscomfortable lifestyle and vast riches (see Job1:2-3).

Sections of the Bible like this scene in the heavenly court maynot be a literal historical account - but they are a vehicle forexploring greater truths of a different kind. As Dumbledoreresponds (in J K Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)when asked by Harry whether a vision is real or only in his mind,"Of course it is happening inside your head… but why on earthshould that mean it is not real?"

The author of Job is exploring the great question of how and whya benevolent, all-powerful God can allow evil and suffering in theworld (this exploration is called 'theodicy'). In this passagealone, Job loses his children, his livestock, his servants and hishealth, and we are left with the question: why? Many theories areexplored in the Bible - here, that Job's suffering is the result ofa wager between God and Satan. Of course, no great resolution isgiven to this great question by the end of the book of Job - andyet the story as a whole is far from unsatisfactory. In his bookStudying the Old Testament (London, Epworth Press,1979), Harry McKeating suggests that "The answer to thisanomaly is that the problem of suffering is not the main issue forJob. It is only the way into the main issue. His problem is: Howcan I go on believing in God? … His answer… is the answer ofreligious experience. He can go on believing because he has met Godfor himself. This being so, the problem of suffering can be left onone side… Job still cannot answer it, but he can live with it,because he has met God, and knows God and trusts God."

To Ponder

  • Today is HolocaustMemorial Day, when we recall a time of great suffering andloss. We are still without a satisfactory answer to the question ofwhy God allows such pain and destruction, but like Job, we areinvited to meet with and to trust in God. How do you answer whenasked "why do bad things happen to good people"?
  • How do you respond to sections of the Bible that are unlikelyto be a factual account of events for which the author waspresent?

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