If it hadn’t been St. Francis’ Day today, this would have been our Old Testament reading:
”There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.
One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.” Then Satan answered the Lord, “Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives. But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, he is in your power; only spare his life.”
So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes.
Then his wife said to him, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”
Job 1:1, 2:1-10.
The book of Job is one of my favourites! Ken Morgan, the coach of the Parish Renewal Program, says:
”it seems that God and Satan have made a different deal, a kind of ‘bet’ on Job’s faithfulness. It just doesn’t seem fair. is Job the lab rat for some kind of cosmic experiment?
Life on this planet, it would seem, is not fair. righteous sometimes suffer, the wicked sometimes prosper. doesn’t wrap up neatly like an old-time Hollywood movie where the goodie wins out and baddie bites the dust. this is still what I hope for and expect, and I still find it difficult to accept when it doesn’t turn out that way.”
This is my response:
In the great courtroom of heaven, it seems the ancient Hebrews believed the debate continued eternally. God claimed that, given freedom, humanity would ultimately choose to love their creator. It is the Satan’s (the Accuser) function, then, to eternally accuse humanity of disloyalty and failure to love God.
So Job is a symbol – a representative human being, caught in the web of human suffering, which is often undeserved.
I love the book of Job, because it has so much to say about how we struggle with theodicy, and how we have permission, and a right to argue, to wrestle, to accuse God, in order to find a way through the wilderness. These are the chisels we use to sharpen our faith, in the end…
I encourage you to have a read of Job. There is some marvellous poetry there, as well as much to ponder. Blessings.