If you only knew Job from the first two chapters of this book, which we read last week, you not only would be getting a partial picture of this character, but you’d also question whether he was even human or not. He handles those first two chapters, with all the tragedy that befell him, like a champ! At the end of chapter one the author writes, “In all this, Job didn’t sin or blame God.” I don’t know about you but if all that had happened to me, you better believe that God and I are gonna have words! I would be sitting God down to have a come to Jesus moment! But not Job, he remains as steadfast as ever! Well, at least in those first two chapters. However, if you were listening very closely last week, there was a clue that Job’s steadfastness was already beginning to falter. You may have missed it but at the end of chapter two, Job ends very similarly to the way he ended chapter one. But instead of saying, “In all this, Job didn’t sin or blame God”, this time the author writes, “In all this, Job didn’t sin with his lips.” Job goes from not sinning at all, to not sinning with his lips. I can’t imagine this being a trivial detail. That had to be on purpose. That was the author’s way of saying, Job is not doing as well as he appears on the outside. Inside, he’s breaking. And break he did.
Chapter three opens with someone finally opening their mouths to speak. They had been sitting in silence for seven days and seven nights and now someone speaks. Being the friends they are, they allow Job to speak first, and when he does, we hear just how broken he really is. His brokenness erupts from deep within, no longer can it be contained, nor, as it seems, can it be controlled. Graphic this description may be, but vomit is the best way I can express what Job does with all that has been festering within him for the past seven days and nights. His friends allow him to have his moment, they allow him to vent, to get it all out, or so they thought. But I can only imagine the look on their faces as he does so, as they realize just how much of a dark place that Job has fallen into. And please hear me when I say that I don’t judge him for this. He just lost nearly everything he held dear: his wealth, his possessions, his children, his health. Who could blame him for falling into such a dark place? And dark it was.
After Job has had his say, for now, one of his friends, Eliphaz, finally speaks up, and you can’t help but feel how not only confused but also frustrated he is with Job. Confused because, as Eliphaz tells Job, “you’ve instructed many and given strength to drooping hands. Your words have raised up the falling; you’ve steadied failing knees. But now it comes to you, and you are dismayed; it has struck you, and you are frightened?” We unfortunately don’t know a whole lot about Job and what he actually did in his own local community but it sounds to me like he had done some serious ministry for the people in his community, that he has been a source of support and encouragement and spiritual leadership for his community! If I didn’t know better I’d think he had some kind of pastoral role there. Whatever kind of ministry he was doing, it wasn’t helping him now, which is what was confusing Eliphaz. In his mind all Job had to do was follow the advice that Job had given to so many other people! But anyone in any kind of ministry knows, and that includes you dear listener, that it doesn’t really work that way does it? Helpers need just as much help as anyone else! Pastors need just as much pastoring as anyone else! Friends need just as much friendship as they give out.
Eliphaz goes on to give two chapters worth of less then helpful advice. He tells Job, God love him, he tells Job to just rely on his religion and integrity to see him through this. But Job is tapped out! Job is beyond running on fumes here, he’s got nothing left in the tank! He’s done with all that! He’s done! Eliphaz goes on tell him that innocent people don’t perish and the sinful will reap what they sow but that’s not the reality that Job is sitting in and if I were Job I would have thrown Eliphaz out of his ash heap right then and there. How dare Eliphaz say that when the smoke of death and destruction still hangs in the air! I don’t know what Eliphaz did but I sure hope he wasn’t in any kind of ministry!
Job listens to Eliphaz for two chapters but can no longer remain quiet. Our final selection for today sees Job speak up once again, only this time, he’s ready to talk to God. And he does not hold back! He and God have words finally, and if you had any doubts before, now we know for certain that he is not doing as well as we had thought last week! All his emotions come pouring out once again, but now they are directed straight at God: all his anger, all his frustration, all his confusion, all his disappointment. And I must say, a lot of it comes out with a healthy dose of sassiness and sarcasm! If I ever sassed my parents the way that Job sasses God here, well let’s just say I’d be walking around with a pillow for my bum to sit on for a week! Job gets so sassy here that he makes a mockery of the eighth Psalm, but we can talk more about that on Wednesday evening at our online Bible discussion. God just let’s Job get it all out, for now. God will certainly have some words of God’s own to share later, and might I add, some sassiness too.
Here is what I appreciate about these readings for today. None of this is about who is right and who is wrong. None of this is about getting answers. None of this is about trying to figure out why these tragedies have fallen on Job. That’s not what this part of the story is about. It’s about Job naming his pain, out loud, to the one that he suspects is the cause of it—God. Job believes that there is a case to be made here, against God, and he thinks he’s got a good case! But again, whether he does or not isn’t the point here. The point here is naming the pain, giving your pain some legs to walk with, a voice to scream with, some fingers to point with. And that is grace in my book. That may be the most merciful thing God could have done in that moment, allowing Job to name his pain and even point his finger at God.
I think this is a crucial step in any relationship. Allowing each other to name their pain, and point their fingers, even if, especially if, the end of that finger is pointed at us. How else can forgiveness and reconciliation and peace happen in a relationship, whether that be the relationship between two individuals or two groups of people. We have to be allowed to name our pain and point our fingers. And again, this is not about who is wrong and who is right because as I’m sure many of you know, often times we point our fingers and end up realizing we were wrong but you can’t come to that conclusion unless you’re allowed to make your case. But when we’re not even allowed to do that, that’s when relationships begin to fall apart. Now, keep in mind this is only part two of a five part series on this book of Job. But for now, I wanted us to take a moment and see the beauty and necessity of Job making his case, of pointing his finger, of naming his pain, because the same God that allowed that then, allows that today. May we allow it with others, in the hope and promise that it will bring forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace in our relationships, in our communities, and in our world. Thanks be to God. Amen.