Job’s Christlikeness

Scripture Focus: Job 42.8-12
8 So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the Lord told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer. 
10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring. 
12 The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.

Reflection: Job’s Christlikeness
By John Tillman

Job is an early “type” or example of Jesus. He demonstrates or proves God’s righteousness through suffering and death. Like Jesus, God calls Job his servant, saying he is pleased with him and Job’s friends are told to listen to him because Job tells “the truth” about God.

Job is Christlike in righteousness, in suffering, in enduring scorn and insults, and in his eucatastrophic return to wealth and blessing. 

Job is Christlike in righteousness. Job is not completely righteous and sinless in the same way as Jesus. (In all of these categories, Job is only like Christ, not equal to him.) God never called Job an evildoer, as his friends did, but challenged him to work justice and crush evil. When Job describes righteousness, he refers to actions to set free captives and help the poor and downtrodden, as Jesus did.

Job is Christlike in suffering. Job lost the power and comforts his wealth and position gave him. Jesus chose suffering over heavenly power and poverty over riches, making himself nothing, in our likeness, obedient to death. Job did not choose this suffering. Jesus did.

Job is Christlike in enduring of scorn and insults. Reading Job sometimes feels like scrolling through the worst insults and scorn from social media. And these are Job’s friends! Jesus endured scorn on Good Friday from voices that sang “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” just a few days earlier. Jesus is the despised and rejected one.

Job is Christlike in his eucatastrophic return. God’s command prevented Satan from killing Job but everything else in Job’s life died or was lost. Then, unexpectedly, everything was restored. The second half of Job’s life was better than before. God’s command would not allow Jesus to “see corruption in the grave.” The resurrection is the ultimate eucatastrophe.

If we follow Jesus, we cannot be surprised to step into the same situations. We must step forward to enact justice and righteousness. We must step into suffering and endure scorn. We step through the valley of death, knowing that resurrection and miraculous recoveries are often just around the corner.

May pits of suffering not make us ashamed. May piles of blessings not make us complacent. Job used both for God’s glory. May we not waste opportunities to make ourselves like Christ. Like Job, may we be a type or model of Christ for our community.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
The same stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. — Psalm 118.22

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 42 (Listen – 2:41)
Psalm 56-57 (Listen – 3:11)

Read more about Deliverance Through Suffering
Through suffering, deliverance comes. Through affliction, God speaks

Read more about Unexpected Victory
There is no one whose sufficient victory is more surprising than the eucatastrophe of the cross.

The Struggle against Chaos

Scripture Focus: Job 41.1, 33
1 Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook
    or tie down its tongue with a rope? …

33 Nothing on earth is its equal—
    a creature without fear.

From John: Erin typically has been covering Wednesday but her specialty in her Master’s study included ancient near eastern mythology including chaos monsters such as mentioned in this chapter, so we switched it up. I’ve learned a lot from her. She’ll be presenting part of her research at the Southwest regional meeting for the Society of Biblical Literature on March 5, 2022, in Dallas. If you are in the area and of a scholarly persuasion, find more information at this link or register to attend here.

Reflection: The Struggle against Chaos
By Erin Newton

Chaos seems to be everywhere. Mobs overpowering a building. Countries poised for invasion. Cancer cells riddling a body. Christians tearing down the dignity of another. One of the thoughts we struggle with is the idea that all the events of life are haphazardly occurring, without meaning, spinning out of control.

Job’s life has been a tumultuous journey. His plea that God would hear him has been answered in a whirlwind. A steady inquisition about the creation has rained down. Where were you when…? Do you know how…? Who can do this…? Each question implies that God alone is able and Job is merely mortal. Then two mysterious creatures enter the scene. The land beast, Behemoth, and the sea-loving Leviathan become the conclusion of God’s response.

Leviathan has a coat of armor, a mouth ringed with teeth, snorting and breathing fire, incredibly powerful, and without equal. God warns that if you lay a hand on it, you will remember the struggle and never do it again! Some view this creature as a crocodile. Others prefer to look at the dragon-like features and recognize its mythic characteristics.

This dragon, or sea-serpent, is known as a chaos monster. The use of this imagery is a common ancient feature embodying a world lost in confusion and disarray. It is that which strikes fear in the hearts of people. It is that which threatens the peace, joy, and safety of men and women. For the ancient world around Israel, chaos monsters were those that could kill their deity and send unending famine to the world.

How can God comfort Job by talking about such a beast? How can Leviathan be the answer God gives to someone who suffers?

The rhetorical questions show the superiority and authority of God. The dragon is under the control of God, caught by a hook begging for mercy. It is both created and doomed for destruction (Psalm 104, Isaiah 27). The beast of chaos cannot stir the world into disorder because he is held on a leash by God.

We still feel the effects of chaos in the world. Disorder lurks beneath the surface of our daily lives. But there is hope: “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor 4.8-9). No purpose of God’s can be thwarted.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea-monsters and all deeps;
Fire and hail, snow and fog, tempestuous wind, doing his will;
Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars;
Wild beasts and all cattle, creeping things and winged birds;
Kings of the earth an all peoples, princes and all rulers of the world;
Young men and maidens, old and young together.
Let them praise the Name of the Lord, for his name only is exalted, his splendor is over earth and heaven.
He has raised up strength for his people and praise for all his loyal servants, the children of Israel, a people who are near him. Hallelujah! — Psalm 148.6-14

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 41 (Listen – 3:03)
Psalm 55 (Listen – 2:43)

Read more about an Unobligated God
God does not owe us salvation and forgiveness. But thank God that he pays debts that he does not owe.

Read more about Anxious Nights Between Destruction and Chaos
From the chaos of the sea and the wilderness wind, God brings order and a highway to salvation.

God’s Sufficient Justice

Scripture Focus: Job 40.6-14
6 Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm: 
7 “Brace yourself like a man; 
I will question you, 
and you shall answer me. 
8 “Would you discredit my justice? 
Would you condemn me to justify yourself? 
9 Do you have an arm like God’s, 
and can your voice thunder like his? 
10 Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor, 
and clothe yourself in honor and majesty. 
11 Unleash the fury of your wrath, 
look at all who are proud and bring them low, 
12 look at all who are proud and humble them, 
crush the wicked where they stand. 
13 Bury them all in the dust together; 
shroud their faces in the grave. 
14 Then I myself will admit to you 
that your own right hand can save you.

From John: This re-edited reflection from 2020, reminds us that children of God are expected to work justice on the Earth.

Reflection: God’s Sufficient Justice

By John Tillman

God dares Job to dress himself in splendor and work justice in the Earth by his own power. This may have seemed uniquely personal to Job. To use today’s vernacular, Job probably felt attacked. God’s challenge referred to Job’s earlier speeches and claims.

Job described dressing in a turban and robe that would proclaim his status and power. He claimed to have struck fear in the hearts of the wicked and to have carried out justice. (Job 29.7-17

Job was “the greatest among the people of the East.” (Job 1.1-4) This may have meant Job was a chieftain or king, but even if not, he was as wealthy as one and equally responsible for the carrying out of justice in his community. 

Earlier, in Heaven, God defended Job’s righteousness, but here, he seems unsatisfied. So, is Job righteous or not? 

Like many heroes of faith in scripture, we can point to much earthly good in Job’s life to emulate. But like all of them, Job’s earthly actions are insufficient to claim righteousness before God. 

Humans are capable of a certain level of justice and we are responsible before God to bring about justice. Justice comes first in Micah’s three-point list of what God requires: do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly. (Micah 6.8)

Job was arguably the most righteous person to ever live in scripture. Yet, scripture is clear that even the righteousness, or justice, of Job is as filthy rags compared to God’s glorious justice. Even the best of human justice is tainted. God still calls for it. 

Being righteous before other humans is easy. We just have to be slightly less evil at heart than the next guy. But when God is the next guy, on our best day, we have no chance of being righteous in our own power. We, like Job, are simply incapable. We must simply cover our mouths, and throw ourselves on the mercy of God.

Because human justice is incomplete and imperfect some are apathetic, or even opposed, to pursuing justice on Earth. Some even call seeking justice anti-gospel. This is misguided, to say the least. 

“Thy will be done on Earth” is a prayer for God’s justice by God’s power, not our own. When we act on this prayer, we will find Christ working with us, imputing God’s sufficient righteousness and justice to us.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight. — Psalm 119.174

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 40 (Listen – 4:55)
Psalm 52-54 (Listen – 3:18)

Read more about Justice to Wormwood
Justice is very much the business of people of faith and when people ignore it or frustrate it…God notices.

Read more about Justice of God
Miroslav Volf writes that In order to maintain non-violence, we need a belief that God will act in vengeance on behalf of victims.

Prayers Before the Storm — Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: Job 37.22-24
22 Out of the north he comes in golden splendor; 
God comes in awesome majesty. 
23 The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power; 
in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress. 
24 Therefore, people revere him, 
for does he not have regard for all the wise in heart?”

Reflection: Prayers Before the Storm — Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Elihu’s speech soars to its conclusion with a reflection on the beauty, power, and mysterious majesty of God.

Some interpreters have implied that Elihu’s speech is interrupted by God’s arrival in the storm. (Job 38.1) However, it seems to me that Elihu must have been aware of the storm of God’s presence blowing at his back and his final poetic lines announce God’s presence. The downdraft of a rising cumulonimbus supercell was likely licking at Elihu’s robes as he spoke. 

Elihu says his “heart pounds and leaps from its place…” Elihu’s voice cried in the wilderness, announcing the soaking downpour of speech that God was about to unleash. I imagine the winds lifting his words as he spoke of God’s majesty in storms, winds, and other powers beyond our understanding.

Let us pray heart-pounding prayers, crying out about God’s greatness. Let us announce his presence. Let us be awash in the downpour of his presence in the storm.

Pray this prayer of wonder inspired by Elihu’s speech:

Prayers Before the Storm
We pray, Lord, standing before the storm of your presence.
The life you sustain within us stirs, our hearts pound rushing blood through our bodies
Our breath gasps, taking in the freshness of the oncoming storm
The sudden coldness of the downdraft…
The enlivening smell of rain on the wind…

A cumulonimbus pillar of cloud moves toward us
Towering in royal power like a queen over a chessboard
Your voice thunders in marvelous ways we don’t understand
Hold nothing back when you thunder and speak.
We drop our defenses.
We rely on your mercy alone.

You are not like a human king.
Despite your great power, you do not oppress
Unlike man-made gods, you do not despise our weakness
You are as tender with us as with the newborn fawns you watch and the wild donkeys you set free. (Job 39.1-8)
You regard us with love from the height of the storm
You sweep in on the wind, condemning our accuser and silencing our pride

May the echoes of your voice break rocks in every canyon and arroyo
May the refreshing snows and rain cover and wash our gullies and ditches
May the weak be protected and the powerful be warned
May the proud be struck and shaken
While the humble stand on a firm place
A foundation you provide that withstands winds and rushing waters

May we cry in the wilderness before you, announcing your mercy.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Come, let us sing to the Lord…For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. — Psalm 95.1,3

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 37 (Listen – 2:27)
Psalm 49 (Listen – 2:10)

This Weekend’s Readings
Job 38 (Listen – 3:33), Psalm 50 (Listen – 2:26)
Job 39 (Listen – 2:47), Psalm 51 (Listen – 2:19)

Read more about On Keeping Vigil
You have descended upon me, with great gentleness, with most forbearing silence, in this inexplicable night, dispersing light, defeating all desire. — Thomas Merton

Read more about Faith After the Storm
Jesus standing and commanding the storm is intimidating and disturbing. He is no longer the servile employee behind the desk of God’s complaint department.

Deliverance Through Suffering

Scripture Focus: Job 36.15-17
15 But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; 
he speaks to them in their affliction. 
16 “He is wooing you from the jaws of distress 
to a spacious place free from restriction, 
to the comfort of your table laden with choice food. 
17 But now you are laden with the judgment due the wicked; 
judgment and justice have taken hold of you.

Reflection: Deliverance Through Suffering
By John Tillman

Elihu is confident that God has good intentions for people’s lives no matter the circumstances. Elihu explained that even the wicked who experienced God’s judgment were being wooed by God. The suffering in their lives was a warning of future judgment to come. Its purpose was to prevent future suffering. God is an earnest and longing lover, calling to the estranged and unfaithful to return to love and safety.

Elihu lists many events or actions that people may suffer from and how even the worst of these can be redeemed by God and used for his good purposes. This is consistent with the rest of the Bible. The Bible, from cover to cover, demonstrates that God turns what is intended for evil into good.

The prologue of Job makes it clear that Job is righteous—beyond suspicion or reproach. Yet, as the righteous one, he suffers by God’s sovereign purpose. Job suffers so that God’s righteousness can be preserved and proved. Job’s suffering overturns the arguments of the accuser, Satan. Job also provides a miraculous demonstration of God’s righteousness on Earth, overturning the misunderstandings his philosophizing friends. Because of Job’s suffering, God’s presence is manifested on Earth. In God’s answer to Job, God reveals that he is more intimately involved in creation and our lives than ever we imagined.

Job’s entire community was affected by his suffering. All who knew Job learned something new about God. All were humbled and drawn closer to God, including Job. Even the struggle of his friends to understand what had happened and Job’s striving with them in debate was (and is) used by God. They learn that what they need is not more self-righteousness, more rules, more truisms, but a closer relationship with God.

Ultimately, we lack the perspective in our lives to always be able to see the purpose of our suffering. Is our suffering a warning? Perhaps. Is God asking us to change something? Perhaps. Will our suffering be instrumental in learning something about God that can be learned no other way? Perhaps. Will seeing our suffering warn others, or woo them to consider Christ? Perhaps. 

We must humbly ask for wisdom to glimpse this perspective, being gentle with one another as we seek him. Through suffering, deliverance comes. Through affliction, God speaks. (Job 36.15)

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Bow down your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and in misery.
Keep watch over my life, for I am faithful; save your servant who puts his trust in you. — Psalm 86.1-2

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 36 (Listen – 3:04)
Psalm 48 (Listen – 1:28)

Read more about Learning from the Suffering
May we be gracious to those in crises of faith, not treating them as enemies…we may have something to learn from them about God.

Read more about Fruitful in Suffering
We can be fruitful in the land of our suffering, not by our own cleverness, craft, or scheming, but by the Holy Spirit.