The Rev. Dr. Susan Carter preached last week. I was late putting the sermon on line! Many apologies!! (ETA In fact, this somehow ended up in my "Drafts" folder and didn't get published. So here it is, only a few months late!!!)
Pentecost XIX - Year B
Job 1:1; 2:1-10
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
Mark Chagal - JOB
The story of Job is a familiar one to many of us. Here is a man who was inflicted with all kinds of torments – from sores and loss of friends to desertion by loved ones.
If anything could go wrong with Job, it did. This was a whole lot more than a “bad hair day.”
As familiar as the story of Job is to us, it is equally as troubling. Job, by all accounts is the center of a wager between God and Satan, a pawn in a betting match.
There was no evil about him. Yet Job – who was trying desperately to scrape the sores off his body with a broken piece of a clay bowl – was little more than “skin in the game.”
He was reduced to rubbing off his many scabs with potshards.
Indeed, Satan goes beyond to suggest that anyone – everyone – will give anything to save his hide, to save her life, their own skin.
God is up to the wager, betting deity that he is, and says to Satan, “Game On. Just don’t kill Job in the process of trying to break him.”
“Very well”, says the Lord. “He is in your power; only spare his life.”
What kind of God is our God, we might ask – one who is willing to let Satan torture one of the finest – one of the best and the brightest?
Sort of makes me hope that God doesn’t think too highly of me, if that how God treats the ones favored the most.
Sometimes, we all feel like Job sitting there in the ash heap, miserable and covered with sores.
What have we done to deserve the terrible state we find ourselves in? Why has everything in our lives been upended – bouleversé as it were? Why do we find ourselves in awful straits?
Almost forty years ago Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a book titled When Bad Things Happen to Good People. It was the story of a fatal illness his child was struck with. It resonated among many of us:
Why do awful things happen to undeserving people? Why?
As much faith as Job has in God, God has that much faith in Job. Job is unwavering in his love of his God.
He was tested. He was severely challenged, and yet he came through. God willingly and knowingly let Job be stretched, but Job remained unbroken.
God had immense faith in this severely afflicted servant.
How was it that Job persevered in the face of all that Satan threw at him – round after round, episode after episode?
It is clear that Job loved God and put God above all else. He didn’t swear at God, he didn’t curse his situation.
Instead, he held tightly to his belief in God. Ultimately, he was delivered, but not before suffering extensively.
We might close the story of Job – the pawn in the skin game between Satan and God – right there.
After all, it turned out all right in the end. Job didn’t give up, God won and Satan lost. Game Over.
It was not just Job’s diehard faith though that got him through. That is a central part of his story – his ability to go forward in the face of extraordinary hardship.
Recall what God said when offering Job up for the wager? Remember God’s words?
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.
Still he persists with integrity.
God knows us and loves us. In moments of our pain, God is with us, not wishing hurt on us, but walking with us. Our love in return to our Creator is a gift we can offer.
God is telling us as well – in this story about Job – that integrity that accompanies love makes our offering an incomparable gift.
It is one thing to go through this life with its difficulties loving God.
It is, I believe, a further extension of our faithfulness, to do so with integrity – being blameless and upright. Acting with principle and honor.
Indeed, integrity is an external mark, a way to show our love for our God.
Is it any wonder that God picked Job for what must have come across as an ultimate test?
Job’s faithfulness was an inspired package of integrity wrapped in love.
Job is an inspiration for us, too.
In those moments of huge disappointment and despair, when we feel all is gone and we are lost, we can remember the way Job praised God and acted with integrity.
Job is given to us as a fine example, one we may look to, take courage from, and follow.