October 26, 2012
Excerpt from Job 26:1-14
"Then Job answered Bildad the Shuhite, 'How you have helped one who has no power!. . .How you have counseled one who has no wisdom, and given much good advice!'"
Reflection by Talitha Arnold
On first glance, Job's answer to his friend Bildad seems to reinforce the stereotypical image of the long-suffering man of Uz - patient, thankful for any crumb of mercy, willing to accept what misery came his way.
Hogwash - to use a good theological term. As today's text illustrates, Job was anything but patient, either with his friends or the Almighty. Job's answer to Bildad actually drips with sarcasm, and with good reason.
Like Job's other friends, Bildad argues that Job's misfortune has to be his fault. "How can a mortal be righteous before God?" he asks. "If even the stars are not pure in God's sight, how much less a mortal, who is a maggot, and a human being, who is a worm?"
Not the most pastoral approach to someone sitting on a dung heap, probably covered in maggots and picking off worms. With friends like Job's who needs enemies?
As he has done throughout the friends' discourses on his suffering, Job refuses to accept their theology. He may not understand why terrible things have happened in his life, but he rejects their explanation that he either deserves such suffering or that God has willed it.
Job stands his ground with Bildad and his other "friends." In his frustration with their pat answers, he offers a far greater understanding of the power and mystery we call God.
Patience may not have been Job's forte. Profound faithfulness certainly was.
Give us the courage, God, to not accept easy answers for why things happen. Give us the strength to hang in with you even when it's confusing or hard. Amen.
About the Author
Talitha Arnold is Senior Minister of the United Church of Santa Fe (UCC), Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the author of Worship for Vital Congregations, published by The Pilgrim Press.
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