R U M O R S # 572
Ralph Milton’s E-zine for people of faith with a sense of humor
October 18, 2009
THE IMPATIENCE OF JOB
"A merry heart doeth good, like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones." (Proverbs 17:22 KJV)
Please put this “blog” address on your “favorites” list. http://ralphmiltonsrumors.blogspot.com/
I post each issue of Rumors on that blog so that you can access it any time. And if an issue of Rumors goes missing, you can go and find it there. And if you need back issues, that’s where to find ‘em.
The Story – why do bad things happen?
Rumors – blind folks who see
Soft Edges – the gentle giant
Bloopers – a minion or a minyan?
We Get Letters – what to tell a nine-year-old
Mirabile Dictu! – supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
Bottom of the Barrel – they walked where they went
Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – Job 42:1-6, 10-17
Extra Resource – Jim’s irreverent paraphrase of the Job story
Stuff – (read this only if you would like to subscribe, unsubscribe or are wondering about permissions. That sort of boring stuff.)
Rib Tickler – This from Jim Spinks.
In Sunday school little Kathy was drawing a Nativity picture. There were Mary and Joseph, shepherds and wise men. "What's that in the corner Kathy?" asked the teacher. "That's their TV, of course," replied Kathy.
Next Week’s Readings – These are the readings you may hear in church this coming Sunday, October 25th, which is Proper 25 .
* Job 42:1-6, 10-17 or Jeremiah 31:7-9
* Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22) or Psalm 126
* Hebrews 7:23-28
* Mark 10:46-52
The Story (from the Revised Common Lectionary) – Job 42:1-6, 10-17.
This is a somewhat longer issue of Rumors because it offers more resources on the Job story. The Reader’s Theatre offers a short summary of the story which could be used even if you don’t do the Reader’s Theatre thing. And following that is a short paraphrase of the Job story by Jim Taylor – short but still 15 minutes long if you were to use all of it.
Jim says –
We’ve been avoiding the Job story for the last four weeks, because the friends’ speeches about sin make Mahmoud Ahmadinejad look concise. But the story deserves to be told. How? Tell it – don’t read it!
How Job ended up in his miserable predicament (Chapters 1 and 2) is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter whether God and Satan played dice with Job’s fate, or whether he just happened to be around when the Wall Street of his time had an economic collapse.
Forget the cause – the important thing in Job is the falsity of the conventional conceptions offered as explanations:
1. God must be doing this for a good reason.
2. This can’t be unjust punishment, because that would make God unjust.
3. Punishment proves you must have done something wrong.
Now, aren’t those same ideas still being voiced? People who go through a mental breakdown, who get cancer or MS, are still looked at with suspicion – they must have done something to deserve this... You lost your pension; your investments crashed? You must have done something stupid... Your marriage failed? Which of you was playing around?
The end of the story was probably tacked on to provide a Hollywood ending. But it does make a point: as a result of his experiences, Job violated the cultural norms of his day. The Bible records the names of his daughters but not, interestingly, of his sons. And the daughters shared equally in his inheritance – an exceptional occurrence for those times.
Ralph says –
The reason it is important to hear the story of Job is because it helps us articulate a fundamentally human question. Why is it that “bad things happen to good people,” as Rabbi Harold Kushner asks so well in his little book?
The Book of Job doesn’t answer the question, but it does help us come to grips with it. We can all think of real scum bags who do very well and become very wealthy. And we all know genuinely good people who have never had two nickels to rub together. We think of ourselves when bad things happen and wonder what we have done to deserve this. And we know that the saying, “God never gives us more than we can handle,” is nonsense. We know people who have been totally destroyed by what has happened to them.
On the recent best-seller lists is a book called, “The Shack,” by Wm. Paul Young who approaches the question from another angle. Like my friend Julian of Norwich, he offers what seems like a simplistic response but which is deeply profound. The book has become a best seller, not because it is so well designed and written (it isn’t) but because it does a good job of helping us understand human suffering and God’s response.
God is love. God has created a world in which pain and sorrow and death are constant realities. And into that world God comes with love. The power and the weakness of love.
The story of Job flatly contradicts the idea that if you are totally faithful to God nothing bad will happen to you. Everything bad happens to Job and he is totally faithful.
I read what I have just written and I realize how grossly inadequate and facile it is. I hope you can do better.
Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22) – paraphrased by Jim Taylor
1 I will speak only good of my God;
I will not let a critical thought off my tongue.
2 For God has been good to me.
That is the good news I want you to know.
4 Yes, I have suffered like you.
I have known grief, and loss, and pain;
I have wondered where my next meal would come from,
and I have asked myself if anyone cared.
6 But through it all, God has been good to me.
3 As we have shared in these experiences,
so let us share in giving the glory to God.
5 Put your hand in the hand of God,
and walk forward with confidence;
Turn your face towards God, and see clearly.
7 For though God will not, with a snap of the fingers,
turn all your troubles around,
God will, miraculously, put them into perspective;
God will make your mountains into molehills,
and your elephants into ants.
8 Trust, and see.
God makes a difference.
God is good.
From: Everyday Psalms
Wood Lake Publications.
For details, go to www.woodlakebooks.com
Hebrews 7:23-28 – It shows a gap in my understanding, that I can’t quite see the need for the exalting of Jesus as High Priest. That may be because I’ve been raised and nurtured in a very low-church background. But I’ve had the privilege of friendship with Roman Catholics and Anglo Catholics for whom the concept is deeply and profoundly significant and so I’m not prepared to write off this passage just because I don’t understand it.
Mark 10:46-52 – Does the story of blind Bartimaeus add anything to our understanding of the “why” about pain and suffering and horror? Perhaps Jesus’ immediate and total response might be a clue. It sent me to look up a quote from W.A. Tozer which Young offers in “The Shack.”
“An infinite God can give all of Himself [sic] to each of His children. He does not distribute Himself that each may have a part, but to each one He gives all of Himself as fully as if there were no others.”
For children see “The Lectionary Story Bible, Year B.” It offers the story of Blind Bartimaeus on page 218. The story of Job, in a version that might be useful to both children and adults, is also found in Year B, on page 205.
There are children’s stories for every Sunday in the Revised Common Lectionary, in “The Lectionary Story Bible,” by yours truly. The marvellous illustrations are by Margaret Kyle. There’s at least one story for each Sunday, usually two, and occasionally three. Click the main Wood Lake Publications website at www.woodlakebooks.com, or click on the following address which takes you directly to the “Lectionary Story Bible.”
Or, if you live in Canada or the US, simply pick up the phone and dial 1 800 663 2775.
Rumors – When the lector reads the Blind Bartimaeus passage on Sunday, the congregation probably will not burst out laughing at the humor of it. But something smells funny about this story, so a bit of good-natured poking around might be fun.
Blind beggars were not exactly at the top of the social ladder in Jesus’ day. Bartimaeus was not on the “must invite” list of the social climbers in Jericho.
But just a minute. Peter names Jesus as the Messiah at Caesarea Philippi, and a few evil spirits know about his Messiahship, but this blind beggar is the first one to publically name Jesus as “Son of David,” which is what any aspiring Messiah would be known as.
And for this, Bartimaeus is told to shut his face. But as Alfred Doolittle told Professor Higgins, it is only middle class folks who can afford morality and manners. Bartimaeus has neither. All he has is his need, so keeps on yelling. And yelling.
So Jesus takes a deep breath and goes over to him. “OK, relax buddy. What do you want?”
“I want to see!”
Just a minute now. Let’s get this straight. The only one of the public who has the wit and wisdom to see that Jesus is the Messiah, says to this same Messiah, “I want to see.”
Where did he get this? Bartimaeus had not gone to the Synagogue library to check all the cross references in the holy books to see if Jesus was the Messiah. Blind beggars don’t often spend much time in expensive libraries.
Nor would Bartimaeus have high level discussions with the Scribes and Pharisees in the Temple courts. He wasn’t invited to their Bible study group.
How did he know? Well, he didn’t “know.” He took a flying leap, or he was trying to flatter Jesus or he had the gift of clairvoyance or he had an insight or God spoke to him. Take your pick.
One way or another he had the “sight” to see what nobody else could see. Once again God chuckles and reveals the holy through babes and beggars and bastards and buffoons.
And those of us who read a lot of books and even occasionally write a few just have to stand back, scratch our heads bald and notice that the folks we’ve just told to shut up; the ones we’ve out-argued or out-voted at church meetings, or the ones we’ve managed to ignore on the street corner, these are the “blind” folks who somehow see.
Soft Edges – by Jim Taylor
The Gentle Giant
Wotan lives down the road from us. Wotan is a horse. At 20 years old, he still stands 18 hands tall. That puts him in some exclusive company. The Guinness Book of World Records lists the world’s tallest horse at just over 20 hands high (a “hand” measures four inches). But that horse died a year ago. The current claimant for the title is an Ontario Clydesdale named Poe, at 20.2 hands tall.
Regardless, Wotan is a very big horse. I stand 5’8” tall, and I have to look up at Wotan’s back.
The name Wotan is a variant spelling for Wodin, or Odin, the Norse god often depicted riding a huge eight-legged horse into battle.
Despite his size, this Wotan is amazingly gentle. He canters up to the fence when I come by, offering his head and neck for a quick rub. He could, if he wished, effortlessly kick the slats out of his fence, but he doesn’t.
For most of my life, I admit, I’ve been a little afraid of horses.
Once, when I was about eight, I saw a horse kick a man. I don’t know if the horse had a bad temper, or if the man had mistreated his mount. But as the man passed behind the horse on a mountain trail, the horse coiled up both hind legs and struck out. Its hooves caught the man squarely in the chest and catapulted him right off the trail and down the slope below.
He must have had several broken ribs. Perhaps more. I didn’t stay to watch. I ran from the scene as fast as an eight-year-old’s legs could carry me.
Later in life, I took a group of Scouts to visit the police stables at Sunnybrook Park in Toronto. I mentioned that incident to the sergeant guiding us around, as an explanation for my fears.
“They’re just so powerful,” I said.
He looked surprised. “They are,” he agreed, as the horse behind him snuffled his ear. “Fortunately, they don’t know it.”
Most of our images of power and strength come from two sources – monarchy and military.
So we think, perhaps, of Henry VIII, executing wives for failing to produce a male heir to the throne. Or of Emperor Nero, burning tarred Christians as torches for his garden parties.
Lewis Carroll satirized this kind of power, in Alice in Wonderland. The Queen of Hearts commanded “Off with his head!” at the slightest provocation.
Or else we think of military might – of tanks and bombs and massed legions crushing opposition the way a bulldozer crushes a buttercup.
It’s the power to coerce.
Such images lead us to think that power must be used to be useful. What’s the point of having a 400-horsepower car, if you never use all that power? What value is an army, if it grows fat and lazy in its barracks?
Wotan the horse reminds me that it is possible to have power without needing to use it, that it is possible to have power and still be gentle.
Bloopers, Boggles, Typos and Stuff – Shirley Hollett, who says she is from “the big land,” i.e. the Labrador, caught this, unfortunately, “before the bulletin got printed. Hymn: “Now Thank we Al Our God.”
You should have left it in, Shirley, because we’ve got a lot to thank our “A-one” God for.
Mark Perry of Oil City thought the announcement about his appointment in the local newspaper should have been “Interning Minister.” Instead it read, “Interring Minister.” Says Mark, “I guess they thought we were dying off fast and furious.”
Fred Roden points up a blooper in last week’s Rumors. I referred to the number or people required for a Hebrew service as a “minion,” when it should have been “minyan.”
A “minion” is some poorly salaried, overworked sad-sack, i.e. most Protestant clergy.
Wayne Seybert of Longmont, Colorado found these bloopers.
* For the group of ladies called “Moms Who Care” and pray for the children in school. When their meeting was cancelled one week: “There will be no Moms who care this week.”* A worm welcome to all who have come today.* Hymn: "I Love Thee My Ford."
Kendell Nordstrom of Beloit, Wisconsin has a new title. He was listed in the bulletin as "Bible stud leader." Says Kendall, “I think it has a nice ring to it.”
If you’ve spotted any good bloopers in your church bulletin or newsletter, or anywhere else for that matter, please send them to me. ralphmilton at shaw.ca (change the “at to the symbol and remove the spaces.)
Wish I’d Said That! – The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.
Bertrand Russell via Jim Taylor
If to err is human, I have daily proof of my humanity.
Computers are useless; they can only give you answers.
Pablo Picasso via Kendell Nordstrom
We Get Letters – Mary Lautensleger of Charlotte, North Carolina has a nine-year-old granddaughter who wants to know what a “reptile dysfunction" is? “What should I tell her?”
Mary, my grandkids are teenagers. I think they already know.
Mirabile Dictu! – (Latin for “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!”) Courtesy of Fran Ota and Wilma Huston White.
Sung to the tune of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious"When I was just ein junger Mann I studied canon law;While Erfurt was a challenge, it was just to please my Pa.Then came the storm, the lightning struck, I called upon Saint Anne,I shaved my head, I took my vows, an Augustinian! Oh...Chorus:Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiationSpeak your mind against them and face excommunication!Nail your theses to the door, let's start a Reformation!Papal bulls, indulgences, and transubstantiation!When Tetzel came near Wittenberg, St. Peter's profits soared,I wrote a little notice for the All Saints' Bull'tin board:"You cannot purchase merits, for we're justified by grace!Here's 95 more reasons, Brother Tetzel, in your face!" Oh...Chorus:They loved my tracts, adored my wit, all were exempleror;The Pope, however, hauled me up before the Emperor."Are these your books? Do you recant?" King Charles did demand,"I will not change my Diet, Sir, God help me here I stand!" Oh...Chorus:Duke Frederick took the Wise approach, responding to my words,By knighting "George" as hostage in the Kingdom of the Birds.Use Brother Martin's model if the languages you seek,Stay locked inside a castle with your Hebrew and your Greek! Oh...Chorus:Let's raise our steins and Concord Books while gathered in this place,And spread the word that 'catholic' is spelled with lower case;The Word remains unfettered when the Spirit gets his chance,So come on, Katy, drop your lute, and join us in our dance! Oh...Chorus:
Bottom of the Barrel – This from Peggy Neufeld.A young boy had just received his driver's permit and asked his father if they could discuss his use of the car. His father said he would make a deal with his son. "You bring your grades up from a C to a B average, study your Bible a little, get your hair cut and we'll talk about the car." The boy thought about that for a moment, decided he'd settle for the offer and they agreed on it. After about six weeks his father said, "Son, I've been real proud. You brought your grades up and I've observed that you have been studying your Bible, but I'm real disappointed you didn't get your hair cut." The young man paused a moment then said, "You know, Dad, I've been thinking about that, and I've noticed in my studies of the Bible that Samson had long hair, John the Baptist had long hair, Moses had long hair. And there's even a strong argument that Jesus had long hair." His father thought for a moment. "Did you also notice that they all walked everywhere they went?"
Scripture Story as Reader’s Theatre – Job 42:1-6, 10-17
Reader 1: This is a weird kind of story – this book of Job. And it just doesn’t seem right – the story starts out with God and Satan making bets on what Job is going to do.
Reader 2: Well, the first thing to realize is that the story of Job goes way, way, way, way, way way back in time.
1: What you’re trying to say is that it goes a long way back.
2: Yeah. Way, way, way..
1: (interrupting) OK. I’ve got it.
2: It’s based on a very ancient legend, in which God is talking to various angels, of whom the satan is just one. This satan not the bad guy in red underwear. And so God, in this story, isn’t necessarily all good, and the satan isn’t all bad.
1: So in today’s reading we get to the happy ending. Everybody is happy and they live happily ever after. I think we need to tell the story first so today’s reading makes some sense.
2: Well, the ending isn’t quite that simple. But you’re right. We need to tell the story. You start.
1: Once upon a time – that seems like a good way to start because it is a kind of a legend – a fairy tale – once upon a time God was walking around in heaven talking to the various angels. God spoke to one of the angels called the satan.
2: Where have you been? We’ve missed you around here.
1: Oh, I’ve been walking around on the earth looking at stuff.
2: Did you notice Job. He’s a really good man. He’s really loyal to me.
1: Well, yeah, sure he is. You’ve made it easy for him. You’ve given him everything, wealth, health, children – you name it, Job’s got it. So of course he’s loyal to you.
2: You’ve got that wrong, satan. All wrong. Job is loyal to me because he’s devoted to me.
1: You’ve got that wrong, God, all wrong. Job is loyal to you because of all the stuff you’ve given him.
2: So go and test him. Take all the that wealth and family away from him. Do anything you want, but you can’t kill him. You can take anything but not his life.
1: So one by one, the satan hits on Job. He takes away his herds of cattle. He takes away his family. He takes away his health. Job is reduced to a miserable blob of humanity sitting on an ash heap, covered with boils. Job’s wife confronts him.
2: C’mon Job. Get it over with. Curse God and die.
1: No. God has been good to me. I am loyal to my God. There must be a reason for all this, but whatever it is, I am loyal to my God.
2: Then three of Job’s friends come to see him. “Job,” they say. “Job, you must have done something really awful to deserve all this.”
1: No. That’s not true. I haven’t done anything. I have been faithful to my God. I have obeyed all the rules and done everything right.
2: Give it up, Job. All this awful stuff doesn’t come just out of nowhere. You must have slapped God in the face somehow. These things don’t just happen out of nothing.
1: No! No! I have done nothing wrong. I am faithful to God. I just need a chance to talk to God face to face. Like in a court of law. I want God to talk to me, man to man. Tell me what I have done and whether I deserve this.
2: The argument goes on for days and gets nowhere. Then another of Job’s friends comes along and tells his three friends to get lost. And for awhile, it looks as if there might be some decent discussion. But he says basically the same things as the other guys. He tries to back Job into a corner. “C’mon. ‘Fes up, Job. What did you do? You must have done something pretty ugly to deserve all this!”
1: I don’t deserve all this. I’ve done nothing wrong. All I want is to talk to God face to face. Let God tell me what I’ve done to deserve all this. I demand my day in court. I want my rights. I deserve the chance to meet with God and talk this through.
2: Well, God comes onto the scene alright. But God doesn’t sit down and talk it through with Job. God throws the universe at poor Job.
"Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements – surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy? Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, so that a flood of waters may cover you? Can you send forth lightnings, so that they may go and say to you, 'Here we are'?
And then poor Job, sitting on his ash heap and covered with sores, answers God. And this is our scripture reading for this morning. From the book of Job.
Then Job answered the LORD:
1: "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?' Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
'Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.' I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
2: And God restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and God gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that God had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring.
1: God blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters.
2: Job named the first daughter Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch.
1: In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job's daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers.
2: After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children's children, four generations.
1: And Job died, old and full of days.
A somewhat irreverent paraphrase of the Job narrative
by Jim Taylor
This play takes about 15 minutes to read out loud or to act out.
Announcer: Warning. The following program may contain coarse language and scenes of graphic depiction that may offend small children and old ladies. Viewer caution is advised.
Narrator: God and Satan are having tea together.
Satan: Mmmmm... Nice blend.
God: Thank you. It’s prepared specially for me. It’s grown only in the highest tea plantations above Darjeeling, in the Himalayas, and they only pick the newest leaves from virgin bushes.
Satan: You do live quite well, don’t you?
God: Well, I am everything, after all.
Satan: That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. I think some of your followers are deluded.
God: In what way?
Satan: Well, they believe that because you are perfect, they should also be perfect. And because you have everything, they should have everything too.
God: That’s a ridiculous argument.
Satan: But you play into it, don’t you? Can you deny that you favour your believers with prosperity and long life?
God: I do not. If they believe in me, they tend to lead healthier lives. That’s the reason for their prosperity and longevity.
Satan: Will all due respect, I think your followers believe in you only because they’re convinced you reward them.
God: That’s not true. They would be faithful even if things went badly.
Satan: Prove it!
God: All right. There’s Job, who’s never done anything wrong in his life. He would believe in me no matter what happened to him.
Satan: I’d like to test that theory.
God: Go ahead. Torment him any way you want – you can’t make him crack.
Shift to Job, reclining in a La-Z-boy chair, sipping champagne, while a gorgeous maid drops grapes into his open mouth.
Narrator: Job is a wealthy man. He has a big family, flocks of sheep and cattle, and investments in all the big banks. But he is unaware that disaster is about to fall upon him. A servant comes rushing in.
Servant rushes in,
Servant: Sir! Sir! Disaster has fallen upon you! You are ruined!
Job waves a hand languidly at the servant.
Job: Stop! That’s no way to deliver bad news. You must learn how to break bad news gently, progressively, so as to lead your hearer gradually to a realization of what has happened.
Servant: But, but...
Job: No buts, my friend. Now, you pretend you’re me, and I’m you, bringing bad news. So I would start this way – Sir, I regret to inform you that your goldfish has died.
Servant: (struggling to comprehend) My goldfish?
Job: Yes. Unfortunately, it expired when a roof beam of your house fell upon its aquarium.
Servant: My house?
Job: It was the fire. The local volunteer fire brigade were unable to control it before it spread out of the garage.
Servant: The garage?
Job: (enjoying his imaginative narrative greatly. The maid continues to drop grapes into his mouth.) Indeed. The gas tank on the Ferrari exploded in the heat generated by the flaming barn next door.
Servant: The barn?
Job: Your sheep were out in the field when they were struck by lightning. Their coats were still smouldering when they stampeded into the barn and set it alight. (pauses for thought) Now, what else can I add?
Servant: Your family?
Job: Of course! All your sons and daughters were working in the loft, storing grain in bins, when the old timbers of the barn ignited. Unfortunately, they were all incinerated. But that’s actually good news, because it will save you the costs of cremation. (finishing off with a flourish) Which is just as well, because your banks are all bankrupt, and the government has just nationalized them, so your shares are worthless! (leans back satisfied with himself) There – see how easy it is when you lead into these things gently? (pause, while he recollects the purpose of this exercise) Now, then, what was it you wanted to tell me?
Servant: (wringing his hands and squirming) Sir, it’s about your goldfish...
The maid stops dropping grapes into Job’s mouth, and walks away. Job squats on a stool, scrunched up in despair.
Narrator: Job’s creditors demand repayment.
Creditors surround Job. They strip off his jacket, tie, sweater, shoes, socks (or whatever he’s wearing)
Narrator: They even take the shirt off his back.
One of the creditors rips Job’s shirt off.
Narrator: But despite Job’s misfortunes, he remains philosophical.
Job: (huddled on the stool) Naked I came, naked I will return. God gives, God takes away. That’s good enough for me.
Job’s wife: Oh, you typical man! Quit milking your misery for sympathy!
Job: I am not milking it. I’m being brave!
Job’s wife: You’re being punished. Go ahead! Curse God and get it over with!
Job: Oh, you typical woman! Take a larger view! Can we expect only to receive good things from God, and not an occasional negative? April showers bring May flowers.
Job’s wife: Enough of your damned platitudes. What about me? Those were my children too, you know.
Job: You shouldn’t take these things personally.
Narrator: Job has gone to squat in the local landfill, because that’s what he feels like.
Job: I am so miserable that I wish I hadn’t been born. If only my mother had miscarried, or my father had smashed my head against a rock. If this is what life comes to, why was it worth feeding me, training me, teaching me? And you know what’s worse? The universe doesn’t give a damn! The sun comes up; the sun goes down; the world rolls on as if I don’t matter at all. I’m not only miserable, I’m nothing!
Three friends enter
Narrator: Three of Job’s friends come to console him, but when they see what he’s come to, they are themselves in shock. For seven days, they don’t know what to say. Then they start to find words.
Bildad: Enough of this sitting around.
Eliphaz: Yes. I’ve got things to do.
Zophar: Promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.
Bildad: Let’s get on with this. Who wants to go first?
Eliphaz: Buck up, man. People look up to you. Don’t let them down. If they see you doubting the goodness of God, they may do the same. You know God is responsible for everything. So God must be doing this to you for a reason.
Job: I’ve done nothing wrong.
Bildad: You must have done something wrong. This cannot be unjust punishment, because that would make God unjust, and that’s impossible. So repent for whatever you’ve done, even if you don’t know you’ve done it.
Job: To repent for something I didn’t do would be a lie. I cannot lie to God. But this is an unequal contest; I can no more argue with God than a kindergarten child can argue with a lawyer. This is so awful, I’d take up drinking, if I could afford to drink.
Zophar: The fact that you’re being punished proves that you must have done something wrong. Repent and all will be well again. God will forgive you for your pride.
Job: Don’t treat me like an idiot with your meaningless dogmas! It’s all very well for you – you still have your families, your government pension plans. (To God) Quit picking on me – either leave me alone or let me get well again!
Eliphaz: If you hadn’t done wrong before, you certainly have now. Your words are blasphemy. They threaten the very fundamentals of our faith.
Job: Hey, buster, reverse the situation! If you were in my shoes, how would you feel? (To God) I wish I could die.
Bildad: You can’t blame anyone but yourself for this. We all know that the wicked cause their own downfall by their actions.
Job: What utter bullshit! You’re blaming the victim instead of the oppressor. For some reason, God has turned against me. Even my breath is so rotten now that my wife won’t let me come near her.
Zophar: I can’t restrain myself any more. You’re talking nonsense! We know that wickedness always gets its comeuppance in the end!
Job: Don’t talk to me about nonsense! You know very well it doesn’t work that way in real life. Open your eyes, you pompous ideolog!
Eliphaz: I take back all those good things I said about you originally. I see now that you are a wicked, rebellious man.
Job: I have not done anything wrong. I have not rebelled against God. Life itself is unjust, unfair. Show me that it is not so.
Bildad: When you call yourself righteous, you lie in your teeth, you self-deluded fool.
Job: Who’s self-deluded? You are! You actually think your puny mind can understand the whole of God, as if God were a puppet and you held all the strings. You’re wrong. I believe that God is truth; therefore I will speak the truth whatever the consequences. I will not pretend. I will not lie to appease either you, or God. (Appalled, the three friends back away.) Once I was happy, once I was admired and respected, but now I am an object of derision. (To the friends) If you can name one thing I have done wrong, I will admit it and repent. But be specific. I’m sick of your abstract moralizing.
Narrator: A young man has been eavesdropping on this debate.
Elihu: Sorry to butt in, guys, but the rest of you are obviously clueless, so I want to bring some perspective into this business. (To Job) Hey, man, where do you get off thinking you can talk back to God? God is way greater than you are. If God chooses to punish you for something, who are you to object? (To the three friends) You guys keep missing the point. The problem is not whether God is just or not, but your presumptions about what constitutes justice. Clearly, God is afflicting Job for some reason. But it’s not working yet. Job hasn’t suffered enough yet to see the light, so he is adding rebellion to whatever the original cause was. Maybe when he has suffered a lot more, he’ll smarten up. You know that in everything God works for good, so it follows that God changes the afflicted by giving them their affliction. You three are so preoccupied with your notions of justice than you’re forgetting about God. Praise God’s greatness, and quit sweating the small stuff.
Fed up with all the arguments, God takes the stand personally.
God: What kind of arrogant worm are you, questioning my impartiality? Where were you, when I created the universe, when I established the four forces that hold everything together, when I put the sun and the stars into their orbits and established conditions that enabled life to flourish? Have you devised the Grand Unified Theory of Everything yet? Then quit finding fault with me!
Job: I have shot off my mouth. I will keep it zipped from here on.
God: No you won’t, because I gave you humans responsibilities. It’s not good enough for you to hunker down and act fatalistic. You must act on my behalf. You must create the justice you keep longing for. But don’t overestimate your abilities, and don’t start thinking that you are God.
Job: I spoke out of turn. I’m sorry.
Narrator: For being satisfied with fine words instead of actions, the three friends have to give away some of their own wealth to get Job started on the long process of recovery. Then and only then do his brothers and sisters come to share some of their own possessions with him. Eventually Job’s wealth and status is restored.
He has three daughters and seven sons. But he has obviously been changed by his encounter with God, because the story records the names of the daughters, but not of the sons. And it notes that in a radical departure from the customs of his time, he shared his estate equally with the daughters, as well as the sons.
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