(All Saints Day: Wed. Nov. 1)
Job 42: 1-6, 10-17 [1-10 suggested]
- Who is this who darkens counsel,
Speaking without knowledge? (38: 2)
Who is this who obscures counsel without knowledge? (3)
Twenty-plus years ago-- I see much less of it lately-- Scripture memorization was widely and strongly advocated. This may be a good discipline for some, but I disagree with the idea that it is the premier or preferred method. Hitler and Milosevic could-- and may-- have memorized Scriptures, but what difference did it make in their lives? Job's example is not that of memorization, but of internalizing, making God's words his own. The more we "own" and "possess" Scripture, the more God's Word will own and possess us.
- Speak if you have understanding. (38: 4)
Indeed, I spoke without understanding
Of things beyond me, which I did not know. (3)
- I will ask and you will inform Me. (38: 3)
I will ask, and You will inform me. (4)
It is beyond me why the lectionary committee ever chose verses 11-17. If I had my way, they would be excised as spurious, an attempt by someone to assure that everything comes out goody-goody "pie in the sky". But that point is well made by v.10; the rest is tasteless sugar-coating.
Rather, why not struggle with the apparent contradiction(1) between: you have not spoken the truth about Me as did My servant Job (7 & 8) and YHWH's charge against him in 38: 2? If Job spoke the truth about [God], then in what way was he one who darkens counsel, who speaks without knowledge?
The answer to that puzzle may require an in-depth study of the entire book, rather than the mere preparation of a sermon.(2) Or might it lie-- at least in basic form-- in Job's double confession? Perhaps there is some merit to taking God's Word and making it our own.
Many years ago, when I was a struggling young Christian, I somehow happened(3) upon a verse which touched home and it became, for a time, my "theme" verse, my mantra: This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. (6, KJV) It now occurs to me that this and v.4 comprise a biblical definition of repentance:
- I turned to the LORD, and [God] answered me;
[YHWH] saved me from all my terrors. 
- Though the misfortunes of the righteous be many,
the LORD will save [them] from them all, 
The LORD redeems the life of His servants;
all who take refuge in [God] shall not be ruined. 
The lectionary skips through this book far too quickly; chapters 3-10 deserve a full quarter-- if not longer!-- but receive only six weeks, which omits a lot of important text. It begins: Therefore, holy brothers [and sisters], who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess (3: 1) and rises to this climax: Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (10: 19-22, NRSV)
The author's contention is that there must be two different high priests because there are two different covenants; the latter superseding the former, the latter achieving a greater goal and attaining a higher perfection than the former. These chapters are an in-depth discussion (not just rudiments of the faith) of God's grace working out on our behalf, and it is to our advantage to study and understand it, so that we might sing:
- I bless the LORD at all times;
praise of [God] is ever in my mouth.
I glory in the LORD;
let the lowly hear it and rejoice.
Exalt the LORD with me;
let us extol [God's] name together. [Psa. 34: 2-4]
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
happy the [one] who takes refuge in [God]! [Psa. 34: 9]
Now if perfection had been attainable through the levitical priesthood... what further need would there have been to speak of another priest arising according to the order of Melchizedek (7: 11, NRSV)(4)? The author agrees with Paul: neither "the law"-- the first covenant-- nor the sacrifices made by the high priests could or would bring about anyone's salvation. For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law (7: 12), which also indicates a change in God's plan for humanity's deliverance. This conclusion follows logically the flow of the Hebrew Scriptures: the constant development of the people's perception of YHWH and God's evolving system of applying grace to meet their (our) need. Now Such a high priest meets our need-- (7: 26) because [Christ] is able to save completely those who come to God through him (7: 25).
Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, ...this he did once for all when he offered himself. (7: 27, NRSV) Here we find one of the author's main points: the fully accomplished and fully effectual ministry of the high priest in the order of Melchizedek (7: 11, 17). Remember: Melchizedek king of Salem appeared once for all to Abraham, once for all received tithes from Abraham, and once for all blessed Abraham.
Now the main point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest (8: 1, NRSV). Amen! What more do we need?
- "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" (47, 48; cf. 35)
They cry out, and the LORD hears,
and saves them from all their troubles. [Psa. 34: 18]
"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him. (51; cf. 36)
And should the LORD graciously grant us our wish, what is it that Mark suggests we then do?
- This poor soul cried out;
the Lord heard, and healed, and saved;
now what should I do?(5)
1. 1 Or is this why the lectionary skips these verses?
(comments to Phil at ENAPXH@aol.com )
(comments to Phil at ENAPXH@aol.com )