[Simchat Torah (last day of Sukkot)]

Job 38: 1-7, (34-41)

Preacher, does this give you pause? It should; it makes me-- one admittedly without knowledge (insofar as that means biblical and theological education)-- wonder if I should put down my pen. What right have I to think that I can speak knowledgeably about the Scriptures?

Ostensibly, YHWH was speaking to Job; so v.1 informs us. But I wonder. Ch.31 concludes: The words of Job are at an end. (40) From 3: 3 to that point-- 44 pages in the TNK-- the text is uninterrupted poetry. Ch.32, however, begins with a paragraph of prose narrative, then continues through ch.37-- 10 pages-- with poetry, the speech(es) of Elihu. Why should ch.38 begin: Then the LORD replied to Job (1)?

Perhaps there was a scribal error; the reply was to Elihu. But his words seem mainly wise and correct; why should YHWH fulminate against him? Could chs.32-37 be a later, out-of-place insertion? If not, then why would God sit idly by, diddling divine thumbs while Elihu rambled on, before addressing Job? Is it possible that the LORD replied to [them all, not just] Job?

To my mind, this makes sense; Job is not the only person in this story-- or in all of humanity-- who needs scolding for their pretensions to wisdom. Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? (4)

This is why I am concerned: God is speaking not just to Job and his four "comforters", but to me.

Psalm 104: 1-9, 24, 35c

Has mankind ever considered that God also set bounds to human intelligence and understanding? Or are we too smart for that?

Heb. 5: 1-10

To whom were these remarks, which are not at all complimentary, addressed? A class of M.Div. students? A seminary faculty? Or to ordinary, every(Sun)day Christians? The text lacks a salutation to tell us, but it is rather doubtful that, at the time, seminaries and D.Min. candidates had been invented. So we may reason with some assurance that the message was-- and is-- intended for the Church-- all those who believe in Jesus Christ.

So what else is new? How many pew-sitters understand the office and functions of the high priest? Or the complex sacrificial system, what it entailed and what purposes it served? And how all that relates to Jesus, our salvation and our faith? Do we have a firm grasp of what it means for God to say: 'You are my [child]; today I have become your [parent]'(1) (5)? Remember, these are-- at least in the author's opinion (but who is he to say?)-- the rudiments of Christianity.

Does the modern Church have it wrong? Should a sound biblical and theological education be required for pastors only? Or for the entire Church, as the author apparently implies? Job and his "pastoral counselors" thought that they were learned in the ways of God, but YHWH told them otherwise. How many in your congregation think that they have no need of adult Christian education?

In the course of his earthly life [Jesus] offered up prayers and petitions, with loud cries and tears, to God who was able to deliver him from death. Because of his devotion his prayer was heard; (7) yet God let Him go to the cross! What does it mean to learn obedience? Especially through sufferings (8)? These are the rudiments of Christianity, but what pew-sitter can understand them, let alone explain them? Still, who has time for Bible study? How many think it has serious implications and genuine applications for their lives?

Mark 10: 35-45

'Teacher, we should like you to do us a favour.' 'What is it you want me to do for you?' [Jesus] asked. They answered, 'Allow us to sit with you in your glory, but without having to spend much time or put ourselves out. We are busy with work and family, and cannot find space in our schedules for Bible study. We want to be saved without having to disrupt our TV time by all that reading.' (35-37)

Well, no; that is not what James and John actually said, but what was going on in the back of their minds? Did they have any inkling of what Jesus meant when He asked: 'Can you drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?' (38) Jesus knew that they did not; He prefaced His question: 'You do not understand what you are asking.' Yet they blithely replied, "Sure we can!"

How many of us, sitting on the down-side of the pulpit, know what they were asking? Was Jesus talking about the two sacraments that are such popular happenings in our churches? Indeed, do any of us truly comprehend what these rituals mean to God? Do they have anything to do with learning? Obedience? And sufferings?

1. 1 Or may we excuse ourselves by believing the words apply only to Jesus?

2. 2 Haiku poems by Phil Gilman. Please feel free to utilize anything from these pages; just give God the Glory, Praise and Thanks and me whatever credit may be due.

(comments to Phil at ENAPXH@aol.com )