The Book of Job : Bible Blog 13

I have now read to the end of the book of Job. It comes right after Esther, which I think is a really weird book (although very important historically for Jewish people, who still celebrate Purim today). I found it uncomfortable for two reasons. Firstly, Esther is very much a pawn. She is first used by Mordecai, who sends her off to enter a harem (not what I would want for any female I cared about). Later, she is pretty much used at the whim of the king, even though she does manage to use this to her advantage (and save the whole Jewish race). The second problem I have with the book is that when the Jewish people are saved, they then violently kill all their enemies. Chapter 9 is pretty gory (which was never really mentioned when I was in Sunday School!)

However, if Esther is one of my least favourite books of the Bible, my favourite is probably the book of Job. Which is surprising, as until recently I did not understand it, and probably disliked it as much as I now dislike Esther. If you have never read it, properly, from start to finish, do it this week. It isn’t an easy book to read, and the themes seem strange and complicated, but the message is huge.

In summary, Job is like a piece of theatre. It is an ancient story, and was told for generations, to show why God is worshipped. The dating of the book is difficult, and there is some evidence that shows it may have been written even before Moses’ times. It was a story that was told, some scholars think that even King Solomon used it, and it is thought to have been originally written in Arabic (so some of the translations are unsure). Job himself is thought to have been a real person, possibly a descendent of Nahor (Abraham’s brother). He is not part of ‘the promised race’, so it’s very interesting that this book is included as part of Jewish scriptures, and given equal weight to their other holy books.

The story is about Job, a good man, who worships God (which is significant, as he was a gentile). He is rich, with a family, and God allows just about everything to go wrong for him. So he loses his family, and all his possessions, and finally his health. Most of the book shows him, wretched and in despair, and we read the dialogues between him and his friends. His friends tell him that the calamity is due to his own evilness, that he has sinned against God, and therefore everything has gone wrong. Job defends himself, and says he has always been true to God, and it isn’t fair, because there are rich, happy, successful people who are evil. Then God speaks. God shows his might, his absolute power, his authority over everything. Which is why people should worship God. He is worthy of worship. Mankind is insignificant, so how can Job protest? Job, and his friends, repent, and God gives Job more than he had at the start of the story.

I love this story for several reasons. Firstly, I love the language of the last few chapters, when God is speaking. It talks about dawn holding the skirts of the earth, describes storehouses of snow waiting to fall; such beautiful imagery. I also like the main theme, that God should be worshipped because he is God. Our religion can be a useful way to achieve this – but sometimes it gets in the way. Sometimes the singing, the sermon, the Bible study can detract from what we are meant to be doing, which is worshipping God. We do not worship because we’ll be given peace, or blessings, or help through troubles. We worship because God is worthy. That is all. This is something we need to learn, and constantly remember. God is worthy, and that is all.

If you imagine a power-rangers type movie, where there are huge forces fighting for power, would you not want to be on the team of the power that will win? Don’t you want to be allied with the right side? That is what this book is about. It does not promise health or wealth or anything else, it just points out that God’s side is the best side, and so we should be on that team.

Now, I will admit, some of the text is a bit awkward. This might be because it is a translation.

There are some difficult ideas too, so Chapter 40 seems to be describing a dinosaur, and Chapter 41 has a pretty accurate description of a sea-living dragon, complete with fire-breathing capabilities. So what does that mean?

Some scholars have tried to explain this by saying they are mistranslated, and actually describe hippos and crocodiles. But if you read the texts, to my mind, this is a cop-out and not what is written. A crocodile does not breathe fire, and a hippo does not have a straight strong tail (like a brontosaurus).

My theory (based on nothing other than a desire to believe that dragons may have once existed!) is that there is no reason why early man would not have discovered fossils of prehistoric creatures. If they uncovered fossils of huge, fierce, dinosaurs, would they not have reasoned that these creatures existed? The world was pretty small in Bible times, people didn’t travel very far, so to believe that somewhere undiscovered, were huge animals, was not unreasonable. God was then using these beliefs when giving examples of his might (which was not untrue, because God did create the dinosaurs, even if Job had never encountered one). This is consistent with other Bible passages, where God used the beliefs of the day to explain something – such as the sun moving across the sky (whereas we now know that the earth moves around the sun). God has always met people where they are, and has made his explanations understandable for people, even if their own basic beliefs have been wrong.

So, there it is, my reasons for loving the book of Job. I used Matthew Henry’s commentary for help with the difficult bits. Now onto Psalms, and I will refer to a book by Michael Wilcock while I’m reading.

Thank you for reading. Take care.
Anne x

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I have written several novels, and one non-fiction book. My latest novel has recently been released, and although it is fiction, the overriding theme reflects the one in Job.

CLARA – A Good Psychopath?
ISBN 978-0-9954632-5-7
Published by The Cobweb Press

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Thank you for reading.

Calamity Church

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Ever have those days when everything seems to go wrong? Church has been a bit like that recently…

At school, we used to sing the hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers” – do you know the one? All about brave soldiers marching forwards into battle, ‘See his banners go’, ‘Like a mighty army, Moves the church of God’ – all sung to a rousing tune. The sort of song you have to stand up to sing. Well, the church I attend isn’t like that. My bit isn’t anyway. Sometimes it’s more like Dad’s Army if I’m honest.

Take this week as an example. On Friday, we had the health inspector at Lunch Club. Now, in case you don’t realise, health inspections are very high stress. If you serve food to the public, you have to comply with certain laws, which is good. You have to attend a hygiene course, so you don’t poison anyone, which is good. You are given a ‘star rating’ so everyone can see what your hygiene standards are like, which is good. In order for all these excellent things to be effective, you have to also endure random inspections by the health officials. Which, when you are the leader of a group, is quite stressful.

So, this week I was cooking and knew an inspection was due. Arrived early and scrubbed the kitchen before I cooked. (Yes, we do ALWAYS wipe the surfaces, we do not every week scrub the tiles behind the taps, dig out every last crumb behind the bins, things like that.) I was mid cooking when the inspector arrived. A very nice woman dressed in white overalls. I explained that I was cooking, and would just strain the part-cooked potatoes which were ready for roasting, and then set her up with our files to read through, while I put the potatoes in the oven and got lunch to a position where I could leave it for a few minutes. I left the potatoes in the saucepan while I grabbed the folders for her to read, then turned back to find one of of the other helpers was mashing the potatoes – or at least, was trying to mash them, they were still hard as had only just come to the boil. I did not slap the helper (inspector was present) and rescued those potatoes that were still large enough to roast, then continued to cook lunch and answer questions and appear calm. All turned out okay, 38 people had lunch (very few commented on the potato shortage) and we retained our 5 star hygiene rating. But it did not feel professional. It didn’t feel like an army marching forwards.

Another unfortunate event was our film night. We found out that it’s possible to rent films after they have been in the cinema but before they are released on DVD. This makes for a good opportunity to have a ‘community cinema’ – a service for local people, somewhere friendly for them to spend a Friday evening, plus they come into the church building, meet some of the members, and hopefully discover that we are welcoming, church is less ‘odd’ than they might think. The first showing was this week. It had been advertised in the local press, fliers had been given out, ice creams bought for the interval, a new high definition projector bought to ensure film quality, we were all set. We just needed the film. Which was delivered later than expected. So no one watched it beforehand. Certificate 12A have changed since I was a kid (when we went to see things like The Sound of Music!) As I sat in the church building, behind a fluffy haired sweet old lady; while strobe lights from a party scene flickered across the stained glass windows and people on the big screen snorted drugs; I felt this might have been a mistake. In the interval, the pastor said how relieved he was that at least there had been no nudity. He spoke too soon….

None of which makes me feel much like a mighty army of God. But we try. We are called to be faithful, not to always succeed – which is just as well at my church! And, we do have some brilliant sermons. This week, the week of disasters, we had a sermon on the book of Job. You know the book? It’s about a man who has everything, nice family, health, possessions. Then God lets the devil take it all away, to see if Job will still worship God, if he will stay faithful. I have never seen the point of this book before. I have no idea if it’s based on actual events, or is a story to make a point – but previously I never got what the point was, it just seemed cruel. But this week, it was explained.

The book shows that God is worth following. Just because he is God. Not so we have an easy life. Not because it will guarantee health, or wealth, or safety for our family. Stop and think for a minute.

Sometimes Christians ‘sell’ God. We talk about becoming a Christian so you can know peace, joy, forgiveness, so you have someone in your life who cares. The book of Job illustrates that these are NOT the reasons we should follow God. We should worship God because he is worth it. Just because He is God. That is a huge thought. Huge.

xxxx

Thank you for reading.

If you enjoyed this, you can follow my blog : anneethompson.com

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Hidden Faces final cover 6 July 2016

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