Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Croaking Hope

A Reflection on Job 19

We cover our lives with a kind of gauze, a film or cushion that keeps us from the Abyss.  Even our churches are air conditioned, with electronically enhanced pop music instead of chant or even hymns.  Even the bloody sacrifice at the altar is hidden somehow amid the boredom.

But God agrees to let Satan at Job out of a kind of mercy, "black grace" instead of "white grace".  Job is a good man to begin with, but it's only when everything has been stripped from him, when he is robbed of his family, his friends, his riches and his health - when he sits scraping his open sores and wailing, tormented by "miserable comforters", superficial friends saying superficial things - that the incredible theophany occurs.  Or set aside for a moment this theophany - this appearance of God to Job, to all of suffering humanity - and look only at a moment of croaking hope, of Job astonishingly crowing forth, his voice hoarse and broken, a kind of Hope that is shocking and even disturbing to us, in its utter reality.

But before you read that stunning declaration of Hope that seems to come from nowhere (Job 19:25 ff), you must first read the verses that immediately precede it, verses in which Job recaps his suffering and God's role in it  ...

  ... know that God has wronged me
and drawn his net around me.
7 “Though I cry, ‘Violence!’ I get no response;
though I call for help, there is no justice.
8 He has blocked my way so I cannot pass;
he has shrouded my paths in darkness.
9 He has stripped me of my honor
and removed the crown from my head.
10 He tears me down on every side till I am gone;
he uproots my hope like a tree.
11 His anger burns against me;
he counts me among his enemies.
12 His troops advance in force;
they build a siege ramp against me
and encamp around my tent.
13 He has alienated my family from me;
my acquaintances are completely estranged from me.
14 My relatives have gone away;
my closest friends have forgotten me.
15 My guests and my female servants count me a foreigner;
they look on me as on a stranger.
16 I summon my servant, but he does not answer,
though I beg him with my own mouth.
17 My breath is offensive to my wife;
I am loathsome to my own family.
18 Even the little boys scorn me;
when I appear, they ridicule me.
19 All my intimate friends detest me;
those I love have turned against me.
20 I am nothing but skin and bones;
I have escaped only by the skin of my teeth.
21 Have pity on me, my friends, have pity,
for the hand of God has struck me.
22 Why do you pursue me as God does?
Will you never get enough of my flesh?
23 Oh, that my words were recorded,
that they were written on a scroll,
24 that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead,
or engraved in rock forever!
This is the backdrop to the Hope - the incredible backdrop, for how can Hope come out of this? 

Job is a living station of the cross - his life is an illustration of "Jesus is Stripped of His Garments".  He has lost everything that comforts a man, everything that shields a man from the Awe, indeed from the Awful.  He is at the threshold of Reality - the Reality that we are to squeamish to look at.

And out of this moment, in the midst of this pain and upon the edge of life and death, the Suffering Servant exclaims, in a moment of Croaking Hope ...

25 I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
27 I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!
 At this most painful place Job sees Christ, sees the Resurrection of the Body, sees the longing for God that still lives in his broken and miserable heart.

1 comment:

Stan Metheny said...

Job's prayer is at the heart of human experience. The original sin - the ONLY sin - remains our feeble attempt to be who we are not, to be other than our authentic selves, someone we can never be. It is only when stripped completely of all human pretence that we are confronted with our absolute dependence on the One who is completely other. Only in that moment, the moment of total surrender on the cross, can we fully accept the reality of who we are and that we not God. Only then can we truly know how deeply we have sold ourselves into slavery to sin and death, and see our need be re-deemed. St Paul tells us that God raised up Jesus because of His obedience unto death on a cross. In fact, despite the fervent prayer of Jesus for it to happen otherwise, our redemption could not be done in any other way. Like Jesus, I too pray for some other way; but in my rare moments of honesty, I must admit to myself there is no way other than the Way of the Cross.