Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Complete Book of Job (Abridged)

The Complete Book of Job (Abridged)
Act 1: Wisdom in the Balance
The wise, those who trust the book of Proverbs completely, and all that it affirms, say:
              Don’t you know, creation is set up to reward the good and the wise, and to punish the wicked and the fools…
Go either “the high way”—trust and obey the LORD, seek his path and you will find his favor!
Or “My Way”—Uphold only self, ignore God, be filled with pride, praising perversity and spreading lies—if you do so you will find only punishment!

To this the book of Ecclesiastes questions: “What if rewards aren’t as fulfilling as expected? What if our mortality makes the rewards of morality moot? (Never seen a hearse with a trailer hitch)
To this, today, the book of Job questions: “What if there is no discernable connection between reward and punishment?”

Act 2: The Test
Once upon a time, there was a man named Job, the best of men—Wise and Good, and blessed for it. (Exit pulpit)

Inspector: Let me test this theory, let me question this system of rewards and punishments—after all, are folk good on account of goodness, or good because they know they’ll be rewarded?
-Let us strike down Job’s children and wealth—does he fold?
Hmmm, lets go further still, let us take his health and make his spouse forsake him…
-Look he holds on even without any reward…

-Oh look, his wise friends, they sit with him, and say nothing… \
…thank God, sometimes people hurting, as Job hurts, need silence, just being with them and nothing more, the wisest thing possible, a ministry of presence.

Act 3: The Worst Friends Ever

Scene 1: Eliphaz
Job: Truly, in a million different ways, in the midst of all the suffering I’ve experienced, I wish I had never been born.
Eliphaz: Hold up? You’re Job, aren’t you? You teach Wisdom’s ways to people, you have been telling folk that if they are innocent they will not suffer, haven’t you? Now that you are suffering, you’re going to renege on that proposition?
Job: Dude! You are about to make it worse, just shut up. You’re not helping!
Eliphaz: No, Job, let me finish. You are a wise teacher, you know that the foolish are a danger to themselves and to their kids. Haven’t you taught that a fool’s children will be crushed, just as your children were crushed? This is your teaching, now you are experiencing it firsthand.
Job: Eliphaz, do you know why you aren’t helping? Because I didn’t ask for your help, let alone ask for your explanation of human suffering wrapped up in a bow.
Eliphaz: Job, chill! This suffering you are experiencing is just correction.
Job: I don’t think you get how painful God’s “correction” is, how horrible it is to have your children crushed!
Suffering is so strange, you experience the pain and the horror, but also the long boring bland moments, time elongating before you forever.
At this point I just want God to finish the job he started on ol’ Job here—kill me!
Eliphaz: Be of good cheer, my man. God will strengthen you! Surely you will recover!
Job: Why would I want to recover? To be strengthened by God? What would I have to look forward to?
Eliphaz: Like you said before this pity party of yours started, isn’t it right that we receive both good and bad from God? Good when you are good, and bad when you are bad.
Job: How does blaming the victim help the victim? Huh? I bet you’d kick an orphan while he’s down and think you’re doing the kid a favor!

Scene 2: Zophar
Job: At this point, it feels like you all are just harassing me. So, let me say it plainly. God has wronged me and won’t answer for the wrong.
Heck, to me, God is an oppressive force, an army besieging me.
Everyone sees me as a stranger.
I’m sick! Why won’t you pity me?
God has struck me, shouldn’t that make you sad… or even afraid… you might be next!
Yet, perhaps… even in all this pain, someone will redeem me, someone will write down all these wrongs and represent me against all my accusers!
Don’t act like dispassionate scientists watching a frog getting cut up in a lab, you are next to be pithed! You will be unjustly punished just as I have been!

Zophar: You’re words shake me, friend, and I feel insulted.
It is my duty to respond as best I know how.
The wicked have a short life!
They will be ignored and forgotten!
This is because they followed the wrong path, they should have lived righteously instead of wickedly, but they didn’t, and are suffering for it!
God is sucking up all their unjust gains!
All that was taken wrongly is being taken back.
Heaven has exposed their guilt, and by extension, your own!

Job: Oh Lord! Just listen to me Zophar, please! Just close your damn mouth for a moment, tape it shut if you have to!
Look around at the world as it is, the wicked prosper! I don’t think you get what I’m saying.
You think I’m proscribing things, but I’m describing them, pointing out the way the world really is.
Don’t you get it, I’m with you, let the wicked burn! Punish the children of the wicked. May God never be late in punishing the wicked, make them suffer now! Because…
Because… have you noticed the existential truth of it all? The wicked die and so do the righteous, and guess what, they are both dead!
I truly understand your position, good people ought to be rewarded for their goodness, and bad people ought to be punished for their badness… but open a newspaper man! The wicked prosper, no one can stop them. Making dogmatic, declarative statements to the contrary does nothing… it certainly does not comfort the suffering!

Scene 3: Bildad
Job: There is injustice everywhere, but God does not act.
Bildad: Surely that is not because God is weak… for God is, ultimately, all-powerful.
No one is pure before God.
Compared to God, humans are so small.
Job: Well! Aren’t you helping the hurting with such answers.
Bildad: Well, yeah, I am! Don’t you know that God’s power subdues even chaos and death!
God’s mighty acts are so loud we can barely hear a complete word about His wonder!
Job: If God is so powerful, why won’t he give me my day in court?
I really can’t in good conscience ask for anything else. I can’t claim to be wicked, that itself would be wicked. The only right thing would be for every horror I’ve experienced to be visited upon my enemies. God will only be just if he throws all that powerful weight you talk about against those who are against me… including you three.

Act 4: Wisdom and an Absent God
Scene 1: Wisdom’s Soliloquy
Where is Wisdom found?
You can find fruits in trees,
You can dig and find gold and silver and fossils
Heck, you can find anything on Google!
But where is Wisdom found?

You can cheat death or on your taxes,
You can get through a war zone or escape a prison,
You can sell high and buy low,
But where can Wisdom be found?

Look at Job there, he has lost everything,
Any earthly wisdom gained by experience,
He’s earned… and more…
But Wisdom, it is only found in God
—only found when we are struck by awe,
By the Fear of the Lord.
When we come face to face with the living God, and live anew afterwards!

Scene 2: Enter Elihu
I may be young, but I’m going to tell it like it is…
Look at all of you—wise friends, you need to press home your attack, make Job pay! Anything short of that, you’re just as bad as him!
Look at all of you—Job, you need to shove it and shut up before you make things worse for yourself.
Do you really think God will show up for you? Who are you, royalty? A princess or president? No, you’re just some guy!
You don’t want God to speak to you—God’s only voice this side of the void is nightmares and misfortunes.
What does God have to do with humans? Its like an ant negotiating with a magnifying glass on a hot day—it ain’t gonna end wel for the ant.
Just surrender Job, I’ll fix your problems for you—don’t take it up with the guy up stairs and all your problems will go away….
No, really, just take it all back, you know God only hurts the guilty… you know that your guilt is hurting everyone, not just you… think of that wife of yours! Your kids!
Okay, I’m only going to say it one more time, Job… God is awesome, righteous, and inaccessible, there is no way you will get an audience, the LORD will not answer you, so buzz off.

Act 4: God’s Response
And after Elihu affirmed that the LORD would not answer Job, the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind (and you can read along here):
"Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.
"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?
"Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb?--when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors, and said, 'Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped'?”

              I suppose you know how to keep gravity constant? I suppose you can ensure that the conditions needed to support life here on earth will continue? You’re going to make sure the ozone doesn’t catch on fire, right?
              Or look up into the vast expanse. What do you know about the Winds of Venus or the atmosphere of Pluto? Can you squish together a million earths and create the sun? Have you heard the silence of space?
              Oh, Job, what do you really know about the world around you? Did you know that a shirmp’s heart is located in its head? That koala’s have fingerprints indistinguishable from humans? That Elephants are the only animal that can’t jump?
              Job, come on then, take over for me…
hold back entropy, continue to energize all of things the that wish to break down
help humans choose peace in the face of war
help them care for each other, when it is so much easier for them to be indifferent.

Job:      I repent! I repent…  But also, I repent of repenting, I throw dust upon dust and ash upon ash

Act 6: It is a Wonderful Life
              With that God turned to Job’s three friends, “As for you! Your Reward/Punishment style of Wisdom, is wrong, look to your friend Job, in his suffering he spoke rightly. Sacrifice, and ask Job, who was right, to pray for you.”

              And with that the three friends repented of their sins and Job interceded for them.
              And Job received back all those things that he had lost, double in fact,
double wealth, double health, and double family.
              And they lived happily ever after.