Archive for the ‘Job 2’ Category

Psalms 35 and 36   1 comment

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POST XIII OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

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Bestir yourself to my defense,

My God and my Lord, to my combat.

–Psalm 35:23, Mitchell J. Dahood translation

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The author of Psalm 35 endured persecution entailing slander and false testimony.  He, using military terms–attack, combat, shield, sword, et cetera–asked God for defense.

Regarding those foes one might quote Psalm 36:

Perversity inspires the wicked man within his heart;

There is no dread of God before his eyes.

–Verse 2, Mitchell J. Dahood translation

God, these and other texts tell us, will vindicate the godly and the innocent.  There remains, however, a vital question:  Why has God not vindicated these godly and innocent people yet?  This question, which I have addressed somewhat in a previous post, is one of the stickiest of wickets.  The answer has something to do with free will; other than that, I have little to say.  I refuse to provide and easy and false answer to a profound and difficult question.

I am a Christian.  Thus I follow Jesus, an innocent man whom the Roman Empire executed for allegedly being an insurrectionist.  The Passion narratives in the canonical Gospels make several points abundantly clear; one of these is the innocence of Christ and therefore the injustice of his execution.  Suffering for the sake of righteousness is a recurring theme in the Bible.  Aside from Christ, I think also of Jeremiah, Elijah, Tobit, and St. Paul then Apostle immediately.

Speaking of difficult matters, I also think of Job, who suffered because of a heavenly wager.

I am not here to defend God, who needs no defense from mere mortals.  Besides, attempts to defend God frequently result in bad theology, if not outright heresy.  Consider, O reader, the alleged friends of Job, whom the text depicts as being incorrect.  I am here, however, to encourage the repeated act of wrestling with God and with spiritually difficult issues.  Wrestling with them is better than giving up on them, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 8, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MACKILLOP, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF PREACHERS

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Psalms 32-34   1 comment

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POST XII OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

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Psalm 34 occurs in the context of 1 Samuel 21:12-15.  In that story, David, on the run from King Saul, also fears King Achish of Gath.  Our hero, therefore, acts like a lunatic, so that Achish will expel him.  Psalm 34 extols God for protecting the faithful, but one should not underestimate David’s acting abilities either.

That trust in God exists in Psalms 32 and 33 also.  God is the master of history in Psalm 33.  That text also affirms something previous Psalms have argued:  God, not the military alone, brings about victory in war.  Psalm 32 reflects the belief (contrary to the omniscient voice in the Book of Job) that illness necessarily results from sin.  Thus the text links confession and recovery.  Yes, many illnesses result from one’s bad conduct, but sometimes defects lurk in one’s DNA or we are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Or maybe one is simply in the presence of non-hygienic children who spread viruses and diseases.  Or, in the case of Job 1 and 2, one is an unwilling pawn in a heavenly wager.

In each of the three texts assigned we read affirmations of fidelity to and trust in God.  The advice of Psalm 34:15 is timeless:

Shun evil and do good,

seek peace and pursue it.

–Mitchell J. Dahood translation

The translation of that verse in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) reads:

Shun evil and do good,

seek amity and pursue it.

A note in TANAKH informs me that an alternative translation to “amity” is “integrity.”

Of course, many who shun evil commit it anyway, by accident.  Also, many people agree that we should seek and pursue peace/amity/integrity, but what does that mean in practical terms in various circumstances?  May we, by grace, discern that and act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 8, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MACKILLOP, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF PREACHERS

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The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part VI   1 comment

the-wrath-of-elihu-william-blake

Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Job 36:1-23

Psalm 61

Matthew 13:53-58

2 Peter 3:1-7 (8-14) 15-18

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Elihu went on speaking.

–Job 36:1a, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

I read those words and thought,

Unfortunately.

“Elihu” means “He is my God.”  Elihu mounts a full-throated theodicy; he seeks to prove that God is just.  (God needs no human defense, of course.)  In the process Elihu accuses Job falsely of having been an agent of economic injustice and states that this alleged sin of Job is the reason for the main character’s sufferings.  All of this contradicts Job 1 and 2, as a reader of the text is supposed to know.  Elihu, who is falsely confident that he is correct, is blaming the victim.

Later in the Book of Job, a text with layers of authorship, we read two very different answers from God.  In Chapters 38-41 God gives Job the “I am God and you are not” speeches.  In the prose epilogue, in Chapter 42, however, God speaks briefly to Eliphaz the Temanite, saying:

I burn with anger against you and your two friends for not speaking truthfully about me as my servant Job has done….

–Verse 7b, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

There is no mention of Elihu after Chapter 37.  I suppose that this is because the composition of Chapters 32-37 postdates that of the epilogue, but, given that the Elihu material is similar in content to the speeches of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, he would have met with divine disapproval also, had the Elihu cycle existed at the time of the composition of the epilogue.

In contrast to the arrogance of Elihu (Job 36:4) one finds humility before God in Psalm 61 and 2 Peter 3:14.  Divine patience is, in the words of 2 Peter 3:15, an

opportunity for salvation,

but divine judgment and mercy exist in a balance which only God understands fully.  May we accept this opportunity for salvation, not imagine that we are enlightened and that our words contain no fallacies.  And may we avoid committing the error of people of Nazareth in Matthew 13:53-58, that is, permitting familiarity to blind us to the fact that we do not know as much as we think we do.  This is an especially helpful caution regarding passages of scripture with which we are familiar; they retain the ability to contradict our false assumptions and surprise–even scandalize–us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SALVIUS OF ALBI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF MORDECAI JOHNSON, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT NEMESIAN OF SIGUM AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/09/10/devotion-for-the-eighth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d/

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The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part V   1 comment

the-wrath-of-elihu-william-blake

Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Job 35:1-16

Psalm 119:(1-16) 17-32

Matthew 7:13-20

2 Peter 2:1-22

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Elihu is simultaneously correct and incorrect.  Indeed, whenever we sin, we harm others, not just ourselves, and whenever we act righteously, we benefit others, not just ourselves.  Furthermore, nothing escapes divine notice.  One might think of the false teachers in Matthew 7 and 2 Peter 2 and find examples of these principles.  One might also imagine Elihu agreeing wholeheartedly with the ideas in Psalm 119:1-16 and be correct.  The problem with Elihu’s speech in Job 35 is that he employs truthful statements to support a mostly false conclusion:

Hence when Job opens his mouth,

it is for idle talk:

his spate or words comes out of ignorance.

–Job 35:16, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

In the Book of Job all people who speak do so out of ignorance, but the main character is accurate in his assertion of innocence (Consult Job 1, 2 and most of 42, Chapters 38-41, and the first few verses of Chapter 42 not withstanding).  That Job, as an innocent person, is suffering, is the main idea to which Elihu objects.  Elihu speaks out of ignorance yet does not know it.

Each of us speaks out of ignorance, partial or total, daily; that is part of the reality of the human condition.  Knowing this about ourselves is a fine beginning of the process of addressing the problem via grace.  May we be sufficiently humble to recognize the fact that we do not know as much as we might imagine about many topics, especially the nature of God.  And may we, even in our ignorance, glorify and draw people to the throne of grace, not blame victims and incur divine anger.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SALVIUS OF ALBI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF MORDECAI JOHNSON, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT NEMESIAN OF SIGUM AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/09/10/devotion-for-the-seventh-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d/

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The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part IV   1 comment

the-wrath-of-elihu-william-blake

Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Job 34:21-37

Psalm 12

Matthew 7:1-12

2 Peter 1:1-15

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God cares for the poor and the oppressed, Elihu, Psalm 12, and Matthew 7 tell us.  Yet how do we explain the divine wager in Job 1 and 2, as well as the suffering of other innocent people?  It is a difficult theological question, one for which I, along with the Book of Job, refuse to offer any easy answers.  I not that, according to God in Job 42:7, Job had, unlike Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, spoken truthfully about God.  I remind you, O reader, that Job had spoken critically of God, who agreed with Job in Chapter 42 yet not in Chapters 38-41.  Such contradictions are par for course in a text with layers of authorship.

Elihu, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar should have followed timeless advice which the author of 2 Peter 1 summarized thusly:

…you should make every effort to add virtue to your faith, knowledge to virtue, self-control to knowledge, fortitude to self-control, piety to fortitude, brotherly affection to piety, and love to brotherly affection.

–1:5b-7, The Revised English Bible (1989)

They would have avoided being not only inhospitable but overreaching in statements in defense of God, as they understood God.  Elihu said:

But this is what all sensible folk will say,

and any wise man among my hearers,

“There is not wisdom in Job’s speech,

his words lack sense.

Put him unsparingly to the proof

since his retorts are the same as those that the wicked make.

For to him he adds rebellion,

calling justice into question in our midst

and heaping abuse on God.”

–Job 34:34-37, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

They would have refrained from heaping abuse on Job and would have been good friends had they acted according to the timeless advice the author of 2 Peter 1:5b-7 understood well.

May we–you, O reader, and I–act according to 2 Peter 1:5b-7 daily, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SALVIUS OF ALBI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF MORDECAI JOHNSON, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT NEMESIAN OF SIGUM AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/09/10/devotion-for-the-sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d/

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The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part III   1 comment

the-wrath-of-elihu-william-blake

Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Job 34:1-20

Psalm 28

Matthew 6:7-15

Hebrews 13:9-14 (15-16) 17-25

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Elihu seems like a rather annoying person.  He is eager to defend God against Job’s complaints and to offer a more vigorous theodicy than that of Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.  Elihu argues, in part:

So far is God removed from wickedness,

and Shaddai from injustice,

that he requites a man for what he does,

treating each one as his way of life deserves.

God is never wrong, do not doubt that!

Shaddai does not deflect the course of right.

–Job 34:10b-12, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Translation:  Job sinned, and these sufferings of his are divine punishment for those sins.  If he repents, God will forgive Job and end his sufferings.  This conclusion contradicts Job 1 and 2, which offer a truly disturbing answer:  God has permitted an innocent man to suffer as part of a wager.

This seems like an excellent place at which to add the analysis of John Job, author of Job Speaks to Us Today (Atlanta, GA:  John Knox Press, 1977), pages 102-103.  The author asks, “Why are Job’s friends not truly wise?”  He concludes, in part:

The friends, first of all, are shameless utilitarians.  Repentance, in the estimation of Eliphaz, is a kind of insurance policy.  Making petition to God is advocated, not for the intrinsic value of a relationship with him, but simply for the pay-off in material terms–as when he says, “Come to terms with God and you will prosper; that is the way to mend your fortune” (22:21).  The interesting point here is that the friends adopt precisely the position which Satan regards as universally occupied by those who make a show of being god-fearing.  “Does Job fear God for nothing?” he had asked.  Eliphaz makes no secret of the grounds on which he is advising Job to fear God.  It is all too shallow.  Faith is depersonalized:  it becomes self-centered instead of God-centered.  Its character as faith is destroyed.  Fear of God is simply not the right way to describe it.

If one replaces “Eliphaz” with “Elihu” and changes the citation from Job 22 to one from Chapter 34, this analysis remains valid.

The Book of Job defies the desire for easy answers that fundamentalism typifies.  God is just, correct?  Then how does one explain the wager in Job 1 and 2?  And does not Job deserve better than the “I am God and you are not” speeches in Job 38-41?  In Job 42, however, God expresses his displeasure with Eliphaz and company for speaking falsely about him and praises Job for speaking honestly about him (God).  Those two responses seem incompatible, do they not?  Of course, one came from one source and the other came from another.  Elihu, who states correctly that God does not meet human measures (Job 33:12b), also spouts foolishness.  The Book of Job provides no easy answers and offers a false, Hollywood ending, at least in its final, composite form.  The original version ends with Job’s repentance for overreaching a few verses into Chapter 42.

Job needed good friends, not Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu.  He needed people who came to comfort him, to listen to him, and to let him cry on their shoulders.  He needed friends who followed advice from Hebrews 13:16:

Never neglect to show kindness and to share what you have with others; for such are the sacrifices which God approves.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

The standard we apply to others will be the standard God applies to us; we read this in Matthew 7:1-5.  Forgiveness is something we are to extend to others, and divine forgiveness of our sins depends on our forgiveness of the sins of others.  This is a lesson the author of Psalm 28 had not yet learned.  This is a lesson with which I have struggled mightily and with which I continue to struggle.  Success in the struggle does not depend on my own power, fortunately; grace is abundant.  The desire to do something one knows one ought to do is something with which God can work.  It is, metaphorically, a few loaves and fishes, which God can multiply.

In Job 42 God burned with anger toward Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.  (The text does not mention Elihu, most likely because the text of the Book of Job did not yet contain the Elihu cycle.)  The alleged friends had not spoken truthfully of God, but Job had.  Job interceded on their behalf, however, and God excused their folly and forgave their sins.  Job, who had complained bitterly to his alleged friends, who had taunted him and sometimes even enjoyed his sufferings, all while imagining that they were pious and that he had done something to deserve his plight, prayed for their forgiveness.

That is a fine lesson to draw from the Book of Job.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CONSTANCE AND HER COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF ANNE HOULDITCH SHEPHERD, ANGLICAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ISAAC THE GREAT, PATRIARCH OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CHATTERTON DIX, HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/09/09/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d/

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The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part I   1 comment

the-wrath-of-elihu-william-blake

Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Job 32:1-22

Psalm 89:5-18, 38-52

Luke 5:27-39

Hebrews 11:(1-3) 4-7, 17-28 (39-40)

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The Book of Job exists in layers, both prose and poetic.  This fact creates complexity in interpreting the text.  The best way to interpret the Book of Job is to read it as the composite text it has become.  Yes, the core of the poetic section of the Book of Job is its oldest portion, but I read that core in the context of the prose introduction (Chapters 1 and 2).  There we read why Job suffers:  God permits it to happen as part of a wager with the Satan, his loyalty tester.  Job suffers and two cycles of speeches follow.  Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite take turns arguing that Job’s protestations of his innocence cannot be accurate, for God, being just, would not permit an innocent person to suffer.  Job argues against his alleged friends, who cease speaking eventually.  Job makes his concluding argument in Chapters 29-31.  God answers him in Chapters 38-41, and Job repents in Chapter 42.  Then, in the prose epilogue in Chapter 42, God “burns with anger” toward Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar and favors Job.

The speeches of Elihu are obviously not original to the Book of Job.  As a matter of the structure of the Book of Job Elihu comes out of nowhere, goes away without any subsequent mention or appearance, and interrupts the narrative, filling the gap between Job’s final argument and God’s reply.

The prose section of Chapter 32 (verses 1-6) tells us that Elihu was angry with the three alleged friends and with Job.  He was angry with Job

for thinking that he was right and God was wrong

–Verse 2, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

and with Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar

for giving up the argument and thus admitting that God could be unjust.

–Verse 3, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Elihu is, in his words,

filled with words, choked by the rush of them

–Verse 18, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

within himself.

The Book of Job is also complex theologically.  Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu commit the same error.  The presume to know how God does and should act.  The premise of the Book of Job supports the main character’s claim of innocence, yet not everything the others say is inaccurate.  Much of it sounds like portions of the Books of Psalms and Proverbs, after all.  And Elihu, as he points fingers, does not err completely in what he says, even as he should justly point a finger at himself.

Do we Christians not speak at length about the love, mercy, and justice of God?  Yet does not Job, in the text bearing his name, deserve an honest answer, not the “I am God and you are not” speeches in Chapters 38-41?  The theodicy of Elihu, for all its errors, is not complete idiocy.

Psalm 89, which is about the divine covenant with David, alternates between thanksgiving for God’s faithfulness to the monarch and lament for divine renunciation of that covenant before ending on a hopeful note.  God has yet to end that renunciation, but the psalm ends:

Blessed be the LORD forever.

Amen and Amen.

–Verse 52, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Hebrews 11:35b-40 tells us that many faithful people of God have suffered, been poor and/or oppressed, and become martyrs.

The world was not worthy of them.

–Verse 38a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

They became beneficiaries of God’s better plan for them, we read in verse 40.  Their cases contradict the arguments of Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu.  The case of Jesus also contradicts their speeches.  We read an example of foreshadowing of his crucifixion in Luke 5:35.

Timothy Matthew Slemmons has stretched Elihu’s speeches across seven Sundays in his proposed Year D.  This is therefore the first of seven posts in which I will ponder Elihu’s argument in the context of other portions of scripture.  The journey promises to be interesting and spiritually edifying.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 8, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SHEPHERD KNAPP, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GOTTFRIED WILHELM SACER, GERMAN LUTHERAN ATTORNEY AND HYMN WRITER; AND FRANCES ELIZABETH COX, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN DUCKETT AND RALPH CORBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS IN ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF NIKOLAI GRUDTVIG, HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/09/08/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d/

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