Archive for the ‘Job 4’ Category

The First Oracle of Haggai   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Haggai

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART II

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Haggai 1:1-15

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King Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (r. 559-530 B.C.E.) conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.E.  The following year, he issued a decree permitting Jewish exiles to return to their ancestral homeland (Ezra 1:1-4).  The first wave of exiles to return to the ruined homeland (Ezra 1:5-2:70; 1 Esdras 2:8-30; 1 Esdras 5:1-73).  The old, prophetic predictions of the homeland being a verdant paradise of piety and prosperity did not match reality on the ground.  Grief and disappointment ensued.  The land was not as fertile as in the germane prophecies, and the economy was bad.

As of 520 B.C.E., proper worship, as had occurred before the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.), had not resumed.  People had set up an altar–most likely in 520 B.C.E. (as 1 Esdras 5:47-55 indicates, not in 538 B.C.E. (as Ezra 3:1-8 indicates).

Construction of the Second Temple began (Ezra 3:10-13; 1 Esdras 5:56-65a).  Yet opposition to that effort caused a pause in construction (Ezra 4:1-23; 1 Esdras 5:65b-73).

Haggai 1:1-15 establishes two dates and three names:

  1. The first date (1:1), converted to the Gregorian Calendar, is August 9, 520 B.C.E.
  2. The first name is Haggai, who prophesied from August 9 to December 18, 520 B.C.E.
  3. The second name is Joshua ben Zehozadak, the chief priest.
  4. The final name is Zerubbabel ben Shealtiel (of the House of David), the satrap (governor).   Notice the lack of the Davidic monarchy, O reader.
  5. The final date (1:15) is September 21, 520 B.C.E.

Haggai offered a simple explanation of why the drought was severe and the economy was poor.  He blamed everything on the lack of a completed Temple in Jerusalem.  The prophet argued that such disrespect for God was the culprit, and that the poverty and drought were punishment.  Work on the construction of the Second Temple resumed.  Surely resuming construction of the Second Temple ended the drought and revived the economy, right?  No, actually, hence Haggai 2:10-10.

Haggai’s heart was in the right place, but he missed an important truth that predated Jesus:

[God] makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.”

–Matthew 5:45b, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Haggai could have recalled certain laments from Hebrew literature.  He could have remembered Psalm 73, for example.  Why did the wicked flourish and the righteous falter?  Haggai could have recalled the Book of Job, in which the innocent, titular character suffered.

I make no pretense of being a spiritual giant and a great spring of wisdom, O reader.  However, I offer you a principle to consider:  God is not a vending machine.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 11, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 10:  THE SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF NATHAN SODERBLOM, SWEDISH ECUMENIST AND ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSULA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID GONSON, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1541

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN GUALBERT, FOUNDER OF THE VALLOMBROSAN BENEDICTINES

THE FEAST OF SAINTS THOMAS SPROTT AND THOMAS HUNT, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1600

THE FEAST OF SAINT VALERIU TRAIAN FRENTIU, ROMANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR, 1952

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A Collage of Laments   Leave a comment

Above:  Lamentations 3:10

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LAMENTATIONS, PART IV

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Lamentation 3:1-66

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Different voices fill Lamentations 3.  A new voice–that of Israel personified as the Man–speaks in verses 1-24, and perhaps through verse 39, as well.  An alternative view holds that the Poet speaks in verses 25-39.  Another new voice–that of the Community–speaks in verses 48-51.  Either Fair Zion or the Man speaks in verses 52-66.

Verses 1-20 depict deportation into exile.  They also depict God as a bad shepherd, in contrast to Psalm 23, Psalm 78, and Ezekiel 34.  Yet, starting with verse 25, we read an expression of hope in God.  Divine loyalty has not ended and divine mercies are not spent, we read.

For the Lord does not

Reject forever,

But first afflicts, then pardons

In His abundant kindness.

–Lamentations 3:31-32, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Comparing translations reveals shades of meaning in the original Hebrew text.  The Revised English Bible (1989) reads:

For rejection by the Lord

does not last forever.

He may punish, yet he will have compassion

in the fullness of his unfailing love….

When we turn to The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011), we read:

For the Lord does not reject forever;

Though he brings grief, he takes pity,

according to the abundance of his mercy….

Much of the material in verses 25-39 sounds like speeches by Job’s alleged friends (Job 4, 8, 11, 15, 18, 20, 22, 25, 32-37):  Suffering is divine punishment for sin, and people should accept this punishment.  In the context of the Book of Job, this is a misplaced theology, not applicable to the titular character’s situation (Job 1:1-2:10; 42:7-9).  Also, the speeches of Job’s alleged friends read like the useless yet conventionally pious babblings they are, in narrative context.

The rest of the Book of Lamentations confesses sins, repents of those sins, begs for divine deliverance, expresses hope in God, and prays for divine judgment on the wicked nations.

I get theological whiplash from Lamentations 3.  The contrast between Lamentations 3 and the rage against God in Lamentations 2 is stark.  And who says that God does not willingly bring grief or affliction?  I recall many passages from Hebrew prophetic books in which God speaks and claims credit for causing grief and affliction.  I do not recall anyone forcing God to do that.  In some passages, however, God speaks of these divine actions as the consequences of human sins.

I approach theodicy cautiously.  I am also an intellectually honest monotheist.  I have no evil god to blame for anything, thereby letting the good god off the hook.  There is simply and solely God, who is ever in the dock, so to speak.   The major problem with human theodicy is that it easily degenerates into idiocy at best and heresy at worst.

Whenever someone professes not to believe in God, one way to handle the situation is to ask that individual to describe the God in whom he or she does not believe.  One may also want to ask how the other person defines belief in God.  In the creedal sense, to believe in God is to trust in God.  Yet many–or most–people probably understand belief in God to mean affirmation of the existence of God.

Idiotic theodicy produces a range of God-concepts abhorrent to me.  I suspect that many–or most–of those professed agnostics and atheists reject at least one of these God-concepts, too.  Many professed agnostics and atheists–a host of them refugees from conventional piety and abusive faith–may be closer to a healthy relationship with the God of the Universe than many conventionally devout Jews and Christians.  This matter lies far outside my purview; it resides in the purview of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 19, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN DALBERG ACTON, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC HISTORIAN, PHILOSOPHER, AND SOCIAL CRITIC

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE TEAGUE CASE, EPISCOPAL PROFESSOR OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION, AND ADVOCATE FOR PEACE

THE FEAST OF MICHEL-RICHARD DELALANDE, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF VERNARD ELLER, U.S. CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN MINISTER AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PIERSON MERRILL, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

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Daniel and Susanna   Leave a comment

Above:  Susanna and the Elders

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART XI

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Daniel 13:1-64

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Daniel and Susanna, according to study Bibles I consulted, hails from either the second or the first centuries B.C.E.  A standard description of Daniel 13 is that it is the oldest surviving detective story.  I prefer to think of it as the oldest surviving Perry Mason story.

The cast of named characters is:

  1. Joakim, husband of Susanna;
  2. Susanna, daughter of Hilkiah and wife of Joakim;
  3. Hilkiah, father of Susanna; and
  4. Daniel.

The story does not name the two wicked elders.

This is a story about the miscarriage of justice.  We read that the beautiful and pious Susanna, wife of the wealthy and pious Joakim, refused the sexual advances of the lecherous and homicidal elders, who had hidden in her garden.  The story describes the two elders as predators.  We also read of their perjury and of Susanna’s false conviction, followed by her sentence of death (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:21-22).

This is also a story about justice.  We read of Susanna’s prayer (verses 42-43) and of God’s reply:  sending Daniel to rescue her.  We read of Daniel’s Perry Mason routine, by which he exposed the two elders’ lies with an arborial question:  

Now, if you really saw this woman, then tell us, under what tree did you see them together?”

–Verse 54, The Revised English Bible with the Apocrypha (1989)

We also read of the elders’ execution, in accordance with the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 19:16-21).  In the Law of Moses, the punishment for committing perjury to convict someone falsely is to suffer the fate one intended for the accused.

The suffering of the innocent and the pious is a major theme in the Book of Daniel.  We also read of God delivering such victims in Daniel 2 and 3.  Yet Daniel 10-12 wrestles with the realities of martyrdoms.

God delivers the innocent and the pious some of the time.  This tension is evident in the Book of Psalms.  Some of those texts sound like Elihu, as well as Job’s alleged friends:  Suffering results from sins, and God delivers the righteous.  Yet other Psalms come from the perspective of the suffering righteous.  The former position fills Proverbs, the Wisdom of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus/Sirach/the Wisdom of Ben Sira, too.  Ecclesiastes functions as a counter-argument to that excessive optimism.

Why does God deliver some of the righteous and not all of them?  I have no pat answer for such a challenging question.  In Revelation 6:9-11, even the martyrs in Heaven are not always happy.

We who struggle with this vexing question belong to an ancient tradition.  We are the current generation in a long train.  We have reasons to rejoice, at least; God delivers some of the innocent and the pious.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 23, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN KENNETH PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS WIFE, HARRIET ELIZABETH “BESSIE” WHITTINGTON PFOHL, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN; AND THEIR SON, JAMES CHRISTIAN PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF CASPAR FRIEDRICH NACHTENHOFER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND MISSIONARY

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Psalm 119:105-144   5 comments

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POST LI 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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This is the fourth of five posts on Psalm 119 in this series.  The first is here.  The second is here.  The third is here.  The fifth is here.

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My flesh creeps from fear of You;

I am in awe of Your rulings.

–Psalm 119:120, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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My body bristles out of awe of you,

and I fear your judgments.

–Psalm 119:120, Mitchell J. Dahood translation (1970)

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This verse follows closely on the heels of an affirmation that God is the psalmist’s shield, a prayer for deliverance by God from foes (the wicked, or those who do not obey the torah, or teaching of the wise), and statements that God rejects the wicked.  Here, in Psalm 119:120, the alternating use of “fear” and “awe” seems to be evident.  The Presence of God has quite an effect on one.  Mitchell J. Dahood refers readers of his commentary to Job 4:15:

A wind passed before my face,

a storm made by body bristle.

If one who seeks to keep the torah of God more and more as time passes and finds the divine commandments to be sweeter than honey has that kind of response to the Presence of God and to divine commandments, how much more will the wicked have to tremble before God?  In God exist both judgment and mercy.  I do not pretend to know when one ends and the other begins.  I do, however, affirm that mere respect, if not an overpowering sense of inadequacy before the Almighty, should lead one to a sense of awe before God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 21, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ATHELSTAN LAURIE RILEY, ANGLICAN ECUMENIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Posted August 21, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Job 4, Psalm 119

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Defense Mechanisms   1 comment

Job Illustration

Above:  One of William Blake’s Illustrations Based on the Book of Job

Image Source = William Safire, The First Dissident:  The Book of Job in Today’s Politics (New York, NY:  Random House, 1992)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

Holy God, heavenly Father, in the waters of the flood you saved the chosen,

and in the wilderness of temptation you protected your Son from sin.

Renew us in the gift of baptism.

May your holy angels be with us,

that the wicked foe may have no power over us,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 4:1-21 (Monday)

Job 5:8-27 (Tuesday)

Psalm 77 (Both Days)

Ephesians 2:1-10 (Monday)

1 Peter 3:8-18a (Tuesday)

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I think of God, I am restless,

I ponder, and my spirit faints.

You will not let my eyelids close;

I am troubled and I cannot speak….

Will the Lord cast me off for ever?

will he no more show his favor?

Has his loving-kindness come to an end for ever?

Has God forgotten to be gracious?

has he, in his anger, withheld his compassion?

–Psalm 77:3-4, 7-9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Those verses from Psalm 77 remind me of Job.  The assigned readings from the Book of Job come from a speech by Eliphaz the Temanite, who mocks the titular character of the book while reciting a combination of pious platitudes and works-based theology of righteousness.  Thus, according to Eliphaz, Job deserves his fate, for a just deity would not permit an innocent person to suffer.  1 Peter 3:8-18a and Ephesians contradict Eliphaz.

The character of Eliphaz acted partially out of the defense of tradition.  Certainly tradition provides comfort in the form of predictability, but sometimes it is wrong, as are many deeds people commit in defense of it.  Eliphaz should have obeyed the advice of 1 Peter 3:8 instead.  He should have been

full of brotherly affection, kindly and humbly.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

It is better to be compassionate than to be correct in one’s opinion.  To behave correctly is superior to acting badly in defense of one’s theological orthodoxy.  This is a devotion for the season of Lent, a time of repentance and of confession of sin.  May we confess and repent of our defense mechanisms which inflict harm on others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 6, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETIUS OF TRIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP; AND SAINT AREDIUS OF LIMOGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM OF KRATIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, BISHOP, AND HERMIT

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF PHILIP BERRIGAN, SOCIAL ACTIVIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-first-sunday-in-lent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted December 11, 2014 by neatnik2009 in 1 Peter 3, Ephesians 2, Job 4, Job 5, Psalm 77

Tagged with , ,

Job and John, Part IV: Ideology   1 comment

Above:  Job and His Alleged Friends

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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 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 4:1-21 (February 7)

Job 5:1-27 (February 8)

Psalm 97 (Morning–February 7)

Psalm 51 (Morning–February 8)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening–February 7)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening–February 8)

John 2:1-12 (February 7)

John 2:13-25 (February 8)

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A Related Post:

John 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

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I have combined the readings for February 7 and 8 to keep Eliphaz the Temanite material together.  Doing this has another effect:  keeping miracle at Cana and the Johannine account of the cleansing of the Temple together.  Shall we proceed?

Job had bad excuses for friends.  Exhibit A is Eliphaz the Temanite, who defended his concept of God by insisting that Job must have done something to warrant suffering.  After all, in Eliphaz’s view, the good prospered and the bad suffered.  This was demonstrably false theology.  Just look around:  Truly bad people prosper and morally sound people suffer.  The Gospel of John, like all canonical Gospels, written from a post-Resurrection perspective, places a prediction of our Lord’s suffering at the beginning of our Lord’s suffering at the beginning of the text.  If Eliphaz was correct, Jesus should not have suffered.  But he did.  So Eliphaz was incorrect.

There is more to John 2:1-25.  The story of the miracle at Cana speaks of extravagance.  In Jesus, it tells us, was something new–well, old really–but new relative to the perspective of the people at the time–and unstinting.  This was not a rejection of Judaism; rather it emerged from Judaism.  Jesus was, after all, a practicing Jew.  Yet the cleansing of the Temple–placed at the beginning of our Lord’s ministry in John, in contrast to the Synoptic chronology–did indicate a rejection of the Temple system, which placed undue burdens on those who could least afford them.  Money changers profited from the religious imperative to exchange idolatrous Roman currency before buying a sacrificial animal.  But Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice in time.

The character of Eliphaz the Temanite experienced cognitive dissonance over Job’s sufferings.  Eliphaz resolved that dissonance by doubling down on his ideology, even though evidence contradicted it.  The emergence of Jesus pointed to a new (to humans) approach to God.  In each case predictable conservatism clung to the old ways of thinking.  But the dogmas of the past were inadequate to the demands of the then-current reality.  Conservatism is not inherently bad; it is just not appropriate at all times and in all places.  The question concerns what one seeks to conserve.  Sometimes a revolutionary is just what God ordered.

May our assumptions–especially those so deeply embedded that we do not think of them as assumptions–not prevent us from recognizing God’s ways of working.  And may these assumptions not blind us to our own errors.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 13, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMENEGILD, VISIGOTHIC PRINCE AND ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF ROUEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, ABBOT, AND MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARTIN I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF MIKAEL AGRICOLA, FINNISH LUTHERAN BISHOP OF TALLINN

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/devotion-for-february-7-and-8-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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