Archive for the ‘Zophar the Naamathite’ Tag

Orthodoxy, Heresy, and Compassion   1 comment

Job and His Alleged Friends

Above:   Job and His Alleged Friends

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, our eternal redeemer, by the presence of your Spirit you renew and direct our hearts.

Keep always in our mind the end of all things and the day of judgment.

Inspire us for a holy life here, and bring us to the joy of the resurrection,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 20:1-11 (Monday)

Job 21:1, 17-34 (Tuesday)

Psalm 123 (Both Days)

2 Peter 1:16-21 (Monday)

2 John 1-13 (Tuesday)

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Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy,

for we have had more than enough of contempt.

–Psalm 123:4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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With friends such as Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, who needs enemies?  In Job 19:22 the main character laments:

Why do you hound me down like God,

will you never have enough of my flesh?

The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

in response to Bildad.  Then Zophar echoes Bildad in arguing that Job must have sinned and therefore deserve his suffering.  Job replies in part:

So what sense is there in your empty consolation?

What nonsense are your answers!

–Job 21:34, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Refraining from blaming victims is a good start, is it not?  Compassion is a virtue, and tough love is different from abuse.

Turning to the readings from the New Testament, we find defenses of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and of Christian orthodoxy, which was in the early phase of development in the first and second centuries of the Common Era.  The Gospel, consistent with the Hebrew Prophets, comes with eyewitnesses (most of whom had died by the late first century C.E.), we read.  The text of 2 John adds a criticism of Gnostics or proto-Gnostics, who denied the Incarnation.  Indeed, many Gnostic texts have survived and are available in English-language translations.  They are baffling and non-canonical.  Their non-canonical status is appropriate, given that Gnosticism and Christianity are mutually incompatible.

Interestingly, the author of 2 John never accuses these deniers of the Incarnation of being cruel or otherwise mean.  No, they are simply wrong and dangerous, he argues.  One can be compassionate and theologically mistaken just as surely as one can be theologically correct and lacking in compassion.  One can also, of course, lack both compassion and theological correctness.  The optimum state is to be theologically correct and compassionate, is it not?

That leads to another, practical matter.  One might have compassion yet channel it in a way or ways that prove harmful at worst or not helpful at best.  One might read the Book of Job in such a way as to interpret the motivations of the literary characters of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar to be positive–to stage a spiritual intervention.  Yet the theological position of that book (in its final, composite form) is that their orthodoxy was actually heresy.  If one proceeds from a false assumption, one should not be surprised when arriving at an erroneous conclusion.

Each of us is correct in much and erroneous in much else.  May we, by grace, grow in orthodoxy (as God defines it) and effective compassion.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILL CAMPBELL, AGENT OF RECONCILIATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LIPHARDUS OF ORLEANS AND URBICIUS OF MEUNG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF UGANDA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MORAND OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/06/03/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-27-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Causing Dissensions and Offenses, Part I   1 comment

Stoning of St. Stephen

Above:  The Stoning of St. Stephen, by Paolo Uccello

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Ever-living God, your Son gives himself as living bread for the life of the world.

Fill us with such knowledge of his presence that we may be strengthened and sustained

by his risen life to serve you continually,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 11:1-20 (Thursday)

Job 12:1-25 (Friday)

Job 13:1-19 (Saturday)

Psalm 34:9-14 (All Days)

Acts 6:8-15 (Thursday)

Romans 16:17-20 (Friday)

John 4:7-26 (Saturday)

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See that you never say anything wrong;

do not deceive people by telling lies.

Turn from bad behaviour to good,

try your best to live in peace.

–Psalm 34:14-15, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

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One might start by refraining from blaming victims for their plights.

The titular character of the Book of Job, the opening of that composite text informs us, suffered not because of any sin he had committed.  No, God had permitted Satan, then an employee of God in the Hebrew theology of the time, to test the loyalty of Job.  (The adversary did not become God’s rival in Jewish theology until much later.  Many readers miss that point and read the Book of Job anachronistically.)  The primary guilty party in the case of the suffering of the impatient Job, then, was God.  (The expression “the patience of Job” makes no sense to me, based on the text which bears his name.)  Job’s alleged friends, including Zophar the Naamathite, argued however that God, being just, would not permit the innocent to suffer, so Job must have done something wrong.  Job gave as good as he got, as Chapters 12 and 13 indicate:

But you invent lies;

All of you are quacks.

If you would only keep quiet

It would be considered wisdom on your part.

–Job 13:4-5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Nevertheless, much of what Job’s alleged friends said sounds like what one reads elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, especially in the Books of Psalms and Proverbs, stated authoritatively.  (Those books are too naively optimistic in places.  Of course some of those raised to follow God grow up and depart from the proper path, despite Proverbs 22:6, for example.)  These alleged friends were not entirely wrong, but they proceeded from a false assumption, one common in antiquity as well as today.  Old ideas–including demonstrably false ones–persist.  If one’s sins necessarily lead to one’s suffering, how does one explain the crucifixion of Jesus, the living bread, the living water, and the sinless one?  One must also, if one is to be intellectually thorough and honest, contend with the sufferings and martyrdoms of many faithful, mere mortals, from antiquity to current events.

There are, of course, various reasons for suffering.  The Buddhist statement that suffering results from wrong desiring covers much of that territory well.  One might suffer because of the wrong desiring of another person or because of one’s own wrong desiring.  Even that, however, does not account for the suffering one must endure apart from that with causation in wrong desiring.  Why do some children enter the world with terrible diseases with genetic causes, for example?

St. Paul the Apostle, writing in Romans 16:17, urged his audience

to keep an eye on those who cause dissensions and offenses, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

I file Zophar the Naamathite and the false witnesses against St. Stephen in that category.

A complicating factor is that “those who cause dissensions and offenses” usually do not think of themselves as such.  They might even consider themselves as righteous people, or at least as people who perform necessary, if unpleasant, deeds for the greater good.  Furthermore, you, O reader, and I might be among these people, according to others.  The only infallible judge of such matters is God.

We can attempt to act kindly, at least, and to refrain from blaming victims for their afflictions.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, APOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-15-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Compassion and Suffering   1 comment

probably_valentin_de_boulogne_-_saint_paul_writing_his_epistles_-_google_art_project

Above:  Saint Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Everlasting God, in your endless love for the human race

you sent our Lord Jesus Christ to take on our nature and

to suffer death on the cross.  In your mercy enable us to share

in his obedience to your will and in the glorious victory of

his resurrection, who lives and reigns with you and the

Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 29

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 16:11-13 (32nd Day)

Job 13:13-19 (33rd Day)

Psalm 31:9-16 (Both Days)

Philippians 1:1-11 (32nd Day)

Philippians 1:21-30 (33rd Day)

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Some Related Posts:

1 Samuel 16:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/week-of-2-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-third-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/proper-6-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/devotion-for-july-31-august-1-and-august-2-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Job 13:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/devotion-for-february-18-and-19-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Philippians 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/eighth-day-of-advent-second-sunday-of-advent-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/proper-20-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/week-of-proper-25-friday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-25-saturday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/devotion-for-september-8-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/devotion-for-september-9-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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But my trust is in you, O Lord.

I have said, “You are my God.

My times are in your hand;

deliver me from those who persecute me.

Make your face to shine upon your servant,

and save me for your mercy’s sake.”

–Psalm 31:14-16, Common Worship (2000)

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Sometimes people suffer because they have done something wrong; they reap what they sown.  Other times people suffer because they have done something for God.  When the light shines in the darkness, elements of the latter cannot or will not abide the former.  And sometimes neither of the above reasons applies.

The Book of Job establishes that the titular character was righteous, that God permitted his manifold and terrible sufferings, and that Job had bad excuses for friends.  Our excerpt from Job 13, in the voice of the titular character, rebuts Zophar, who had told him to confess his sins.

Be quiet! Kindly let me do the talking,

happen to me what may.

–Job 13:13, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

seems like a mild translation to me.  Job and Zophar did commit the same error—presuming to know how God does or should act.  But at least Job was not as annoying as his alleged friend.

God has worked in ways we do not always expect.  A young shepherd became a king.  A persecutor of nascent Christianity became one of its most important evangelists.  The most important figure of an age was a Palestinian Jewish carpenter and stonecutter, not any of the Roman Emperors.  And God continues to be full of surprises.

May we not presume to know more than we do.  More important than being right and proven so is acting compassionately.  I would rather be compassionate and objectively incorrect on some point of doctrine than mean-spirited or unkind in my dealings with people and objectively correct on points of doctrine.  Perhaps the character of Zophar thought that he was helping, but he was wrong.  Good intentions are insufficient.  What are the effects?

That is a difficult and high standard to pass.  May we succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 28, 2013 COMMON ERA

THANKSGIVING DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN THE YOUNGER, DEFENDER OF ICONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH PIGNATELLI, RESTORER OF THE JESUITS

THE FEAST OF KAMAHAMEHA AND EMMA, KING AND QUEEN OF HAWAII

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/28/devotion-for-the-thirty-second-and-thirty-third-day-of-lent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted January 15, 2014 by neatnik2009 in 1 Samuel 16, Job 13, Philippians 1, Psalm 31

Tagged with , ,

Job and John, Part XVII: Judicial Murder, Legalized Killing   1 comment

Above:  Troy Davis March, Atlanta, Georgia, September 16, 2011

(Note the Episcopal flag and the Diocese of Atlanta banner; I am proud to belong to his denomination and diocese thereof.)

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

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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 20:1-23, 29

Psalm 62 (Morning)

Psalms 73 and 8 (Evening)

John 8:21-38

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Some Related Posts:

John 8:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirtieth-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-first-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/feast-of-the-reformation-october-31/

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Job 20 offers us the second speech of Zophar the Naamathite.  There is nothing new there.  According to Zophar, only the wicked suffer.  And Job is suffering.  So Job must be wicked.  But the Book of Job argues against this line of reasoning. And so does the life of Jesus.  By writing these words I have repeated myself from previous posts in this Job and John series.

Above:  Another Scene from the Troy Davis March

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

The lifting up of Jesus (John 8:27) is the crucifixion.  And those who wanted to kill him, although descended from Abraham were not of God.  A child of God obeys God.  And one of the most basic commandments in Torah is not to commit murder.  What was the crucifixion if not legalized murder?  Execution is legalized murder; may we not labor under any delusions to the contrary.  If I were to take somebody’s life, the state might accuse me of murder or a related charge.  But it is legal for the state to take a life.  I see no moral difference.

I , as a Christian, follow my Lord and Savior, one whom legal authorities subjected to torture and execution.  Therefore I cannot think of those activities except in the context of what happened to Jesus.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 26, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS REMACLUS OF MAASTRICHT, THEODORE OF MAASTRICHT, LAMBERT OF MAASTRICHT, HUBERT OF MAASTRICHT AND LIEGE, AND FLORIBERT OF LIEGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; LANDRADA OF MUNSTERBILSEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND OTGER OF UTRECHT, PLECHELM OF GUELDERLAND, AND WIRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF CHRISTINA ROSSETTI, POET

THE FEAST OF SAINT PASCHASIUS RADBERTUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ROBERT HUNT, FIRST ANGLICAN CHAPLAIN AT JAMESTOWN, VIRGINIA

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/devotion-for-february-25-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Job and John, Part IX: Perceptions   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 11:1-20

Psalm 130 (Morning)

Psalms 32 and 139 (Evening)

John 5:19-29

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Some Related Posts:

John 5:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twenty-fifth-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/17/feast-of-all-souls-november-2/

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Zophar the Naamathite opens his address in Job 11:1-20 by insulting Job.  A note on page 1519 of The Jewish Study Bible makes a succinct point:

Like Bildad in 8.2, Zophar here, in the house of a man bereft of his children (1.18-19) and infested with maggots (7.5), has the colassal gall to tell Job, the master of the house, that he talks too much!

And Zophar persists in the practice of relying on “received wisdom” as a basis for his theodicy.

The reading from John 5 constitutes part of a discourse attributed to Jesus after he healed the paralyzed man at the Pool at Bethesda on a Sabbath.  (The Synoptic Jesus does not talk as much as does the Johannine Jesus, by the way.)  The content of the discourse interest me, but the relative newness of it fascinates me today.  Zophar’s discourse was stale and insulting.  Yet our Lord’s discourse was revolutionary.  Consider one verse, O reader:

In all truth I tell you,

whoever listens to my words,

and believes in the one who sent me,

has eternal life;

without being brought to judgement

such a person has passed from death to life.

–John 5:24, The New Jerusalem Bible

If I did not take the truth of that verse as a given, I might think Jesus to have been a madman.  Now, of course, my position has become “received wisdom.”  (I am aware of the irony of that reality.)  Some “received wisdom” is wiser than the rest.  And other “received wisdom” is pure drivel.

The power of “received wisdom” holds sway over the intellects and imaginations of people, does it not?  When I started my abortive doctoral studies in history at The University of Georgia (UGA), Athens, Georgia, the Graduate Coordinator informed me that I would learn the “received wisdom.”  He used that term; I recall that part of the conversation clearly.  I wound up questioning much of the “received wisdom,” with the predictable result in the social sciences.  But I maintained my intellectual integrity.  And I am a terrible liar.  Please understand me correctly, O reader; that happened years ago, and the trauma of that experience has washed out of my system.  Yet memories remain.  And objective reality remains.  I have no desire to start an argument with anyone at the UGA Department of History.  What would I gain from it?  Yet I offer this cautionary tale of the allure received foolishness masquerading as received wisdom.  The experience remains with me and makes me a better teacher.  I hold my students accountable for getting the facts correct then reasoning their ways to interpretations.  I do not grade them according to whether I agree with those interpretations.  And some of the kindest comments on course evaluations begin the acknowledgement that the student disagreed with me often in subjective matters.

Reality is objective, of course.  But our understandings of it are inherently subjective.  Two people can absorb the same stimuli and understand it differently.  Culture (defined as social learning), educational attainment, age, cognitive development, intellectual capacity, and other factors shape our perceptions.  Sometimes our proverbial tapes are running, so we hear yet do not listen and see yet do not comprehend.  So the character of Zophar , who was an insulting idiot, understood himself as standing on the shoulders of theological giants.  And our Lord’s words were blasphemous in the ears of some people despite those words’ truth–and therefore lack of blasphemy.  Reality is objective and our perceptions are subjective, yet our perceptions can be correct.  May they be so, by grace.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 26, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS REMACLUS OF MAASTRICHT, THEODORE OF MAASTRICHT, LAMBERT OF MAASTRICHT, HUBERT OF MAASTRICHT AND LIEGE, AND FLORIBERT OF LIEGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; LANDRADA OF MUNSTERBILSEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND OTGER OF UTRECHT, PLECHELM OF GUELDERLAND, AND WIRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF CHRISTINA ROSSETTI, POET

THE FEAST OF SAINT PASCHASIUS RADBERTUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ROBERT HUNT, FIRST ANGLICAN CHAPLAIN AT JAMESTOWN, VIRGINIA

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/devotion-for-february-15-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/uga-and-me/

Job and John, Part VI: Support   1 comment

Above:  A Samaritan Synagogue

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2005009686/PP/)

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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 6:14-30 (February 10)

Job 7:1-21 (February 11)

Psalm 19 (Morning–February 10)

Psalm 136 (Morning–February 11)

Psalms 81 and 113 (Evening–February 10)

Psalms 97 and 112 (Evening–February 11)

John 2:1-12 (February 10)

John 2:13-25 (February 11)

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Some Related Posts:

John 3-4:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/seventh-day-of-epiphany/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twelfth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/third-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

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Job needed friends.  He got Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite instead.  Alas for Job!  And he lamented the lack of support.  I would prefer strangulation too; at least it would get me away from those alleged friends.

Counterpoints occur in John.  We being with John the Baptist, whose movement had fewer followers than that of Jesus.  John continued to point toward our Lord.  Then, in Chapter 4, Jesus commenced the longest recorded conversation in the canonical Gospels.  This conversation was with not only a woman–unheard of in many circles–but with a Samaritan woman–even more scandalous.  Many interpreters–out of mysogyny or tradition or both–have assumed that she had a dubious sexual reputation, but there is no textual proof for that.  She could, for example have been in a levirate marriage–legal under the Law of Moses.  Jesus helped the woman at the well.  I can only imagine what harm Eliphaz, Bildad, or Zophar would have wrought.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEASTS OF SAINT OLGA OF KIEV, REGENT OF KIEVAN RUSSIA; ADALBERT OF MAGDEBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; ADALBERT OF PRAGUE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR; AND BENEDICT AND GAUDENTIUS OF POMERANIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAMIEN DE VEUSTER, A.K.A. DAMIEN OF MOLOKAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT EGBERT OF LINDISFARNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND SAINT ADALBERT OF EGMONT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT MELLITUS, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/15/devotion-for-february-10-and-11-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Scapegoating and Suffering   1 comment

Above:  The Scapegoat, By William Holman Hunt

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Job 1:1; 2:1-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.

One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. The LORD said to Satan,

Where have you come from?

Satan answered the LORD,

From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.

The LORD said to Satan,

Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.

Then Satan answered the LORD,

Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives. But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.

The LORD said to Satan,

Very well, he is in your power; only spare his life.

So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes.

Then his wife said to him,

Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.

But he said to her,

You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?

In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Psalm 26 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give judgment for me, O LORD,

for I have lived with integrity;

I have trusted in the LORD and have not faltered.

Test me, O LORD, and try me;

examine my heart and my mind.

3 For your love is before my eyes;

I have walked faithfully before you.

I have not sat with the worthless,

nor do I consort with the deceitful.

5 I have hated the company of evildoers;

I will not sit down with the wicked.

6 I will wash my hands in innocence, O LORD,

that I may go in procession round your altar,

Singing aloud a song of thanksgiving

and recounting all your wonderful deeds.

8 LORD, I love the house in which you dwell

and the place where your glory abides.

Do not sweep me away with sinners,

nor my life with those who thirst for blood,

10 Whose hands are full of evil plots,

and their right hand full of bribes.

11 As for me, I will live with integrity;

redeem me, O LORD, and have pity on me.

12 My foot stands on level ground;

in the full assembly I will bless the LORD.

Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. But someone has testified somewhere,

What are human beings that you are mindful of them,

or mortals, that you care for them?

You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;

you have crowned them with glory and honor,

subjecting all things under their feet.

Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying,

I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,

in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.

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Some Related Posts:

Job 1 and 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/week-of-proper-21-monday-year-2/

Hebrews 1 and 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/week-of-1-epiphany-monday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/week-of-1-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

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Easy answers for the problem of suffering prove inadequate, as the Book of Job demonstrates.  Not all suffering flows from one’s sins.  And the crucifixion of Jesus provides more refutation of the arguments of Bildad, Eliphaz, Zophar, and Elihu.  Jesus was the best man (and far more) ever, yet ye suffered greatly.  He was, in fact, a scapegoat.  Consider John 11:47-50, verses 49 and 50 of which follow.  Caiaphas is speaking:

You have no grasp of the situation at all; you do not realize that it is more to your interest that one man should die for the people, than that the whole nation should be destroyed.  (Revised English Bible, 1989)

We still scapegoat people, some of whom are not entirely innocent.  In so doing we let guilty people off the hook.  And, when we scapegoat the wholly innocent, we cause needless suffering.  Sometimes people suffer because of the sins of others.  May we, by grace, find forgiveness for the suffering we inflict on others and desist forever from causing harm to others, for, as we read in Romans 13:9-10:

The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,” and other commandments there may be, are all summed up in the one rule, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love cannot wrong a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.  (Revised English Bible, 1989)

I write these words on October 27, 2011.  A few years ago, I designated October 27 as the Feast of the Victims of the Salem Witch Trials (http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2009/09/02/feast-of-the-victims-of-the-salem-witch-trials-october-27/), so to write against scapegoating on this day is more appropriate than on some other occasions, not that there is a bad time to condemn that practice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VICTIMS OF THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on October 27, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/proper-22-year-b/

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Unanswered Questions   1 comment

Above:  The Sacred Name “YHWH” in Stained Glass

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Job 38:1, 12-21 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

Then the LORD replied to Job out of the tempest and said:

Have you ever commanded the day to break,

Assigned the dawn its place,

So that it seizes the corners of the earth

And shakes the wicked out of it?

It changes like clay under the seal

Till [its hues] are fixed like those of a garment.

Their light is withheld from the wicked,

And the upraised arm is broken.

Have you penetrated to the sources of the sea,

Or walked in the recesses of the deep?

Have the gates of death been disclosed to you?

Have you seen the gates of the deep darkness?

Have you surveyed the expanses of the earth?

If you know of these–tell Me.

Which path leads to where light dwells,

And where is the place of darkness,

That you may take it to its domain

And know the the way to its home?

Surely you know, for you were born then,

And the number of your years is many!

Job 40:1-5 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The LORD said in reply to Job:

Shall one who should be disciplined complain against Shaddai?

He who arraigns God must respond.

Job said in reply to the LORD:

See, I am of  small worth; what can I answer You?

I clap my hand to my mouth.

I have spoken once, and will not reply;

Twice, and will do so no more.

Job 42:1-6, 12-17 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Job said in reply to the LORD:

I know that You can do everything,

That nothing you propose is impossible for You.

Who is this who obscures counsel without knowledge?

Indeed, I spoke without understanding

Of things beyond me, which I did not know.

Hear now, and I will speak;

I will ask, and You inform me.

I had heard You with my ears,

But now I see You with my eyes;

Therefore I recant and relent,

Being but dust and ashes.

Thus the LORD blessed the latter years of Job’s life more than the former.  He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand she-asses.  He also had seven sons and three daughters.  The first he named Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch.  Nowhere in the land were women as beautiful as Job’s daughters to be found.  Their father gave them estates together with their brothers.  Afterward, Job lived one hundred and forty years to see four generations of sons and grandsons.  So Job died old and contented.

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Some Related Posts:

Job 38:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/proper-7-year-b/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/god-does-not-fit-into-any-theological-box/

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/proper-7-year-b/

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Much of the material in the Book of Job is repetitive.  Bildad, Eliphaz, and Zophar repeat themselves and each other:  God is just, and therefore does not punish the innocent.  So Job must have done something wrong to bring these sufferings on himself.  And Job continues to protest that he is innocent.  Then Elihu comes out of nowhere, rehashes old theodicies for a few chapters, and goes away.  Finally, in Chapters 38-42, God speaks.  To be precise, God asks Job a series of rhetorical questions, after which Job admits that he is out of his depth.  He has spoken out of his ignorance, not his knowledge.  Then God accuses the three alleged friends of having spoken falsely.  And God restores Job’s fortunes and multiplies them.

We are left with unanswered questions, a state which summarizes the faith journeys of many people.  I do not find the conclusion of the Book of Job satisfying, for I assert that Job deserved an honest answer to his legitimate complaint.  Yet I neither reject God nor deny the reality of my doubts.  Rather, I incorporate these doubts into my faith life.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VICTIMS OF THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on October 27, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/week-of-proper-21-friday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-21-saturday-year-2/

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God, Who Does Not Need Our Defense   1 comment

Above:  Job and His Alleged Friends

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Job 19:21-27 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

[Job said in reply:]

Pity me, pity me!  You are my friends;

For the hand of God has struck me!

Why do you pursue me like God,

Maligning me insatiably?

O that my words were written down;

Would they were inscribed in a record,

Incised on a rock forever

With iron stylus and lead!

But I know that my Vindicator lives;

In the end He will testify on earth–

This, after my skin will have been peeled off.

But I would behold God while still in my flesh,

I myself, not another, would behold Him;

Would see with my own eyes:

My heart pines within me.

Psalm 27:10-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

10 Hearken to my voice, O LORD, when I call;

have mercy on me and answer me.

11 You speak in my heart and say, “Seek my face.”

Your face, LORD, will I seek.

12 Hide not your face from me,

nor turn away your servant in displeasure.

13 You have been my helper;

cast me not away;

do not forsake me, O God of my salvation.

14  Though my father and my mother forsake me,

the LORD will sustain me.

15  Show me your way, O LORD;

lead me on a level path, because of my enemies.

16  Deliver me not into the hand of my adversaries,

for false witnesses have risen up against me,

and also those who speak malice.

17 What if I had not believed

that I should see the goodness of the LORD

in the land of the living!

18 O tarry and await the LORD’s pleasure;

be strong, and he shall comfort your heart;

wait patiently for the LORD.

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A Related Post:

Immortal, Invisible:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/13/immortal-invisible-god-only-wise/

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Our journey through Job continues.  Here is a summary of what he have skipped over:

Job, in Chapter 10, declares,

I am disgusted with life.

–10:1, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Then he complains to God.  Zophar the Naamathite, in Chapter 11, argues that Job’s suffering must be the result of sin.  Job replies in Chapters 12-14, arguing that he is innocent, his alleged friends are fools, and God is guilty of abusing divine power.  This is too much for Eliphaz the Temanite, who defends God in Chapter 15.  Job replies in Chapters 16 and 17 that God is his enemy.  Bildad the Shuhite replies with an unoriginal argument (heard previously in the Book of Job) in Chapter 18, to which Job replies in Chapter 19.  Job, who expresses a sense of alienation, reasserts the argument that his suffering has not resulted from his sins.

The impulse to defend God might seem pious, but it is unnecessary.  If one works from the assumption that God is all-powerful, one must conclude logically that such a deity has no need of a defense from a mere mortal.  Besides, we are frail and often foolish.  Exhibits A, B, C, and D of human foolishness committed while defending God (or rather, an understanding of God) are the speeches of Bildad, Eliphaz, Zophar, and Elihu from the Book of Job.  The main character’s speeches agree with the prologue of the Book of Job that his suffering did not result from his sins.  So his alleged friends, who think themselves orthodox, are really heretical.  Even worse, they are no help whatsoever.  And they are fools.  Job was also correct about that.

It is easy, of course, to point to a character in an ancient text and call him a fool.  But we are fools sometimes, as are our friends and acquaintances.  May we, by grace, be foolish less often, especially when we are trying to be pious by defending God or our understanding thereof.  An acceptance of ambiguity at certain times will go a long way toward accomplishing this goal.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VICTIMS OF THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on October 27, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/week-of-proper-21-thursday-year-2/

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