Sunday’s Scripture ~ Job 42:1-6, 10-17
This week the Tuskawilla Family concludes our study of Job with a lesson on blessing. It seems a bit jarring, knowing what we have walked through with Job and perhaps experienced through our own reflections during this study, to now speak of blessing.
Job has been through the ringer. Like Jacob, Moses, others before him, and others after him, Job struggled with God. After the struggle he carried the lasting marks of that encounter with him. His physical wounds healed. Hisfamilial and material wealth was restored. Yet, this restoration did not return Job to his Job 1 self. His restoration was a new beginning, bearing in his heart, mind, soul, and strength all that had transpired and allowing that to guide but not define his future.
Job’s discourse with God comes to an end in the first six verses of Job 42. His last words to God before the narrative prose of the epilogue begins are “Therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes,” according to the New Revised Standard Version (Job 42:6). Kathleen O’Connor observes that the “in” in this translation of Job 42:6 “reinforces a theology of fire and brimstone, of human inadequacy and divine capriciousness as Job despairs and gives in.”* But other translations of this verse capture Job repenting “of” dust and ashes. Some may question, “How big a difference does this two-letter preposition make?” For O’Connor and myself, “in” versus “of” makes all the difference. Repenting “of” dust and ashes suggests that “Job gets up from his ash heap of sorrow and loss to get on with his life.”*
Job’s witness teaches us that we will experience suffering and that even in the midst of suffering when we feel that God is most silent, our faith – that God will speak again or that our God is already speaking in ways that we are not yet equipped to hear, understand, or interpret – draws us out of suffering, out of dust and ashes, towards new, altered, and continuing life. But to experience that blessing, to allow its transformation to reign and renew, Job had to vacate the ash heap. He had to release his anger and confusion toward himself, his family, his friends, and his God. He had to get up and continue walking forward.
Consider an ash heap in your life. Are you still there? Have you walked forward from it? What blessings did you receive in doing so? What lessons did you learn about God and yourself through this experience?
Join us this Sunday as Todd Zimmerman joins me in co-preaching and shares with us the blessing through and beyond life’s trials. His witness is a powerful testimony of leaving and learning beyond life’s ash heap. Our service will conclude with a special time of reflection and prayer. I look forward to worshipping with you.
Prayer: “O worship the King, all glorious above, O gratefully sing God’s power and God’s love; our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days, pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise. Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail, in thee do we trust, nor find thee to fail; thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end, our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.”**
*Thoughts from Kathleen O’Connor in Feasting on the Word Year B Volume IV 196.
**”O Worship the King,” The United Methodist Hymnal 73.