Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the thoughts and words of this reading that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
Job 37:14-24 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
14 “Hear this, O Job;
stop and consider the wondrous works of God.
15 Do you know how God lays his command upon them,
and causes the lightning of his cloud to shine?
16 Do you know the balancings of the clouds,
the wondrous works of the one whose knowledge is perfect,
17 you whose garments are hot
when the earth is still because of the south wind?
18 Can you, like him, spread out the skies,
hard as a molten mirror?
19 Teach us what we shall say to him;
we cannot draw up our case because of darkness.
20 Should he be told that I want to speak?
Did anyone ever wish to be swallowed up?
21 Now, no one can look on the light
when it is bright in the skies,
when the wind has passed and cleared them.
22 Out of the north comes golden splendor;
around God is awesome majesty.
23 The Almighty[a]—we cannot find him;
he is great in power and justice,
and abundant righteousness he will not violate.
24 Therefore mortals fear him;
he does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit.”
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
The poetic section of the ancient book of Job ultimately declares to Job that he can’t possibly plumb the depths of understanding and knowledge. There is a lot of mystery in the world that inspires awe—even now—as we contemplate all that we do not understand. This section of the book of Job follows chapter after chapter of Job’s suffering and his demanding an answer to that age-old question of why? Job knows that he has done nothing to deserve all the terrible things that have happened to him and his family. Job never really gets an answer to the “why?” of his own suffering. He simply stands in awe of the great mysteries of creation that he cannot comprehend.
Job 37:24 says that God “does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit.” Perhaps it refers to people who are like Job’s so-called friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They visit Job and go on and on about how Job must have surely committed sin and therefore deserved his suffering. It is an understatement when Job calls them “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2).
Unfortunately, there are still miserable comforters who are wise in their own conceit today. In the face of mystery that make up ridiculous stuff: God caused a certain tragedy to befall a certain person or group of people in order to punish them for their sin.
Many years ago I had a member of my congregation whose precious little girl suffered a catastrophic stroke when she was just eight days old. It left her severely physically compromised and profoundly brain damaged. I met her when her daughter was eight years old, and she began attending our church. People in the church she attended when her daughter was born told her that she must have committed some sin that caused this tragedy. What ridiculous hogwash! What miserable comforters!
The Book of Job can best be read as a biting satire of the absurd theology that asserts that God causes good things to happen to good people and bad things to happen to bad people. It is a rebuke of the outrageous notion that God brings suffering on people because they have done something to deserve it.
Jesus taught that God makes the “sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45)
Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. We know that to be true and it is folly to imagine otherwise. But, what we also embrace is that God’s grace is sufficient for facing whatever comes our way. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Pastor Tim Brown recounted a trip to the hospital that he made a few years ago. He was there to visit a young man whose life was being robbed one blood cell at a time by a vicious and unrelenting leukemia. Because he was so weakened, Tim Brown knelt next to his bed to look at him eyeball to eyeball. The young man’s name was also Tim. He said quietly, “Hi, Tim,” and he responded faintly, “Hi, Tim.” There followed an awkward pause because the pastor didn’t exactly know what to say. Finally, Tim broke the deafening silence by saying gently, “I have learned something.”
“Tell me, what have you learned?”
He said, again very faintly, “I have learned that life isn’t like a VCR.”
Perplexed, Brown said, “I don’t get it. What do you mean?”
He said, drawing his next breath in pain, “Life isn’t like a VCR—you can’t fast-forward the bad parts.”
As Brown knelt there, fighting back the tears and trying to take it all in, Tim interrupted the awkward silence again by asking, “You know what else I learned?”
Brown said, “No, I really don’t. Please tell me.”
“I have learned,” he whispered, “that God is in every frame, and right now it’s just enough.” [Timothy Brown, “God Is in Every Frame,” Perspectives, May 1997, 24]
There is a lot of theology woven into hymns. To enhance today’s reading, I recommend listening to “Be Still My Soul”.
Be still, my soul! for God is on your side;
bear patiently the cross of grief or pain:
leave to your God to order and provide,
who through all changes faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul! your best, your heav’nly Friend
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul! for God will undertake
to guide the future surely as the past.
Your hope, your confidence, let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be clear at last.
Be still, my soul! the waves and winds still know
the voice that calmed their fury long ago.
Be still, my soul! the hour is hastening on
when we shall be forever in God’s peace;
when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
love’s joys restored, our strivings all shall cease.
Be still my soul! when change and tears are past,
all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
I hope you will take a few moments to let the words of this message and the emotion that always connects us to music connect with your soul. I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster