Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Commemoration of Job

Commemoration of Job
May 9, 2012

The Lord be with you

The Lutheran Service Book designates May 9 as the Commemoration of Job. As far as I know, no other “western” Church has a day for Job on their liturgical calendar. The Eastern Orthodox Church sets aside May 6 as the Commemoration of Job, the Longsuffering.

Job was a blameless and upright man who came from Uz (Job 1:1), a land northeast of Canaan. The book of Job examines the depths of his faith, which was severely tested through the sufferings God permitted. Despite the sudden death of his ten children and the loss of all his wealth and his health, Job refused to curse God, saying: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Still, in the midst of his tribulations Job questioned the meaning and purpose of suffering to the point of asserting his own righteousness (Job 34:5-6). Finally, the Lord revealed that a man cannot know the mysteries of God (Job 38-41). Job’s faith in his Redeemer and the resurrection prevailed (Job 19:25-27). In the end, the Lord restored Job’s wealth and blessed him with another seven sons and three daughters.

Job by Russian artist Llya Repin
The Eastern Orthodox Church reads the book of Job during Holy Week, drawing a parallel between Job and Christ as righteous men who suffered through no fault of their own. God allowed Satan to afflict Job so that his faithfulness would be proven. Christ, the only sinless one, suffered voluntarily for our sins. The Septuagint (a bc translation of the Old Testament) text of Job 42:17 says that Job “will rise again with those whom the Lord raises up.” This passage is read on Good Friday, when the composite Gospel at Vespers speaks of the tombs being opened at the moment the Savior died on the Cross, and the bodies of the saints were raised, and they appeared to many after Christ's Resurrection (Matthew27:52).

Some Asides:

Because the book of Job is in a poetic format, many modern scholars have questioned its historicity. They feel it is a fictional story, created to deal with the issue of why righteous people suffer. While Job is not referred to a lot in the rest of the Bible, he is held to be a real person in both testaments (Ezekiel 14:14, 20; James 5:11). The fact that the book is in poetic format does not decide the issue of historicity as poetry has often been used to relate historical events (many of Shakespeare’s plays are examples with which most would be familiar).

The book itself sets the events in the time of the patriarchs. As the details recorded conform so well to what we know through archeology with that time period, many believe Job is the oldest writing in the Bible. (The earliest date suggested for Moses is sometime around 1500 bc, but Job is set centuries before that.) Of course, Moses apparently used ancient sources for Genesis, so that would rival Job in age.

Currently I’m reading the travelogue of Egeria, a Spanish Nun who took a pilgrimage to the Holy Lands in the 380s ad. She took a side-trip to Mesopotamia, where she saw the “tomb of Job” and visited with the monks there. Certainly the tomb she saw as not of the biblical Job. However, I have been greatly impressed with how the historic Communion of Saints seems to permeate her whole trip. What a blessing it would be for us to live with a greater awareness of those who have stood in the Faith before us. Perhaps the words of Hebrews would have their intended result in our lives: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Appropriate prayers for the day:
  • For those who are suffering
  • For patient trust in the Lord as we face trials
  • For confidence in the resurrection of the dead
  • For remembering how our Lord Jesus suffered for us

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

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