Note: This series is sourced from Discipleship Ministries, an agency of The United Methodist Church.
As we continue to explore the book of Job, we may recall our conversation from last week about a “transactional” relationship with God. Job is responding to his friends, who don’t understand what is happening and who (buying into the transactional fallacy) try to convince Job that he has failed or sinned in some way. But Job disagrees, and in his lament seeks a way to make his case before God.
Job 23:1-9, 16-17 (CEB)
2Today my complaint is again bitter;
my strength is weighed down because of my groaning.
3Oh, that I could know how to find him—
come to his dwelling place;
4 I would lay out my case before him,
fill my mouth with arguments,
5 know the words with which he would answer,
understand what he would say to me.
6Would he contend with me through brute force?
No, he would surely listen to me.
7There those who do the right thing can argue with him;
I could escape from my judge forever.
8Look, I go east; he’s not there,
west, and don’t discover him;
9 north in his activity, and I don’t grasp him;
he turns south, and I don’t see.
16God has weakened my mind;
the Almighty has frightened me.
17Still I’m not annihilated by darkness;
he has hidden deep darkness from me.
Consider these questions:
- What are Job’s desires, as he voices them in the verses 1-7? What would you ask if you could ask God any question?
- Many people of faith have told stories of feeling as though they’d been deserted by God for long periods (notably, Mother Theresa and St. John of the Cross). Have you felt this way? Did you get through it? What was your experience and how has it shaped your faith?
- There are a number of laments in the Bible. A lament is a passionate plea directed to God that is based on a personal experience of suffering. Consider Psalm 3, 6, and 42-44 (among other psalms), the book of Lamentations, Amos 5:1-3, and Jesus’ lamentation over Jerusalem in Matthew and Luke. What is your lament? How do you share this with God?
Post-Sermon Update on 11/13
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found at this link (will open in a new tab).
Sunday’s time of Worship included an additional text from earlier in Job. We explored this brief moment of hope in Job’s dialogue with his three “comforters” (though we challenged the notion of comfort), and his acknowledgment of faith. Even though this moment of faith was brief, it may color our reading of Job’s insistence on an audience with God in chapter 23.
Job 19:25-26 (NRSV)
25For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
26and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
then in my flesh I shall see God…
Job understands that it is his own misery that blinds him from seeing God, something we might understand from our own experiences. This is complicated by Job’s “comforters” who continue to assert that he has done something wrong to deserve his punishment. In arguing with his friends and in his inability to see God, Job feels deserted and isolated and alone.
Consider these questions:
- When is a time that you have felt deserted? Did you feel deserted by loved ones? By others? God? Some combination? How did this feel? What did you do?
- Consider reading the poem “Dark Night of the Soul” by St. John of the Cross. Does this stir your own recollections of seeking God in difficult times? What have been your spiritual experiences in times of crisis?
- Can you think of ways that you can support and encourage friends when God feels far away? And how can you be supported and encouraged when God feels far away for you?