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Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Who Has the Wisdom? Who holds the wisdom that is at creation’s core and in the midst of Job’s own predicament? A whirlwind reverses Job from questioner to the one questioned. Another reversal occurs when the conventional wisdom of privilege is met by the gospel wisdom of humility pronounced by Jesus. Seekers of wisdom may encounter more questions than answers in its finding. Job 38:1–7 Job and his friends have dominated the conversation since chapter two with lament and advice, questions and indictments. Their utterances have addressed and invoked the name of God. But now God will speak, answering Job’s questions with questions of God’s own. The narrator indicates that God speaks “out of the whirlwind.” Job has endured a whirlwind of suffering and questioning. God now responds to Job with swirling assertions of God’s power and freedom. This is not the first time God has brought word in awe-intending encounters. In Exodus 3, a bush burns without being consumed, and Moses receives vocation. Lightning and thunder surround Sinai, and Israel receives Torah. A whirlwind lifts up Elijah into heaven (2 Kings 2:11). A whirlwind does not lift up Job from his questions, but rather sets him in the midst of others. The narrator reveals the one who speaks out of the whirlwind to be Yahweh (YHWH), the holy and intimate name of God revealed to Moses. That name has not been used since chapters 1 and 2 of Job. It is as if Job and his friends have been talking about God in the abstract, as a principle rather than the power behind creation and exodus – and Job’s predicament. Yahweh will speak, even if in questions alone, and Job will hear. God’s line of questioning implies Job does not know or see the whole picture. That does not invalidate Job’s laments. It does not suggest his cries for justice are not true expressions of his experience. It simply means that we, like Job, live within the limits of human knowledge. We cannot see, nor can we control, all that comes our way. We can only hold on to God and one another in trust, in lament, in hope, in the midst of unresolved questions. Although it extends beyond our focus scripture, the ending of Job in chapter 42 needs to be considered. Challenging questions still remain. Restoration is affirmed – but how can dead children be restored in the way cattle and sheep are? Yet in the questions, Job not only endures, Job covenants. “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you” (42:5). Wisdom may not always be grasped, but Job understands where and in whom it resides. Other aspects of God’s wisdom are honoured in the lessons from Psalms and Hebrews. Psalm 104:1–9, 24, 35c celebrates God’s wisdom revealed in creation. Its litany of praise parallels the questions posed to Job. Hebrews 5:1–10 asserts the humanness of Jesus who, like Job, offered up “loud cries and tears.” God responded to the cries of Jesus and of Job, though not necessarily in the way either one desired. The wisdom Jesus revealed in Gethsemane came in remaining faithful to God and trusting God’s way. Disciples discover that the wisdom and ways of God may reverse human priorities. Mark 10:35–45 narrates the conflict between wishes of “me first” and the call to servanthood. Like God responding to Job, Jesus answers the request of James and John for greatness with a question. After a time of profound questions, Job proclaims his faith in God: “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” We, like Job and the disciples, are called to trust God in the midst of our questions. When have you, like Job, experienced the presence of God? In what ways have your questions helped you to grow in faith and trust?

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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