Saturday, July 11

Job 42:12-17

Every Sunday morning as the hymns are called, a church matriarch will leave her hymnal in the pew rack and sing from her incredible memory. She can recount sermons, Sunday school lessons, and precious moments within our faith community’s life. She weaves us together through her care, love, and attention to detail. I imagine her as our link between the past, present, and future. She reminds us of so many moments in our history, the wonderful times and the crises. She recalls the saints of our past and the hopes and dreams we hold for our community’s future. Not everyone is able to do what she does for us. Some fear losing the past so intensely that they convince themselves there can be no future. Others have been so afraid of the past exerting control on the present that they disdain the past. With compassion, wisdom, and creativity, our matriarch embraces both the past and the future and proves those fears wrong. She is our chain of memory. 

Job finds himself in a pivotal moment. Yes, the blessings of the Lord now flow generously, but the dangerous memories of the past cannot be blotted out. Survivors of tragedy, like Job, always find themselves in this difficult, important place. They are links in the memory of their losses, even an entire lost community. Will they hold onto those memories or disdain them?

Those who have crossed into the arms of God need to have their stories told. May there be witnesses who courageously tell those stories. And may there be listeners who value the ones who have gone before. As Job learns in the midst of his tragedy, it is God who hears the stories when no one else listens, and it’s God who holds all stories in eternity. 

Consider

What does embracing the past and the future look like for you? How do you learn to do that?

Pray

Lord of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, your love is a cord that holds the beads of time. Show us how to weave our lives into a tapestry that celebrates your creative beauty and wisdom. Amen.

Friday, July 10

Job 42:10-11

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech outlines the wrongful injuries that result from racism, laying a foundation that could be used for righteous anger against a nation that falsely promises equality. Yet, King does not build a future of revenge, but frames America’s debt to “the Negro people [as] a bad check.” He then develops a way forward by describing a faith in America that “refuses to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.” King transitions from anger, the basis of revenge, to debt that seeks accountable, responsible action. King concludes with a unifying vision that binds the true freedom of the nation to its ability to advance together as a community where former tormentors and the tormented are transformed into a united family. 

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.…

I have a dream that one day…in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

When the Lord of the universe stands against Job’s three accusers and vindicates him, Job might easily feel justified to retaliate against them. Our history books brim with cycles of revenge that span generations. Unless a new path forward can be imagined, the default response of oppressed people is usually violent. Yet, when God vindicates us, God also gives us larger dreams to pursue, visions that move us forward. 

Consider

Why is it so common for us to seek retaliation when we are injured? If payback is our default response, what breaks the escalating cycle of revenge? 

Pray

God of new possibilities, cycles of revenge are always at our doorstep. Open your way to us so we may move forward. Teach us to dream anew. Amen.

Thursday, July 9

Job 42:7-9

Whenever you turn on the television, there always seems to be some fictional detective or legal team working to bring a perpetrator to justice. The casts of these urban dramas often include cliché characters like overworked police officers, peculiar judges, and burdened attorneys. 

At the center of the drama are the victim and the perpetrator. If an innocent person is falsely labeled as the perpetrator, they are the scapegoat. Sometimes we viewers relate most to the eyewitnesses to the crime, the bystanders in the story. Bystanders often know enough details to intervene and prevent the crime, or they know enough information to bring perpetrators to justice. 

Bystanders stay on the fringes of the story. They might irritate us because, while we can’t intervene in the story, they often can. After a long stretch of watching Job’s accusers, God moves from bystander to an active role. God stands with Job in solidarity over against his accusers. Unfortunately, God’s silence had allowed Job’s friends to become his accusers. Only when the bystander chooses sides can the story come full circle. 

The drama of accusers, perpetrators, victims, bystanders, and scapegoats happens daily, and painfully, in our lives. We see these dynamics play out in our offices, schools, families, and churches. May God’s role in standing for Job inspire us to care enough to tell the truth, resolve conflict, and move the story to where it needs to be.

Consider

Reflect on a time when you saw a scapegoat identified. How did you respond? What makes it so complicated and dangerous for us to leave our role as bystanders and identify with the accused?

Pray

Champion of the marginalized and outcast who talked with the woman at the well, endured the Cross, and still stands by our side when we see or become scapegoats, grant us courage to be your presence in solidarity with others. Amen.

Wednesday, July 8

Job 42:1-6

Primary speech isn’t necessarily about words. Primary speech refers to a person’s development of language, both in forming words and in recognizing who is communicating. It’s the cooing of a child in her mother’s arms, the eye-to-eye contact that says you’re recognized, listened to, and valued. Primary speech establishes necessary connections that sustain us, bringing life and forming community. 

When Job tells God, I know that you can do all things (v. 2), he knows that he’s been heard, understood, and valued by the Creator of the universe. This is the same Creator who called all life into being and placed the limits on that life. What the writer describes is similar to the experience of prayer. Job concurs. He moves from knowing of God to an experience that involves personal pronouns: but now my eye sees you (v. 5). Job asks us to move from reading this drama to our own experience of talking to and speaking for God. Our scenes involve the joy and pain that is vivid to us, where God is the author of all that is a blessing, and where we wonder what role God plays in all that is painful. Job’s prayers model a radical response to life itself.

Radical prayer must be foundational. It must be our primary speech, at the center of all that I am, all that you are, all that we are. Praying will undergird us while we write, work, love, walk, play, and give. Prayer is the practice for deep, purposeful living; it takes us from our initial insecurities to our finding the courage to be and create. Prayer connects us to each other and to our planet through God, the very source of our being. We begin by simply acknowledging that we live unto God: “Lord, in you we live and move and have our being.” The primary speech of prayer is our compass for the daily journey of seeking understanding. 

Consider 

Think of a time in your life that felt most sacred to you, a “thin place” where God was close. How would you describe that experience?

Pray

Maker of Heaven and Earth, remind us that in your recognition of us, your tender care for us, we find ourselves. Amen.

Tuesday, July 7

Job 41:26-34

None on earth can compare to him; he is made to be without fear. He looks on all the proud; he is king over all proud beasts (vv. 33-34, CEB). 

Leviathan may fear no other, but by his thrashing all other proud beings in the Leviathan’s world will know fear. And humanity may be the most dangerous of all the other proud beasts. Carl Sagan wrote in his book Contact that humans are such an interesting species, capable of beautiful dreams and horrible nightmares. Similarly, in his painting “Saturn Devouring His Son,” the Spanish artist Francisco Goya captured the nightmares of the proud and fearful in the 1820-23 Spanish Civil War. His painting depicts the Greek myth of the titan Cronus (Saturn, in Latin) who hears a prediction that one of his children will overthrow him. Fearing the loss of his power and authority, the titan devours each one of his children at their birth. Goya’s artistic reflection on the civil strife in early nineteenth-century Spain captures our human history of fear and the violence that follows from it. We can’t help but link this story with the murder of the Bethlehem children under the fearful reign of Herod at the announcement of Jesus’ birth as King of the Jews (Mt 2). The potent mix of fear and loss of control often leads to a desperate and violent attempt to regain order. 

Job faces difficult questions. His life has been compounded by the tragic loss of his family and the isolation of his grief. He has endured scapegoating by his friends. He appeals to God for an audience and explanation. The voice of the Lord responds, but not with the answers that he sought. How will he respond? How would you respond? 

Consider

Where have you seen the tyranny of fear and violence exposed in your community, workplace, or neighborhood? In what ways could you break the cycle of fear and the abuse of power?

Pray

God, give me the wisdom to recognize the violence within myself that comes out of a fear of loss. Help me locate my strength in you, and grant me courage to seek redemptive actions that break the cycle of fear and violence. Amen.

Monday, July 6

Job 41:12-25

I was driving my three-year old granddaughter home when she asked me, “Lolo (her name for grandfather), what are all those signs?” I was puzzled. What were the “signs” she saw? Upon further investigation, I discerned that she was talking about the gravestones in the cemetery that we’d passed on the way back to her house. In an admittedly clumsy way, I did my best to explain that those were stones to mark the memory of those who are no longer with us in person, but whose influence remains in our lives. I heard myself say, “They have died.” I felt the deep pain of revealing this life lesson to her. Soon she began to name all the loved ones in her community that she wants to remain more than memories on stones.

The more descriptive God becomes about the Leviathan, the more we realize God is describing something no mortal can repel: death itself. Whatever the poet who wrote Job intended, the consequence of the Leviathan is something even divine beings dread (v. 25, CEB). By this point in the story, Job has hinted that he believes there could be life on the other side of death, but he has no assurance of this hope (19:25). 

Psychologists tell us that as we age, the fear of death recedes into the background of our daily lives unless we experience the death of a loved one. Then that early terror resurfaces. Job experienced the traumatic loss of his children, household, property, and status in the community. Job knows all too well the thrashing of the Leviathan in his life. With Job’s traumatic story of loss, will Job ever be able to believe that God is not “awed” by the Leviathan (v. 12, CEB)? Can Job believe that God is sovereign over death itself?

Consider

What event in your life first led you to become aware of your mortality? How does our society mask the reality of our mortality from plain view? 

Pray

God in heaven, you know my heart, my fears, and my anxiety concerning death. Lead my heart to assurance that in you all my fears find a place to rest. Amen.

Sunday, July 5

Job 41:1-11

With a hushed tone my grandfather whispered tales of the mythical “Leviathan of the deep” into the imaginations of all his grandchildren. From the description of Leviathan’s scales, fins, and massive jaws, we imagined a great and powerful beast that must be both respected and avoided with all our being. This beast, for whatever reason the Creator formed him, was our creaturely limit. The Leviathan set a circle around our youthful possibilities and that circle, now embedded in our young psyches, became the point beyond which we dared not go. The Leviathan was a creature with whom we could not negotiate. We couldn’t persuade, deceive, cajole, or even discuss our wishes with it. We couldn’t tame, defeat, or harm it. We could and should respect its creaturely existence as the mark of our absolute boundary. 

As we grew older, the Leviathan proved to be a shape-changer. We learned in time that absolute limits come in all shapes, forms, and sizes. When God speaks to Job, God reminds him that there are limits in our lives that he, and we, should respect. Our childhood memory of the beast’s scales, fins, and jaws may fall away, but the truth of those limits remains as they take on new forms. God whispers a message of hope that transverses those imbedded and anchored limits from the deep waters of life where the Leviathan reigns. God speaks plainly and clearly to Job: “everything (including Leviathan) under heaven is mine.”

Consider

How have the imaginary creatures of your childhood come to reflect real life experiences that frighten you today? How do you hear God assure you today that there is no depth nor height that separates you from the love of God? (Job 41:10-11, Rom 8:38-39)

Pray

I will acknowledge as many shapes of Leviathan as I can before you, O Lord, for I know that you alone can domesticate them. You alone can give me the courage to live in the Leviathan’s world courageously. Amen.

Saturday, July 4

Job 40:6-14

On this Independence Day, as ideas about liberty and justice for all echo in the atmosphere, we read this continuing conversation between God and Job about whether or not God is truly just. 

Job’s own righteousness has been an absolute certainty of his life. Now, after his life has fallen apart despite his upright living, his trust in God is uncertain. God debunks Job’s idea that a divine concern for justice should result in vigorously removing all injustice, issuing Job a challenge: if Job were in God’s position, could he do better? Because Job is adamant that retribution should fall upon the wicked person, how would Job operate the cosmos to ensure that the righteous evade suffering?

The book of Job makes no attempt to explain God, but it does provide us with plenty of examples of the way humankind misunderstands God, the world, and suffering. Job’s story gives us opportunities to ponder our existence, our relationships with other people and with creation, and what we expect from our relationship with God.

All of us are works in progress. The relationships that matter most in our lives deserve all that we have to offer. When we love, we don’t hold back what is on our hearts. We share our concerns, our ideas, our deepest questions, and our honest struggles. We care enough about our relationships to not be apathetic or dismissive about them. This is why we take a deep breath and speak up. This is why we learn to listen. God engages Job in conversation and his life will change. May we love enough to engage with God and find ourselves changed as well. 

Consider

Because you love, what brave conversations do you need to have?

Pray

Holy God, help us talk to you about everything. Teach us to bring you our pain, our problems, and our love. Guide us with the grace and strength that only you can provide. Amen.

Friday, July 3

Job 40:1-5

After God responds to Job, God asks Job for his response. The Almighty gave Job ample reasons to reframe his response to the suffering he’s experienced. God explained the complexities of creation, and the chaos within the created order. God seems surprised at the way Job succumbed to disillusionment. 

Job responds to God by backing out of the dispute. After hearing the perspective of the Author of life, Job has no rebuttal to offer: See, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth (v. 4). If we could hear the tone in his voice, would it be the definition of humility? This gesture of deference that Job uses, I lay my hand on my mouth, is the same gesture that distinguished persons from his community showed to him in 29:9. Job makes it clear that he knows he may have overstepped his boundaries by challenging God. For Job, the consequence of living through catastrophe has been losing his trust in God. To truly live again, he must learn to trust again. 

Through their dialogue, Job realizes the limits of human comprehension when it comes to understanding the God who is infinitely more than we can grasp. Yet, made in God’s image, humankind is created with the capacity for deep loyalty to God. As we call upon God, this relationship grows. Even in suffering, we receive God’s strength to endure. Our hope becomes a peace that passes understanding, an assurance of God’s presence at all times. 

Consider

How do we rebuild our relationships after trust has been shattered? When have you seen the hard work of honest dialogue restore what was broken?

Pray

Merciful God, thank you for your grace. Through your love we can find new meaning in life, even after horrific events. Help us to trust you more each day. Amen.

Thursday, July 2

Job 39:1-12

God continues to respond to Job’s questions by describing divine concern for all the animals in creation. In Job’s ancient Near East agrarian society, people who kept sheep and goats necessarily knew the important details about their livestock, such as when the birth seasons occurred and the length of the gestation periods.

But God cares for more than the familiar sheep and goats of domestic flocks. God notes the wild mountain goats and wild deer, the wild ass and wild ox. Job doesn’t know the details about these animals, but God makes the point that these lives that cannot be tamed are known to their Creator, who creates ways to provide for them. 

Earlier, Job complains that he has lived a righteous life. He knows many contemptible people who thrive, though they should be banished from society. The wild ass becomes God’s metaphor for the outcasts to whom Job refers. Job is wrestling with the cultural assumption that one’s sins cause one’s suffering and he seeks God’s explanation for his problems. God points him towards evidence that God cares for all creation and is present with the outcast. God is caringly present with Job, hearing and responding to his concerns.

When we suffer, God is with us. Immediate relief or explanation may not come in the form we seek, but God’s response to Job assures us that God is strengthening and sustaining us. Thanks be to God.

Consider

When have you struggled to trust God in the midst of adversity? How do we seek God’s comfort when we feel God is far away?

Pray

God, you give life to the world. Breathe your Spirit into us today, that we may know of your love and care. Amen.