G'day. Lord willing, a week from today we will have embarked upon the month of July. More than half way through the year already.
Lots of rain and storms through here yesterday. Saw photos of pretty high water, streets flooded, to include an area near to a major interchange from a local Interstate route, one of the 3-digit ones. And several others as well.
And the news is full of various other things, mostly bad ones. Homicides, assaults to include sexual assaults, one case of a youth pastor in a rather "tony" local bedroom community who was convicted of sexual misbehaviors with a young girl in the congregation. Not good. I realize that the news "business" has a de facto motto of "If it bleeds, it leads", and perhaps that is understandable. But the news, at least in this part of the country, is really awful far more often than it is even a little bit hopeful, and that has been the case for more than 40 years to my certain knowledge.
It is easy, too easy, to succumb to despair. My Catholic friends tell me that despair is a sin, and perhaps they have a point. Despair can put you into a frame of mind and spirit that assures you that the situation is so bad that even the Lord can't fix it. Or won't, which is perhaps worse.
But that takes you into an area we don't need to go.
Our Old Testament reading today (pretty neat transition, huh?) takes us into the book of Job.
Now, this is a part of Scripture that the "prosperity preachers" generally choose to pass by. And, admittedly, it makes us deal with some of those real hard questions. Has anyone anywhere not wondered, "Is God mad at me?" or "WHY is this happening to ME??". I have. I sometimes still do.
We sort of understand that if we did something bad, that mythical thing called "karma" will catch up. Well, sometimes the wicked do prosper, and those who appear to be righteous suffer. And, of course, most of us secretly class ourselves as that righteous group. And frankly, sometimes we develop the attitude, wrongly, that the Lord somehow "owes" us. Wrong!!
Job is sometimes thought to be the first book in our Bible to have been written down. Now, remember that the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, covering the period from Creation through the Flood and everything up through the Exodus to the death of Moses, were given through Moses. A whole lot of stuff happened in that period, and the life of Job may well have been in there.
Certainly the story of Job is one that we can all, to some extent, identify with. For no apparent reason, he suffers. Suffers terribly, and so do those close to him. He, quite properly, calls out to the Lord, and asks that great question: "WHY???". Never gets an answer. That makes us uncomfortable, me included. We like everything to be wrapped up neatly like a TV program. Life doesn't always work that way, does it?
Now, some notes about the characters.
Job is described as living in the land of Uz. We really don't know precisely where that is. It's probably not in the area we think of as Israel. Some, and you can check this article here, think it was somewhere in the Arabia peninsula. Perhaps.
The Sabeans listed in the passage were almost certainly of the people-group from the area later called Sheba. That people-group no longer exists, but was probably from the area now know as Yemen.
The Chaldeans were from the area of Mesopotamia, later part of the Babylonian Empire. Enemies of the Hebrews then and now. In the DNA you might say.
So Job was minding his own business, and disaster after disaster struck. Been there.
The reading from the New Testament is verses 1-19 of chapter 7 in the Acts of the Apostles.
This is that deacon Steven addressing the very hostile religious leaders, the "respectable" types. Tough crowd! Yet the Lord gave him the words to say.