Proper 22B’21
3 October 2021
Job 1.1; 2.1-10
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone 

O God, you have overcome the world and its tribulations through your blessed Son: May we cling to you and your promise to be with us, that we too might overcome the trials and tribulations of this life, and reign with you in your heavenly kingdom in the next, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

When you scroll through social media posts you can find it all, anything from recipes, to pics of family reunions, from scathing tirades, to inspirational quotes, and personal confessions. While looking at an out-of-town friend’s post I came across the following:

“First this is not about my bout of poison ivy. It is about bad things, as in really bad things like illness, death, and loss. There is a lot right now. I don’t think there is an easy answer for why such events happen. In fact, I find it a painful exercise looking for why…This post is really about how we need to be there for others.”[1]

My friend has posted thoughts that are common to all of us, and can be boiled down to one word – “Why!” We go along minding our own business, and trying to do the best we can, and suddenly, out of nowhere, comes a trial, or a tribulation, that we didn’t ask for, or in own estimation, didn’t really deserve.

[This dilemma that is common to us all, deserves an answer.]

If you had an answer, or some guiding principle, how would you go about getting this vital information out to the largest number of people, over the longest period of time, to affect their lives for the better? I suppose we could post it to Facebook, or other social media? We could take out a full-page ad in the newspaper? How many of those news articles, full page newspaper ads or Facebook posts are we even able to remember?

God’s way, even before written history, was through the oral tradition of storytelling. These stories are able to be remembered and passed down, from generation to generation and contain the seeds of faith, hope, and love. When a truth is SOOO big, and so universal in its scope, in order to do the subject justice, it takes a special kind of story – one of mythic proportions.

Today’s Old Testament reading comes from a book in the bible that perhaps you’ve heard of but may not know much about – the Book of Job. The story talks about a subject that philosophers and theologians alike have argued about, and song writers, playwriters, and poets have tried to explain for millennia, namely, “how can there be a God that is all good, and all powerful, while at the same time having the existence of evil?” A question that can be equally disturbing: “how can such bad things happen to such good people?” To people, seeking to live their lives by following God, and God’s law, treating others with dignity, equity, and respect?  

Job, along with Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs, comes under the category of wisdom literature in the writings of the bible. For the next four Sundays we will be spending some time with Job, and the book written in his name, and we’ll mine the depths for God’s wisdom, particularly as it relates to our plight as humans – to suffer.  

It can be helpful to think of this book of 42 chapters as a several episode series like we might binge watch on Netflix or Hulu. If you want to whole story you’ll have to read it as we will only have time to hit the high spots. The opening scene in chapter one, sets the stage for all that would follow with these words: “There was once a man in the land of Uz (as in “fuzz”) whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” Job was a righteous man with a large family, he had numerous livestock and servants, and he was renown all over the Middle East. But suddenly, without warning, in the midst of his prosperity his fortunes are reversed and he loses his herds and flocks that are either stolen by poachers, or killed by fiery meteors, his servants are killed by foreign tribes, his grown children end up dying in a tornado, and then Job loses his health. This is anything but fair, especially for such a righteous man! WHY?!

On the front cover of your bulletin, you will find an artistic rendering by William Blake of today’s reading from Job. William Blake was a 19th century visionary, poet, artist, printmaker, and a committed Christian. One of his more memorable works was a series of engraved prints based upon the life of Job. It depicts a three-tiered universe consisting of an earthly realm, a spiritual realm, and a heavenly realm. At the earthly level, we see Job near the bottom surrounded by his family, flocks, and his pet dog – and all is well.

In the spiritual realm in the middle, we see a spiritual entity the story calls “Satan” whose name in Hebrew means “accuser” and who after busying himself with going back and forth on the face of the earth causing trouble, comes streaking in to the presence of God. The text explains the opening scene: “One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from? Satan answered, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” This scene reveals that God of course is at the top, and that the spirits and angels are all subject to God. Through the character called Satan we find that trouble has been loosed upon the earth.

The next part of the scene shows God presenting a proposal to Satan: “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.”

So, Satan goes out to destroy all of Job’s possessions. Job loses his flocks to poachers from a foreign tribe, he loses his sheep and shepherds by fiery meteors, and his children all die in a tornado. After these catastrophic loses, Job replied: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (1.21) The First Round goes to Job with the score 1 for Job and 0 for Satan.

Not giving up, Satan comes back to the court of heaven with his proposal to go another round with Job and said to God: “Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives. But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to his face.” Then the Lord says to Satan, “Very well, he is in your power; only spare his life.” Then Satan goes out and afflicts Job with itchy and painful sores from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. He finds a broken piece of pottery, sits down on an ash heap and starts scratching his sores. He then sees his wife coming towards him, and hopes, perhaps for some words of encouragement, but instead hears these words: “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.” His family taken by a natural disaster, all of his animals and servants killed or poached, and then his closest companion encourages him to curse God and die! Job rebukes her and says: “Shall we receive the good from the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

What have we learned about the universe from today’s episode? 1)God is in charge and we are not. 2) Not Satan, not angels, or spirits from the dark side have more power than God and must submit to God. 3) Nothing ever happens to us that God doesn’t allow (I didn’t say God caused, but God allows it). 4) Bad things happen to good people.

Tune in next week for the next episode from “The life of Job.”


[1] Facebook post from an anonymous friend posted September 30th, 2021