The book of Job is the subject of reflections from August to October. Relying on the Revised Common Lectionary’s readings for Tuesdays, I draw on nominated passages from Job to offer us encouragement and to guide our living week by week.
Job 31: 24-29, 33-40 (NIV)
24 “If I have put my trust in gold or said to pure gold, ‘You are my security,’
25 if I have rejoiced over my great wealth, the fortune my hands had gained,
26 if I have regarded the sun in its radiance or the moon moving in splendour,
27 so that my heart was secretly enticed and my hand offered them a kiss of homage,
28 then these also would be sins to be judged, for I would have been unfaithful to God on high.
29 If I have rejoiced at my enemy’s misfortune or gloated over the trouble that came to him …
33 “if I have concealed my sin as men do, by hiding my guilt in my heart
34 because I so feared the crowd and so dreaded the contempt of the clans that I kept silent and would not go outside –
35 (Oh, that I had someone to hear me! I sign now my defence – let the Almighty answer me; let my accuser put his indictment in writing. 36 Surely I would wear it on my shoulder, I would put it on like a crown. 37 I would give him an account of my every step; like a prince I would approach him) –
38 if my land cries out against me and all its furrows are wet with tears,
39 if I have devoured its yield without payment or broken the spirit of its tenants,
40 then let briers come up instead of wheat and weeds instead of barley.”
The words of Job are ended.
After chapter 27 it appeared Job’s three friends had been reduced to silence. An interlude on wisdom followed (chapter 28) and then Job spoke, perhaps to his friends in most of chapters 29-30 before, in chapter 31, voicing his ultimate challenge to God. The verses above are representative of most of the chapter, relying on the sequence, “if I have done x, then let y be the consequences”. In so doing, Job imagined the kinds of sins that perhaps would have justified the suffering he endured, and then denied any personal guilt.
He knew that nothing would have been concealed from God: “Does he not see my ways and count my every step?” (31: 4). He was even prepared to be challenged about the possibility of trying to conceal his sin for the sake of his reputation (verse 33), knowing that he was blameless.
Job made a plaintive cry to be heard and to know that he had been heard (verses 35-37). To this point Job had received no direct communication from God. Perhaps Job regarded the Almighty as his accuser; perhaps he wondered if accusations were from his friends (there is no suggestion “accuser” in verse 35 refers to Satan).
We might be reminded that there can be periods when it seems, in our own lives, God is silent. There can be periods when a plea for divine comfort seems to bring no response. We may sense a terrible alone-ness and even begin to doubt whether God is there or whether God knows about our situation or even whether there is a God.
God has reasons for apparent silence about which we know nothing. We are required to walk by faith on these lonely occasions. We must trust that, according to his timetable, God will make his presence known to us again.