The following is a reflection on Job 42:1-6, 10-17, the Hebrew Bible lesson appointed for Proper 25B, according to the Revised Common Lectionary.
I have to admit, while I’ve always had an attraction to the Book of Job, I’ve never cared much for the ending. I’ve tended to agree with scholars who say that it was tacked on to the book much later to make the book more palatable. I mean…he just gets everything back? And, that’s supposed to make it all better?
Are the seven kids that he gets after the ordeal the same kids? Or, are they…uh…different kids?
Because that would make everything better, right? Like getting a new puppy after the beloved family dog died.
But, I’ve become increasingly convinced that the narrative continuity of Job is secondary to underlying message.
As a whole, Job deals with the nature of evil and misfortune in our lives. It reminds us that horrific things can happen to even the very best of us. It boldly proclaims that such things are not punishments from God, nor are they demonstrations of divine impotence.
And, the end of the Book of Job tells us something else: when the dark night is over, the sun always rises. With God there is always the promise of restoration. Hope.
We don’t know when it will come. We don’t know how deep the darkness will get, or how long it will hang over us like a pall. We don’t know how many valleys of dry bones will appear…but God always acts, and restoration is always His way.
It rained for forty days and forty nights, and water covered the earth for nearly a year before the dry land appeared again and the rainbow hung in the sky. God’s people were slaves to Pharaoh for years before Moses was sent, and then it took them forty years to get to the Promised Land. Jerusalem was sacked and God’s People were hauled off to Babylon as slaves for seventy years, before they returned and rebuilt.
God incarnate was beaten, mocked, brutally killed, and laid in a tomb…before Jesus walked out of that very tomb.
Job entered the abyss, but he climbed out. Or, you might be able to say that he was carried out.
The end of Job is a reminder to anyone sitting in the ashes – and to all of us who will one day sit in the ashes – that as bad as things may get, as low as we may feel, one day all shall be well again.
And that is the very root and foundation of our faith. Alleluia.