Thursday, February 28, 2013

Job 10-11 and Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians 2-4

Job 10 – Job says he is disgusted with his life and must complain about it. “I will say to God, ‘Don’t simply condemn me—tell me the charge you are bringing against me’” (10:2).

Job believes God does not “see” with the eyes of men – God is eternal and so mysterious, it is pure pride to claim any kind of “knowledge.”

“You guided my conception and formed me in the womb. You clothed me with skin and flesh, and you knit my bones and sinews together. You gave me life and showed me your unfailing love” (10:10-12).

But now “you witness against me. You pour out your growing anger on me” (10:17). He cannot understand how God could be the source of both these blessings and this present curse. He begs God to desist from vexing him. “I have only a few days left, so leave me alone, that I may have a moment of comfort before I leave—never to return—for the land of darkness and utter gloom” (10:20-21).

Job 11 – Zophar now has his say: He censures Job for rattling on and on about his pain. And they don’t know what they should do when they hear Job challenging God. “Should I remain silent while you babble on? When you mock God, shouldn’t someone make you ashamed?” (11:3) “If only God would speak; if only he would tell you what he thinks! If only he would tell you the secrets of wisdom, for true wisdom is not a simple matter” (11:5-6).

Who could disagree with the WORDS Zophar speaks here? “”’Can you solve the mysteries of God? Can you discover everything about the Almighty? Such knowledge is higher than the heavens—and who are you? It is deeper than the underworld—what do you know?” (11:7-8).

All of this seems reasonable to me; what faithful believer would not try to step in and help a friend deal with suffering without losing trust in God.  Ironically, the matter will be resolved in the end by God coming to Job and speaking to him directly. But while Zophar and the others recognize the complexity of God’s realm, they seem compelled to SOLVE the mystery by placing blame on Job.

“If God comes and puts a person in prison or calls the court to order, who can stop him? For he knows those who are false, and he takes note of all their sins” (11:10-11). “’If only you would prepare your heart and lift up your hands to him in prayer! Get rid of your sins, and leave all iniquity behind you. Then your face will brighten with innocence. You will be strong and free of fear’” (11:13-15).

Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians
2 – Again, Ignatius emphasizes the importance of order in the church. “Your obedience to your bishop, as though he were Jesus Christ, shows me plainly enough that yours is no worldly manner of life, but that of Jesus Christ Himself, who gave His life for us that faith in His death might save you from death” (79).

Ignatius believes it is “essential” that members of the church NOT act independently, without regard for the leadership role of the bishop and the other “clergy.” He sees them as having an iconic role in the church. They are to be regarded as “apostles of Jesus Christ our Hope, in whom we shall one day be found, if our lives are lived in Him” (79).

It is equally important for these leaders to “guard themselves against any slur or imputation [of immorality] as strictly as they would against fire itself” (79). We see how important these words are today as the Catholic Church struggles to keep its head above the dark waters of shame for having tried to hide or minimize the scandals of sexual predation in the Church for years.

3 – Respect your deacons as you do Christ. “[L]ook on the bishop as a type of the Father, and the clergy as the Apostolic circles forming His council; for without these three orders no church has any right to the name” (79).

The demeanor of their bishop is commended; his “very gentleness is power” (80).

4 – Ignatius writes that his head is full of thoughts, some of which he fears. The passage seems to reflect a number of different fears he has. First there is a fear that his longing for martyrdom might reflect a certain pride in the status it will bring him to be faithful unto death; but he also feels trepidation at the “good reports” friends of his have given to the Roman authorities, hoping to have him spared from the very martyrdom he seeks. He worries that the devil may be playing a role in tempting his friends to find of way for him to avoid martyrdom. The devil seems to be swarming in ALL his thoughts.

“The words of those people [those friends] are real scourges to me; for much as I yearn for martyrdom, I am not at all sure of being found worthy of it” (80).

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