Sunday, March 10, 2013

Job 31 and Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians 6-8

Job 31 – Job’s lament continues. He wonders what it is that makes God choose what we shall receive from Him. “[W]hat has God above chosen for us? What is our inheritance from the Almighty on high? Isn’t it calamity for the wicked and misfortune for those who do evil?” (31:2-3) – just as his “friends” have said over and over. This idea is a great temptation. It makes sense when we weigh our ideas of God against the notion of what justice is. I think this quandary about our sense of “justice” and God’s “omnipotence” that eventually led the faithful to embrace the idea of heaven as a place where the “just” reward for our faithfulness will be made manifest.

But he has not done bad. He has not lied or deceived anyone. “Let God weigh me on the scales of justice, for he knows my integrity. If I have strayed from his pathway, or if my heart has lusted for what my eyes have seen, or if I am guilty of any other sin, then let someone else eat the crops I have planted. Let all that I have planted by uprooted” (31:6-8).

But even pondering the possibility that such a wrong might be suggested about him makes him recoil. He has NEVER taken pride in his wealth or rejoiced when disaster hit anyone, or cursed anyone or failed to open his door to a stranger or poor person “Let the Almighty answer me. Let my accuser write out the charges against me” (31:35).

And so the “words of Job are at an end” (31:40).

Ignatius to the Philadelphians
6 – Do not listen to those who preach “Jewish law” to you whether they be circumcised or uncircumcised. If they do not testify to Jesus Christ, “they are in my judgment but as monuments and sepulchers of the dead, upon which are written only the names of men.”

7 – He makes reference to some way people took some kind of advantage of him in the past, but it was not apparently in things having to do with the faith – maybe some more worldly matter. He mentions it to assure them that his “spiritual” self is safe from all such danger.

And he mentions another event that happened when he was “with [them]” (Penguin Edition 95). Apparently in meeting with them, he felt stirred by the Spirit to “cr[y] out, speaking with a loud voice – the very voice of God – [to] ‘be loyal to your bishop and clergy and deacons’. Some who were there suspected me of saying this because I already knew of certain dissensions among you; but He whose prisoner I am will bear me witness that no such information had ever reached me from human lips. No that was the preaching of the Spirit itself, telling you never to act in independence of the bishop, to keep your bodies as a temple of God, to cherish unity and shun divisions, and to be imitators of Jesus Christ as He was of His Father” (95).

As a person very much formed by Quaker ideas and practices, this section really interested me. These words must be a little tormenting to Friends reading them, because on the one hand Ignatius is clearly testifying to an experience of having witnessed publicly to a leading from God in a way any Quaker would understand; but the content of his “leading” has to make Friends squirm a little – all this talk of submitting to bishops and clergy. I am very curious as to how modern Friends received these words. We are after all talking about a church leader who was trained by the apostle John and who was teaching about the faith in the generation after Jesus lived among them.

8 – “As for me, I did my part as one dedicated to the cause of unity; for where disunion and bad blood exist, God can never be dwelling” (95).

I think the argument is between those who believed that some aspects of Jewish law should be acknowledged in the Christian community. They were arguing over what weight should be given to the “ancient records.” “Certain people declared in my hearing, ‘Unless I can find a thing in our ancient records, I refuse to belie it in the Gospel’; and when I assured them that it is indeed in the ancient scriptures, they retorted, ‘That has got to be proved’. But for my part, my records are Jesus Christ; for me, the sacrosanct records are His cross and death and resurrection, and the faith that comes through Him” (95).

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