|The Evils of Job William Blake|
The aim of the ‘Continuous’ track on the Revised Common Lectionary readings is to take us through a significant portion of the Old Testament over a few Sundays. Accordingly, this is the first of four devoted to the Book of Job, usually classified as part of the Bible’s ‘wisdom literature’. It is one of the most ancient treatments of a recurring question – why does God let terrible things happen to good people? – though the book is almost as perplexing as the question it deals with. As a result, four short extracts are not really enough to enable us understand it, so this is one of those occasions when the Lectionary hopes to encourage us to read the whole book for ourselves over the course of the month.
Towards the end, God finally answers Job ‘out of the whirlwind’ -- with an unapologetic assertion of the inscrutability of His purposes, and a refusal to answer to human judgment!. There is a harshness about this that seems very far from the idea of a loving God. Yet, read alongside Job Chapter 28, one of the most beautiful passages in the whole Bible, it can powerfully bring home to us the immense and mysterious gap between humanity and divinity, and leave us pondering on the awesome majesty of God.
|Adam and Eve (1931) Francis Picabia|
It is the topic of marriage and family life that links the alternative ‘Thematic’ Old Testament reading with both the Epistle and the Gospel. A well known passage from Genesis, in which Eve is given to Adam because ‘it is not good for the man to be alone’, is matched with the Gospel passage in which Jesus both speaks against divorce, and stresses how much we have to learn from children. The Epistle tells us that God ‘did not subject the coming world . . . to angels’ but to ‘mortals’. Accordingly, it is human relationships -- parent, child, brother, sister – that provide us with the best concepts in which to think about our relationship to God.