Are you feeling lucky?

Published 9:13 am Friday, February 11, 2011

By the Rev. Mark Boorsma, Ascension Lutheran Church, Albert Lea

Spoiler alert: You so do not want the Almighty to brag you up with Satan.  Job (rhymes with robe) is so devout that he offers preemptive sacrifices just in case his seven sons and three daughters might happen to sin. These days, that could keep a parent plenty busy.

Well, after God crows to Satan about what a swell mensch Job is, of course Satan’s rebuttal is that Job is only good because he’s got such a sweetheart deal in the divine protection racket. At this point it would have been much better for Job had God been willing to lose a bet. But, no. God gives Satan leave to mess with Job.

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Three messengers bring news of utter calamity. Job’s sons, daughters, servants and livestock are all dead. Job falls to the ground in worship and says, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

God wins that roll, so Satan asks for two out of three.

So the already aggrieved Job now finds himself afflicted with weeping lesions from head to toe, scraping his sores with the broken Limoges. His sensible wife counsels him to curse God and die. He doesn’t, so he doesn’t.

Next comes my favorite part. Job’s three friends come to sit Shiva with him, to console and comfort him. “They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.” I realize that silent friends are not everybody’s cup of tea, but I for one deeply admire the eloquence of true friends who know when to show up and shut up.

Because when they finally do speak, Job’s three friends imply that Job is somehow to blame for this calamity. Maybe he wasn’t good enough, doesn’t pray enough, or isn’t sorry enough for whatever he must have done. Oy vey, with friends like these, who needs enemies? The one whom Job really wants to hear from – God – keeps mum until chapter 38. God answers, not with plausible reasons for Job’s suffering, but with a cosmic tour de force.

I’d tell you the rest of the story, but I’d rather you buy the book.