For the Love of God, Volume 2/March 2
From Gospel Translations
Exodus 13; Luke 16; Job 31; 2 Corinthians 1
ONCE AGAIN WE MAY USEFULLY reflect on both designated readings.
Job 31 is the final chapter of Job’s last response to the three comforters. The closing three chapters of this address (chaps. 29—31) are dominated by two themes. First, Job now bemoans not so much his physical suffering as his loss of face and prestige in the community. He has been a man of dignity and honor; now he is treated with scorn, even by young men from contemptible families (e.g., 30:1). Second, although all along Job has protested that he is suffering innocently, now he discloses the habits of his life that explain why the opening chapter describes him as “blameless and upright,” a man who “feared God and shunned evil” (1:1).
Indeed, one of the reasons why Job had been so honored in the community was that his righteousness and generosity were well known: he rescued the poor and the fatherless, assisted the dying, and helped widows (29:12). So also in the present chapter: almost in desperation because of the charges brought against him, Job lays out the evidence of his innocence. He made a covenant with his eyes “not to look lustfully at a girl” (31:1). He constantly remembered God’s allseeing eye (31:4), and therefore spoke the truth and dealt honestly in business (31:5-8). He avoided adultery; he dealt equitably with any grievance from his menservants and maidservants, knowing that he himself must one day face God’s justice, and that in any case they are as human as he (31:13-15). Out of the fear of God, he was especially generous with the poor (31:16-23). Despite great wealth, he never trusted it (31:24-28), nor allowed himself to gloat over the misfortunes of others (31:29-30). So the chapter ends with Job maintaining his reputation for integrity, and finding no comfort.
Paul also suffers—not only the loss of possessions, family, and health, but the peculiar pressures of front-line ministry, and, worse, overt persecution (2 Corinthians 1:1-11). Of course, the circumstances are radically different. Paul knows, as Job did not, that he has been called to suffer (e.g., Acts 9:16). Moreover, Paul lives and serves this side of the cross: he self-consciously follows one who suffered unjustly for the sake of others. Perhaps most importantly, Paul knows that the encouragement he has received from “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (1:3) he is able to pass on to others. He knows God “comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (1:4). Pity those who have never been comforted; they never give comfort either.