You Think You're Something?
What have we learned so far? We have learned that God is all that and a bag of chips, and that is an understatement. We have learned that human beings, created and loved by God into existence, are stiff-necked (I love that image), sinful and inconstant. We have learned that it is nothing we accomplish by our will that achieves our liberation from sin...it is by God's mercy that we are redeemed from destruction. We have learned that God's mercy is found in the Promise (to Abraham), the Law (through Moses) and Life (through Christ). On top of that, we have received some amazing testimony about how wonderful, and difficult, it is to attempt to embrace a life of faith through believing in (and acting on) a primary relationship between a created humanity and a creator God.
Perhaps that is why I am bracing so much under the harangues of Job's friends, as well as his responses. In their struggle to explain why a good and righteous man should have to endure suffering when God should instead be blessing him, they have to confront what they are seeing. Either Job is a sinner, getting his just desserts; or, God is capricious and will visit blessings on the wicked and sufferings on the righteous (or the other way around), depending on what God might be feeling at the moment. Small wonder that it is easier to settle on Job's having sinned somewhere, at some point, rather than even thinking about the latter concept.
But Job knows he is justified...and he continues to pine for vindication. I am sure that is the source of Elihu's apparent apoplexy. How dare Job presume to know himself as well as God should know him? How might any one of us hope for the same? There is always some hidden sin in us, right? But not in Job. God (we know) has already said he is blameless. What a struggle!
Top that with Paul reminding the Galatians of the new reality they are living in as they witness new life in Christ. No longer the wards of the Law, their custodial indenture is ended and they are now free...but not free to forget themselves. With freedom comes a call to embrace a way of being that is more akin to Abraham's faithful walk with God than with Moses and Israel as they wander in the wilderness under the Law. Paul is basically informing the Galatians that with new life comes a more profound summons to a life committed to an active labor of manifesting reconciliation and restoration to a world broken by sin and death. As heirs of that heritage, we are no longer caught in a quid pro quo with either the world or with God. We are liberated into the now, and called to strive for justice and peace here, at this moment and without supposing that there is a "creation-end" bonus waiting for us down the line (as much as there is retribution awaiting the wicked).
Elihu is attempting to verbally knock some sense, as he sees it, into Job. Paul is attempting the same with the Galatians. BOTH are offering us witness to the truth that God is much bigger than all of us, that the moral arc of the universe is longer than our short lives and that if our personal existence is to make any "sense" then we have to simply get up and get on with life in such a way that God is glorified and we find ourselves not by any human effort...but by lives committed to a belief that is (justified by the Promise and through Christ) is reckoned as faith.