Just Job. Just Listening.

One way to appreciate any book of the Bible is simply to dig in and read it. The problem is, who has time and energy to do that? Even if it only takes a bit more than an hour to read, there is so much else vying for our attention and needing to be done.

We tried something different at Campus Edge during spring break (as we enter the last week this now feels like a very long time ago!). We sat and listened to the text of Job together. On the Monday, we listened together to Job 2-10; 25-28 (30 minutes if you use this link). On the Saturday we listened together to Job 28-41 (45 minutes if you use this link). We used the Audio Bible (NIV UK) from biblegateway.com. I appreciated the lovely British accent, but you’re welcome to use whatever version appeals to you.

Listening to a text has a less intense feeling to it than asking questions of it. The passiveness of just listening might mean that one misses some of the text. At the same time, pausing to listen to the words of the text creates space for God’s word to be heard anew and in a different way.

Experiencing the book of Job

One of the ways in which we’ve entered into the text of Job is through something called Bibliodrama. Bibliodrama invites people to place themselves into the story; one takes a specific moment in the text and explores what a character in the story might have been feeling or thinking at that time. We looked at the beginning of Job.

People were invited to put themselves in Job’s shoes after all the disasters had happened and Job’s wife told him to curse God. They could share thoughts, feelings, questions. It was harder than it sounds, mostly because of who Job is. How does one, after all, take on all the devastation that Job had experienced and his only words seem to be to praise God? It is like trying to imagine oneself in Jesus’ shoes.

It was easier to move away from Job to being one of those around him, whether friend, wife or bystander. His suffering could be experienced more from a distance, although the helplessness of the situation became even more obvious. How does one help someone we care about who has lost so much? But what if we’re not that close to Job? Regarding the question of what “others” will think, the response seemed more curiosity than condemning: less of a “he deserved it” to what do we make of his faith and this God now. Both of these questions are helpful to keep in mind as we keep looking at the book.

Learning from the book of Job

During Lent we’re focusing on the book of Job. As much as Job can be a bit of an overwhelming book, it’s also been good to get into it and ask questions of the text. Not surprisingly, it’s a text that seems to bring up a lot of questions.

The following are just some of the questions we’ve asked:

  • Does God do harm? Closely related, why is there so much suffering? In the book of Job, for example, why the apparently senseless death of Job’s children?
  • What picture of God is presented here in the text?
    • Can we trust this God?
  • What if the accuser/Satan of Job 1-2 is not actually Satan, the devil as we call him? Can it even be him – would God really be willing to give him that much power?
  • How does one understand Job’s wife’s response to what has happened?
  • Does Job have to really have happened exactly the way we have the book today? Does suggesting it is not historically accurate suggest that the Bible itself is not true and accurate? Does it make it harder for me to deal with difficult times if Job didn’t really go through this?
  • Why is the story so short and the poetical texts of the book so long? (3 chapters of narrative versus 39 chapters of poetical responses). Even if Job’s friends (and Elihu) had a lot of time to think about their answers, who really talks in poetry?
  • Job 28 is different: why?
  • How does Elihu fit in? At the end of the book, he is neither condoned or condemned (unlike Job’s 3 friends).
  • What do we make of God’s silence in the text? Even though God does finally appear at the end of the book, there’s a long time of silence before the response is given (and the response doesn’t really address Job’s questions).
  • The response to Job rests heavily on the fact that God understands how the world works and Job doesn’t. As we understand creation better (e.g., there aren’t really storehouses for hail), how does that change how we read the explanations in the text? Does our understanding change God’s might?!?
  • Is Job truly without sin? What then does he repent of in Chapter 42?
  • How is this book relevant to my life (and those around me) now? Especially in the context of the university?

Further thoughts on these questions will hopefully be posted here in the coming weeks. If you’d like to hear another perspective on the book (and read more questions, albeit this time with more answers), I invite you to go to a site we’ve been using as a resource for the study: “Musings on Science and Theology.”