Pentecost +22 2021
Rev. Doug Floyd
Job 38:1-18, Psalm 13, Hebrews 5:11-612, Mark 10:46-52
On August 9, I was admitted to the hospital with COVID. I kept telling everyone that Kelly and I had the vaccine. I didn’t really feel that bad. It just seemed like a sinus infection. Unfortunately, my oxygen levels were unstable, and I was put in ICU. Over the next few days, they pumped me full of steroids and antibiotics. By week’s end I was feeling pretty good. They moved me from ICU to a regular room, and it seemed like I’d be going home soon.
I wanted to get caught up on my Bible reading. The day I entered the hospital, I was supposed to read the passage when the Lord responds to Job’s questions about his unthinkable sufferings. This passage is one of my favorite readings in Scripture because it gives a picture of the Lord’s care for every detail of creation. When I tried to read in the hospital, I couldn’t see the text too well. Everything was blurry, so I had to wait.
Each day, I was feeling better. But then one day I felt weak. Every time I coughed my stomach hurt. Kelly told the nurse, but she suggested we wait for the doctor the next day. Kelly had to leave at 11:30pm that night because she didn’t realize she could spend the night. I went to sleep right after she left and just a few minutes later I woke up needing help to use the restroom. When the CNA came into the room, she found blood all over the bed and me. Apparently, an IV had popped out of my arm while I was sleeping.
Several nurses came into the room and cleaned me and the bed. Soon I was fast asleep again. Then at about 1 am, I heard a nurse asking my full name and birthday. The room was filled with nurses. At some point, my eyes had rolled back in my head, and my temperature was dropping. It looked like I was fading. They kept checking my temperature and finally decided it had stabilized. The next thing I know they were sending me down to get a CAT Scan of my brain and my stomach.
This made me nervous, and I started struggling to catch my breath. By the time I got through with the CAT Scan, it felt as though I was about to smother to death. After fading in and out of consciousness, I awoke in ICU. Kelly was there talking with doctor and nurse who were about to give me emergency blood. Once again, I was fading in and out. Every time I opened my eyes, the nurse was giving me more blood through an artery in my thigh. Finally, I woke up in the afternoon and was looking around for Kelly. I texted her, “Are you in another room?” As it turns out she couldn’t stay and this text was the first sign she had that I was all right.
Eventually, when I returned to a normal room, Kelly was able to come back and sit with me. She stayed round the clock until I was finally released.
When I first woke up after the blood transfusion, I felt as though I was in the speech of God to Job. It hardly makes sense to say it out loud. In fact, I couldn’t even make sense of it, but I could feel it. The speech of God to Job was a word of absolute love and comfort. It was image after image of God’s faithful care for His creation. Nothing was beyond His love, His care. I was immersed in a love that could not be stopped even if I died. Life and death were both safely within the care of the Triune love. As Paul writes in Romans,
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38–39). Somehow this unshakeable love was connected to God’s speech to Job, and I was resting in the middle of that speech.
Everywhere I turned, I could sense a glorious expression of that love. The nurse and doctors and hospital staff were all bearing witness to a love beyond love. Kelly was living out the reality of that love day and night. At times, it felt as the whole world was reverberating with that love.
At some point, I was decided that when I got out of the hospital, I wanted to return to Job and study this mysterious book in relation to my experience of this love shining out through all creation. We finally left the hospital on September 5, I returned to the story of Job. I read and reread the final chapters. I talked with some of my theology friends and consulted with some of my favorite writers on Job.
In the next few minutes, I want to briefly share a few thoughts on Job that emerged out of my experience and my study. Hopefully, it will edify and bring us to the faithfulness of God in Christ.
Most of the story in Job focuses on a Job’s complaint and the responses of his friends. As I think of their discussions, I envision a world that is colorless. Early on in the story, Job’s family is attacked by invaders. The land and people suffer and die under extreme weather from lightning storms to fierce winds. Job’s world is collapsing around him. His body is afflicted and his mind is troubled. There is no respite, no relief, and apparently no hope.
Even as his friends gather round him, it looks as if the end of the world is at hand. Job can look in any direction and see loss, destruction, hopelessness.
Let me stop here and say that there are times in life the color drains from our world and we can feel forsaken in our distress. We may not come anywhere close to the suffering of Job, but many of us can identify with times and seasons of unspeakable pain and suffering. All seems hopeless. This anguish can result from health problems, job loss, broken relationships, fear, and more. Some of you may know this condition intimately and may even now feel the anguish of loss and pain.
Fritz Eichenberg’s carving captures this painful image. Job and his friends sit in the shadow of the evil one. All is dark as the bodies are crumbled in heaps. And yet, above this dismal scene is the all-seeing eye of God. Though the world can feel God-forsaken, it’s not. As Erasmus wrote, “Bidden or unbidden, God is present.”
God has not abandoned us in our dismay.
Job is in such a state of turmoil, he cries out in protest to God. At first he questions the order of creation. Craig Bartholomew argues that Job’s speech in chapter three has many parallels with Genesis 1. Except Job is inverting the story as he calls for darkness to cover the day of his birth. Instead of God declaring “Let there by light!” Job declares,
4 Let that day be darkness! May God above not seek it, nor light shine upon it. 5 Let gloom and deep darkness claim it. Let clouds dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it. (Job 3:4–5)
Later Job will question the justice of God. He wants to know why God has turned against him. He cries out,
22 Then call, and I will answer; or let me speak, and you reply to me. 23 How many are my iniquities and my sins? Make me know my transgression and my sin. 24 Why do you hide your face and count me as your enemy? (Job 13:22–24)
The wisdom tradition suggested that Job’s faithful life would be rewarded by God’s favor and provision. But it appears there is no rhyme or reason why some people prosper and others suffer. It’s easy for all of us to look around us at work or in life and wonder, “Why do those people get everything they want and their lives seem free from suffering?” Why Lord!
Finally, Job comes to confess that human wisdom is insufficient to grasp the ways of God. All his wisdom has fallen short, and the wisdom of his friends are like a sounding noise. Instead of helping, it only reinforces how little they understand the situation. In Job 28, he explores man’s ability to discover hidden treasures of the earth, but his inability to discover true wisdom. He writes,
“From where, then, does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding? 21 It is hidden from the eyes of all living and concealed from the birds of the air. (Job 28:20–21)
And he confesses that only God knows the true way of wisdom,
“God understands the way to it, and he knows its place. (Job 28:23)
The Lord tells humans, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding. (Job 28:28).
Suddenly, the voice of God sounds from within a whirlwind. The Lord raises a series of questions about the wonder of His creation, revealing that He has filled the cosmos with mysteries beyond human grasp. His recounting the various aspects of creation also reveal His pastoral care. Job’s vision has been trapped within the pain and struggle of his own little black and white world, but now God open’s his vision to the vast glory beyond him.
It might be helpful to note that up to now, the dialogues of Job have used the name El for God, which emphasizes his unknowableness.
But when God answers, the text uses the name YahWeh for God. This is the God of the covenant speaking to Job and to His people We know Him as He reveals himself to us and in Him we discover His lovingkindness and absolute faithfulness to care for His people.
After He recounts all these wonders to Job, He refers to Job as His servant. He rebukes Job’s friends, saying “you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”(Job 42:7)
Each friend is told to offer Job seven rams to Job and Job will pray for them. In some sense, Job has passed through death and is now raised up as a priestly Patriarch with authority to pray for these men. When he does, they are restored. Earlier I suggested the whole world of Job and his friends was black and white and looked like a world that was dying.
Now as Job prays color returns. The whole world opens into a scene of abundance, of rejoicing, of beauty, of family and friends.
When I was in the hospital, it would have been easy to sink down into the black and white world of suffering and possible death. I lived in one room. I was weak. At one point, I was going in and out of consciousness. In the midst of it, God opened my heart to the wondrous world of his creation. I didn’t understand what I was experiencing, but now I see that I was experiencing just a tiny taste of the vastness of His lovingkindness that sustains our world and our lives every moment. In my experience, the doctors and nurses and various caregiving all became manifestations of His love.
All of us are surrounded by His goodness and grace. And yet it’s easy to let the cares of this world overwhelm us. From to sickness to grief to struggles at home or in the workplace, it is easy to let our world shrink into a colorless place where we can no longer see His love.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus heals blind Bartimaeus. He opens his eyes, so that he can see. Bartimaeus’s prayer eventually became the prayer of the church: the Jesus prayer. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” In our struggles, in our pain, in our questions, may we cry out with confidence, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!
And may we see and know, that He is faithful and will never forsake us.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38–39).