This post is a modified version of a paper I submitted for a Hebrew wisdom literature class I took this fall semester. Since Bible Chapel’s Advent theme is The Journey to Advent I thought it might be of interest. I will break this up into 3 posts.
A couple of months ago I watched a movie called The Way. The Way is an Emilio Estevez film that captures the heart of a pilgrimage. It follows a self-centered, well-to-do father whose son died his first day on the pilgrimage to Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James). Broken hearted over his son’s death he travels to France to identify his son’s body and collect his possessions. After a restless night of soul searching the father decides to take his sons gear and make the pilgrimage himself. The rest of the film is spent watching the father spread his son’s ashes along the trail, making friends, enduring cold nights, laughing, crying, and finally worshiping someone other than himself. The Way shows the dichotomy between an artificial, self-centered world and the real world through the medium of the pilgrimage which is another way of saying the Christian journey.
In many ways this film became a metaphor for me as I read the wisdom literature in particular: Job, Psalms, and Ecclesiastes. (Proverbs and Song of Solomon are also included in the genre of wisdom literature as are Wisdom of Solomon and Sirach in the Apocrypha. However, for this study I was limited to Job, Psalms and Ecclesiastes). This movie and the wisdom of Scripture seemed to present me with an invitation to a journey; an invitation to take up Job’s cloak and learn from his example, to walk the same path of the Psalmist and honestly meet my hardships and joys, and to be guided along the way by Solomon as I encounter the freedom from self-centeredness to the joy of God-centeredness.
The right gear is essential for any pilgrimage and the gear received in the book of Job is time-tested and well worn. If it was anything that I learned from Job’s example it is that in the midst of our suffering God remains loving, merciful, and sovereign. This is summarized in verses like; “Though he slay me, yet I will trust in him…He shall be my salvation” (Job 13:15-16a).
Job had the rare combination of wealth and godliness. His life was filled with fruitfulness and happiness and when God presents Job to Satan, the Accuser challenges Job’s character insisting that Job’s righteousness is connected with God’s blessing.
Hast, not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thin hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face (Job 1:10-11).
It is from here that God allows Satan to start his destruction of Job. God allows Job’s health, wealth and family to be devastated. However, even though he endures bodily sores and condemning advice from his ‘friends’ and wife such as, “Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God, and die” (Job 2:9), Job continues to endure. In the end scene Job is enabled to do something that all of humanity has desired at one time or another; to question God to his face. God’s reply to Job’s questions is simply to present his glorious self before Job. From this vantage point Job’s questions of why turn into worship and repentance. The wisdom of Job for the Christian pilgrim lies in his example and teaches us that neither wealth and blessing nor poverty and suffering equate to our standing before him. God’s love is not based upon someone’s blessing or their poverty, their merit or failure but rather upon his sovereign grace.
Job’s gear is far from being new and impressive; in fact; it is nothing but sackcloth and ashes (Job 42:6). However, this essential gear reminds us that God’s love flows from his mercy and grace and it is often in midst of suffering that this truth becomes solidified in our hearts. Job learned of God’s loving-kindness through his suffering and very often so do we.
More to come…