Lesson: Job 38:1-11
1 The LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind:
2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
3 Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?
6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone
7 when the morning stars sang together, and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?
8 “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb?—
9 when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band,
10 and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors,
11 and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped’?”
The Book of Job is a unique poetic story in the Hebrew Scriptures. Job was presented as a righteous person (in right relation with God and others) and as a non-Jew living in the land of Uz (somewhere in what is now Saudi Arabia).
Satan (the “adversary” – not the post-First Century name of the devil) made a wager with God that Job was righteous only because he had health, family, and riches. Satan bet God that Job would curse God if he lost his family, health, and wealth.
Satan took everything from Job, but Job did not curse God. His friends came to “comfort” him and (using typical Deuteronomic thought) told him that his deprivations must be the result of a sin by him or his forebears.
Job denied this reasoning and (contrary to the claim in the traditional translation of Jas. 5:11) Job was anything but “patient.” He “endured,” was steadfast and in some respects, defiant. He asked for someone to judge whether a God who caused a person to suffer is really a just God and worthy to be called “God.” He asked to confront God face-to-face.
Today’s reading is the beginning of a four-chapter “response” by God to Job. The “response” is structured by the author (called “Poet-Job”) as a series of rhetorical questions from God to Job that demonstrated the complexity of created reality and presented an imaginative inspection of the cosmos. God did not, however, give Job a “straight answer” to his question.
After the theophany (the appearance of God to Job), Job acknowledged his limitations as a human (“dust and ashes”). In a later-added Epilogue, Job’s riches were restored, he had another family, and the LORD told Job’s friends that they had not “spoken the truth about Me as did My servant Job (42:7).
The Book of Job does not “answer” the question “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Bad things just happen, and humans cannot demand that a God of Mystery must act in a certain way to be “worthy” to be known as God.
Epistle: 2 Corinthians 6:1-13
1 As we work together with Christ, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.”
See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! 3 We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, 7 truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see– we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
11 We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. 12 There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. 13 In return — I speak as to children — open wide your hearts also.
Corinth, a large port city in Greece, was among the early Jesus Follower communities that Paul founded. Its culture was diverse and Hellenistic. Corinthians emphasized reason and secular wisdom. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was written in the 50’s (CE) and presented his views on many issues that were controversial in this Jesus Follower Community.
Based on internal references in the two remaining letters to the Corinthians, scholars agree that Paul likely wrote at least four letters to the Corinthians. The so-called Second Letter to the Corinthians is composed of fragments of these letters.
Paul’s relationship with the Corinthians was sometimes strained (2:2-4). In today’s reading, Paul paraphrased Isaiah 49:8 in which the prophet, speaking for YHWH, told the Judeans that they would be delivered from the Babylonian Exile. Paul used this verse to urge the Corinthians to accept God’s grace as an inbreaking of salvation.
He continued his defense of his ministry (v.3), enumerated his sufferings (v.4-5), defended his works (v.6-7), and countered charges against him (v.8-10). He claimed that his affection for the Corinthians is unrestricted, but the affections of the Corinthians are limited (v.11).
Paul’s use of contrasting pairs in verses 8-10 are not paradoxes to show that he was imperturbable (like an ideal sage in Stoic philosophy) but antitheses to refute charges made against him.
Gospel: Mark 4:35-41
35 When evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
The Gospel According to Mark was the first Gospel that was written and is generally dated to the time around the Destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. Mark’s Gospel is the shortest gospel and forms the core for the Gospels According to Matthew and Luke (both of which were written around 85 CE). Over 50% of the material in those two Gospels is based on Mark. Because these three Gospels follow similar chronologies of Jesus’ life and death, they are called “Synoptic Gospels” for the Greek words meaning “Same Look/View.”
Today’s reading (and readings that follow up to Chapter 8) emphasize Jesus’ connection to both Moses and Elijah with sea crossings, exorcisms, healings, and wilderness feedings. These actions occur in the face of opposition and the disciples’ misunderstandings about the person of Jesus and his ministry.
In today’s story, Jesus was going from the Jewish/Western side of the Sea of Galilee to the Gentile/Eastern side. Like Jonah, Jesus was asleep in the boat during a storm. The disciples were presented here (and elsewhere) by Mark as uncomprehending, weak-willed or cowardly. The boat may also be a symbol for the small Jesus Follower community in 70 CE.
The sea was often portrayed as a metaphor for confusion or chaos. Control of the sea and the restoration of order (shalom) was a divine power.