Monday, August 27, 2012

"The Bible says..."

Monday, August 27, 2012 -- Week of Proper 16
Thomas Gallaudet with Henry Winter Syle, 1902, 1890

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 981)
Psalms 1, 2, 3 (morning)       4, 7 (evening)
Job 4:1; 5:1-11, 17-21, 26-27      
Acts 9:19b-31     
John 6:60-71

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]

It seems so important when reading Job to remember how it comes out in the end.  As I listened to the words of Eliphaz today, I had to remind myself of the final verdict at the end of the book -- God rejected the argument of Eliphaz.

But so many of the verses sound so similar to passages in the Psalms or in Proverbs.  Some of the pithy nuggets of Job's friends are quoted as examples of Biblical wisdom.  I can hear it in the back of my mind -- someone preaching, "The Bible says, 'Human beings are born to trouble just as sparks fly upward.'"  Amen brother.  But wait.  Eliphaz said that, and he was one of the losers in the debate.  God said his argument was essentially false.  It may not be a great idea to say, "the Bible says..." and quote Eliphaz.

Yet, Eliphaz sounds so much like the Psalms we have today for our morning office.  Psalm 1 insists that the righteous are happy, "like trees planted by streams of water, ...everything they do shall prosper...  It is not so with the wicked; they are like chaff which the wind blows away."  Job's fortunes have been blown away like chaff.  His misery must be a sign of his sin, Eliphaz reasons, "therefore do not despise the discipline of the Almighty."

Eliphaz advises Job, "As for me, I would seek God, and to God I would commit my cause."  So does the Psalmist, who in the face of many adversaries declares, "I call aloud to you, O God, and you answer me from your holy hill....  Surely, you will strike all my enemies across the face."  (Ps. 3)  Eliphaz offers similar confidence to Job.  "You shall come to your grave in ripe old age, as a shock of grain comes up to the threshing floor in its season.  See, we have searched this out; it is true.  Hear, and know it for yourself."  Eliphaz sounds a lot like Psalm 2.  "Let me announce the decree of God, who has said to me, 'You are my Son; this day have I begotten you.  Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance and the ends of the earth for you possession.  You shall crush them with an iron rod and shatter them like a piece of pottery.'" 

Eliphaz declares with confidence a conventional wisdom grounded in the theology of the Scriptures, especially the Psalms, Proverbs, and in the theology of the Deuteronomic history.  Yet his words feel like an attack to poor Job.  They seem shallow and unsatisfactory, not wise and comforting.  Eliphaz throws the Book at Job and only adds to Job's suffering. 

In the end, God will declare Job's fierce honesty in the darkness to be more faithful, true and authentic than his friends' mastery of the Book.


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About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at

Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 9:40 AM, Anonymous mike wertz said...

What a masterful dealing with the reality of the matter. I am, as (almost :) always, so impressed with your heart Lowell.


At 10:54 AM, Blogger The Underground Pewster said...

Eliphaz is as reassuring to a friend in need as someone who says, "Your illness is going to be good for you."
But to put down those who tend to say, "The Bible says..." might lead your flock to think, "Who needs all that O.T. stuff anyway?"

At 3:21 PM, Anonymous mike wertz said...

to the pewster,

I often wonder why we need all that O.T. stuff myself. Lowell makes it interesting in a historical context of the development of our civilizing ourselves through our ability at a given time to become less savage beasts, and savage beasts it seems that we are.

I can see the life lessons and wisdom from the books of the OT, but the law that was completed by the gospel seems clung to by the "religionists" -- to the detriment of its completion. OT is to prepare one for receiving the Love of God, perhaps, but if the plant does not rise above the ground, it cannot see the sky (or something like that).


ps, proving I am not a robot is the toughest part of this

At 7:59 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Oh, we need all that O.T. stuff!! There are so many places in the Hebrew Scripture that sing with comparable power and truth to what we have in the N.T.

But when we read Job, we enter into a debate within the Scripture. The author of Job challenges the theology of some of the significant parts of the Scriptures. Job denies the oft-repeated theology that God rewards the good and punishes the wicked, that God will uphold the righteous person, that right behavior will merit blessing, that suffering is a consequence of sin, and that God is just (at least in the way God's justice is described in much of the Hebrew Scriptures).

Job makes bitter fun of what the writer of Proverbs has to say. Job seriously debates and disagrees with much of the theology of the Psalms and the underlying theology of the Deuternomic history.

Job puts down his friends who come to him and say, in effect, "The Bible says..." Job says, "My companions are treacherous like a torrent-bed..."

This is O.T. stuff at its best.


P.S. Oh, it always bothers me when we are in worship and we read a delightful sounding passage from the Book of Job, but we are actually quoting Eliphaz or one of the discredited friends. Seems like we ought to asterisk those readings in some way to explain their context. We had one of those passages at one of the Eucharists at General Convention. Lovely, pious sentiment, but from one of the friends, not condoned by Job himself.

At 6:14 AM, Anonymous Meaning of life said...

Wonderful post! It seems very informative.Thanks for sharing the lovely post.


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