Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Job's Epiphany

Wednesday, September 19, 2102 -- Week of Proper 19
Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury, 690

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

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
     (Book of Common Prayer, p. 985)
Psalms 72 (morning)    //    119:73-96 (evening)
Job 42:1-17      
Acts 16:16-24      
John 12:20-26

The conclusion of Job.

Job quotes the two questions that God has spoken earlier.  Then he concludes with the wonderful acknowledgment of his epiphany:  "I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you."

Knowing God and knowing about God are vastly different things.  Knowing about God is the context for vast theological disputes such as the conversations that have filled this remarkable book.  But knowing God -- "now my eye sees you" -- moves us into awe and silence. 

An innocent man suffers?  Impossible, said the friends, holding on to their conventional theology.  But Job clings to both sides of the dilemma with dogged tenaciousness -- "God is...; and I, though innocent, suffer..."  He holds the mutually incompatible in tension long enough until he experiences a transcendent truth that reconciles them.  The friends know about God.  But Job is willing to engage the mystery fully enough actually to know God.

Mystics from every religious tradition connect the experience of the divine -- enlightenment -- with various descriptions of the effect upon the self.  Some describe an evaporation of the duality of self and other into an experience of the whole, a unitive experience.  All mystical spiritualities posit the disillusion of any form of self-centeredness.  Some call it the dismantling of the false self, others speak of the surrender of the ego or of the "I" -- the self (small "s") dissolves into the Self (large "S"), the individual knows union with God. 

Yet, whenever I read this story, I am left pondering what has been lost.  Does the restoration of a new family really make up for the family he has lost?  Does it really make sense in the end?  Is God and the universe truly just?  The resignation that I experience at the end of Job doesn't bring me the same satisfaction that it seems to bring Job. 

Maybe the experience of God simply can't be translated.  It can't be given from one person to another.  We must have that experience for ourselves.  It's not enough just to talk about God.  It's not enough to know about God.  Maybe we need more than to hear about Job's encounter with the numinous.  We also must be able to say, "I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you..."  Then, all else may be relative to the ultimate for us, as well as for Job.


Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Go to:

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 10:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good Morning,

Perhaps the author of Job is simply letting us know that Job lives happily ever after. The author tells of of that in the ways of the world, fortunes restored, friends and family in communion, God's blessing abundant and visible, so that we all can understand...

Yet I think for Job none of that worldly restoration of fortune takes on the import it had before. His fortune is the restoration of relationship with God, his trust and faith challenged, but in tact. When you know that everything is grace the material and superficial no longer matter, while at the same time each moment matters immensely, because God is present in each moment. In knowing even a bit of God's grace, expressed in Job as God's vast creativity and knowledge, the ending is happily ever after, no matter what the present circumstances.
Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands;
serve the Lord with gladness
and come before his presence with a song.

Know this: The Lord himself is God;
he himself has made us, and we are his;
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and call upon his Name.

For the Lord is good;
his mercy is everlasting;
and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

Yesterday I walked down a dusty road. It was a gorgeous September afternoon. I swallowed the sunlight. It was warm and soft on my tongue. I watched the sandhill cranes migrate south, toying and playing in the wind drafts off the ridge as they called out their joy. I felt that same wind through my hair, and on my skin. Three deer watched me walk by, intently, silently. Last night I worked on the floor of a nursing home. I put those to bed that cannot walk, cannot speak, and cannot understand. ALL is blessing Job would say, and perhaps he would be right.


At 3:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am pretty sure I recall reading that some, maybe most, authorities think the ending of Job was tacked on later for exactly reason that Lowell notes. the "happy ending" version seems to make the lesson: "Just hang in there, and although you might get a divine scolding, eventually justice will prevail and you will be rewarded."

That's in stark contrast to the apparent message of the entire book that precedes it, about the paradox and mysteries of faith.


At 4:53 PM, Blogger Lowell said...

Thanks for the exquisite essay. Wow.

And Elliott,
When I was in seminary, it was pretty standard interpretation to say that the ending was added by a later editor. But more current scholarship seems to argue for the book's being a coherent whole. "The Access Bible" has a real good article about that.



Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home