God then confronted Job directly: “Now what do you have to say for yourself? Are you going to haul me, the Mighty One, into court and press charges?”
Job answered: “I’m speechless, in awe – words fail me. I should never have opened my mouth! I’ve talked too much, way too much. I’m ready to shut up and listen.”
God said: “I have some more questions for you (two chapters full!), and I want straight answers.”
Job answered God: “I’m convinced. You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’ I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head. You told me, ‘Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.’ I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand – from my own eyes and ears! I’m sorry – forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise! I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumors.”
From Job 40,42, The MESSAGE
In preparing for this fourth Sunday of Advent, and pondering its colossal theme, I was directed to the above passage. I’m particularly struck, in Eugene Peterson’s translation, by Job’s words, ‘crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumors.’ His assessment of his life till now smacks of impoverishment, of lack, of eking out a spiritual walk from the barest of minimums, of making his way unceasingly mired by insufficiency. However, the book opens with this assessment of Job: ‘He was honest inside and out, a man of his word, who was totally devoted to God and hated evil with a passion – the most influential man in all the East!’ I find it disturbing that someone of such spiritual fervor and righteous integrity could speak in terms of ‘crusts’ and ‘crumbs.’ What was Job referring to in speaking of such scarcity? What revelation of God and God’s character had opened his eyes and his ears? What had he now come to understand for the first time ever?
Now to the church in our day, several millennia later. We are inundated with Christian books and research papers and scholarly teachings, as well as devotionals and novels, radio channels and Christian films, with seminars and conferences and over 30,000 Christian denominations to choose from, a massive array of Christian music at our disposal, God’s Word in any number of translations, including original Hebrew and Greek for the diplomaed, and Latin Interlinear for the erudite. We are encouraged to read, memorize, study, pray, journal, fellowship, drink coffee and eat pizza together. In this super-abundance of resources and opportunities, is it possible that we live our lives unaware that they are on par with Job’s own assessment? Could we possibly be living on crusts of hearsay and crumbs of rumors? Have our eyes seen and our ears heard God as Job came to see and hear Him?
The fourth theme of Advent has been so prolifically trafficked that returning to its source requires bushwhacking through a jungle of misinformation. It has been sexualized in many quarters and has co-opted normal language and idioms. It has been diluted into so many inferior iterations as to render it unrecognizable. It is almost as though God’s archenemy hatched this plan to keep followers of Jesus surviving solely on hearsay and rumors lest they come to see and hear, with Job, the full extent of God’s being, His love, and confess the frailty of their lives, the poverty of their hearts.
Right from the beginning God’s love has reached, and from the beginning man has refused to understand. But love went on reaching, offering itself. Love offered the eternal . . . we wanted the immediate. Love offered deep joy . . . we wanted thrills. Love offered freedom . . . we wanted license. Love offered communion with God Himself . . . we wanted to worship at the shrine of our minds. Love offered peace . . . we wanted approval for our wars. Even yet, love went on reaching. And still today, after two thousand years, patiently, lovingly, Christ is reaching out to us . . . through the chaos of our world, through the confusion of our minds. He is reaching . . . longing to share with us . . . the very being of God. His love is still longing, His love is still reaching . . . And the Word of the Father became Mary’s little Son. And His love reached all the way to where I am. ~Gloria Gaither, 1975.
We’ll draw in a bit closer tomorrow at 10 AM, 3 PM, 4 PM. PD