Through the Bible in a Year – February 10

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Job 40-42; Acts 15:36- 16:40; Psalm 51

Yesterday we thought of ‘surrendering ourselves to the unfathomable mystery of the Love of God’ – that which sustains all life and upholds the universe and is its most profound meaning.

In the sure and certain confidence of such love we may pray Psalm 51. In the Orthodox liturgy it is said every day at morning prayer. It is an acknowledgment of who we are – and who God is. It is fundamentally honest with regard to ourselves and our relationship to God. ‘Against you only have I sinned’ Our sin of course always has consequences which hurt others. Every sin does this – we are I think hopelessly naive about how our lives are so woven together that every sin has consequences of which we cannot dream, and perhaps that is just as well. [There is I think, a helpful parallel in chaos theory – which famously suggests that the beat of a hummingbird’s wing in the Philippines leads to hurricanes over the Atlantic – thus it is with our sin]

But rather than hide this profound truth about ourselves, we live out of an even deeper truth – that we live our lives in even deeper weave with that of God, who is closer to us than our own heartbeat. And so we come with confidence before him, not parading our sins, but confident in his love and mercy, with broken and contrite hearts. All our efforts to please turned to dust – which is of course the raw material of life, from the dust of the earth we were made, and from dust God can and does remake us, in his tender Love and mercy.

We say with Job ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted – my eye has seen you and I repent in dust and ashes’

Job is commended for speaking the truth about God. To daily seek forgiveness in confidence and trust, is such truth speaking, and therein lies our great Hope.

Through the Bible in a Year – February 9

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Job 38-39; Acts 15:1-35; Psalm 50

‘Then God answered Job out of the whirlwind . . .’

In the beginning of his travails, Job had sat in silence before God with his three friends for a week – as it were figure of creation groaning in expectation. In this his friends showed empathy for his great suffering and together they showed wisdom in not trying to explain the inexplicable. But the human mind is restless until it finds its rest in its maker and so the disputation begins as his three friends wheel out three of the ‘contemporary’ explanations – none of which is any comfort to Job, who knows that only God knows – yet it is not enough for him in his trouble and so he enters into the disputation. Continue reading “Through the Bible in a Year – February 9”

Through the Bible in a Year – February 5th

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Job 27-29; Acts 11; Psalm 45

Job now comes to the close of his disputation. Having had to put up with the naive arguments of his friends – having wrestled with the utter injustice of his situation, whilst the wicked heap up silver like dust – his final speech begins by declaring not that he, but God will be vindicated in the end. That the wicked will perish and then speaks an ode to Wisdom.

It is all too simple to think of Wisdom as great cleverness – or as something that only a few might aspire to. After all, says Job, you can dig up rubies and Gold and Sapphire far more readily than we can find Wisdom. But then wonder of wonders, he declares that Wisdom is attainable by all. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom – her gate is wide open – she welcomes all who would come to her – and to shun evil is understanding. Wisdom is the life oriented towards God in humble obedience and the rejection of all that is evil.

And so as St Paul remarks, ‘he has become for us Wisdom from God’. As always all the attributes of God’s life have to take on flesh, be incarnated. Jesus becomes Wisdom from God as he devotes his life to the will of his father.

So it is that this word of salvation spreads and spreads – ‘even the Gentiles have been given the gift of repentance – the Gift of Wisdom – the Gift of Life

Through the Bible in a Year – February 4

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Job 24-26; Acts 10; Psalm 43-44

It is hard to read the complaint of Job and not see how all he sees is to be seen around us in this day. Bildad rebukes him, but Job immediately reveals how Bildad has proved the words of Job. So ready with his answer, Bildad is the one who has failed to help the powerless or assist the one who has not strength. Bildad seeks to make of God, nothing but an idol – one who can readily be described. So it is with the powerful and wicked who live by their own rules.

Job will have none of it – this attempt to reduce the mystery of the one before whom Sheol is naked and Abbadon has no covering, to a neat and tidy answer which will give comfort in the night. His ways are past finding out, as even the infant church discovers.

As it moves on in the story, as the gospel has gone seemingly as far as it can to those apprently on the edge of God’s story, the Samaritans – so it is discovered that the world of grace is not flat, it is round. Peter sees the sail let down, and is bid take his ship over the horizon of possibility. The vastness of God’s mercy is past finding out. The discovery that the Gentiles are recipients of Grace is as unimagineable to those in the days of the Apostles as . . . ? What is our horizon? How have we limited the Living one, the thunder of whose power none can understand?

Through the Bible in a Year – January 31

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Job 15-17; Acts 6:1-7:16; Psalm 39

Although our reading scheme takes us through the Old Testament chronologically – [the book of Job is read after Genesis as it is impossible to date with surety, and many consider it to be amongst the oldest of writings] – reading a Psalm and the Old and New Testament together gradually alerts us to the ways in which all of Scripture refers back and forth to itself. It is all but impossible to pray Psalm 39, and not find ourselves praying with Job, who remained silent seven days but then burst forth in speech before God, who asks that the Lord withdraw his hand from him.

And to read of Job, who was righteous like no other, who seems to suffer through no fault of his own and therein also to see Stephen – one full of wisdom and the Spirit – also righteous, and also now suffering. Stephen then in his answer to his accusers draws us back into this story, all the time the text calling to us, ‘All of Life is here – here are words of Life.’

And Stephen himself, chosen to wait on tables, to see to the daily distribution of food. As a faithful disciple his very life directs us to the Living One. Once more, the word, this time enacted directs us to The Word – the one who is full of the Spirit and Wisdom – and who took the form of a servant and gave us the bread from heaven.

Through the Bible in a Year – January 26

The Scheme for January and February can be found here

Job 4-5; Acts 1; Psalm 35

As modern readers, that is those who read texts primarily for their usefulness to us, the book of Job is a profound disappointment. We think that the text is there to answer our proud questions – but rather it exists to question us, to call our very existence into question and cause us to call out in faith ‘Save us!’

In our unbelief many of us it seems are consumed by the question of theodicy, that is ‘How can a God who is omnipotent and loving allow suffering?’. [Although moral philosophers have shown quite clearly that there is no contradiction and moved on] Job is not interested in answering this question for us. Rather here we see a suffering man for whom the one undeniable reality is God. Job will not curse God and die. He realises that there is far more at stake here than the answer to philosophical, for him his suffering is real, but as we read through the dialogue with his friends, we realise that for Job, God is far more real.

In a deep sense, the theme of the book of Job is not suffering at all, but the primacy of God, and of Worship as the fundamental disposition of the soul, in and through everything. It is not a text which gives us answers, rather it is one that redirects our gaze. As we have recently read in John, Jesus does not answer Pilate, rather he confronts him with the Truth in his very being. So God does not give us answers, rather he redirects our gaze from ourselves to Him. In Worship and Adoration our lives find their true meaning – everything else is secondary.