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I love the image of the sign (left). The more I look at it, the more I nod in agreement with what it is communicating,

It makes me think of the story of Job, his friends and God.

Job’s love and commitment to God was exemplary. As a matter of fact, the text says he was blameless. God offered him up to Satan himself, as one whose inner love for his God would not be swayed by outer devastation.

gotta say, this premise always make me feel such angst

So, Job lost everything … children, livestock, crops, health. All he was left with was his wife, his friends and God (who seemed to be silent).

As Job sat on his dung pile, scraping the sores of his skin with clay shards, weeping, agonizing, listening for the voice of God … the only sound was that of his wife (who suggested he curse God and die) and his friends.

Now his friends had probably been with him all of his life. It was in Uz (possibly in the area of modern day Syria or Jordan) where they had probably played as boys. These friends had watched Job grow up. They knew that he was a good man, who treated people respectfully, who had conducted business fairly, who was truly blameless. They knew him.

This background may have built the foundation for false assumptions. Assumptions such as God blessed Job because Job was blameless. They undoubtedly had developed the misconception that God blesses the good, and therefore, curses the bad.

And that was their point of attack. Rather than lament with Job, they blame him.

The three accused Job of some type of sin that he needed to admit and repent of so that he would again receive God’s blessing. They believed (as so many of us do at times in our lives) that there is a formula for success and if Job was in the midst of curses, there must be something in his life that is wrong/sinful.

Once they have spoken their encouragement to Job, then God speaks to Job … and I am pretty sure that God is wagging his finger at him, but then he addresses Job’s friends and their judging of how God decides who is blessed and who is cursed:

“After the Lord had finished speaking to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me” (Job 42:7)

Our job, as was Job’s, is to be faithful with what God has given to us, be it people, possessions, passions or power. Our job is to love God, to love others. God will look after judgements, blessings and curses.

He will sort’em out later.

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“Job” (the first Job painting)
by William Orpen

… the patience of Job

an idiom birthed in the strength of an Old Testament prophet who refused to curse God and die.

I have been pondering Job over the past few months … pondering his time of sitting on the dung heap.

The image (above) of Job on his dung heap, naked and (with the image of a man walking away) alone spoke loudest to me of all the paintings of him by all the greatest painters. Painted by Irish painter William Orpen before or around 1900. Later he was dispatched as an artist to the Western Front in WW1. His paintings (and poem) inspired from his visit to the site of the Battle of Somme resonated with me as I looked a this image of the prophet Job, alone after the ravages of the war he was forced to fight.

Why was Job sitting on a dung heap?

Actually, some versions say he was sitting on ashes, not a dung heap. From my research it was both. The solid waste of animals would be taken to a select spot just outside the village, where it would … bake in the sun and eventually would be burnt (no doubt to eliminate smell as well as bacteria). It is there, on this ashy dung heap, where those who were undesirable outcasts (economically, socially or physical conditions) would sit and beg.

It would seem that Job had lost just about everything in his life … his livestock, servants, children and his health. His body was covered with sores. His only relief was scraping his sores (releasing the painful pressure, perhaps) with a broken piece of clay. His wife had told him to curse God and die. His friends inquired of what sin he had committed.

Job’s is the story that, perhaps, provides the theme of the children’s story “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”.

Job’s is the story that, perhaps, provides the theme of some of the seasons in the lives of us all.

More on what the dung heap teaches us next time.

In the meantime, click here and read Job 1-3 … it’ll just take a few minutes (and that’s coming from one who reads so slowly). This will help to prepare us for the dung heap.

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