A lesson in faith
Today we see two readings, which, from the writer’s point of view could not be further apart. Firstly, Job, which is a play in which the characters recite their lines. It is a teaching instrument and we should ask ourselves “What is the moral of this story?” as it describes how a faithful person should act through the good and evil events that wash over all of us in our lives.
The second, Acts, is probably the most reliable and accurate historical description of real people living their lives after the resurrection of Christ. While we may learn a lot from the way the early church developed, remember that “description is not prescription” and we may not face the same hurdles or be equipped in the same way the early apostles were. Let’s compare!
In Job chapter 3, we see the nature of Job’s reflection as he declares his anguish for the entire 26 verses. He is sorry he was even born. Let us hope we never get to that point in our own lives because under the sovereignty of God, there is a purpose for each one of us, despite our suffering. Interestingly, Job asserts that if he had never been born, he would lie at rest with those who had lived and died before him. It would seem to defy the purpose of life and the plans of God, outlined in lives like Adam, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, to think that we could sidestep the whole life thing and go straight to heaven in comfort. Read the rest of Job and the arguments from all of the characters, about the struggle between good and evil, of which life is comprised. Job finally declares his motivation (v 26) in expounding this sorry fantasy. He is “in misery” and “bitter” (v 20) about the hand that life has dealt him. Personally, I praise God that I have not had to live through the anguish of Job’s life (although my life is not over yet and it has already had plenty of ups and downs) but this chapter tells me that I need to stand up and be ready if adversity comes my way and not chuck in the towel. We need to support people who are going through what Job is going through. Not just to praise God that we are not like Job, but to realise that all of our lives are different and go through different seasons. If you continue to the end of Job we find he comes out on top (to a certain extent anyway) and there is hope for the human condition no matter the present suffering.
In Acts, we see the apostles faced with a problem. They believed that 12 should be sent but Judas Iscariot had betrayed Jesus and was now dead. He needed to be replaced. They did not leave much room for negotiation. They picked a short list of two and cast lots to select one of them, Matthias. Interestingly, the name of Matthias is never mentioned again in the Bible. Research some of the theories about St Paul being the 12th apostle appointed by Jesus. Even with prayerful consideration, we can sometimes misinterpret the will of God and He gives us the grace and the freedom to do so. Note that the disciples acted before Pentecost, before the pouring out of God’s spirit on all flesh, possibly before they themselves became indwelt with the Holy Spirit! How fortunate we are today, that God has bestowed upon us his Spirit as an inner guide.
In these two readings there is a parallel! Job was not to know that his life might turn around for the better when he cursed the day he was born. The disciples did not know when they cast lots for the new apostle that the Holy Spirit would be poured out on them and all people, nor did they know that Jesus would appear to Paul.
We can never second-guess what good or evil thing may be about to befall us in this life. We rejoice in the positives that we enjoy by God’s grace, and throw ourselves upon His mercy when things go pear-shaped. You never know when God may be about to inject a St Paul into the mix.