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A Well-Managed Universe? ()

Brian Morgan, 05/28/2006
Part of the The Way of Wisdom series, preached at a Sunday Morning service

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Job: A Well-Managed Universe?1

The Book of Job

Brian Morgan

May 28, 2006
Catalog No. 7237


I. Voices in Counterpoint

We come to our third and final message in this short series examining The Way of Wisdom, from the three books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job. Derek Kidner calls these three canonical books “Voices in Counterpoint.”2

A. Proverbs: Moral mastery over the chaos

Proverbs lays the foundational truths that introduce us to the gift of wisdom and its upright ways in a wayward world. Those who will freely submit to the rigors of her discipline will be led to her storehouse of adequacy and sweet success (Prov 2:7). Wherever her ships sail, they leave behind a breathtaking wake of moral beauty, holy order and wholesome relationships.

B. Ecclesiastes: Celebrating joy in the midst of chaos

But lest we become complacent in our neatly ordered world, along comes Qohelet’s unsettling voice. For him, the conventional wisdom of Proverbs is indeed the place to begin, but by itself, it is not adequate for the whole journey. It does speak the truth, but not the whole truth. There is only so much order you can bring to the world. There will always be a certain amount of chaos, risk, uncertainty, mystery and injustice. So we must learn to live with that tension. Any obsession for perfection is but a “striving after wind” to secure a future that is not ours to secure.

And then we are painfully reminded that all the order and beauty that we have accomplished will one day be forgotten because of that great leveler known to us as death. But, lest we be discouraged, Qohelet advises that, rather than attempting to master the chaos in our lives, we ought to spontaneously embrace the joy of the moment. This is the gift of God to us – a radical word for those who live in a materialistic world that toils endlessly and refuses to rest. So with flagrant honesty this sage forces us up the mountain, often against our will, to take in a more comprehensive view. Placing these two books together, we might consider Proverbs comparable to our high school education, while Ecclesiastes offers us our B.A. degree.

C. Job: Meeting God in total chaos

Like most college graduates soon discover, however, even these hard won degrees only take them so far. If Qohelet urges us to take joy in the moment, what do you do when you are swallowed by a tidal wave of chaos that violently steals every ounce of your joy? What school prepares you to face the death of a child? In August of 2004, I received an e-mail from a good friend in Romania, Marcelus Suciu. Marcelus had spent five years in our congregation and was like a son to many of us. He went to back to Romania and married Manu, the daughter of a poet. Manu gave birth to a beautiful little girl, Ema. Doctors told them that Ema had a fatal disease and could expect to live only months. Marcelus wrote: “The moment of no return has arrived. A long journey is waiting ahead for my Manuela and I. Perhaps two journeys. They both have to do with climbing two mountains – one is much lower and smaller than the other. Mount Moriah, massive and high, is far in the distance, and the sacrificial altar is waiting. The other one is a hill, much closer to home and is called Golgotha. What happens at the end or during these journeys no one knows. All I know is that God promised to never leave or forsake us. ‘It is perhaps not in the destination but in the journey.’”

At times like this we begin to question whether the core values we based our lives on were just a figment of our own imagination. If someone had said to me after my daughter died, “Rejoice in the moment,” I would have responded with a primal scream. We need another sage who will take us to even greater heights, where the air is thin, the heights deafening, and the elements threatening. Out of the darkness comes a third voice, that of Job. Now it is time for graduate school. Job’s voice rings out in categories beyond Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. Unlike those books, where sages give advice within the viewpoint of the creation, Job flatly refuses to offer advice. No advice will get us to the top of this mountain. It is beyond words.

The only route to understanding is raw experience. Instead of advice, we are invited to enter into the drama of the story. You have to strap your boots on, hitch your karabiner to Job’s rope, and ascend heights you never dreamed possible, in weather conditions that could unhinge the universe. There is no other way; there are no short cuts. Within the narrative story we encounter competing poetic dialogues of clashing viewpoints that are the most challenging, innovative and impassioned in the Bible. In one line of poetry, Job expends as much oxygen as a climber gasping for air on Everest. It is exhausting work. But our author is more than a sage and poet. According to Bruce Waltke, he “is also a prophet who peers with a lofty view into the heavenly court (chs. 1-2, 42), then descends like an angel to tell us what no other mortal, including Job, saw and heard.”3

This combination of poetry and narrative is a clue that the book is just as concerned about the nature of Job’s journey in becoming wise, as it is about the troublesome issue it addresses, namely, How can a good and just God allow the innocent to suffer? Do you want to be wise? Then we are invited to take the journey and traverse through the various stages of wisdom. In the end, as Waltke observes, “The book of Job book instructs those who are committed to establish justice in this world to persevere and to mature even when God himself appears to be unjust.”4

The date of the book is difficult to determine, but because of the many details that correspond to patriarchal times, Job could perhaps be considered one the earliest books in the Bible.

II. The Structure of Job

I. Prologue (in prose): introduction to Job’s misfortune 1:1-2:13
II. Dialogues of heated disputation 3:1-31:40
A. Job’s opening cry: (3:1-26)
B. Three cycles of speeches with his “friends” (4:1-26:14)
C. Job’s closing soliloquy framed by two oaths (27:1-31:40)
III. Elihu’s four speeches 32:1-37:24
IV. YHWH’s questions and Job’s responses 38:1-42:6
V. Epilogue (in prose): Job is vindicated, his friends are rebuked, the covenant community is reconciled, and Job’s fortunes are restored. 42:7-17

Gerald Janzen notes:

The book, then, moves from idyllic beginning through catastrophe and a vast dialectical terrain back to an end which is a transformed version of the beginning. The dialogues traverse the landscape of human experience in all its shifting lights and topographic variety, along with similar varieties of human opinion both orthodox and heterodox, conventional and novel, prudential and reckless. The shape of the book thus corresponds to the shape of the Christian canon, which begins with an idyllic creation story suffused with light and charged with blessing, moves through catastrophe and along a vast canvas of universal and particular history, and arrives finally at an end imaginatively envisaged as a transformed version of its beginning (Rev 21-22).5

III. Summary of the Story

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. (Job 1:1 NASB)

The story begins by introducing us to a man named Job,6 one of the “dwellers in the East.” The setting, outside of Israel, “long ago and far away,” gives the book a universal appeal as it probes the deepest questions that plague us as humans. Job is depicted as the supreme example of covenant faithfulness to the Lord. The term “blameless” does not imply sinless perfection, but rather a singular focus and complete trust that gives integrity to one’s life. Job fears God both as an individual and as the head of his home. He turns from evil (Prov 3:7) and, as a priest over his family, celebrates life as a gift from God and prays for his children (1:5). As a loyal covenant partner, God has blessed him profusely (1:2-3), rewarding him with abundant life and blessing. These opening verses validate all that Proverbs teaches about the earthly rewards of wisdom (Prov 3:1-10).

From that Eden-like scene we are transported into the heavenly court of divine council. God singles out Job for praise to Satan, who charges that Job’s loyalty is based on self-interest, for God has put a hedge about him.

Then Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.” (1:9-11)

God submits to the challenge. On one tragic day, Job’s life is shattered, as messenger after messenger storms into his home to tell him the tragic news of a chain of calamities that culminates in the death of his children. Receiving the news, Job mourns deeply, but still maintains unwavering trust in his God.

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said,
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked I shall return there.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God. (1:20-22
)

In the next scene we are transported back to the heavenly court, where God repeats his praise of Job. Satan challenges God to put Job through the ultimate test: “afflict his body and watch him curse you!” God agrees, still maintaining a hedge of protection around Job, that his life must be preserved. Job is afflicted with an insidious skin disease. He finds his only relief in a broken piece of pottery to soothe his constant itching. So deplorable is his condition, his wife cannot even stand to look at him. She takes on the adversarial role and encourages him to renounce his faith. But though that faith is weakening, it remains intact, and “In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (2:10), though we are left to wonder what might be going on in his heart (cf. 1:5). The prologue closes with the arrival of Job’s three friends who come from afar to sympathize with and comfort him. They enter into his condition and remain with him in silence for seven days.

After seven days, Job breaks the silence and erupts with a bitter diatribe against his own life, cursing the day he was born and the night he was conceived. His fiery outburst takes his friends by surprise, setting off flaming missiles of rhetoric that become more volatile and explosive with each volley. Job’s friends came to comfort and console, not to participate in false accusations against the Almighty. For them, God upholds his moral order, rewarding good and punishing evil; therefore Job must repent of his sin and he will be restored to his former good fortune. Blinded by the narrowness of their orthodoxy, they flail away on Job’s open wounds, with little mercy or compassion. As the proverb states, “Like a thorn bush in a drunkard’s hand is a proverb in the mouth of a fool” (Prov 26:9 niv). So these “friends” leave behind a bloody trail of acrimony to get their points across.

The rhetoric rages on in three cycles, each one more hostile and damaging than the one preceding it. By the end, these so-called “friends” make up charges to sustain their arguments against Job (22:4-5). But Job has the final word. Despite being sick, tortured and exhausted, he refuses to compromise the truth for pious platitudes, and fortifies his position by taking two oaths (27:1-6; 31:1-40). His first oath silences his accusers and gives him much needed space for his own personal reflection. Addressing himself in a soliloquy, he gives voice to the apparent inaccessibility of wisdom (28:1-28). The poem, a masterpiece of human longing, is sealed by a second oath. Job’s honesty drives him to desire death over compromise; he demands a hearing with God.

The debate is over. All the fury ends; the courtroom falls silent. Will heaven answer? “Resolution of the tension is delayed by the sudden appearance of a new character … brash young Elihu the Buzite takes possession of the stage.” (Moshe Greenberg)7 He claims to be “one perfect in knowledge” (36:4), for unlike Job’s three “friends,” he does not speak from observation or experience, but by the divine inspiration of the Spirit (32:8, 18; 33:4). Before we finally are allowed to hear the voice of God we have to endure not one, but four lengthy speeches from this impetuous “college graduate.” His endless speeches, though colorful, add nothing new to the debate. Francis Andersen labels Elihu’s speeches as “the last human word on the question, which is intentionally weak and turgid, in spite of its pretentious claims, contrasts with the final word from God, for which our author reserves his best talent.”8

Think of the omnipotent God silently waiting in the wings, with endless patience. Only after the final human word is spoken will he speak. Words coming out of silence are sacred. Amazingly, God does not give Job advice or answers; instead, he asks questions of his own. This existential encounter with the living God, and these penetrating questions, deconstruct Job’s view of the Creator and lead him to humble awe and repentance.

The book concludes as it began, with a prose narrative (42:7-17) in which Job is vindicated over his accusers. But only after he intercedes for them are his fortunes restored. The restoration is more than individual. It involves the entire covenant community: Job, his family, his friends, and their God. Gifts are brought, prayers are given, forgiveness extended, and the party goes into high gear, with one final parting touch. Job’s daughters, who are noted for their beauty, receive names, while their brothers do not. And, contrary to law (Num 27:8), they receive an inheritance – all to show that God’s restoration is lavish and free from convention.

IV. Reflections on Job’s Journey

A. Why poetry?

Because of the way it engages our emotions and imaginations, poetry was the chosen mode of communication by the sages of the Ancient Near East. But for us living in the modern world, where “knowledge” is instantaneous, the thought of traversing through almost 900 verses of dense poetry is so daunting, we feel defeated before we even begin. But we need to realize that our transformation is found in the journey, not just the destination. Because of its density and evocative imagery, poetry engages and transforms us in ways no other form of speech does. Moshe Greenberg explains: “Through its compression, poetry allows stark, untempered expression that, while powerful in impact, awakens the kind of careful reflection that leads to the fuller apprehension of a subject. . . The poetry of Job is continually astonishing it its power and inventiveness. Its compression allows multiple possibilities of interpretation, corresponding to the open, unresolved tensions in the author’s vision of reality. It is a beautifully appropriate vehicle for a writer bent on compelling us to see things in new ways.”9

So we need not be scared off by the poet’s way of speaking, or worried about the slow pace. Transformation is not measured by the speed of the ascent, but in our awareness of the new, breathtaking vistas that assault our senses with each new step.

B. Who are your sages?

The book of Job makes us ponder those we value as our sages. Who are the ones we look to as life-long mentors and wise counselors? Often the ones who make the press and are held up as models to emulate, people for whom life worked well and paid well: those who have made a legacy out of good choices and been handsomely rewarded for their hard work and sacrificial discipline; those who bring home the gold and announce, “Nothing can keep you from your dreams if you just work hard enough.”

There is nothing wrong with the rewards of good choices, but on the other hand, the wisest sages might be found among those whose faith stirs under stress and strain and suffer silently and alone. For them, so overwhelming is the chaos there are no anchor holds. Their lot is difficult to explain – they don’t fit any of our categories – and yet, perhaps these are the ones for whom Satan has asked permission to “sift like wheat” (Luke 22:31). And God takes up the challenge, giving their lives more dignity than they ever wanted. Their bodies of frail dust are transformed into a holy stage to test the goodness and beauty of covenantal love. While we often view them as deplorably weak and a constant burden, angels applaud in awe, while Satan gnashes his teeth in frustration. We can’t explain the chaos, but perhaps one touch of God in the midst of their chaos is worth more than all the gold we acquired with our good choices. So, who are your sages?

C. Who are your friends?

The book of Job also speaks about friendship and the nature of covenantal communities. Suffering always draws attention and brings friends out of the woodwork. Job’s friends begin as friends, coming from afar to identify with him. As good friends, they take his demeanor and posture and sit with him in silence. But as the stirrings within Job begin to erupt and he gives voice to the things he truly feels, their world is threatened to the point where they can no longer keep silent. They must silence the heresy. At this point, Job’s “friends” become his enemies, sacrificing every last vestige of the relationship to prove the “truth.” What they say is true, but it is not the whole truth. Totally insensitive to his condition, these “friends” afflict Job with more pain by their erroneous application of orthodox theology than the devil did with his violence. And yet, ironically, Job’s enemies are in some sense his friends in that they force him into the bedrock of his own integrity, and in the truth of his innocence he finds new freedom.

Standing from afar, the behavior of these friends appears almost surreal. But, speaking as a pastor, sadly it is all too familiar, especially when death is in view. Yet I must confess that over the last thirty years I have never witnessed the pain caused by Job’s friends played out with as much intensity and absurdity as it was upon my friends, Marcelus and Manu, in Romania. I was stunned that a community that had endured persecution, prison, and even death under Ceausescu, could not embrace the suffering of an innocent little girl. No, there had to be a reason: generational sin, alcohol, lack of faith, whatever. With a rational reason you are in control, so if they couldn’t find a reason, like Job’s friends, they made one up to keep their “safe” worlds intact. Ema died in the end. Her death shattered everyone’s world. But Marcelus and Manu, like Job, found freedom in the honest truth of their own integrity.

We must never forget that our spiritual journey takes place in the context of “friends.” Although on the one hand Job detests their virtuous posturing and pious platitudes, on the other, it is these “friends” who unwittingly catapult him “up the mountain” to meet with God. At the end of the story, after Job is vindicated by God and his friends rebuked, Job is not fully restored until he takes on the role of a priest and prays for his friends. Job’s new understanding is not just for himself, but is mandatory for all. Our spiritual journey is no private matter, for what God is after is a holy community. Therefore our greatest danger on the journey is turning away from the community and going it alone. So, who are your friends? Or better yet, are you a friend? Or are you an enemy?

D. What is the key to survival?

If we were to ask which one quality in Job sets him apart from his friends, in a word, it is honesty. Job is passionate about saying it like it is, or at least as it appears to be. He has no trouble expressing his feelings with those he knows will disagree, whether his friends or God. Job’s chief concern is purity first, then peace (Jas 3:17). Such honesty can be disruptive to a “polite” person like Eliphaz, who “thinks that if he gets mad at God, God in turn will get mad at him and condemn him. So Eliphaz suppresses his anger and lives in continual, subconscious fear of divine wrath. He is like a hermit who prides himself on having no interpersonal hassles to upset his tranquil and ordered lifestyle.”10 But, as Mike Mason bluntly asserts, “The sort of faith that eats death for breakfast is not going to be piously preoccupied with the maintenance of a saintly exterior.”11

Just how honest is Job? This man felt something deep within him that pushed him over the edge, something so deep that, if he didn’t voice it, he might have gone crazy. As Gerald Von Rad points out, “The realization that in his suffering he was dealing with God was, as we have seen, not new. It was, however, both incomprehensible and unbearable that God should attack him, who was just, and seek to kill him with the blind rage of an enemy.”12

His anger has torn me and hunted me down,
He has gnashed at me with His teeth;
My adversary glares at me.
They have gaped at me with their mouth,
They have slapped me on the cheek with contempt;
They have massed themselves against me.
God hands me over to ruffians
And tosses me into the hands of the wicked.
I was at ease, but He shattered me,
And He has grasped me by the neck and shaken me to pieces;
He has also set me up as His target.
His arrows surround me.
Without mercy He splits my kidneys open;
He pours out my gall on the ground.
He breaks through me with breach after breach;
He runs at me like a warrior. (Job 16:9-14)

“Here is a new tone which has never been sounded before: God as the direct enemy of men, delighting in torturing them, hovering over them like what we might call the caricature of a devil, gnashing his teeth, ‘sharpening’ his eyes and splitting open Job’s intestines.”13 But, if raw honesty pushes Job dangerously close to the cliff of blasphemy, it also catapults his imagination into new horizons that have yet to be conceived by conventional wisdom. As is typical of lament poetry, once the poet gives full voice to his pain there often follows a new insight that takes him higher up the mountain. One of the most well known expressions is found in 19:25-27:

For I know that my redeemer lives,
and the last one will arise in behalf of dust,
and after I awake, things will come around to this:
From my flesh I shall see God,
whom I myself shall see on my side,
and whom my eyes shall behold, and not estranged.

(Job 19:25-27, Janzen’s translation14)

Though the translation and interpretation of this text is difficult, Janzen suggests that Job gives voice to a new insight that revolutionizes his prior understanding of what it means to be “dust”:

In conventional biblical understanding and experience, the “full circle” of human existence is indicated by Genesis 3:19 and its thematic variations: “till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” But within Job’s imaginative envisagement, the “full circle” is differently conceived: not from dust to life and back to dust; but from life to dust and back to life. The circle is completed when the embodied living person, having suffered the calamity of death and disintegration into dust, becomes once again an embodied living person in renewed relation to God . . . The redeemer acts, and resurrection occurs, to serve the restoration of the relation between Job and God. It is not simply life that Job hopes for. As the threefold repetition of verbs in the last three lines underscores (see, see, behold), Job’s hope reaches toward a restored vision of God, a God no longer estranged from him.15

If we refuse to be honest and instead bury our pain and contentions within, we will be robbing ourselves of new insights, like the ones Job achieved. Honesty is the gateway to spiritual growth. And not only must we be honest with ourselves, we must also give others the freedom to be honest in their doubts and pain. In every family circle there is often the dominant “right” individual who possesses all the “right” thinking and “right” ways of doing things, but seldom allows a dissonant voice to be heard. So the question is, How are honest you? and how honest do you allow others to be in your circle of family and friends?

E. Why questions?

Questions play a vital role in Job’s journey and transformation. God’s leading question to Satan set this whole drama in motion. The dialogues are replete with questions – rhetorical questions, existential questions, and questions full of biting irony and sarcasm. So it should not surprise us that, at the pinnacle of the story, when Job is face to face with God, he does not get answers, but questions. How many? I reckon close to sixty alone in God’s first dialogue with him (38:1-40:2). These questions are not designed to elicit information or silence Job in the frailty of his humanity. Rather, they are designed to engage him in such a way so as to lead him into radically new ways of thinking about humanity, God, and the universe. These questions first break apart Job’s conventional framework of thinking and then reconstruct a new one in its place.

God’s litany of questions takes Job on a tour of the creation, especially that part that appears absurd, chaotic and pointless from mankind’s point of view. Waltke observes, “YHWH speaks from the whirlwind (38:1) – in the very chaos that troubles Job. By choosing that setting He prepares and reinforces the new insight into the dimensions of his created order, an order that does not fit neatly into humanity’s understanding of ‘good.’”16 Why does God waste precious water by pouring it out in a wasteland, or provide prey for the voracious lion when it hunts? Or how is it that God delivers over innocent animals to ravens to feed their young when they cry to him? From man’s point of view, there is so much dark chaos in the creation, but God shows Job that it resides under his governmental rule and is bounded. To the sea, which represented chaos in the ancient world, he says, “Here your proud waves stop” (38:11). Waltke further explains, “God paradoxically both restrains and protects that which is hostile to human existence. The chaotic energy of the sea operates within strict limits. Nevertheless, it retains an element of freedom within divine restraint and in that sense retains meaning in the scheme of the created order (38:11).”17

All these questions unravel Job and transform him with a new understanding about God’s inscrutable ways of governing the creation. The second discourse takes Job even higher into the complexities of the created order, showing him that God even uses the proud and wicked to serve his purposes. And then with an extended trip into the ultimate zoo, God parades the power of two mythological, untamable creatures. Behemoth (40:15-24) and Leviathan (41:1-34) reign supreme in their respective zones of chaos, the wilderness and the sea. The point of this parade is one of analogy to show Job that, just as mankind cannot tame Behemoth and Leviathan, they cannot fully tame the morally wicked (41:34). Yet God rules them and controls them for his own purposes.

So Job confesses his ignorance that God is quite capable in his sovereign power to use evil and chaos as part of his plan. “Mortals, who are restricted in their knowledge, may serve God through suffering in mystery, confident that it is part of his plan in which God retains control over all, including both good and evil.” (Waltke)18

Consider how the book of Job prepared Jesus for his horrific passage through his final Passover to the dark hours on Golgotha. On that Friday, Evil would be allowed to freely exhaust itself on him. The devil played every violent card in his hand, but ironically, this vile creature became an unwitting tool for our redemption. And, as Job affirms, there was a “hedge” about Jesus. Once his work was “finished,” only those who loved him were allowed to touch his sacred body.

Such an understanding is hard to come by. Spiritual transformation is a painstakingly slow process. But perhaps today, if you listen for his voice in the silence, you will hear a question.

To conclude our study, I have invited Sarah Bozarth to share her story and poem of pain, loss, and restoration. I have also included a poem I wrote on her behalf. [See insert.]

1 This sermon is dedicated to my dear friends, Marcelus and Manu Suciu, whose beloved daughter Ema died June 10, 2005, in Cluj, Romania. Like Job, they found little comfort in their many “friends.” But out of deep wounding, Marcelus refused to be silent and gave Job a voice.
2 Derek Kidner, The Wisdom of Proverbs, Job & Ecclesiastes (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 116.
3 Bruce K. Waltke, “Wisdom Literature Part II” in An Exegetical Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, forthcoming).
4 Waltke, An Exegetical Old Testament Theology (forthcoming).
5 J. Gerald Janzen, Job, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Interpretation; Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1985), 4.
6 Job’s name, ‘Iyyob, may come from the verbal root ‘ayab “to be an enemy,” and whose nominatives mean “enmity,” “hostility.” Perhaps this gives an ominous clue to the cosmic battle that lay ahead, where Job finds enemies from every corner: Satan with his violent murder; so-called friends who inflict more damage to Job with their “right” theology wrongly applied, than the violence of the devil; and even God, Himself whose sovereign hand permits such horror. Sarna, however, suggests that “The manner of writing ‘Job’ in cuneiform suggests that it is to be interpreted as a compound of ‘ay and ‘ab, meaning, ‘Where is the [divine] Father?’ – an appellation not inappropriate for that anguished biblical soul who cries out for divine justice.” Nahum M. Sarna, “The Book of Job: General Introduction,” in The Book of Job, A New Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew Text (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1980), ix.
7 Moshe Greenberg, “Job,” in Robert Alter and Frank Kermode, The Literary Guide to the Bible (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1987), 296.
8 Francis Andersen, Job: An Introduction and Commentary (TOTC; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1976), 52. Quoted in Waltke, An Exegetical Old Testament Theology (forthcoming).
9 Greenberg, “Job,” 303.
10 Mike Mason, The Gospel According to Job (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 1994), 175.
11 Mason, The Gospel According to Job, 183.
12 Gerhard Von Rad, Wisdom in Israel (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1972), 216.
13 Von Rad, Wisdom in Israel, 217.
14 J. Gerald Janzen, Job, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Interpretation; Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1985), 140.
15 Janzen, Job, 143-145.
16 Waltke, An Exegetical Old Testament Theology (forthcoming).
17 Waltke, An Exegetical Old Testament Theology (forthcoming).
18 Waltke, An Exegetical Old Testament Theology (forthcoming).

© 2006 Peninsula Bible Church Cupertino


Testimony and Poems

Testimony and Poems

            I would like to tell you of how my life turned to utter chaos, how I found God amidst the chaos, and finally how he restored order and brought me new life.

            My childhood was a dream childhood. I had two parents and two younger sisters who loved me and whom I loved in return. I had a strong love for the Lord and during high school enjoyed going on mission trips to spread the Gospel.

            I left home to go to a small Christian college and loved it. I was thriving in my newfound independence and enjoyed my classes. At the beginning of spring semester a new guy transferred into our dorm. He roomed with some friends of mine and we quickly became friends. We were both night owls and so we began to study together late at night in the dorm multi-purpose room. For spring break that year I wanted to go down to Mexico with our school, The King's Academy, to help build a house. His parents lived near one of the stops along the way to Mexico. We agreed that I would go to their house, spend the night and then they would drop me off at a meeting point with the caravan.

             When I met his family I became frightened. This young man and his mother were violent with each other both physically and verbally. The father was totally passive and did nothing to protect either one of them. My father has always told me that the way a man treats his mother is how he will eventually treat the other women in his life. I became afraid that I could end up on the receiving end of his violence. He lived in a bad part of LA, so I was too afraid to leave the house to get a hotel room. I decided I would stay there that night and take my chances, yet I was so afraid I wore all my clothes to bed including my army boots.

             That night after we had all gone to bed, he walked into my room with a knife and raped me. When he was finished he prayed with me that God would forgive me for what I had just done. I was hurting and confused about what had happened. I thought that maybe I had done something to cause this.

             After spring break when we got back to school, he began to beat me. I was so ashamed I hid all the evidence. His attacks against me became more and more violent. After each attack he would pray with me that God would forgive me, cleanse me of my sin, and that he would help me not to cause this from happening again. His prayers were more damaging than his attacks. I began to believe his prayers and feel that I must be causing all of these horrible things. One night I was studying and he came up behind me and put his knife to my throat and told me he was going to kill me. He turned me to face the clock and told me to decide when I wanted to die. After a couple of minutes a friend of mine burst into the room. He hid his knife and I fled to my room. As I thought about what had just happened, I realized that this man was not a safe person with my best interests at heart. The next day I told my biggest guy friend what he had done to me. He promised to act as my bodyguard the rest of the semester.

            That summer I could not think about what had happened. I knew that I was not the ultimate cause for what had happened, but still believed that on some level it was my fault. And because of all the prayers he had prayed with me, I was confused as to what part God had played in all of this. When I got back to school I began drinking to numb my pain. But no amount of alcohol made me feel better. One year after it all began I went to the police. They were very kind and they believed me. Unfortunately, because there was no evidence, it was just my word against his. I knew I was not strong enough to go to court and try to convince a jury, so I dropped the charges.

            I next decided to tell the dean to see if she would suspend him or perhaps even expel him, so I would not have to see him every day. She was my last hope to get some sort of justice. But when I did tell her, she did not believe me. Her disbelief was more painful than anything else. After learning that nothing was going to be done about the situation, I felt that I had come to the end of my rope. I had nowhere to turn. I locked myself in the bathroom and wanted to tell God all about it. I could find no words to express the feelings in my heart so I screamed. I screamed with all of my might. That scream was perhaps the most honest prayer of my life, and became the start of my healing process. It opened the door for communication between God and myself. The first thing God showed me was that I had to forgive the one who raped me. Even though I had no emotions backing me up, I decided to forgive him. I asked God to honor my decision and to give me the emotions later. He was true to that promise. I was able to see him at school and not feel any fear or hatred. God performed a miracle in my heart. Next, God helped me to see what his role had been during all of it. Now I was able to forgive God and enter even more deeply into his love.

            The following spring I decided to go down to Mexico again with The King's Academy. The speaker spoke on how much God loves us. The Holy Spirit began to show me that I was not responsible for any of the abuse. I was finally able to forgive myself. This was the final wall between God and I. I was so excited to experience more of his love and to renew my love relationship with Jesus.

            My sister Missy was the only person in my family who knew all that had happened to me. She and I had always had a special bond, so I was able to share with her my struggle believing that God loved me and about my drinking to dull the pain. She had been praying for me, so I couldn't wait to tell her about my newfound love for Christ. Before going down to Biola University to finish her semester, she wanted to come visit me for the weekend. Only six days after I had forgiven myself and given my heart back to God, she was killed in a car accident on the way to my house. This crushed me. I didn't question God because I knew he was sovereign, but the pain was beyond belief. God seemed like a dangerous God who could not be trusted. While all my family was grieving Missy's death, I was secretly grieving a double loss.

            A couple of years later I told our young singles group a watered down version of my story. Afterwards I was asked if I would share my story on Easter Sunday. Brian was preaching that Easter. I wasn't sure if it would be wise to share or not, so I told him the whole story. He asked me how my parents had responded to my grief. I told him that I hadn't told them the whole story yet. He encouraged me to share everything with my parents and discouraged me from speaking on Easter. Telling my parents was very healing for me. After hearing my story, they presented me with a ring that represented my restoration back into the family.

            The following summer I went to Romania and had the opportunity to share my story there. Just before I was about to speak, I realized that I had never told my story to God. I invited him to come and listen to my story. As I began to speak, a cloud settled on the mountain I was facing. When I was done speaking the cloud lifted. My heart was filled with joy because I knew that God had come to listen and that he loved me through it all. In that moment I felt as though God was restoring my life and joy to my heart (see poem below).

            Shortly after coming home from Romania I began to hang out with man named Brad Bozarth. We started dating and were married a year later. God has truly blessed me with Brad. Part of the pain of abuse is that I believed I was not loveable. But Brad has shown me how that is not true and how worthy of love I am. To add icing on the cake God has blessed us with a beautiful little girl. During my time at college, my heart felt dead inside, but now God has not only restored my heart to life, he has also allowed me to bring new life into this world. Laurana is truly a love gift from the Lord. I can now sing with words of the Psalmist:

 

“You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.” (Ps 30:11-12)

 

                                    Abba

            I stood at the bottom of the Mountain
            waiting,
            I would not start without you,
            You my Tata ("Father"),
            the One I've wanted to tell for so long.
            Now will you listen to my story?

             Will you come down and meet me
            in the gravel?
            Must I climb the mountain,
            knees aching
            to shout it up to you?
            Will you come down to me? 

            I waited hopeful, confident
            Not allowing myself to be otherwise.

             You came
            like a cloud
            in the fog I love so much
            that characterized those years.
            You came to listen.
            So I told you.
            I gave you my story
            as an offering I laid it before you.

             You asked no questions,
            gave no advice.
            You loved me perfectly
            and called me
            “daughter.”

             My story is no longer the cross I bear.
            My sacred offering,
            it is my gift
            from God and to God.
            He gave me suffering,
            I can give others a voice.
            I am a gate to the
            Mountain.
            “Stand and wait
            for Abba to listen
            and restore your story.”

                         Sarah Belton
                        Gmunden, Austria
                        August 12, 2002

 

 

                        A Pink Rose in Desna
                        for Sarah, August 2002

             I heard a daughter's voice today,
            Sarah,
            animated and adorned
            with well chosen choice words,
            honest yet chaste,
            bold yet pure,
            painful yet healing,
            a rare clarity that lifts one
            to feel the dew of heaven
            into Sinai's silent listening cloud.
            Sarah, a beautiful girl
            Satan tried to bury not once
            but six times,
            but walls of silence screaming within
            could not keep heaven out,
            and today we found her
            as beautiful as a pink rose.
            Sarah, our princess,
            an angel welcoming us
            to every chamber of her heart,
            “I’m here, Tata, alive to know,”
            and today we became like fathers
            born again by
            “a grim energy verging on elation.”

                         Brian Morgan

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