The ending of the book of Job has always been a bit frustrating to me – not because Job cries out against God’s injustice and receives a mystery as an answer, but because of the seven verses of happy ending at the very end. They feel tacked on. I always want to shout, “So what?!?” You can’t tell me that having a new seven sons and three daughters late in life could possibly wipe out the horror of having lost his first family. He may have had new children, but his first ten were dead and gone. And while we’re at it, who bore that second crop of children? Job’s first family were adults with homes of their own when they died. Job’s wife must surely have been beyond the age at which women care safely bear children. Maybe he got a new wife or concubine along with the new kids, and the biblical author just forgot to mention it.
At any rate, it would surely be an act of homiletical malfeasance for the preacher to adopt an “And they lived happily ever after” approach to the end of Job’s story. In 2009, H. Gregory Waldrop suggested that a theme of humility might possibly be an approach to the ending of Job, and that it had a certain bearing on the epistle and gospel lessons for the week as well.
The lessons for the day include a resounding note of humility. Alongside the biblical witness, great literature has attested to the persistent temptation of humans to arrogance. Haughty pride tempts us humans as no other sin tempts. Story after story highlights the many painful results of human arrogance and the humbling that makes life so much more rightly proportioned and postured. Job and the high priests of Hebrews and the disciples in the gospel of Mark wrestle mightily with human arrogance and discover God’s humbling ways. The humility of God is to be glad to welcome what is given as enough; the humility of God is to be glad to be a human with all our limits and finiteness.In the texts for today, Job dares to raise his voice to God. Job shakes an angry fist at God when faced with his losses and limitations. Job is humbled as he confronts the majesty and mystery of God. However, Job is corrected not for yearning to know, not for crying out to God in order to know. Job is humbled because he cries out for knowledge he is unable to bear, unable to shoulder, unable to handle.
How will you handle the ending of Job?
H. Gregory Waldrop. Homily Service 42:4, 93-94.
H. Gregory Waldrop is pastor of Fountain Avenue United Methodist Church in Paducah, TN.