Uniform 10.26.2014: Hope in Front of Me

Job 42:1-10

We’ve all been in a situation where we doubted God. We may have accused God of not answering us, failing to guide us, or even deserting us. Despite his insistence that “my Redeemer lives, and…in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25-27), Job had his doubts about the Lord. He wasn’t afraid to voice them, and we shouldn’t be, either. But neither should we be surprised when God finally reveals the truth to us. We may have to wait a long time. We may have to endure the questions and criticisms of others (like Job’s friends). We may endure great loss and sadness. We can trust, however, that God will answer. And when God answers, our deepest hope—that God is truly who God claims to be—will be fulfilled.

Of all the words related to faith, “hope” has to be the most promising. It’s the sun shining on the remnant of the storm, creating a beautiful rainbow. It’s the hand held out when all others have left us. It’s the possibility of another day, even another hour, with a sick loved one whose medication has begun to make a positive difference. It’s the smiling faces of our children after a hard day at work. It’s the faintest of lights that refuses to go out even in the darkest times.

Contemporary Christian artist Danny Gokey knows something about hope. After losing his first wife due to unexpected complications during a routine surgery, he was devastated. Even so, he continued to pursue his dream of sharing God’s gift of music with others. His success on the television competition, American Idol, gave him the opportunity of a record deal. He also used his success to promote Sophia’s Heart, an organization he started in honor of his late wife that benefits homeless people in Nashville. One of Danny’s recent songs, “Hope in Front of Me”, speaks to the power of hope in a person’s life:

There’s hope in front of me, there’s a light—I still see it
There’s a hand still holding me even when I don’t believe it
I might be down, but I’m not dead, there’s better days still up ahead
Even after all I’ve seen, there’s hope in front of me

Job, too, held on to this hope. And he finally came to the point when God fulfilled it. “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,” he tells God, “but now my eye sees you” (Job 42:5). When we cling to hope, we are sure to see God.

Discussion

1. What does hope mean to you?
2. How has hope sustained you through difficult times in your life or in the lives of your loved ones?
3. What is the source of hope’s power? How does God communicate this power to you?
4. How do you feel about Danny Gokey’s song, “Hope in Front of Me”? Have you been able to see the light of hope even when your situation seemed hopeless? What does it mean to you that there are “better days still up ahead”?
5. Do you think God can use you to communicate the power of hope to others who feel desperate? Are you willing to do that?

Reference Shelf

For a second time in this opening discourse, God summons Job to respond (cf. 38:3). Once again, God addresses Job with language that he has himself used, a subtle clue that for all the differences in their perspectives, God and Job do share, to some extent, a common language. Job has filed a suit (rîb; 9:3) against God. God now addresses him as the “faultfinder” (røb; v. 2a) who has dared to engage the Almighty in a court of law. Because he knows that God is no ordinary defendant, Job has sought but despaired of finding an “umpire” (môkîah; 9:33), who can mediate the differences between these two unevenly matched litigants. Now God addresses Job as the môkîah (v. 2b; NRSV: “who argues with God”) who must speak if this “case” is to proceed any further. S. Mitchell has captured nicely the general sense of God’s words: “Has God’s accuser resigned? Has my critic swallowed his tongue?” It is difficult to judge the tone with which God speaks these words. Most assume that God’s challenge is either thinly ironic or heavily disputatious. With either assessment, the presumption is that God intends to convince Job that the inequalities between them cannot and will not be changed. Without dismissing this reading altogether, I suggest that God’s tone may convey to Job a genuine invitation to respond.

The substance of Job’s initial response is conveyed with but one word in Hebrew, qalløtî, “I am small” (v. 4a). Job does not say, “I have sinned,” which is what the friends have demanded (8:5-7; 11:13-20; 22:21-27). He does not say, “I am terrified,” as he thought he would be, if he should ever have to face God (9:34; 13:21). He does not praise God for the mysterious justice encoded in creation, which wounds some and heals others, as Elihu has urged him to do (33:14-30; 35:5-13; 37:1-13). Instead, he concedes that he is of little account in the eyes of God. Elsewhere this verb form (qll, Qal) connotes shame and contempt, often in the context of those who complain that they have been belittled by others (cf. Gen 16:4-5; 1 Sam 2:30; 2 Sam 6:22) or by God (e.g., Nah 1:14). “Since” (hen; NRSV: “See”) Job counts for so little, how can he possibly offer any response that will matter to God?

To his first words, Job adds a gesture—placing his hand over his mouth (v. 4b)—that bodies forth the shame he feels. He has said what he dared to say; now he resolves to speak no further. The silence to which Job retreats at the end of this “dialogue” with God thematically returns this drama to the prologue. In the “garden of Uz,” where Job’s once Edenic world was turned upside down by a God he could neither see nor directly address, he had responded with gestures (1:20), then words (1:21), that eventually gave way to silence (2:13). Now that God has finally appeared and shown him another perspective on his post-Edenic world, Job is certainly more informed than he was before. But if there are words adequate for his place in this world that seems so to enthrall God, Job still does not what they are. Is silence the only response the Creator will accept from those who dare to question the world’s design? When God initiates a second address to Job, both Job and his readers learn that God desires something more than silence.

Reference

Samuel E. Balentine, Job, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2006) 666-68.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor for Smyth & Helwys curriculum since 2001. She is a member of West Highland Baptist Church in Macon, Georgia. She enjoys reading and writing fiction, spending time with her husband and two daughters, and watching British television shows. Her goal for 2014 is to learn to play the piano.

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