Job’s appeal

Job lifted his head and surveyed the glimmering skylights.

“I promised long ago never to look at a woman with lust. Would you agree perhaps this is the most significant test among men? I trusted that my reward would be a heritage of unbounded bliss from God Most High. After all, a tragic end should be reserved for a perverted mind and disease-wracked body. God sees my thoughts and takes every action into account.

“If I’ve done anything wrong, let God judge me. He will know I’ve remained loyal to him. If I’ve so much as looked at another woman, my heart would be wearing the residue of my sin.

“If a single strain can be found, let others take the food from my barns while my secret seed is rooted out. If I have ever darkened the doorway of my neighbor’s wife, let my wife lie with another man, and let the whole town bow to her as if she were a goddess.

“I shudder at the thought of such dark contemplation, punishable by the fires of hell.”

Eliphaz opened his mouth to speak, but Job interrupted with an upheld finger.

“If I’ve ever so much as ignored an injustice against one of my slaves, what do you think God Most High will say? ‘Well done.’? Did He not make the lowliest servant and me from the same mud? Were we not fashioned together in our mother’s womb?

“I have withheld nothing from the poor. I’ve treated the widow with dignity and respect. Until all was taken from me, my dining table was always open to the hungry or fatherless. The men of my tent would walk the streets to announce every banquet and watch at the gates for travelers with no lodging.

“If anyone has died in the cold while I watched with a warm fleece over my body, or if I’ve ever taken violent action against an orphan because I knew the judges would acquit me, let my shoulder blades fall and my arms break free from their sockets.

“I’ve walked this earth in fear of God, knowing if I’d done any of these things, I wouldn’t withstand His majesty.

“I’ve never made money my trust, my confidence, or my god. I’ve never boasted about my wealth or good fortune.

I’ve never worshiped the sun in its brilliance or the moon in its eloquent movements, for this false worship would be a sin punishable by the judges.

“If I’ve ever reveled at my enemy’s demise or cursed him, or if I’ve ever hidden sin in my heart for fear of ridicule or scorn…”

Job stopped and fell to his knees. His eyes searched the empty stars.

“Oh, my God! Can you hear me? Where is the indictment from the Satan? I’ll bear it on my shoulder like a tree. No! I’ll wear it as a thorny crown on my brow! Like a prince, I would approach him and give him an accounting of my every breath.”

Job paused, then, out of breath and deplete of fire, he spoke in a voice too soft for his companions to hear.

“If I have exploited the soil of my land, reaping what I haven’t sown, let that thorny crown choke out my wheat and let trees of weeds take over my barley.”

With that, Job fell on his face, silent and pierced with grief.

Inspiration: Job 31

Job’s glory

The afflicted man seemed suddenly possessed by an entity, both foreign and familiar. Through its bitter streaks of blood and tears, Job’s face took on the appearance of youth and vigor.

“In my prime, I was a friend of God. His radiant light emanated from my soul and lighted my path, informed my speech, and kept comforting vigil by my tents’ lamplight.

“My children surrounded me, and the rocks at my feet poured anointing oil for my steps.

“Whether at the city gates or seated in the square, the youth made way for me in humble reverence. The elders stood as a sign of respect, and the princes and courtiers held their tongues, waiting for my counsel like they waited for the rain.

“I sat as chief and gave pronouncements, like a king among his troops.

“They blessed my words and honored my deeds because I saved the poor and comforted the mourners and the fatherless. An old man’s dying words were a blessing to me and my household, and afterward, his widow hung a garland of a joyful song around my neck.

“Righteousness and justice clothed me. I lent my sight to the blind and accompanied the lame person on his way. I was a patron to the needy and set out to meet those unknown to me. I stopped the wicked in their tracks and released their prisoners.

“I knew then that I would die peacefully in my bed many years from now, and my children would multiply out to every shore forever.”

Inspiration: Job 29

Dying poor

“The crimes against me don’t just affect me,” Job implored with compassion. “The storms that took my children also shifted landmarks in the city. The flocks that God’s fire consumed weren’t only mine but the livelihood of the poor and fatherless who relied on me. Now widows pledge their heirlooms for a loan. Mothers without husbands have their babies torn from the breast, all to keep a covering over their heads. Those in dire need are discarded in the streets. They live like wild donkeys, eating scraps enough to keep their souls and bodies intact. Some even glean the vineyards of the wicked. Their clothes have become threadbare, so they sleep naked in the cruel, cold caverns of this holy mountain. Those who find work must press out the olive oil without a taste and stamp out the grape juice without a drink.

“The city streets echo the final cry of the dying, but God does nothing for them. Murderers, thieves, and sex fiends raid the streets in the night, but God doesn’t come to the rescue. But the wicked will come to a permanent end, leaving nothing for their children, forgotten for eternity. Even the mother of a bandit forgets her son so she can escape the shame. The worms will have him.

“It looks like God saves the filthy rich and protects them against the death that surrounds them on all sides. But someday soon they will all be gone, cut from life like the head of grain.

“Prove me wrong. Call me a liar.”

Inspiration: Job 24

Eliphaz again?

Eliphaz spoke up. “So, if God rewards the wicked, I suppose you’re telling me he punishes the righteous. Do you see how backward that is? No, he’s punishing you because you’re endlessly wicked!

“Maybe I can help jog your memory. Did you refuse to lend someone money? Or did you loan them money only if they put up collateral? That must be it. You stripped the meat off their bones. Did you withhold water from the thirsty or food for the hungry? No doubt you freely gave to the wealthy and important. You ignored widows and injured orphans. That’s why you’re terrified and surrounded by darkness.

“You figured that God was too high above us and shrouded in holy smoke to notice your crimes. And what of your children’s crimes? Don’t you see that those who walk the ancient path of the dragon are snatched away in their youth and they never plant seeds for a legacy? They say, ‘We want nothing of God because he has nothing to give.’ They have forgotten all the good things they enjoyed while living under your roof. Now we who are innocent laugh at the wicked man’s scorn.

“Stop fighting with God! Admit you’re wrong, turn away from your sins and you’ll find peace. Return to God and heed his way. Give up your love of money, release your lost gold, and let God be your treasure.”

Inspiration: Job 22