Wednesday: Psalm 78-79 & Job 29:11-17

From Sally Jackson

Job astounds me. This man, stripped of all family and prosperity and health, this man who was left to mourn his trouble in ashes and whose friends hardly recognized him in his disfigurement – it is this man who remembers (as we’re meant to) God’s provision in his life. While the distance between the good and hard times is growing, he remembers his family, his household, and an intimate friendship he shared with God (29:2-6). And it is this time in his life that Job describes himself helping the poor and the fatherless, the disabled and sick (verses 11-17). He recalls how he committed to the task of breaking “the fangs of the unrighteous and made him drop his prey from his teeth” (29:17). Because he came to bat for those who had little, their hearts were filled with joy and blessings were bestowed on Job.

These are rich rewards, and in Job’s discourse with his friends, I imagine he needs such sweet memories. He needs to remember what a wonderful joy he and the people he has cared about have felt. It just so happens that this particular joy and blessing happened in the context of giving. And we know that, as a righteous man, Job may share this example of justice in his conversation with his friends to remind them of how real justice and generosity and joy are interconnected and from God.

If we keep reading to the end of the book, we know that Job is still counted as a righteous man (though he has not understood all of God’s plans and thus confesses and repents), and that his joy and fortune and family are restored to him. So, because he continues to pursue the Lord and to act righteously, I trust what Job has said here about generosity and real, vested interest in the poor around us; I trust it, too, because I have experienced the goodness of it myself.

Yet, I am overflowing with questions. Job tells of how he was granted authority and honor because of his just provision to others, and then in the next chapter we learn how Job is now mocked after losing everything. Does he now wonder where the young Jobs are now to help him in his own poverty, his own need? Is he questioning whether he ever thought being generous would keep him safe from future trials? Does he simply long for the days when he could do good deeds in these ways he used to know—enacting God’s justice and love through the use of his material wealth—or is it more? Does he also miss being the doer, the helper, the one who gets the compliments and praise and respect? In his own recounting of his young life, is he forming his own question of “How long, O Lord” (Psalm 79) until he is released from trouble and returned to this sweet, former life? 

I think I ask all these questions about Job now because I think I would ask them about myself if I were in Job’s shoes. I might crawl out of my skin with discomfort over not being able to help myself or others. Having been brought low, I might wonder if anyone recognizes me for me, without my usual acts of kindness to garner me praise. I might choose despair over joy and my faith might falter as I wandered from God

But Job? His story makes me sad and angry with so much I see in the world, and hopeful and moved to come alongside God in his ultimate story of justice and redemption. To be part of a different generation that does not laugh or scoff at the poor and hurting and lonely (whoever they are and whatever their needs) but really sees them, takes their hands and offers help (however that looks), being blessed and made joyful through it. To offer to them the care Job should have been given, and to recognize them as so much more beloved and interesting and special than their poverty might suggest. And when the cards are turned unexpectedly before God’s story is through and suddenly I am the needy one, perhaps I might not need to look solely back at the sweet memories of giving to others because another will see me as I am in the ash and bring me that joy again, right there in the present.

I work in graduate student services at Boston University and love making music, tasty food, and new friends. As winter puts down its roots, you can find me alternatingly bent over a puzzle or bundled up for a brisk walk in the cold. I dream of having my own open-door home and a B&B business, but in the meantime am quite thankful for the two strong women I get to do life with in Cambridge’s Huron Village.