Devotion for the Third Sunday After the Epiphany (Year D)   2 comments

the-wrath-of-elihu-william-blake

Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part I

JANUARY 21, 2018

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Job 32:1-22

Psalm 89:5-18, 38-52

Luke 5:27-39

Hebrews 11:(1-3) 4-7, 17-28 (39-40)

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The Book of Job exists in layers, both prose and poetic.  This fact creates complexity in interpreting the text.  The best way to interpret the Book of Job is to read it as the composite text it has become.  Yes, the core of the poetic section of the Book of Job is its oldest portion, but I read that core in the context of the prose introduction (Chapters 1 and 2).  There we read why Job suffers:  God permits it to happen as part of a wager with the Satan, his loyalty tester.  Job suffers and two cycles of speeches follow.  Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite take turns arguing that Job’s protestations of his innocence cannot be accurate, for God, being just, would not permit an innocent person to suffer.  Job argues against his alleged friends, who cease speaking eventually.  Job makes his concluding argument in Chapters 29-31.  God answers him in Chapters 38-41, and Job repents in Chapter 42.  Then, in the prose epilogue in Chapter 42, God “burns with anger” toward Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar and favors Job.

The speeches of Elihu are obviously not original to the Book of Job.  As a matter of the structure of the Book of Job Elihu comes out of nowhere, goes away without any subsequent mention or appearance, and interrupts the narrative, filling the gap between Job’s final argument and God’s reply.

The prose section of Chapter 32 (verses 1-6) tells us that Elihu was angry with the three alleged friends and with Job.  He was angry with Job

for thinking that he was right and God was wrong

–Verse 2, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

and with Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar

for giving up the argument and thus admitting that God could be unjust.

–Verse 3, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Elihu is, in his words,

filled with words, choked by the rush of them

–Verse 18, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

within himself.

The Book of Job is also complex theologically.  Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu commit the same error.  The presume to know how God does and should act.  The premise of the Book of Job supports the main character’s claim of innocence, yet not everything the others say is inaccurate.  Much of it sounds like portions of the Books of Psalms and Proverbs, after all.  And Elihu, as he points fingers, does not err completely in what he says, even as he should justly point a finger at himself.

Do we Christians not speak at length about the love, mercy, and justice of God?  Yet does not Job, in the text bearing his name, deserve an honest answer, not the “I am God and you are not” speeches in Chapters 38-41?  The theodicy of Elihu, for all its errors, is not complete idiocy.

Psalm 89, which is about the divine covenant with David, alternates between thanksgiving for God’s faithfulness to the monarch and lament for divine renunciation of that covenant before ending on a hopeful note.  God has yet to end that renunciation, but the psalm ends:

Blessed be the LORD forever.

Amen and Amen.

–Verse 52, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Hebrews 11:35b-40 tells us that many faithful people of God have suffered, been poor and/or oppressed, and become martyrs.

The world was not worthy of them.

–Verse 38a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

They became beneficiaries of God’s better plan for them, we read in verse 40.  Their cases contradict the arguments of Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu.  The case of Jesus also contradicts their speeches.  We read an example of foreshadowing of his crucifixion in Luke 5:35.

Timothy Matthew Slemmons has stretched Elihu’s speeches across seven Sundays in his proposed Year D.  This is therefore the first of seven posts in which I will ponder Elihu’s argument in the context of other portions of scripture.  The journey promises to be interesting and spiritually edifying.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 8, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SHEPHERD KNAPP, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GOTTFRIED WILHELM SACER, GERMAN LUTHERAN ATTORNEY AND HYMN WRITER; AND FRANCES ELIZABETH COX, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN DUCKETT AND RALPH CORBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS IN ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF NIKOLAI GRUDTVIG, HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/09/08/the-oratory-and-theology-of-elihu-part-i/

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2 responses to “Devotion for the Third Sunday After the Epiphany (Year D)

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  1. Pingback: The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part I | BLOGA THEOLOGICA

  2. Pingback: Guide to Epiphany/Ordinary Time Devotions for January 2018 | ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS

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