October 7, 2012
Job 1:1; 2:1-10
This month we shall have four readings from the Book of Job. God is proud of his servant Job, who is close to perfection in his life and his worship. Satan, not “the evil one,” but a sort of heavenly lawyer, maintains that if you pain the man enough and humiliate him, he will curse God. God says, go find out. Satan destroys all of Job’s livestock and servants, and then sends a cyclone that kills his children. Job says, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” At that point our reading begins.
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
We now begin a series of seven readings from the Letter to the Hebrews. A good many scholars think the title was an accident and the essay is not directed to Jews, but I disagree. The unidentified author writes to Christians, but gentile Christians would not have understood the cult practices he describes. Because the author speaks of the priestly cast as “former priests” (7:23), he must have been writing after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. I think he wrote it to a group of Jewish Christians who have fled the destruction of Jerusalem and settled somewhere close to Rome. (I was happy to discover that the Biblical scholar Luke Timothy Johnson) our high priest and our only high priest, and at the same time our perfect sacrificial lamb.
Our reading consists of the opening verses, but then jumps to the second chapter where the author establishes the position of Christ in the hierarchy of beings, first lower than angels, a human among humans, then elevated to a status higher than angels, the very son of God. This writer, acutely aware of suffering, yet finds in suffering a path toward salvation. Jesus’ suffering and dying are what perfected him.