This morning, in my Gospel reading, I heard Jesus ask twice: “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:36 and Mark 10:51) A little later, in my sermon preparation, I also heard Satan ask: “Does Job revere God for nothing?” (Job 1:9), which I can transpose into: “Does Joel serve God for what he can get?” Holding the questions together makes me want to join you in drinking from the one Spirit by thinking and praying to God together. (1st Corinthians 12:13)
In terms of thinking together, let’s start with Satan, which, in the book of Job might better be rendered as “the satan,” or “the accuser.” According to the notes in my study Bible, the satan in Job is not yet the demonic personification of evil that we meet in later Judaism and Christianity. The idea here is that biblical teachings about Satan develop over time. For example, 2nd Samuel 24 says the Lord incited David to take an illegitimate census, while 1st Chronicles 21, depicting the same incident, says Satan incited David. Without getting diverted too much into that thorny topic, we can observe simply that Satan is a complex figure whom we understand only in part. And if that’s true of the evil one, how much more is it true of our good Lord?
In Job 1 and 2, the Scriptures portray the Lord as entering into a contest of sorts with the satan regarding the nature of Job’s character. The Lord asks the satan: “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is no one like him on the earth?” (Job 1:8) The satan asks the Lord, in effect: “Does Job have all the integrity you attribute to him?” The Lord says, in effect: “Test him and find out.” And as a result: Job loses his possessions, his children, and his desire to live. What do you make of a God who gives the satan such license?
One thing I make of such a startling scene is that in relation to God, “Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.” (1st Corinthians 13:12) Therefore, for now, what Jesus said of James and John in the Gospel of Mark can also apply to me and my prayers: “You do not know what you are asking.” (Mark 10:38) And yet, with all my limits and sins, I can ask the Lord honestly for what I want because the Spirit makes my prayers holy and Jesus lives to intercede for me. (Romans 8:26-27 and Hebrews 7:25) When I add my prayers to the prayers of the Holy Spirit and the Lord Jesus, I can feel trustful, however God responds to them. When I listen and think as I pray, I can also understand, in part, Job’s confession to the Lord:
I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees thee. (Job 42:5)
My vision of God becomes clearer when I pray with Jesus and the Spirit and also when I pray with fellow members of the body of Christ. That’s why I hope, in some way, we can pray together and thereby “drink of one Spirit.” (1st Corinthians 12:13) Praying together in Christ helps us know that God, for all his mystery, is love. (1st John 4:8) Love,