Job 19:23-27, Haggai 1:15-2:9

job-19-25-26

An Activity

We will make a demonstration of how, by shaking, God can separate out the good in our world from the bad. We cannot do this, although we are called to work towards justice and to pray for his kingdom to come. God promises that at the last day everything will finally be set right.

You will need:

  • A wide-necked jar with a lid
  • Raisins
  • Puffed rice cereal
  • A bowl
  • Chopsticks
  • A teaspoon

Fill the jar with rice and raisins to about ¾ full and mix them thoroughly. The challenge is to sort them out, getting all the puffed rice into the bowl and leaving the raisins in the jar.

Challenge someone to sort them out using the chopsticks. That should be funny!

Next try a teaspoon. A bit better but still hard work.

But when God shakes and we follow where he’s working, things happen!

Put the lid on the jar and shake from side to side (not up and down). The raisins and rice should separate out in to layers. You should them be able to scoop out the rice quite easily.

A Reflection

Is anybody else singing bits of Handel’s ‘Messiah’ right now? No? Just me then.

It is interesting that in the two alternative Old Testament readings are songs from ‘Messiah’. First, describing Jesus’ birth, we have the passage in Haggai: Thus saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts: Yet once a little while and I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations; and the desire of all nations shall come.

Later, concerning the resurrection, he uses the Job passage: I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.

Now, while these make awesome lyrics describing Jesus’ life and work, that’s not what they were originally written for. Haggai was talking to the exiles who had returned to rebuild the temple after Solomon’s temple had been destroyed. Job was arguing with some ‘friends’ who were trying to convince him that his devastating personal tragedies were a punishment from God. But both passages hold essentially the same message – it’s gonna be rough for a while, but hold on, the roller-coaster will eventually come to a stop and it’ll be OK in the end.

You might notice a phrase in Haggai that we’ve heard before: ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak … Do not fear‘. In Genesis we have ‘Joshua son of Nun … Be strong and courageous‘ when he was about to take over from Moses going into the promised land. Different Joshua, different job, same quaking fear in the face of a mountainous challenge.

Notice that it is not Joshua in either case who actually doing the challenge. For the Joshua back in Genesis it was God who would drive out the nations, Joshua simply had to follow what God was doing. The Joshua here is not doing the shaking of the nations. God would do that, Joshua simply had to follow what God was doing. In the end there would be peace.

Haggai’s message? ‘Hang in there. It’ll be OK in the end.’

And that’s the same message we have from Job. He had lost everything that was important in life – family, home, livelihood, health – his body was literally falling apart – and now his ‘friends’ were telling him it was all his own fault!

Job’s response? ‘Hang in there. It’ll be OK in the end.’ Wow! I’m not sure I could have said that in his circumstances.

There’s a beautiful alternative translation for the slightly uncertain Hebrew of verses 25-26. Job is talking about what he expects when he dies and says:

I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
And after I awake,
though this body has been destroyed,
then in my flesh I will see God

I love the ‘after I awake’ phrase. Normally we’d say ‘fallen asleep’ as a euphemism for death, but calling death the awakening sheds fresh light. Job wanted to think of his life as a nightmare, from which he would gladly wake. Job’s life was being shaken, and he could not see how it could end well. But he held tightly to the truth that it would, even though he could not understand how. ‘I know that my redeemer lives‘.

Our Response

Many people today live in nightmares from which they would gladly wake. I think of the innocent bystanders to the war raging over Aleppo, the nameless girls sold into slavery, the youngsters forced to fight as soldiers for wars they do not understand, the poverty-stricken for whom drugs and gang culture are the only escape they can see, the refugees far away, and the homeless in our own cites.

There is plenty in our world that needs shaking. Can we see what God is doing and follow? Can we be part of the ‘And in this place I will grant peace’?

Bible Text

Job 19:23-27 New International Version – UK

‘Oh, that my words were recorded,
that they were written on a scroll,
that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead,
or engraved in rock for ever!

I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;

I myself will see him
with my own eyes – I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!

 

Haggai 1:15-2:9 New International Version – UK

on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month. In the second year of King Darius, on the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai:

‘Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people. Ask them, “Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? But now be strong, Zerubbabel,” declares the Lord. “Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,” declares the Lord, “and work. For I am with you,” declares the Lord Almighty. “This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.”

‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,” says the Lord Almighty. “The silver is mine and the gold is mine,” declares the Lord Almighty. “The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,” says the Lord Almighty. “And in this place I will grant peace,” declares the Lord Almighty.’

New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


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