Today’s Scripture Reading (June 24, 2018): Job 35
“Good Morning!" said Bilbo, and he meant it. The sun was shining, and the grass was very green. But Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat.
"What do you mean?" he said. "Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?"
"All of them at once," said Bilbo. "And a very fine morning for a pipe of tobacco out of doors, into the bargain.”
Words can mean many things, at least according to Gandalf in J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit;” even if the words are just a common greeting. And it might be the common greetings of which we sometimes forget the meaning that becomes the most bothersome, like Bilbo’s Good Morning. We say “Goodbye,” or we don’t, depending on our outlook on parting, but often forget the root of the word. Goodbye is a contraction of “God be by ye” or in a little more modern English “God be with you.” So, if you are a believer in God, but you maintain that you don’t believe in saying “Goodbye,” what is it that you are saying. Do you not wish God to be with the one who is leaving your presence? Is the withholding of your “goodbye,” inserting a casual “see you later” or “until we meet again” instead, a message of malice that you hope that harm comes to your departing friend? Probably not. Unless that is exactly what you intended with your words, or you are good friends with the wizard Gandalf, and it is he who is doing the leaving.
Elihu returns to a familiar theme, the one that had been already presented by Job’s friends. He has searched the situation of Job, and he has listened to the words of Job, and now Elihu gives the situation and words a meaning that suits Elihu. No one argues that the situation of Job is bad. Elihu and the friends of Job argue that the situation is bad because Job has offended God and stands in the wrong. Job admits that the situation is bad, but he is at a loss to explain why. (And there are moments in all of our lives when we inhabit that same plane; things have gone dreadfully wrong, but we have no idea why.) And now Elihu steps up and gives meaning to Job’s confusion. It is obvious from the pain of Job that Job has sinned against God. Job then compounded that sin when he ignored the wise counsel of his friends, and then again in his refusal to repent of his sin. In fact, according to Elihu, Job’s refusal to repent has spoken clearly that Job believes that he is in the right and God is in the wrong. And according to Elihu, it does not matter if that is not what job intended to imply. It is the reality of the situation. Here Elihu becomes a Gandalf like character with his analysis. He supplies the meaning with confidence. God would not inflict this kind of pain on Job if Job were not in the wrong. Elihu thinks that this interpretation is plain and available to anyone who is willing to use their heads.
Of course, the message of the story is that we need to be careful when we are seeking out the meaning of words and situations. Because, sometimes, there is a different answer than the one that we think is plain. And sometimes stuff just happens, and we need to pause with Bilbo in the light of the sun and accept the moments which God has provided.
Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading: Job 36