1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. 2And seven sons and three daughters were born to him. 3 Also, his possessions were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a very large household, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the East. 4 And his sons would go and feast in their houses, each on his appointed day, and would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did regularly. 6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. 7 And the LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” So Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.” 8 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, thatthere is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” 9 So Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” 12 And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. ~ Job 1.1-12, NKJV
The Reverend Dr. Marvin McMickle, former pastor of the Antioch Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio and newly elected as the twelfth president of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York, began our morning and final day at ABC-USA’s conference for ministry renewal and new minister orientation with the reading of this sacred passage of Holy Scripture. Many of us are familiar with the story and suffering of Job. It is perhaps one of the most debated stories of the Old Testament with regard to the purpose of suffering and the love of God for God’s people. However, Rev. McMickle did not enter into debate with us this morning. Instead, he provided a new lens with which to perceive the work of the Spirit of God in this old and sacred narrative.
The title of the message was this: “Something Greater Than the Love of God” adding, “Which on its face may sound shocking. We might well ask, ‘What could there possibly be greater than God’s love? Doesn’t the whole Bible sing an unending chorus of reminders about the love of God?'” He then joined this chorus, reciting some of the many verses that describe or present God’s love to the reader and believer of the Bible. Still, he argues, “I want to suggest today there is something that God has for us in relationship that is more precious, more sacred, more to be desired even than God’s love and it is God’s trust. Trust.”
This morning, I was reminded yet again that God is still speaking. When we feel as if we have it all figured out, God enters with a new piece of the puzzle. I have heard the story of Job examined, debated, taught and proclaimed in living rooms, across dinner tables, in small groups and from pulpits but never from this position. Suffering is a common plight and one that we often do not understand. It is for this reason that we turn to the story of Job and interpret his suffering as a test of God and a challenge from the Devil, which, in turn, stirs up within us dis- ease with regard to our understanding of God and God’s love.
How can God do this to the one that He loves? As I am typing these words, my mind quickly turns to Jesus, His Son. This same question could be asked with regard to His life and ministry on earth. Did Jesus not suffer as Job did? Did He not lose his family, leave behind a career with earning potential, lose his good name and was His body not afflicted? He, too, was guiltless but we know why He did it and what He has gained in His sacrifice.
This afternoon, I wonder about the social positions attributed to us or assumed by us based on the social construct of race. This leads me to questions of my own: When in a racial position of powerlessness, do we curse God to His face or when in a racial position of power, do we behave as if we are God’s face? Does the presence of race cause us to question the love that God has for us and/or our relationship with God as His creation? Can we continue to trust God despite the presence of race, its prejudices and stereotypes? Can God trust us to remain faithful to Him despite the racial fluctuations of power and presence in American society, in spite of all that race attempts to give and take away from us, no matter the social discomfort or the way that it makes our bodies appear to us and others?
When seeking to provide an example of our unflinching loyalty to Him, if the powers of race, whether as victim or hero, were taken away, could God still say of us “Have you considered my servant _______?