The End of Job

In a Doctor of Ministry course I took a couple of years ago with Rabbi Blumofe at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary on “Theology after the Holocaust”, we were given the assignment of re-writing the end of the book of Job based on our studies. The piece I wrote for the assignment was based on Elie Wiesel’s story of the night the prisoners in the Nazi death camp put God on trial. I am preaching on the end of Job in a couple of weeks, and that, plus Wiesel’s recent death, caused me to dig out the assignment and share here. It is hard to overstate the impact of Wiesel’s voice and actions on the ways we think about suffering and faith, war and peace, and our propensity for silence in the face of atrocity. His words inspired these. May he know the peace of the presence of God.

For the context of the poem, see Job, chapters 38-42 and Wiesel’s book, Night.

 

The End of Job – By Christopher Joiner

I had heard you with my ears,

But now I see you with my eyes;

Therefore I gird my loins.

I am a man, a God-breathed creature,

I will ask of you, and you will answer me.

 

Where were you

when the Sabeans attacked,

Slitting the throats of my sons save one,

For the sake of oxen?

 

Where were you

When your own fire (your own!)

Came down from the skies

And burned my boys

So that nothing remained but ashes;

For what? The sheep?

 

Tell me if you know.

Were you out drinking with friends

Gambling with the lives of your faithful ones?

 

Where were you

When the Chaldeans descended in formation

And spilled rivers of blood of my children

To acquire camels?

 

Where were you

When my sons and daughters

The few I had left in the world,

Felt the rafters shake

And the roof collapse on them,

As they lay dying slowly,

Some suffocating,

Some broken and bleeding and screaming,

For You.

Where were you?

 

I called out to you

And you answered with silence.

 

It is true I do not know

I was not there,

When you laid the foundations of the earth.

But I do know suffering.

I know the feeling

Of wanting to pull my skin from my body,

Such was the unrelieved pain.

Do you?

 

I know the indignity of the sidelong glance,

The accusing stares,

Words of imputed wickedness from those

Who would call me friend.

Do you?

 

I know the void of grief without end,

Without meaning,

Useless and cold and unrequited.

Do you?

 

I never claimed to set the foundations of the earth

Or to create one thing in it,

Save a life of faithfulness to you.

You, though, have claimed much

About yourself.

 

So answer me with more than questions,

See me and know my suffering,

See me face to face,

See me in all the glory of my name –

The Sufferer.

 

And God said,

“I see.”

 

And Job said,

“Then you are guilty,

And all I have suffered is useless to me.”

 

Then Job went inside,

covered in whirlwind,

and spoke into the darkness,

“It is time for evening prayers.”

 

Thus ends the book.

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