Yesterday, September 11, I noticed more American flags flying that usual, some at half-staff. We want to remember the national tragedy we suffered thirteen years ago, from the hands of violent men. Scripture does not gloss over tragedy, personal, or national. Reading Jeremiah 52 and the Book of Lamentations recalls the many voices who earlier said, “It can never happen to us” (i.e., to Judah, God’s chosen people). But it did.
On Wednesday evening our President outlined steps he will take to counter the threat of the Islamic State. Because of gains in territory, accumulation of natural resources (oil), and money, these holy warriors threaten not only the middle east, but also the United States. We’ve seen the brutal images our our citizens executed, displayed and disseminated for maximum effect–terror. “You can’t win,” they say, “submit.”
The book of Job also describes his personal tragedy perpetrated by foreign bands (Sabeans and Chaldeans) bent on thievery and murder. The setting for these raids in the book of Job is serene, convivial, and familial. The brothers and sisters eat and drink together, the oxen plow the land, asses graze beside them (1:13-14). “. . . when Sabeans attacked them and carried them off (i.e., the oxen and donkeys), and put the boys to the sword” (1:15). The Chaldeans made off with Job’s camels, and again “put the boys to the sword” (1:17).
Like our national news, this does not make for pleasant reading. It does remind us, however, of how fragile is our life, how ephemeral are our possessions, and how quickly our fortunes can change. I therefore maintain: “The Book of Job is as up-to-date as tomorrow’s newspaper.” Yes, the book is ancient, but it describes a human struggle against forces beyond our control, both natural and human, a struggle for survival and recovery. And with that it also describes a battle to maintain a personal relationship with God in spite of the disasters which can and do happen to us.
Where have you experienced a personal tragedy? From others’ violence? How do you make sense of what may seem senseless brutality?