A job with calves

A job with calves

A job with calves

It’s that time of year
again. The time when Instant Insanity decides to spend the winter
with the Andersons.

In technical terms: we’ve
bought more four-day-old calves than you could shake a stick at.
We’re running in ever-decreasing circles teaching the
little white-faced darlings to slurp nourishment from a
calfeteria. Plus we’ve broken the cardinal rule of calf
rearing. We’ve bought a trailer-load of premature
calves.

That really is crazy. Prems
aren’t sure they want to survive. Tottering on four legs is
an endless source of puzzlement. A bottle of milk substitute is
to be refused at all costs.

So each morning we crawl
bleary-eyed from our snug little bed at first light to count
heads (...or feet, and divide by four; retired farmers know all
these tricks). We psych ourselves up to find a potential
Buttercup or Ferdinand has opted out of all our tedious TLC and
gone to those Great Clover Paddocks in the Sky.

Therefore, amid all the emotional
turmoil, not to mention the physical push and shove of coping
with our tiny darlings, it wasn’t surprising that our
thoughts turned to the Book of Job. In between grumbling that a
fragile Hereford had filled an unsuspecting gumboot with
something unmentionable, and reaching for the penicillin and
hypodermic, we had ample time to get all philosophical.

Like, everything we’ve ever
read about Job goes on about the problem of understanding the
story. The difficulty. The enigma.

The incomprehensibility of
Job’s suffering.

And after we’d fed the last
undersized cattle-beast and encouraged it to sally forth and
scamper in the sunshine, we decided it was high time we re-read
that particular chunk of scripture to see what all the fuss was
about.

The tale starts off blandly. Job
is Mr. Nice Guy. Job is loaded. Job does all the right
burnt-offering routines.

Then cross-fade from the land of
Uz and we’re in an unspecified location Somewhere Else,
eavesdropping on a very cosy dialogue between God and Satan.

Pardon?

Let it go for a minute. The plot
thickens.

God starts skiting about Mr. Nice
Guy Job. Satan – quite reasonably – says hey, being
blameless and upright is somewhat sweatless when You’ve
tagged him for bulk blessings. To which God says point taken, go
get all the goodies he’s been given; just don’t touch
him.

Pardon? God said that? To
Satan?

We’re still in chapter one,
remember. Now read vv13-19 and wince. It’s like a disaster
movie. Calamity follows hard on the heels of calamity.

And Job blesses God.

Pardon?

Then the scene Somewhere Else
repeats – with one big difference. God gives Satan carte
blanche
to go get Job – just stopping short of touching
his life.

Job, now a repulsive mass of boils
from brain to bunions, makes the observation that if we accept
good from God, we should also accept bad from Him.

Pardon?

Here’s where events get
interesting. If Job had been a primordial Pentecostal, he would
have gone through the ‘I rebuke you, devil’
routine. Instead, Satan fades out of the picture. Nobody mentions
him, her or it again.

But enter Job’s three
friends. Now, they are so typically religious it isn’t
funny. Because they take around 30-odd chapters to tell Job
there’s sin in his life. (Ever met these guys?
They’re still around.) And Job has the confounded
chutzpah to deny the sin thing.

When they run out of steam, a
young upstart named Elihu tells them they’re all wrong. God
is God. God happens. You’re all missing the
Big Picture: Job, by getting upset at the devastation in his
life; the three doom-merchants for insisting that Job has
skeletons in his closet.

This is God’s cue. Using
Elihu as the intro, the scene-setter, God addresses Job directly.
Don’t pause to ponder if this was a dream, a vision, or
face-to-face. When it’s God, it’s in your face,
period. It’s called revelation. You don’t
absorb it from sermons and articles like this one; you get it as
a teeth-rattling, life-changing blast of light.

God shows (i.e. doesn’t
tell, He shows) Job the breadth of creation. The
stars. The overwhelming forces of nature. The design – even
the designed disadvantages (see Job 39:16-17) of His creatures, from
the cute to the monstrous.

God cuts the cackle. Cuts the
‘why me?’ bleat. Totally ignores Job’s
handicap of being Mr. Nice Guy.

God – in effect – is
saying hey, all that stuff about being good is so much trivia.
Sure, you knew I was behind all the catastrophes and boils and
things. But that was all theory. Get to know Me; that way you can
– if you want – live in the continual wow! and
right on! of the off-beat things I do. (Saith the
Lord.)

Okay – so what? What’s
in it for us?

Sure, there’s Job as a Good
Example. (The ‘patience’ of Job is a bit of a
mistranslation; ‘long-suffering’ is better.)

But for types like us (irritable,
impatient types, according to our closest friends) we’re
going to need several lifetimes to become Job-ish. So we’ll
go straight to the answer. Which is, simply, knowing
God.

To be honest, that may give you a
few headaches, You see, knowing God may be bad for your
theology. Why d’you think we’ve started so many
paragraphs with ‘Pardon?’ ? That word
represents little nudges, little hints to say that scripture
doesn’t always agree with conventional theology. Tough.
When there’s a conflict, chuck conventional theology.

This is why the story of Job
starts with Satan having one hell of a time. Satan is a real
being. But after a couple of appearance on-stage, he becomes
irrelevant to the narrative – as he should be to
us.

Get it? Here’s a picture.
Think of the Leader of the Opposition. (Sorry, Bill.) He and his
followers are paid by the state to oppose, contradict, criticise,
do everything in their power to thwart the democratically
elected, legal Government. The Leader of the Opposition is
financed to test the purity, the rightfulness, the implications
of every action of the lawfully constituted authority of the
land.

That’s a picture of the
rôle of Satan. That’s why God can have cosy chats
with him. That’s why Satan can – should – will
become irrelevant to us and to you to the extent that we
know God.

Look – we’ve been
conditioned to think in terms of God’s Plan of Redemption.
And there is wonder and glory and truth in the atoning work of
the blood of Jesus, His death and resurrection. But we do a great
disservice to our Saviour if we think in terms of a divine repair
job. God doesn’t patch. Think rather of God’s Plan of
Creation. Where He takes full responsibility for what He set up.
Where some of those extravagant, hyperbolic, poetic purple
passages from Paul about the purposes of God before the Ages
began suddenly become a reality – for us.

In other words, salvation
isn’t a desperate rescue attempt by a heartbroken God to
fix a failure in something He built so beautifully – and
failed to maintain
. Rather, salvation is a robust part of the
Lord’s eternal intention.

And just as we’re not
coddling our calves in a frenzied bid to keep them alive for a
few more days, but we plan to grow them into great hoof-stamping,
earth-shaking adult Herefords, so too with the Lord and us. He
once prompted John to make the outrageous statement
‘when He shall appear – we shall be like
Him’.

Read the descriptions of Jesus in
Daniel and Revelation, and marvel.