Friday, February 22, 2008

Someone "Going Viral"

My paraphrase of the opening verses of the book of Job might go something like this:-

In the city of Inverness there lived a teacher whose name was Mel. She was blameless and upright; she feared God and shunned evil. (NB Some early manuscripts omit this verse!)

She didn’t have any sons or daughters but taught many children at the local high school. She owned no sheep, or camels, no oxen and no donkeys, but had a gerbil once upon a time. Life might have been easier if she had a large number of servants.

All in all she was a pretty great woman. (NB – some early manuscripts omit this verse too!)

Her classes at school used to enjoy their lessons and they would learn a lot and pass their assessments first time around. Mel would mark their books and write encouraging comments to stir their hearts and provoke them to great achievements. (NB – most commentators agree this is complete fabrication!)

Early in the morning she would pray for each of them, thinking, "Perhaps my pupils have sinned and cursed God in their hearts." This was Mel’s regular custom. (NB – commentators dispute the accuracy of this verse too.)

The Test

One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?"

Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it."

Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Mel? There is no one on earth like her; she is blameless and upright, a woman who fears God and shuns evil."

"Does Mel fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. "Have you not put a hedge around her and her household and everything she has? You have blessed the work of her hands, so that her classes work hard and achieve good exam results. But stretch out your hand and strike everything she has, and she will surely curse you to your face."

The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything she has is in your hands, but on the Mel herself do not lay a finger."

Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

We all know what happened next. In the original story Job was besieged by one disaster after another and through it all he did not sin “by charging God with wrongdoing.”

I have had a Job kind of week. I have to admit that it hasn’t been one disaster after another – just the one disaster that is fast spiraling way beyond anything I had anticipated.

No Sabeans have attacked and carried off my donkeys. No fire from heaven has fallen and consumed my sheep. The Chaldeans haven’t swept by to take my camels and there has been no mighty wind blasting the houses of anyone I know.

Someone has “gone viral” on me by setting up an internet web page on one of the social networking sites and apparently filling it with unpleasant stuff. I say apparently because I have not been able to access the information – not that I really want to.

I spent the first afternoon in tears. I felt that everyone was laughing at me behind my back and smirking that they knew something about me that I didn’t! Then I got organized! I rounded up a posse and took on the cyber slime-ball! I can’t think that I have ever written memo and emails so strongly worded like that before. If I had been on the receiving end I would have been very scared! I didn’t mince my words or pussy foot around the edges. It has been a week of rallying the troops and stuff.

The result was that the site has been erased, the culprit caught – and one would like to think it is all over, but there are ripples in the water. A friend came by to tell me that he thought I had handled the whole thing really well!

Job was just minding his own business when God underlined and highlighted his life to Satan. He put Job under a spot light and challenged Satan to test him and try to prove his theory that Job’s faith was based on something other that God himself.

I am not Job and I wouldn’t presume to suggest that my week compares with Job’s tragedies. Job's response had implications that went far beyond the physical world. God could turn and rebuke Satan for his foul accusations because in the end “Job didn’t sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” Job proved that possessions given and taken away were not the source of his security, but that his faith was in God alone.

How we handle trials and tribulations isn’t really just about the physical world either. There is a powerful testimony in the heavenlies and to powers and principalities when we come through. We don't always come through unscathed and we might limp for a while, but there is a greater glory being achieved through it.

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