Friday, April 9, 2010

Job's Friends Part 4

Job's Friends Part 4 

From the book of Job, Chapter 1 verse 4 we read:

Job 1:4
His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them.

Of the verses that we have examined thus far, this one is perhaps the most interesting and difficult to understand.  But we will take it word for word, idea for idea and I hope to make out the understanding of what the Holy Spirit is communicating to us.

The verse begins with "his sons" referring back of course to Job.  Job had seven such sons and apparently they were all at home.  In today's culture such a phenomenon is unheard of in itself.  To have so many children is one thing, for them all to remain at home is almost ethnic in that it is a stranger to normal American experience.  Today children grow up and move far away, they leave the nest, they move on.  Can one imagine what Thanksgiving would be like in Job's day?  The roads would be abandoned!  Unlike today's world, there would be almost no holiday traffic, as all the children would still be home.

There is something to be said for staying home.  While I can hardly speak to the virtue, having moved more than a thousand miles from my homeland, I can attest to the warmth, comfort and security of having family near-by and the loneliness and solidarity of being separated from those who love you most.  We should not misunderstand the culture of Job's day - not everyone stayed home to live with their parents.  Proverbs teaches us that a neighbor close by is preferred in the day of calamity than a brother far off in another land.  Abram left his kin in Ur.  Jacob and Esau lived in different parts of the world.  Paul left Tarsus.  Jacob went down to Egypt.  Joseph was no longer living in Bethlehem.  While the world was much smaller than it is today, apparently people still moved and traveled and were separated from family.

However, in Job's family - everyone was still there.  And that says a lot, in my opinion, about Job's patriarchal provision.  His children were not confined to the family estate, rather, they chose the family estate.  And apparently, from the next few words, we find them happy to be at the family estate.  As a father I can think of no greater blessing than the idea that my son would find my patriarchal provision sufficient that he would be able to be distinct and protected at the same time.

That last idea bears exploration.  Many children leave fine homes because they feel the need to spread their own wings.  While they are in the nest they live under a shadow of their parents that represses their own individuality and personality and dignity.  They don't dislike home, they just need room to be themselves.  What I find surprising, is that Job among all his other talents and righteousness, knew how to protect his family and at the same time give them freedom to be themselves.  They remained home because Dad didn't suffocate them.  Dad didn't impose himself on them.  In short, Dad didn't exacerbate them.

His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day.  There are no momma's boys here.  See this young men?  None of these sons still live under the same roof as Mom.  We have no clue as to whether they are married or not, Scripture does not tell us.  But each had his own house.  One of the secrets to the harmony of this family, I believe, is without a doubt the ability to sustain a household by each one of the sons.  They, each of them, understood the economics of maintaining a home.  They, each of them, understood the mechanics and stewardship of owning a home.  How many young women would do well to consider this when considering a husband.  Does he maintain his own home?

This is especially important in the matter of bachelors.  I have owned a home as a bachelor and as a married man and they are two very different things.  As a married man, you have someone there who has a vested interest in the home - in fact, often the woman has a superior position in the home.  This is not to say that she usurps her role as God ordained, rather, that her husband wisely understands this role is as a steward, not as a servant.  As a steward, she has more control than the master.  As a servant, she has less control.  A servant does what the master says.  A steward determines what is best for the master.  In any case, a bachelor has no steward, no partner, no one who is at least as interested in the home as he is, if not more.  A bachelor who owns a home exercises something many men don't find attractive - home economics.  Many men I know, if single, and while single, would prefer to rent an apartment.  We simply don't nest well.  

However, Job's sons all had their own homes.  However it was that they came about them, we know them to be responsible, independent home owners - of sufficient sized homes that any of those homes could house a party of 10 with spouses and children and friends and servants.  We find out later that, indeed, servants were present in these homes.  

Our friend Job is a father among fathers.  His sons are not just independent, but full of brotherly love - love for their siblings.  And these boys are gentlemen too!  Did you catch it?  They invited their three sisters too.  This is not stag night.  This is not boy's night out.  These children don't believe in gender based fun.  There were no crude jokes, inappropriate humor, or sexists comments.  

So what do we have here?  Riotous partying?  Maybe.  Excessive libations, indulgences and entertainments?  Perhaps.  Permissive diversions and distractions?  Doubtful in mixed company.  The worst that could be said were that the children were accustomed to excess and wealth on a level that few ever enjoy.  It is not a sin to be wealthy.  It is no sin to party.  However, we will see later, that such endeavors do expose us to the risk of sin.

The confusing part of this verse, the part that is obscure to me, is the frequency of the parties. Scripture does not tell us that anything inappropriate happened at these parties.  We can freely assume the best of these children knowing the Godly nature of their parents.

When I first read this verse I assumed that there was a party on every day of the week - for there are seven sons, and there are seven days.  But is that what the verse says?

"each one on his day" does not necessarily mean Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday...  Does it?  The NET bible says "each one in turn".  The New Living Translation says "when Job's sons had birthdays".  The NIV says "His sons used to take turns."  As I've noted before, I'm no master of Hebrew and I won't attempt an analysis of the original language.  But I will point out that the translators considered most credible and qualified for those translations did not translate the verse to read that the sons were partying it up every day of the week, rather that they had parties, they shared the responsibility of hosting and like good hosts, they made sure their sisters, who may or may not have had a home of their own, would be invited and included.  This looks to me like a healthy, loving, Godly family.  Who wouldn't want to be one of those brothers and sisters?

I think there is something here beyond family harmony though.  There is provision, there is security, there is love, and there is a resource for all of this.  These sons grew up to be like their father.  Job cared for his family and servants, and here we see his sons doing likewise.  My respect and admiration for the man grows every day.  And I can hardly imagine the pain and loss that we're coming to eventually.  In fact, this is the happy part of the story, the part we don't want to end.  For those fans of "Lord of the Rings" this is the picnic celebrating Bilbo's 111th birthday in the Shire.  For fans of "War and Peace" this is Anna Pavlovna's soirée.  For those fans of "The Titanic", this is the party in the lower quarters.  It is difficult to even read further, as one wants this picturesque landscape of family harmony as God designed it to last forever.  God blessed Job, and here we see the deepest blessing, one we may all envy with equal desire.

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