“Come Wisdom Come”
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Job 28: 12-28
12 But where can wisdom be found?
Where does understanding dwell?
13 No mortal comprehends its worth;
it cannot be found in the land of the living.
14 The deep says, “It is not in me”;
the sea says, “It is not with me.”
15 It cannot be bought with the finest gold,
nor can its price be weighed out in silver.
16 It cannot be bought with the gold of Ophir,
with precious onyx or lapis lazuli.
17 Neither gold nor crystal can compare with it,
nor can it be had for jewels of gold.
18 Coral and jasper are not worthy of mention;
the price of wisdom is beyond rubies.
19 The topaz of Cush cannot compare with it;
it cannot be bought with pure gold.
20 Where then does wisdom come from?
Where does understanding dwell?
21 It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing,
concealed even from the birds in the sky.
22 Destructionand Death say,
“Only a rumor of it has reached our ears.”
23 God understands the way to it
and he alone knows where it dwells,
24 for he views the ends of the earth
and sees everything under the heavens.
25 When he established the force of the wind
and measured out the waters,
26 when he made a decree for the rain
and a path for the thunderstorm,
27 then he looked at wisdom and appraised it;
he confirmed it and tested it.
28 And he said to the human race,
“The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom,
and to shun evil is understanding.”
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I’m sure you have already deduced that the central theme of Job and a theological conundrum is the problem of suffering and more accurately innocent suffering. Job is a man of God, a faithful person who suffers greatly! And in his suffering he seeks understanding, understanding to the purpose of his suffering. This brings to mind the question we have all asked at some time in our life, “why me?”, or “why me Lord?” Why did you let this happen to me? Why me and not someone else? We want to desperately to understand! To be able to make sense out of events that simply don’t make sense…devastating events that seem to serve no purpose at all! I have found that it is at this point, at this place of searching that faithful people can go either way…..toward God or away from God! Job’s friends are trying to pull him away from God and Job is trying to keep holding on to God.
Really Job’s story is a story of the human spirit, the ability to keep going, to survive and to come out at the other end as a changed person. His story reminds me so closely to the story of Etty Hillesum…you might remember that I talked about her in another sermon a ways back. Arnold Pomerans translated Etty’s letters from her diary into a compilation of her inner thoughts and experiences covering her life from her early years with a protracted focus on her time during the holocaust. Her life is found in the book titled “An Interrupted Life”.
The author describes Etty as the adult counterpart to Anne Frank…both testifying to the possibility of awareness and compassion in the face of the most devastating challenge to one’s humanity. Etty was caught in the time of upheaval and devastation of the Jewish people, a devastation that still leaves it scars on our lives. Etty’s upbringing was not particularly religious. She enjoyed greatly the secular life. But that changed when the Germans entered her town and changed her life. Being Jewish herself she decided she needed to go to Westerbork to write a historical account of what was happening there; to have some account of the people, the children, the families who came to this camp waiting for the final trip to Auschwitz. She wanted to write the bare facts of families torn apart, of possessions plundered and liberties forfeited, and she wanted the world to know about each life that went through this camp, she didn’t want what happened to these people to be forgotten.
To Westerbork she went. This she writes, “the human suffering that we have seen during the last six months and still see daily, is more than anyone can be expected to comprehend in half a year…later she says, “What matters is not whether we preserve our lives at any cost, but how we preserve them.” She wrote, “I sometimes think that every new situation, good or bad, can enrich us with new insights. But if we abandon the hard facts that we are forced to face, if we give them no shelter in our heads and hearts, do not allow them to settle and change into impulses through which we can grow and from which we can draw meaning—then we are not a viable generation… if we fail to draw new meaning from the deep wells of our distress and despair, then it will not be enough.” These are such powerful words! Almost toward the end of the book Etty writes this, “Ten thousand have passed through this place, the clothed and the naked, the old and the young, the sick and the healthy—and I am left to live and work and stay cheerful. It will be my parents turn to leave soon.”
How do we draw meaning out of suffering? Job released everything to God and knew that understanding revealed in wisdom could only be found in God. It is God who gives meaning and purpose in life. When everything was stripped from Job…he still found God, not in possessions, not in people, not in all the things he had acquired in life…he found God in the darkness of life.
In the last few months of her life Etty writes this to a friend, “This afternoon I was resting on my bunk and suddenly I just had to write these few words in my diary, and I now send them to you: You have made me so rich, oh God, please let me share out Your beauty with open hands. My life has become an uninterrupted dialogue with YOU oh God, one great dialogue. Sometime when I stand in some corner of the camp, my feet planted on Your earth, my eyes raised toward Your heaven, tears sometimes run down my face, tears of deep emotions and gratitude. At night, too, when I lie in my bed and rest in You, oh God, tears of gratitude run down my face, and that is my prayer…I always end up with just one single word: God. And that says everything, and there is no need for anything more.”
No matter what life gives you, no matter what is taken away from you, no matter how much you suffer, no matter how much you feel alone may you end up like Etty, knowing at the very depths of your heart that all you need is one single word: GOD. Amen