Join us for a weekly Bible Study on the Holy Prophet Job, Sundays at 2:30 p.m. in the Bucknell Barnes & Noble Cafe, at Market and 4th Streets in downtown Lewisburg PA, beginning Dec. 18, 2022– December 5, 7531 on the Orthodox Church calendar. All are welcome and no homework is needed. We will follow St. Gregory the Dialogist’s classic sixth-century commentary.
The Holy Prophet Job, grandson of Esau and King of Edom, living near Arabia, a Gentle who exemplified virtue in the time of the Old Testament Patriarchs, spoke in his patient long-surffering words that are with us at every Orthodox Divine Literature: “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” His Feast Day on May 6 was the birth day of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II who came to reflect the Prophet’s patient long-suffering as well.
Below is a homily introducing the Prophet and his writing.
The Bright Example of the Much-Contested Job
A Homily by Elder Ephraim of Arizona
Translated by John Sanidopoulos
Today our Orthodox Church celebrates the holy and much-contested Job, the righteous Job. Why? Because he contested much, he was in many contests. He received many crowns, he brought many victories. Where? In the sea of life. And we see in his biography, that this Saint, in the time he lived, in those years when there was no Orthodox Church, Christ had not come down, God the Word had not incarnated, the world did not see the life of Christ, no one saw God in the flesh, they did not see His miracles, they saw nothing. And yet, with a simple faith in the Creator, in the Maker, he became the Great Atlas of God. With a simple faith, seeing the creation, the operation of creation, he saw the upper world, the stars, the seasons and everything he saw working perfectly, from time immemorial, without anything created going astray from its creation, not in the slightest. How is it possible, he said, for material things to be made with such science and to function with such scientific precision without a Creator? Reason, conscience, made him submit to unwavering faith. With this awareness, of faith in the Creator, he became a great believer. Establishing his faith on these things and hitting rock bottom, he was confronted by the great Dragon, the deceitful Devil.
Job was, as God Himself confesses, blameless, righteous, God-fearing, the best man on earth. He had seven boys and three girls, ten children in total.
God allowed the Devil to taunt him, without disturbing his mind. And the hard trials began, the great temptations. His children were killed, he lost all his possessions, he was deprived of his health for many years, and he glorified God.
There was nothing left for Job. No friends, no wife, no children, no property, no health, nothing. He was left with only his mind, which had not been disturbed, and faith in God. He was a man. And our Christ, when He lifted the Cross, fell on His knees as He ascended Golgotha. And when He was crucified and was at the peak of pain and suffering, to show that man comes to moments of falling to his knees, He said: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Not that He had been abandoned, but simply, from a human point of view and because He wanted, by His example, with His life as a model for us, to show that man has a measure of endurance, patience and knowledge. A finite mind, a finite effort and endurance. And just as Job was in a difficult moment, being psychologically crushed, he thought and said: “May the day perish on which I was born, and the night in which it was said, ‘A male child is conceived.’ May that day be darkness; may God above not seek it, nor the light shine upon it.”
As soon as God saw that he was about to fall on his knees, He came and held him up and said to him: “Wait, do you know why I have tested you? Do you know why I allowed all this to happen to you? To make you a saint. To show you as a great example of patience for all generations. And from your example and suffering to benefit the later generations of people to remain steadfast in the trials of life.” And then He begins to give him a paternal and scientific rebuke and asks him: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? … Who can number the clouds by wisdom?” Where this and who that.
Job answers and says: “At first I heard with my own ears that You are merciful, You are this and You are that, but now I have seen You with my own eyes, I felt You in my heart and I saw that I was worthless, that is, I insulted myself internally and I said: I am nothing but earth and ashes. I am nothing but dust and ashes that is trampled. That’s who I am. I am nothing important.” And after this God blessed Job and his faith and humility, he automatically cleansed him of his sickness and gave him more good things than before.
I admire the difference of choice, the mental endurance, but also the diametrically different difference of faith of the much-contested Job with our current endurance and I take from my personal point of view how much difference we have. Because we saw from the facts that Job had a simple faith in God, with what he saw only in nature, with its operation. And we, on the other hand, have so many, innumerable aids, unshakable, indisputable, divine, holy, personal from life and so much more, and yet we have a tremendous difference in dealing with the sorrows, temptations and trials we endure.
We have the awesome example of Christ as a model. We have the holy Martyrs, the holy Apostles, the Ascetics. We have the aids of the Orthodox Church. We have the Holy Mysteries and this Mystery that is performed in every Divine Liturgy, which we receive by spiritual transfusion of the Body and Blood of our Christ through the Mystery of the Divine Eucharist, we receive the Body and Blood of Christ and become one with Christ.
Nevertheless, while we have all this inconceivable help that is too numerous to count, we find ourselves before Job like insects in front of an elephant. This is our difference. He endured so many tortures and we, when a little pain comes, either from a tooth, or from another body part, or a sadness from family troubles or whatever, and we see ourselves, and I am the first of all, we fall on our knees in despair, in loss of hope, and say: “Now, I’m lost.” This is while we have so many terrific examples to establish our own faith, to face the test, to achieve even a minimal victory.
May the whole life of the much-contested Job become a shining example in our lives to face any sorrow, that comes from any side, with patience and faith. “May it be done unto you as you believe.” As we believe, so it is done to us by God. When we believe that we can, by the grace of God, overcome A or B grief and sorrow and situation, we will be able to do it. We will not be able to do it if we do not believe it.
Today people come and say, “We can’t raise so many children.” And we see, in the past, our grandparents with so many children and in so much poverty, and they overcame and fed all their children. Now we say we cannot. Because we calculate things based on our strengths. Because we do not have living faith. But in the man who believes, the power of God comes and faith is strengthened and God saves them.
Here, with natural care, the birds and all the animals are saved by God and are not deprived. We humans, by our reason, base things on our reasoning and not by faith, and we end up wrong and therefore insist we cannot do it. However, even today we have bright and remarkable examples, with large families and yet they are poor people.
But, you will tell me, all the children helped out, were fed less, and not all became scientists.
Well, of course, they cannot become scientists, they will become craftsmen, they will become something different, but all the children will live. But we have made life in such a way that we cannot be natural, because when we want all the children to study or to give them everything they want, of course the wallet is not enough, and therefore we are deprived and therefore we are violators of God’s command “Increase and multiply, and fill the earth”, and all that.
Well, may the shining example and the intercessions of our much-contested Job, who is celebrated today, help us, so that his contests, his crowns, his medals, give us more strength and endurance, trying, even from afar, to follow him and reach the final goal which is the rest of the ages unto the ages, the Jerusalem Above.