We continue the “Tuned for Praise” series with three hymns on healing.
This is the third of those three reflections.
Read: Job 42:7-17
After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations (Job 42:16, NRSV).
Contrary to popular belief, the book of Job does not have a happy ending.
Oh, I know that Job ends up with twice as much stuff as he had before and a whole new set of children. But are we meant to believe that life was ever really the same for him after his 42-chapter ordeal?
My young daughter, Ellen, made me feel the sharp end of this point once. I had just finished reading the ending to book of Job to her and her brother, Andy. Afterwards, she sat very still for a moment. Then she asked, “Mom, if Andy and I died and you and Dad got NEW kids—would that make it OK?”
No. It would not be OK. It would never be OK.
Her question sent me back to the end of Job’s story with some questions of my own:
- What was it like for Job to risk living and loving again once he knew that he could lose it all at any moment?
- How could he find the courage to serve God once he knew that faithfulness did not guarantee health, wealth, and happiness?
Though we can’t ask Job directly, there are certain clues to how he might respond to these questions in the details of the text itself. He prays for his so-called friends. He throws a big party and gives gifts to his siblings—even though they had been noticeably absent during his ordeal. He gives frivolous names to his new daughters (Dove, Cinnamon, and Eye-Shadow)—and then flaunts all convention by naming them in the will along with their brothers.
If we expected Job to be bitter, fearful, or suicidal—we have another thing coming. This is a man who knows how to throw a party. This is a man who seems to have decided to serve God even if there isn’t anything in it for him. This is a man who has learned to live without all the answers.
I like to imagine Job singing the hymn, “O God Beyond All Praising.” I picture him singing with his head thrown back and a smile on his face. The references to Christ in verse two would puzzle him, but if we told him the story, it probably wouldn’t surprise him to learn the lengths to which God was willing to go to make things right. And when he got to verse three there might be tears on his cheeks, but he’d sing all the louder. Because who would know better than Job that “whether our tomorrows be filled with good or ill, we’ll triumph through our sorrows and rise to bless you still”?
Listen: O God Beyond All Praising– This hymn text by Michael Perry is here set to the tune THAXTED by Gustav Holst. You may recognize this tune as the triumphant theme of the Jupiter movement from his suite, The Planets. This arrangement for choir and orchestra is by Richard Proulx and is available from GIA Publications.
Pray: “Whether our tomorrows be filled with good or ill, we’ll triumph through our sorrows and rise to bless you still.” Thy will be done.
From v. 3 of Michael Perry’s “O God Beyond All Praising.”
Introduction to the Tuned for Praise Series
Leonard Bernstein once observed that “music . . . can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.”
In this series, we will take advantage of music’s power to pick up where words leave off. Each Bible passage will be paired with a link to a recording that—in my judgement at least—interprets Scripture’s words in ways that words cannot.