A reflection from Stephen Atkinson

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What are human beings, that you are mindful of them; mortals, that you care for them? Psalm 8, v4

The blue skies are free of white streaks, neighbourhoods are quiet, you can hear birdsong, and these are idyllic days for cycling, if that's how you take exercise while the gyms are closed, and for catching up with some reading. It's as though we are living in a golden age.

We might look at the blue sky (and the weather is glorious in this fourth week of Lent), and share the psalmist's wonder at the heavens, 'the work of God's fingers, and the moon and the stars that God has established'. Then we might share in his hymn of praise and thank God for having 'crowned us with glory and honour'.

Yet, sadly, these beautiful and life-enhancing things are the incidents of tragedy. We hide from one another for the protection from illness of people who are most vulnerable.

The strange thing is that we can still share the same prayer, the same words, in some ways even the same sentiment, through the utterance of a different figure: 'What are human beings, that you make so much of them, that you set your mind on them, visit them every morning...'.

But here, in the mouth of Job, the words are uttered in pain, not praise, indignation, rather than wonder.

Job's question concludes with the words, '... test them every morning?' Job 7, vs.17&18 .

The Old Testament offers no resolution to the problem of pain. We too may wonder about this as we look gladly at a pure blue sky, but recall why it is more pure than usual; and ask how beautiful things can be incidents of tragedy.

It is hugely significant that the writer of Job could so easily appropriate words of praise for a prayer of indignant challenge. Because what matters either way is that God will never lose interest in us.

The good news of Jesus Christ lies a little way off, but his cross is God's ultimate answer to Job. And Job is inching towards the
truth:
I know One to champion me at last,
To stand up for me upon earth.
This body may break up, but even then
My life shall have a sight of God
; Job 19, vs.25&26 (Moffatt)

It is unthinkable that God should lose interest in his servant, Job, even after death. Job doesn't have answers, but it is with this thought that he will live out the days that lie before him.

Stephen Atkinson

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