Answering the call

29 01 2011

DAY TWENTY-NINE : Job 11 v. 1 – 14 v. 22; Matthew 20 v. 1 – 19; Psalm 17 v. 6 – 12

The common theme for me across the readings today has to do with ‘the call’ – either humanity calling out to God, or God calling humanity.

There’s also the theme which runs throughout Job, and which appears in the Matthew passage, that God can be accused of being ‘unfair’ because He is unpredictable; we can’t limit God to “if we do this…God must do that”. He acts in surprising ways.

IT’S ZOPHAR’S TURN – Like the previous two ‘friends’, Zophar contends that it’s only the wicked that suffer (and suffering is linked to our wickedness), the righteous don’t. Harsh words for Zophar tells Job that he probably deserves worse than he’s experienced, and that he would be better spending his time with God repenting of his wickedness rather than complaining about his suffering (call yourself a friend, Zophar ?).

JOB TURNS ON ZOPHAR (and the others) – This is Job’s longest response, at the end of the first set of conversations with each friend. Job points out to his friends that there are many examples in life / nature where it is hard to find simplistic principles (if you do this…then that will happen). Indeed to put that on God is to limit is power and to dishonour Him.

JOB TURNS ON GOD, AGAIN – I found Job’s attitude to God more open in this response, time bringing some more reflection into the situation, and wisdom digging deeper than the simple distortions his friends are offering. Job acknowledges that God is almighty:
‘To God belong wisdom and power, counsel and understanding;
 To Him belong strength and victory….”
In ch.13, Job does ask that God do two things for him – stop the suffering and show him where he has sinned.
In ch.14, as Job reflects on the fragility of life, he wonders if there is a new life beyond this one in God’s plan.
“Then You will call and I will answer You; You will long for the creature Your hand has made.”

I can just sense the wisdom being revealed in Job through his honest exchanges with his friends and with God.

12 v. 4 – Job is being mocked for calling on God and believing that God will answer (although we have to wait until ch. 38 before we hear from God in this book, and it feels like God is silent for a long time – perhaps He can’t get a word in edgeways with this lot).

13 v. 22 – Job invites God, “then summon me and I will answer, or let me speak, and you reply.” He longs for an exchange with God.

14 v. 15 – Job wonders about the life to come when, “You will call and I will answer You…”

Jesus’s parable today is at one level about God calling people into His Kingdom / Vineyard, and people’s response to Him.

Psalm 17 v. 6 states a relationship between the psalmist and God, of call and answer
“I call on You, O God, for You will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer.”

“The Workers in the Vineyard” by Kazakhstan Artist Nelly Bube.

MATTHEW – the parable of the workers in the vineyard is also about God calling people at different times, and people entering the Kingdom / vineyard work at different stages, but all receiving the same generous wage. In these days of Fair Trade where it is important that people receive a fair wage, you can just hear those who work longest, through the heat of the day, complaining ‘it’s not fair’.
The point, again, is that God will not be limited to our view of ‘fairness’. God can take us yelling ‘it’s not fair’, but here He clearly highlights the fact that He can do what He wills with His resources. Jesus’s question in the story, “or are you envious because I am generous?” is a great question.
This story comes after the encounter with the Rich Young Man, for whom his material gain was his big issue. He considered himself a ‘self-made man’, I guess. Whereas in the Parable of the Vineyard Workers, Jesus underlines dependance upon God (the landowner ?) and His ‘unfair’ generosity (grace).

It’s a topsy-turvy kingdom, isn’t it?

PSALM“Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings”
The psalmist knew suffering, and the attack of enemies, but also knew that real security was found sheltering in God’s presence.

My re-created thoughts :

Thank You, Almighty God,
for calling me.
Hear my cry for Your help,
for Your wisdom,
for Your direction,
that I may be ’employed for you’ in Your Vineyard,
or ‘laid aside for you’
as You continue to shape and perfect Your work in me.
And that I may know the shelter of Your protection
in the heat of the battle.




2 responses

29 01 2011
Jenny Berrill

Today is also about why me? Or rather why NOT me. I was talking to someone about their calling recently and they said they did not feel worthy. I said that if God had called them then who were they to say he is wrong. God has plans for us whether we like it or not. When we ask why am I suffering we should be asking why should we not. When we ask why he has called us we should ask why should we not be called. Todays readings remind me of the Covenant service in many ways.

30 01 2011

Thanks, Jenny. I too am reminded daily of the covenant prayer. “Put me to what You will, rank me with whom You will….”.
But the ‘call’ is wonderful, awe-full, when we hear it, isn’t it ?!

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