Job’s Epiphany

Wednesday, September 19, 2102 — Week of Proper 19

Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury, 690

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

(Book of Common Prayer, p. 985)

Psalms 72 (morning) // 119:73-96 (evening)

Job 42:1-17

Acts 16:16-24

John 12:20-26

The conclusion of Job.

Job quotes the two questions that God has spoken earlier. Then he concludes with the wonderful acknowledgment of his epiphany: “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.”

Knowing God and knowing about God are vastly different things. Knowing about God is the context for vast theological disputes such as the conversations that have filled this remarkable book. But knowing God — “now my eye sees you” — moves us into awe and silence.

An innocent man suffers? Impossible, said the friends, holding on to their conventional theology. But Job clings to both sides of the dilemma with dogged tenaciousness — “God is…; and I, though innocent, suffer…” He holds the mutually incompatible in tension long enough until he experiences a transcendent truth that reconciles them. The friends know about God. But Job is willing to engage the mystery fully enough actually to know God.

Mystics from every religious tradition connect the experience of the divine — enlightenment — with various descriptions of the effect upon the self. Some describe an evaporation of the duality of self and other into an experience of the whole, a unitive experience. All mystical spiritualities posit the disillusion of any form of self-centeredness. Some call it the dismantling of the false self, others speak of the surrender of the ego or of the “I” — the self (small “s”) dissolves into the Self (large “S”), the individual knows union with God.

Yet, whenever I read this story, I am left pondering what has been lost. Does the restoration of a new family really make up for the family he has lost? Does it really make sense in the end? Is God and the universe truly just? The resignation that I experience at the end of Job doesn’t bring me the same satisfaction that it seems to bring Job.

Maybe the experience of God simply can’t be translated. It can’t be given from one person to another. We must have that experience for ourselves. It’s not enough just to talk about God. It’s not enough to know about God. Maybe we need more than to hear about Job’s encounter with the numinous. We also must be able to say, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you…” Then, all else may be relative to the ultimate for us, as well as for Job.

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