Session 07: Responses to Suffering & Evil
Blessed are you Lord our God,
for you come to us and seek to make your home in us.
As we study now, let our eyes and our ears be open to you
let our hearts find their rest and their joy in you
that we may grow in grace and live to your glory.
Blessed are you, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.
Lamentatons & Wisdom Literature
We have looked at the responses of the prophets to the Babylonian crisis and in this session we will explore some of the other responses found in what is known as the Writings, this is the corpus of biblical literature that includes Lamentations, Psalms and Proverbs as well as Job and Ecclesiastes (these latter three books are also known as Wisdom Literature). Watch the two videos below and make notes in your learning journal about anything that strikes you.
The book of Lamentations reflects the sense of overwhelming grief and sadness felt by the Israelites after the burning of the temple and the destruction of Jerusalem. Once again it uses a literary form found in other parts of the OT. As Hayes notes, “The two centuries following the destruction would prove to be a crucial period of transition, and Israelite literature in this period reflects the nation's continuing struggle with the philosophical and religious challenges posed by the destruction' (p319). Other responses can be found in the books of Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes and also some of the Psalms.
The book of Proverbs holds wisdom as the answer to so many of Israel's problems, but this view is challenged in the books of Job and Ecclesiastes, both of which hold that sometimes suffering is not always a sign of judgement, nor of wickedness - and nor it is always explicable. Hayes' conclusion on the book of Job is that it offers no explanation of the reason for suffering and injustice but that it does offer a stern warning against criticising its victims by assuming that they have done something wrong as well as blaspheming against Yahweh by assuming his injustice.
What do you think about Hayes' conclusions on Job? What image of God does the book paint? What speaks to you most from the message of Job? What are your favourite Proverbs and why?
In the Resources section below you will find an interesting alternative interpretation of Job by Tim Pownall-Jones, Chaplaincy Priest in Southwell and Nottingham Diocese. You will also find a document showing the similarities between the book of Proverbs and another ANE text called Amenomope.
Something Practical To Do
Ask some people you're close to and who you know won't mind sharing with you, how they've coped at times of suffering in their lives. Has God felt far away? How did they cope with that? Which passages of the bible did they find most helpful, if any?
Blessed are you, Lord our God, all things come from you:
from you come our life,
this world and all that we have and are.
Teach us to love and respect your creation
and give glory to you.
Blessed are you, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer
Spend some time prayerfully thinking about what you have discovered in this session. What are the most significant things for you? How might you use what you have learned in your own faith journey? Write this down in your reflective learning journal.