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Job 14:1-14

In an original sermon that can most likely be traced back to Baptist Pastor S.M. Lockridge, the phrase, “It’s Friday… but Sunday’s comin’,” became an important theological claim of hope for many in the midst of the unbearable tragedies of Holy Week. At Jesus’ words, “It is finished,” we scramble to persuade ourselves (and others) that it is not.[1] We race ahead to the hope of Easter, and in so doing, we miss something of insurmountable importance. It’s not like Jesus to lie, and it is precisely in times like the ones in which we now find ourselves that we need the permission… and the tools… to lament deeply. I wish the trend setting phrase had been, instead, “It’s Friday… and Saturday’s comin’…” Because now it’s Saturday, and I’m not sure we know what to do with that.

If I may share some raw feelings for just a moment, Holy Saturday holds a special place in my heart, because the day that Jesus is dead in the tomb seems to give us something tangible to grasp in the midst of grief that is so overwhelming it can never make sense. This is the day that fits the description of life, given to us by the author of Job: “Mortals, born of woman, are of few days and full of trouble. They spring up like flowers and wither away; like fleeting shadows, they do not endure.”[2] They (we) are limited.[3] Candidly, I don’t like this. We don’t like this! We certainly don’t like to think about it… or to preach about it… or to live it. As resurrection people, we are more interested in the impossible that can only be accomplished by the power of God breathing new life into us; but although it’s not popular, I think we have to at least begin to think about the reality that death is a prerequisite for resurrection.

The way in which we interpret Job 14:14 carries significant connotations for how we might preach Holy Saturday to our people. The word that the NIV translates as “renewal” is chalifati.[4] It comes from chalaph, and so it might well be interpreted to mean to pass away or to pass through. Contextualized to the English language, the easy move is to make an assumption that Job is awaiting death as his renewal, and I cannot argue with the inherent potential of such a position, given the wider context of the entire book of Job. But there’s something else that causes me pause, drawing from the earlier words of Job’s wife, when she asks him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity?”[5] and then encourages him to “Curse God and die!”[6] Of course, even this is open to interpretation. It may be that the better translation, in line with the concept of integrity, is, ‘bless’ God and die. But no matter, Job does neither. And so, I would like to suggest that another reading of Job 14 might cause us to consider whether Job is awaiting death or change (another completely reasonable way to translate chalifati).

There is no doubt that Job is struggling with his circumstances, and he should be! There is something that even seems comforting to Job in regard to the grave. He wonders whether or not he could be hidden in the gave just long enough to be remembered… maybe differently… and then to be released into some new and better reality. But then, I propose, he makes a subtle shift and decides that maybe it would be OK to wait for this change, even in life. And honestly… this might be the more difficult decision, because sometimes change feels just like death, without its numbing relief.

And so it’s Holy Saturday. Jesus is dead. The world has shut down around us. Fear is rampant. Loss is mounting.

And so it’s Holy Saturday. We are exhausted. And we can feel it all.

And so it’s Holy Saturday. In the back of our minds, we hear the whisper of hope. We know what’s coming. But we should wait to make that announcement.

And so it’s Holy Saturday. Lament. Cry. Grieve. Mourn with those who mourn.

It will change you. Let it change you. There will be time for rejoicing, but that time is not today. ***

I know this is odd for a commentary, but these are odd times, and many pastors are working with few human resources and still doing a fabulous job of providing remote worship and pastoral care. I would just like to offer up two songs that I find incredibly fitting for this passage of Scripture, for this season of the Christian calendar, and for this time of grief in the world. The first, Audrey Assad’s “Show Me,”[7] was undoubtedly written intentionally for the Church for such a time as this. The second, Sara Bareilles’ “St. Honesty,”[8] was almost undoubtedly not, yet it might serve us well. Links to YouTube versions are in the footnotes.

[1] See John 19:30

[2] Job 14:1-2

[3] See Job 14:5

[4] חֲלִיפָתִֽי׃

[5] Job 2:9

[6] Ibid.

[7] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ao6lAZ1k7tE

[8] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8ddu-_U5eY

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