Posted by: ritagone | October 16, 2013

Collateral Damage



Here’s something I’ve always wondered, and it came up again when I was teaching in the book of Job recently: no one ever seems to give much thought to the collateral damage in this story.

You know the story: Satan and God get together and sort of make a bet: Satan says Job is faithful and honoring to God because God has put a hedge around Job, nothing bad ever happens to him, and if his life were to suffer some hardships, Job would stop worshiping Him.  So God allows Satan to put this theory to the test.

And who suffers?  All of Job’s children die.  There is not one son or daughter left alive, along with his real estate and his fortune in livestock.  It seems like only his nagging wife makes it through the test to try to talk her husband into cursing God and dying.  Thanks a lot, God!

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?  At least it makes me wonder.

Then there’s the story of Jephthah, a man in the book of Judges who makes a rash vow that he will sacrifice the first “thing” that comes through his doorway if only God will grant him victory in his battle as commander in chief against the dreaded Ammonites.  Jephthah has one daughter, an only child, whom he dearly loves.  Sure enough, Jephthah and his army are victorious.  Vows were serious undertakings in the Old Testament.  Even Jephthah’s daughter held him to his vow.  Some commentators believe that she wasn’t sacrificed unto death, that she just spent her life celibate, like in the Jewish equivalent of a nunnery, which in itself brings up some pretty riotous images.  Others believe that he actually sacrificed her and did put her to death, because, after all, he had made a vow and he had to go through with it.

But there again, his daughter was the collateral damage of Jephthah’s misplaced vow.  Did he learn his lesson?  I hope so.

Meanwhile, his daughter suffered the consequences.

And so did Job’s first batch of children.  They died.  Never mind that Job went on to have a second batch of kids and then lived happily ever after.  I’m thinking about those first offspring and their fate because of a wager Satan made with God.

Oh, there are more examples of those caught in the crosshairs of what’s going on with biblical characters.  Think about the baby born out of wedlock to David and Bathsheba.  He died.  It wasn’t his fault, the circumstances of his birth, but he died anyway.

It just doesn’t seem fair, all of these victims of what I would call the collateral damage of either someone else’s sin or folly.

I just don’t understand it.  To me, this is one of those unsolved, never spoken of mysteries of scripture.  You can talk about the miracles, or doctrine, or other seminary issues found in the Bible until the day turns into darkness.  Me, I’m pondering the fate of Job’s kids.  Jephthah’s daughter.  David’s infant son.

And you know, ultimately this really, really falls into the “trust God” arena.  Somehow these peoples’ lives are part of what was going on as much as what was going on with the main character of the story, even though their names are not given and we know very little about them except the sacrifice that they seem to have given with their very lives.

This is one of those mysteries that for me will have to be cleared up in heaven.

While everyone else will be lined up in heaven to ask Paul about his stance on women keeping quiet in the church, I’ll be in the short line asking about these victims of collateral damage.

And I think I’ll be satisfied with the answer I’ll receive.

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