Have pity on me, have pity on me, O you my friends,
for the hand of God has touched me!
Why do you, like God, pursue me,
never satisfied with my flesh?
"O that my words were written down!
O that they were inscribed in a book!
O that with an iron pen and with lead
they were engraved on a rock forever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
then in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see on my side,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
O Lord, hear my voice when I call;
have mercy and answer.
Of you my heart has spoken:
'Seek his face.' (R./)
It is your face, O Lord, that I seek;
hide not your face.
Dismiss not your servant in anger;
you have been my help. (R./)
I am sure I shall see the Lord's goodness
in the land of the living.
Hope in him, hold firm and take heart.
Hope in the Lord! (R./)
After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house!' And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.' I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.
There is an urgency in Job as he feels that his end may be near. As a memorial he wants his words to be "cut in the rock forever" "with an iron chisel and with lead." A similar urgency motivates the disciples when Jesus sends them out with no baggage or provisions, to spread the word that the reign of God is at hand.
Poor, long-suffering Job has ceased trying to justify himself and reaches out for the sheer mercy of God. Jesus announces that our lives can only be fulfilled when we accept the gracious rule of God. It is "at hand" in the sense of being already begun, and each of us has a part to play in bringing our world closer to the ideals of Jesus.
Job is faced with a once-in-a-lifetime ordeal. Human comforters, with their trite words of traditional wisdom did not really ease his agony. Job does not want theological explanations but just needed empathy from his friends, "Pity me, pity, O you my friends.. Why do you hound me as though you were divine?" Then he takes his case directly to God. Each of us at times of crisis may prefer our friends to sit with us in silence.
Still, God will be near, whatever the circumstances. "The reign of God is at hand." The presence of God is with us at every step of our journey. The story of our life is not "carved with a chisel" as requested by Job, but written in the Book of Life, in the very mind of God.
Jesus tells his missionaries that regardless of the reception they receive from a particular town, they are to spread his message: "the kingdom of God is very near." If they are made welcome, so much the better, but even if they are unwelcome, they must still make the effort. Regardless of whether the gospel is welcomed or not, God remains very near to us.
The living God is present, his love is close at hand, regardless. We need this message, especially now that Christian faith is not so deeply held as it once was. The love of God was as much present on Good Friday as on Easter Sunday. Whoever loves the spirit of Jesus and shares his message, even in these times, will have all the help they need to keep gooing.