Fellow Passengers: This week’s Poetic Passage* (Job 8:11-19) transports me to the marshes of Scotland, circa 1513, where the Battle of Flodden Field proves fatal to lord Marmion, the title figure in Sir Walter Scott’s epic poem. Flodden Field was the largest battle ever fought between Scottish and British forces. Even so, few would take note of it had it not been the last time a British monarch died in battle (King James IV of Scotland) and were it not for two famous lines in Scott’s poem: Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.
Job’s companion, Bildad the Shuite, was witnessing his own epic battle of sorts, on a field of suffering that had Job battling doubt and despair. Bildad’s false assumption of Job’s meriting his punishment from some grave sin leads to his poetic diatribe about the destiny of those who forget God. What they trust in is fragile; what they rely on is a spider’s web. They lean on their web, but it gives way; they cling to it, but it does not hold. The truth of Bildad’s assertion is not belied by the falsehood of his assumption about his friend Job. Those who forget the true God are hanging their faith on fragile threads of false gods. When push comes to shove, the cobwebs of life do not hold up under pressure.
When Jesus neared the end of his life, he was surrounded by people whose confidence and trust were in something other than his Way of salvation. For Judas, confidence in a violent solution led to his tangled cobweb of deceit and treachery. The strands of that web did not hold up for him. For Peter, confidence in his own strength and commitment led to his tangled cobweb of denial and disowning. The strands of that web did not hold up for him. For the other disciples, confidence in some other kind of Messiah than the one Jesus proved to be led to their tangled webs of fear and abandonment. The strands of those webs did not hold up for them. As the Message translation of Job puts it, this is what happens to all who forget God: They hang their life from one thin thread, they hitch their fate to a spider web. One jiggle and the thread breaks; one jab and the web collapses. While the world jiggles and jabs, I’ll do my best to sweep out the cobwebs and lean instead on the everlasting arms.
How about you? Where does this Poetry Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.