The sky above the land of Uz
Could change the way the ocean does
In moments, with a boding wind,
As though the blue of day had sinned,
And brought the blood of some great saint
Upon the darkening east — the taint
Of some leviathan, up-swirled
Beneath the waters of the world,
Or worse, poured down like thick'ning gore
From some great struggle in the war
But Job had seen the years
Change dark and early-morning fears
To pleasant afternoons and clear
Night-skies, star-strewn from here
To who knows where beyond the brink
Of earth and heav'n. So Job would drink
His desert berry wine, and walk
Along his garden paths, and talk
Of all the years that God had made
His fields to bear the golden blade
For camels, oxen, asses, sheep —
Eleven thousand mouths to keep
With grain and grass and streams — and not
A flood or drought or wasting rot
Or pestilence or early freeze
Or looting from his enemies.
And Job would lift his hands to God,
And wonder why he spared the rod
Of suffering. Each day he blessed
The gentleness of God, confessed
His hope in God alone, and said,
"O Lord, if this were lost instead,
And all I had was you, I would
Be rich, and have the greatest Good.
But I do love my seven sons,
And all my daughters, Lord, the ones
Above all land and name and wealth,
And even, God, above my health;
For them I praise and bless your name,
And pray that any sin or blame
In them would be forgiven by
The mercy you have shown in sky
And earth these forty years that they
Have lived now even to this day."
And every seven days Job made
A sacrifice for them. He laid
A lamb across the stone and prayed,
"O God, if they have sinned, and played
The fool and cursed your name, lay not
This folly to their charge, but blot
It out with this lamb's blood, and heed
My prayer: Far better one should bleed
For all, than all unpardoned live
And prosper without God. Forgive,
O Lord, and let your pardon pull
My sons from wealth and make them full
Of God." Thus Job would bow and seek
To save his children every week.
For seven days his sons would feast,
Down from the eldest to the least,
Each day a different son and spouse
Would play the host, and make their house
A banquet hall for all the rest.
The daughters too would come, all dressed
In finest fabrics from the looms
Across the land of Uz, with plumes
And jewels in their hair. And they
Would eat the finest foods and play
And dance and sing as if in all
The world there were no pain or gall
To see, much less to bear; nor was
Their father ever there, because
He carried in his soul a weight
Too heavy for the young, for late-
Night levity and bantering.
They knew about his offering
The lambs each week, and how he'd pray.
And so Job wasn't there the day
His children gathered to begin
Their seven days of feasting in
The home of Zachan, oldest son.
That morning early Job had gone
Alone with sheep and knife at dawn
To make his sacrifice. And while
He prayed, God put his heart on trial:
"O, man of God, today again
You seek the precious lives of ten
Young souls. Now tell me, with your heart,
Would you be willing, Job, to part
With all your children, if in my
Deep counsel I should judge that by
Such severing more good would be,
And you would know far more of me?"
Job trembled at the voice, and fell
Before the bleeding lamb. "Compel
Me not O God to make this choice,
Between the wisdom of your voice
And these ten treasures of my life.
Far better I should take this knife
And mingle lambs blood with my own
Than put my children on this stone.
O God, have mercy on my seed.
I yield to what you have decreed."
The sky above the land of Uz
Had changed, the way the ocean does,
When some leviathan, up-swirled
Beneath the waters of the world
Roils deep and turns the regal blue
To grey. And streams blood-red broke through
The dawn and flowed along the brink
Of earth and heaven, as if the link
Were in dispute, and some great war
Were being fought to settle more
Than Job could ever dream.
That afternoon, beneath a gray,
And boding sky — the time of day
When families begin to feast —
Job sat alone, and watched the east
Grow dark, and felt the outskirts of
A distant wind that made him love
His children more.
And then a man,
With torn and bloody garments ran
To Job and fell before his seat.
"O master, only these two feet,
Of all your servants still can run.
Sabeans struck, and everyone
Is dead, and all the oxen teams
And asses gone; I heard the screams.
O master, this has never been
Before. M'Lord, what is our sin?"
And while the question lingered in
The air, the silence broke again.
Another servant ran and fell
Before the man: "Job, whether hell
Or heav'n, I am not sure, but God
Has loosed a flame and awful rod
Against this house, and all your sheep,
And wool, and lambs, and all who keep
Them safe from wolves are burned to death
With fire, and I alone have breath.
O master, why? What have we done?"
And while he spoke, another one,
A servant from the camel herd,
Came running with his bloody word:
"Chaldeans took them all and slew
The servants. Only I got through
To tell you that we've lost it all.
O master, every bed and stall
Are empty now. What will we do?
What will we do?"
And as the hue
Turned crimson in the western sky,
Job waited wordless with his eye
Fixed on the dark and distant hill
Where Zachan lived, and ate his fill
Tonight with all that Job possessed.
And then the servant came, and pressed
His face against Job's knees and wept.
Job knew the man that Zachan kept
For special errands, so he laid
His hand on him: "Don't be afraid,
But speak." "Good master, I do fear
To speak what you might die to hear.
"Speak, man." And so the servant said,
"Your sons and daughters, Job, are dead.
A wind came from the wilderness.
We couldn't know. No one could guess
That it would blow like that. The whole
House fell at once, and every soul
The servants waited now
To see what Job would do, and how
He might deal with his God. At last
He rose, and took a knife, and passed
It like a razor over all
His silver head, and tore his shawl
And robe, and fell face down upon
The ground and lay there till the dawn.
The servants knelt by him in fright,
And heard him whisper through the night:
"I came with nothing from the womb,
I go with nothing to the tomb.
God gave me children freely, then
He took them to himself again.
At last I taste the bitter rod,
My wise and ever blessed God."
Light candle one, and count the cost;
And ponder everything we've lost.
And let us bow before the throne
Of God, who gives and takes his own,
And promises, whatever toll
He takes, to satisfy our soul.
Come learn the lesson of the rod:
The treasure that we have in God.
He is not poor nor much enticed
Who loses everything but Christ.