During the summer of 2016, the sermon series was drawn from Adam Hamilton's book "Half Truths: God Helps Those Who Help Themselves and Other Things the Bible Doesn't Say". The five-week series looked at phrases that we say that we attribute to the Bible, that either aren't in there, or are misappropriated, in both cases usually with all good intentions. One is "God Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It"--which would seem to indicate that the Bible has definitive, clear, unchanging positions on things. And often it does. But often it doesn't--in fact, there are times that the Bible "corrects" itself. And therefore, as I often say, we can't treat the Bible like it’s the owner's manual for our car--you know, you go to the index and find the page number for how to change your windshield wipers, and there is only one way to change your windshield wipers. The Bible at times says two different--even opposite--things about something, so it's not advisable to go to a particular verse and say "This is what the Bible says" about that particular something. It may say the exact opposite, too.
The four Scriptures for this Sunday depict this. The first two, from the Old Testament, mention people from Uz; the second two, from the Gospels, mention people from Samaria, or with Samaritan heritage. In Jeremiah, Uz (where exactly Uz is is unclear to us today) is among a collection of nations whom God is going to punish—so to be from Uz is NOT to be in God’s favor. And yet in the story of Job, Job is described as “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil”. Bible scholars have noted that this is four good things said about him—twice as many good things as are usually said about anybody else. And Job is from Uz. So it seems that a sweeping generalization about anybody from Uz is too easy—and not what the Bible finally says.
The New Testament passages acknowledge (parenthetically) that, as is stated in John’s story of Jesus talking with the woman at the well, “Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans”. There is a long and complicated history of relations between Jews and Samaritans by that time, and it depends on who one is listening to as to what actually has happened and why things are as conflicted as they are. Suffice it to say that it’s contentious relationship, and to your basic Jew a Samaritan is not a favorite. And yet in Luke Jesus tells a parable in which a Samaritan is the hero, the most “neighborly” of all of the characters in it, and therefore clearly to be praised. So a sweeping negative generalization about Samaritans isn’t fair, either—and not what the Bible finally says.
The application for us? Our own sweeping generalizations about any group of people, no matter the moral high ground we think we ourselves are standing on, are just as likely inaccurate. There is usually more to the story, and we need to be guided by the WHOLE Biblical story and not just the part that reinforces our sense of our own superiority.
OLD TESTAMENT Jeremiah 25:15-29
15 For thus the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. 16 They shall drink and stagger and go out of their minds because of the sword that I am sending among them.
17 So I took the cup from the Lord’s hand, and made all the nations to whom the Lord sent me drink it: 18 Jerusalem and the towns of Judah, its kings and officials, to make them a desolation and a waste, an object of hissing and of cursing, as they are today; 19 Pharaoh king of Egypt, his servants, his officials, and all his people; 20 all the mixed people; all the kings of the land of Uz; all the kings of the land of the Philistines—Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and the remnant of Ashdod; 21Edom, Moab, and the Ammonites; 22 all the kings of Tyre, all the kings of Sidon, and the kings of the coastland across the sea; 23 Dedan, Tema, Buz, and all who have shaven temples; 24 all the kings of Arabia and all the kings of the mixed peoples that live in the desert; 25 all the kings of Zimri, all the kings of Elam, and all the kings of Media; 26 all the kings of the north, far and near, one after another, and all the kingdoms of the world that are on the face of the earth. And after them the king of Sheshach shall drink.
27 Then you shall say to them, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Drink, get drunk and vomit, fall and rise no more, because of the sword that I am sending among you.
28 And if they refuse to accept the cup from your hand to drink, then you shall say to them: Thus says the Lord of hosts: You must drink! 29 See, I am beginning to bring disaster on the city that is called by my name, and how can you possibly avoid punishment? You shall not go unpunished, for I am summoning a sword against all the inhabitants of the earth, says the Lord of hosts.
OLD TESTAMENT Job 1:1-2:10
1 There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. 2 There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. 3 He had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and very many servants; so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. 4 His sons used to go and hold feasts in one another’s houses in turn; and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 And when the feast days had run their course, Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt-offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, ‘It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.’ This is what Job always did.
6 One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the Lord, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.’ 8 The Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.’ 9 Then Satan answered the Lord, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.’ 12 The Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not stretch out your hand against him!’ So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
13 One day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the eldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, ‘The oxen were ploughing and the donkeys were feeding beside them, 15 and the Sabeans fell on them and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.’ 16 While he was still speaking, another came and said, ‘The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; I alone have escaped to tell you.’ 17 While he was still speaking, another came and said, ‘The Chaldeans formed three columns, made a raid on the camels and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.’ 18 While he was still speaking, another came and said, ‘Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house, 19 and suddenly a great wind came across the desert, struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; I alone have escaped to tell you.’
20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on the ground and worshipped. 21 He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’
22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing.
1 One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. 2 The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the Lord, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.’ 3 The Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.’ 4 Then Satan answered the Lord, ‘Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives.* 5 But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.’ 6 The Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well, he is in your power; only spare his life.’
7 So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8 Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes.
9 Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.’ 10 But he said to her, ‘You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
GOSPEL John 4:5-9
5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. 7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. 8(His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)
GOSPEL Luke 10:25-37
25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26 He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ 27 He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ 28 And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’
29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ 30 Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ 37 He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’