Wednesday, August 16, 2006

We Esteemed Him Smitten by God (Job 19-31)

I’ve heard it said before (and often thought myself) that Job’s comforters seem to be giving good advice. Their case can be summed up like this:
  • God is powerful and wise beyond comprehension.
  • He works justice on the Earth – bringing the wicked to ruin and the righteous to glory.
  • Suffering is given to the wicked for judgment, and to the righteous for discipline.
  • No mere man can claim to be wise, powerful, or flawless in God’s sight.
  • Thus it is folly for a man to charge God with bringing unwarranted suffering.
  • If Job accepts God’s reproof and forsakes wickedness, God will take away his agony and bless him.
  • However, if Job justifies himself rather than God, he is wicked and arrogant, and deserves all he gets.
I really don’t think anything they are saying is wrong – it’s all sound theology. It’s all true. But is it the whole truth? Is it the deepest truth?

Yes the wicked are often brought to ruin. Yes, God sometimes brings them to their just deserts. But not always.
Have you not asked those who travel the roads,
and do you not accept their testimony
that the evil man is spared in the day of calamity,
that he is rescued in the day of wrath?

Why are not times of judgment kept by the Almighty,
and why do those who know him never see his days?
Things are just not that simple. The wicked do prosper and the innocent suffer. Job maintains that his own suffering is such an example, and that God is not only allowing it to happen, but is actively causing the pain.
Know then that God has put me in the wrong
and closed his net about me.

He has kindled his wrath against me
and counts me as his adversary.
But rather than curse God, he swears by Him. Though God abandon him, Job will remain faithful.
As God lives, who has taken away my right,
and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter,
as long as my breath is in me,
and the spirit of God is in my nostrils,
my lips will not speak falsehood,
and my tongue will not utter deceit.

Far be it from me to say that you are right;
till I die I will not put away my integrity from me.
I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go;
my heart does not reproach me for any of my days.
Here is perhaps the most amazing paradox of the book of Job (and the most oft-quoted passage). God is Job’s enemy. God is the cause of all his suffering. Yet God is also his only hope.
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
We can summarize Job’s case as such:
  • I have lived in righteousness before God.
  • God has attacked me with horrors and suffering that I do not deserve.
  • God treats me as his enemy, though he out to treat me as a friend.
  • Yet I will remain faithful to God though he is unfaithful to me.
  • God is infinitely wise, and must know that this is unjust.
  • Therefore, even though he is as an enemy to me, he is my only hope.
  • So I will trust God in his justice to rescue me from God.
Job's case makes a lot less internal sense. It is not a cohesive intellectual system. Yet he is on the verge of something far deeper than the true but shallow theology of his friends.

Yes. This is why our theologies can't be real rigid. There has to be in them an openness to the mysteries of God, both in his person and in his work- in our lives and in the world. While, yet, trying to "do justice" to Scripture in our handling of it as the word of truth- as you seek to do here, and on your blog.

Thanks. Very good thoughts and study.

I like the way you acknowledge that Job's friends say a lot of things that are theologically correct. Some commentators make it sound like they said nothing right. The key, as you noted, is that they just haven't gone deep enough.

The notion that God is the only hope against God is quite provocative, and I think our ultimate hope

I appreciate the clarity of this...

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