Job Rebuked by His Friends, watercolor by William Blake (1757-1827)
(…continued) Job, however, has a very different view of the situation. While agreeing that it is indeed God’s business to punish evil and reward goodness, Job is quite convinced that God is making a big mistake in his case. Job certainly admits to not being perfect, but he argues that has he not done anything to deserve this degree of suffering. He has no hidden faults, no secret sins, nothing at all out of the ordinary to deserve such extra-ordinary punishment. Yes, God rewards good and punishes evil, but in Job’s case it is God who is in the wrong. Job is so convinced of this that he demands a hearing with God to plead his case.
The friends are appalled at Job’s arrogance for thinking that he can call God himself to account. But Job knows what they do not know, that is that he has done nothing so terrible as to deserve this. Therefore, Job’s severe pain and agony drive him to challenge even God. But still, he does not curse God. Job continues speaking to God, he makes his appeal to God’s goodness and justice, and at times, he even rests back into trust in God’s care. Job remains a man of faith. It is his faith in the presence of God and in the goodness of God that drives even his angriest words at God. Jobs hangs to faith, but it is a faith that has many questions of God and insists that God explain himself.
Job is one of the most popular books in the Old Testament because it asks the questions we all ask. In times of particular suffering we have all asked in one way or another, “Why God is this happening to me?” This is the second most important question in religion. The most important question is, “Is there a God?” If we do believe in God, the next logical question is, what is God up to in the world and in my life? Is God on my side or not? And if God is on my side and does love me, why does he allow such terrible things to happen. On and on, for almost the entire book, Job asks these questions from every angle with great power and eloquence.
And then, God speaks.
God speaks, but Job does not receive the kind of response he was looking for. God’s reply goes on for four chapters, beginning in the second verse of chapter 38 with a challenge of his own. God thunders from the heavens, “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge. Brace yourself like a man Job, now I have some questions for you and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me if you understand. Who marked off it’s dimensions? Surely you must know! Who stretched the measuring line across it? On what were the footings set and who laid its cornerstone?… Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me if you know all this?”
Job is given not an answer, but a glimpse into the greatness and majesty of God, and he is humbled. Job repents of his arrogant words, admitting he spoke of things he did not understand. In the last chapter, God commends Job for his faith and restores his health and fortunes.
The Bible tells us not only what to believe and what to do, it also tells us what to see, and how to see God, the world, our life, our death, and our actions. The Bible teaches us a new way of seeing everything. One of the important things the Bible teaches us to see is that there is a limit to what we CAN see. Job never finds out what we found out at the very beginning of the story. He never learned of the conversation between God and Satan. He was not told that all of his suffering was not a punishment for wrongs committed, but instead was a test of his faith, by God who had great confidence in Job. (continued…)
Job 3:11…13…26 — (Job said), “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?… For now I would be lying down in peace; I would be asleep and at rest… I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.”
Job 4:7-8 — (Eliphaz said), “Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it.”
Job 7:17-21 — (Job said to God), “What is man that you make so much of them, that you give him so much attention, that you examine him every morning and test him every moment? Will you never look away from me, or let me alone even for an instant? If I have sinned, what have I done to you, you who see everything we do? Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you? Why do you not pardon my offenses and forgive my sins? For I will soon lie down in the dust; you will search for me, but I will be no more.”
Job 13:3 — (Job said), “I desire to speak to the Almighty and to argue my case with God.”
Merciful God, grant us feeble people endurance in adversity. May the wicked roots of envy and malice not grow in us. Save us from being brought into temptation by Satan. Grant us love towards friends and enemies that we may follow in your ways, by the example of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
–Miles Coverdale, English Bible translator and Bishop (1488-1568)