In the Old Testament part of my regular Bible reading I have just concluded Job.  I must confess that although Job was a part of one of my seminary classes on ‘Wisdom Literature,’ I still find Job puzzling (sorry Dr. Butler).  I can’t recall how I did on the portions of the exams or papers on Job or if I got by focusing on other parts of the wisdom literature such as Psalms or Proverbs.  That would have been a good strategy—they make more sense to me.   But maybe the Bible making sense to me isn’t the best measure of its value to me.  I remember Ken Boa saying that sometimes we need to chew a long time on a piece of scripture much like we would chew on a piece of gristle.  Job has been like that to me lately—I’m chewing on it.

The puzzlement to me is, in part, that I see Job adamantly claiming his righteousness throughout the book.  I hear him saying, “If I could just get face to face with God, He’d see that I’m being mistreated.”  My theology tells me that no one can stand before God on their individual merit and be righteous.  Job is just plain wrong!

Something else I find troubling is that the world view of Job’s ‘friends’ or ‘comforters’  {God rewards the good and punishes the wicked; you’re being punished so you must be wicked} creeps into a lot of my thinking and from my observation, it creeps into a lot of the thinking of Christians around me.  For me it comes out when I find myself in a painful situation or things don’t go the way I would like to see them go.  I admit that too often I think things like “Why is God abandoning me?” or “I’ve really tried to serve Him—after all, have I not given my life to serve Him?  Why would He treat me like this?  Don’t I deserve better?”  Do you recognize that too?  In the end, that world-view is simply declared wrong—not by Job, by God.

In chapters 38-41 of Job, God appears.  There is not a lot of what you and I would call dialogue.  Job gets his wish to stand before God, but the experience he coveted in his misery is terrifying when he sees God in the whirlwind and is challenged with who God really is.   In chapter 41 Job responds to God.  {It does not say it, but I can’t read it without sensing that Job’s eyes are downcast and his knees must be knocking.  There has to be a tremor in his voice!  He says, “…now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (42:6) But the interesting thing is, in spite of being put in his place, Job is vindicated in front of his friends.  God says that Job has spoken the truth about who He is (42:7) and God insists that their forgiveness will only be through Job’s prayers for them.  (42:8)  It is when Job extends himself in obedient prayer (I wonder if that was difficult for Job in light of their insinuations of his wickedness) that their forgiveness is secured.  Job is only then restored to his former prosperity and beyond.

Since all their theology seems wrong, I’m wondering if it is Job’s image of what God is like that is being heralded here.  In spite of all the negatives that Job experienced in his life, he fervently believed if he could get to God, God’s character would show what was really true, no matter what Job’s life circumstances suggested.  I love the expression that says you and I are “beloved children of the most high God.”  No matter what our circumstances are we convinced of that reality?  Do we believe with all our hearts God will vindicate us?  What do you think?


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