Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Book of Job

I heard once that the book of Job is the oldest book in Bible, though I'm not sure if that is true or not.   I do know that I always hated it growing up.  Is it a true story?  A parable?  Whatever it is, it's quite a tale.  Satan and God are arguing about whether Job only loves God because God is good to him, so God gives Satan permission to basically reek havoc, to see how Job will respond.  And for some reason people always refer to 'the patience of Job', but I never saw how he was patient.  He was in agony--how does sitting in agony mean your being patient?  If people think he was enduring the agony 'patiently', I don't think they've actually read it:

“Therefore I will not keep silent;  I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul...I despise my life...Let me alone; my days have no meaning. What is mankind that you make so much of them, that you give them so much attention,  that you examine them every morning and test them every moment? Will you never look away from me, or let me alone even for an instant?"

Yes, at the beginning of his torment he says, "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”, but towards the end he changes his tune a little:

He is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court.  If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more...I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul. I say to God: Do not declare me guilty, but tell me what charges you have against me. Does it please you to oppress me... Are your days like those of a mortal or your years like those of a strong man, that you must search out my faults and probe after my sin—though you know that I am not guilty and that no one can rescue me from your hand?"

I'm sorry, but these are not 'patiently enduring my suffering' words, these are fightin' words--pissed off words.  And the thing is, he has every right to be angry.  He didn't do anything wrong.  And to top it off his friends are saying, "You better watch your mouth, because God would never do this unless you deserved it" about insult to injury.

"Surely mockers surround me; my eyes must dwell on their hostility. God has made me a byword to everyone, a man in whose face people spit."

And then the end...God shows up.  This is the part I hated most.  Does He apologize to Job for allowing all this suffering?  Nope.  He actually seems mad at Job: "Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me", and he goes on and on about being Creator of all and caretaker of all, so who is Job to accuse Him?  And Job, after all he has been through, and even through he was innocent and suffered so much, agrees:

Then Job replied to the LORD: “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.  You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know." 

When I used to read this, I imagined that Job really didn't feel all that differently--I mean, God didn't explain why Job went through all that, or make it better (at that point) so I guess I thought that Job was just kowtowing out of fear, because he was in trouble for complaining to an all powerful God.  I imagine it very differently now.  Job saw God with his own eyes, and Job was no longer mad.  Job felt terrible for questioning the goodness of God...even without an explanation or an apology.  "You can do all things, no purpose of yours can be thwarted", he says.  And what are these things?  "Too wonderful for me to know".  I don't think it is fear that is making him react this way.  I think it's love.  Job must have seen something pretty amazing to make him forget all his pain.  I know a few people going through pain I just can't even imagine.  My hope, the hope that helps me not shake my fist at God even though He's all powerful and does nothing to ease their pain, is that there are things too wonderful for me to know that makes it all worth it.  In James 5 it says, "You heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the end of the Lord, that very compassionate is the Lord, and pitying."  Sometimes it's hard to see that--but I'll end with one of my journal entries from the book of Job.

S) My friends, you think up ways to blame and torment me, saying I brought it on myself.  But watch out for the judgment, when God will punish you. (Job 19:28)
O) Job's friends keep telling him he is suffering because he has sinned.  They can't believe he is blaming God.  But Job is not afraid to cry out and tell God exactly how he feels--betrayed and abandoned.  But he holds on to the hope that he will be vindicated.
A) Job has some guts to talk back to his friends this way.  I think when your in that much pain, you just don't care what people think anymore.  In the end, his friends were not punished, because God asks Job to pray for them--and he does.  How remarkable.  This is the compassion and pity of God.
P) God, you know the part of me that wants judgement to fall on the 'leaders of the church'.  What I really want is your heart of compassion and pity.  Help me surrender my rights to vindication and trust you.