Alright, so in my last two blogs, I touched on some of the lessons that I found in the book of Job which I thought to be pretty important. The last one in particular showed us how we can respond as good friends during someone else’s time of suffering. It also showed us how we might want to reexamine what theologies we hold onto as convictions, and why.
In the final chapters of this book, the Main Character finally reveals Himself after being silent for 36 chapters. He comes to Job and his friends in a storm and speaks out from it First He mentions in poetic detail His great knowledge and wisdom (chapters 38 and 39), and then He speaks about His immense power (chapters 40 and 41), pausing only briefly between the two to allow Job to make a meek and brief response.
Then all at once, God is done speaking, Job repents for something, and suddenly Job has twice as many camels as before, twice as much cattle as before, and twice as many donkeys as before, with 7 sons and 3 daughters again. And his daughters were beautiful. And Job lived a really long time. The end.
Wait. What the heck just happened? One minute, God’s being insensitive to Job. Next minute, Job is repenting for something he didn’t do? And then Job is rich again? What????
Yep. That’s pretty much a really accurate description. This one requires a little bit of reading in between the lines. This isn’t something that we should make a practice of when reading the Bible, but I think in this particular case, it is necessary.
I’m going to try to explain a difficult concept in as few words as possible while still getting my point across, so bear with me.
Part One – Job’s Vindication
“Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me if you understand.” Job 38:1-3
God isn’t bragging about Himself. He is appealing to His wisdom, as did the three friends, except He is validated in appealing to His wisdom, because all wisdom belongs to God (Job 12:13).
But He doesn’t just seem to be appealing to His wisdom; He also seems to be belittling Job and Job’s problems, as if He is too great to be concerned with such small matters. Or at least that’s how it came across to me at first. But when I looked closer, I saw what God was really saying.
At the very start, God calls Job comparatively unwise (“words without knowledge” as seen in the above verse), and then He goes on for a whole two chapters about His own wisdom. I don’t like to put words in God’s mouth, so correct me if I am doing so, but this tells me that God is presenting the argument that He is far greater than Job, and is also fussing at Job for even attempting to bring an argument against Him. In essence, God seems to be saying, “Who are you, a man, to challenge me, God of the whole Universe?”
But wait. Then God does something strange. After going on about how wise He is and after going on about how man does not deserve to challenge God, the Lord stops. And then He actually asks Job to bring forth his argument.
So after saying that man is absolutely nothing compared to the knowledge and wisdom of God, God then allowed a man to bring an offense against Him! Additionally, if we go back a couple of chapters, we’ll find that Job had just gone through an entire rant on wisdom back in chapter 28. By mentioning His wisdom first, God is actually validating what Job had said previously.
And then by saying these things about Himself and afterward allowing Job to bring an argument before Him, God is actually validating Job’s righteousness! By allowing Job to speak against him (which Job wisely does not), God raised Job above all other men to the status of a man who was actually righteous enough and worthy to bring his defense before God.
This makes sense, because later in the Ezekiel, God speaks of Job along with Noah and Daniel as some of the most righteous men in the whole Old Testament. So what we first see as insensitive and mean as we read this account, Job probably saw as the greatest honor to be bestowed upon any man!
Part Two – Job’s repentance
Just wait, God’s not done yet.
After Job wisely remains silent, God continues, having known all along what Job wanted to say.
“Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?” Job 40:8
Before going into a grand display of His own power, God echoes Elihu’s thoughts from Job 32:2 and 34:29. Job had been justifying himself before his friends and before God, and had therefore condemned God’s justice, thus sinning against God. That is why Job had to repent.
So what then can we take from this? What lesson can we learn about suffering and how we should handle it? I think that there are two things in particular that we can learn from God’s response to Job. First, I think it is necessary that we take God’s instruction and correction with humility as Job did in Part Two. Even though, in our minds, we may justify Job’s response to God (and in the same way, we may justify ourselves when in Job’s shoes), we need to make sure that in our anger and frustration, we do not sin against God. This is something that I am really struggling with, right now as I deal with many different frustrations here in Africa – particularly in Kong. If anyone needs to hear and learn this lesson right now, it is me.
Second, I think one of the biggest things we can learn from this is that when we pray for something, we should listen for an answer to that prayer to come about in even the most obscure fashion. Job called out to God for justification. When God finally (I mean, it took Him long enough, right?) came to Job and began talking about how minuscule man is compared to God, it seemed kind of cruel and unsympathetic. But the way God did it gave Job the justification He asked for. From this, I think it is important to keep in mind that God answers our prayers in His own perfect time and that His answers may not come in any kind of way we are expecting them. But He does answer.
I’ll leave it at that for today. Next time, I hope to start diving into some even deeper questions of Job. “Why is one person’s suffering greater than another’s?” and “What is the purpose for our suffering?”
Until then, I pray that God reveals something new to you this week – something that you never forget.