Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Book of Job

Ive been studying the Book of Job recently--a complex and complicated book with layers of meaning that could take a lifetime to unravel. It's easily one of my favorite books in the Bible along with Ecclesiastes. I like those 2 books because they feel so out of place in the Bible. And I think the reason they do that is because it presents us with an aspect of God that you won't hear from preachers everyday. Ecclesiastes's 'Everything is meaningless' lament rings true to the human ear: the utter uselessness of our human pursuits. You can't take it with you, so why bother?

Anyway, back to the Book of Job. It deals with the problem of evil in this world. And it minces no words in the answer to the problem of evil: There is evil in the world because God creates it. God himself declared Job blameless and perfect, and yet he colludes with Satan in visiting unimaginable catastrophe on him. Being righteous is no guarantee of protection from a willful act of evil if the evil act comes from God.

Traditionally, the problem of evil is attributed to Satan alone. A theological construct has been invented to explain why bad things happen to good people, and this construct is called God's permissive will. In brief it means Satan acts on his own to inflict havoc upon people and God, through his infinite wisdom, merely stands back. But if the book of Job is any indication, such a 'permissive will' is not in effect. In fact, Satan has to ask permission from God. He doesnt do things on his own. When Satan sets forth his plan to test Job's character, God even provided input, saying, "Behold, all that he has is in your power. Only do not lay your hand upon him." God was an active participant; a co-conspirator, if you will, in the murder of several people, including Job's ten children.

Job's friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, came to console him. When Job cried out for justice, his friends rush to God's defense, claiming that Job is not all that righteous. Job has a case against God and his three friends took it upon themselves to act as God's 'lawyers.' Reading Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar's statements, I was struck by how similar they are to what priests and preachers say when confronted with the problem of evil. Similar? Theyre practically identical! Any priest or pastor would find absolutely nothing wrong with what Job's friends were saying to explain what happened to Job. And yet God came out later and told these three guys that they had no idea what they were talking about. God probably was so exasperated about how his 'lawyers' were handling the case that he decided to show up himself.

Unfortunately, God did not justify his actions. God didnt provide Job with an explanation. He just basically told Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, and whoever else was there, that he is Sovereign. Job's case against God is still pending--Job still isnt given a redress for his grievances--but righteous man that he is, he humbles himself before God, trusting that one day, God will explain everything to him. He will be satisfied, his grievances against God will be redressed. God reimburses Job, giving him back his property and then some. But no amount of material reward will bring his dead children back, innocent victims of this passion play. Their blood is ultimately on God's hands. Job lives with that difficult truth, and waits for the day of his justification, after his resurrection: "If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come." (Job 14:14)

The lessons of the Book of Job are very difficult for some people to take. It presents a God who is the author of evil. But God himself says so. In Isaiah 45:5-7 he says plainly and unequivocally:
I am Jehovah, and there is none else, no God besides Me; I clothed you, though you have not known Me; that they may know from the rising of the sun, and to the sunset, that there is none besides Me. I am Jehovah, and there is none else; forming the light and creating darkness; making peace and creating evil. I Jehovah do all these things.
The Book of Job doesnt present God and Satan engaging in a tug-of-war for men's souls, as if Satan could win some for himself. The Book of Job presents God in total control. Satan is God's lackey, albeit a cocky and outspoken one, who isnt at all shy to speak his mind. Some Christians might find this troubling, but I find it heartening. It means that if God wills to have all men saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4), then that will be done. Satan can do nothing to thwart that will.


grifter said...

Sounds like Preacher.

Jego said...

Well then what the eff are you waiting for? Mail that damn Kubert application. Nyaahahahaa!!

grifter said...

Am not mailing an empty application.