Monday, May 19, 2014
JOB AND THE DIVINE SPEECHES OF GOD
Here is a paper I did on Job.
JOB AND THE DIVINE SPEECHES OF GOD
There is a great temptation in doing a paper like this to give a background to the story and the characters. Each person, human or Divine, plays major roles in the overall ideas taught be it in the narrative, or poetically. For brevity, the assumption of this paper is he reader has the background or at least some familiarity with the story of The Book of Job. Still some background needs to be given to understand the speeches and responses of the characters of The Book of Job. While the focus will be on the exchange between Job and God, some characters still need to be brought in as to the suffering Job is enduring because characters such as Job’s friends bring up views of God that are inaccurate in the case of Job. However, within Job’s and God’s speeches and responses are given explanations for the seemingly unjust suffering of the faithful, as well as give insight into how God will deal with evil. Walton makes an honest but blunt point in regards to Job's family:
It is pointless to wring our hands over the sad fate of Job’s innocent family, for the challenge does not focus on his family and their innocence, but on God’s work in the world. The children simply represent the blessing of God, like Job’s cattle. … Their fate is part of the challenge to God’s policies, but not its focus.
Evil from different perspectives
Famine, war, disease, seems an unfathomable evil to allow, if someone is able to prevent or stop these things. While that is not a full list of sins, even these offerings, if allowed to keep on going, seems unjust even by mere human standards. So, why would a holy, omnipresent, sovereign, all good, and just, God allow evil? This, of course, should make anyone uncomfortable questioning God. However, even a superficial reading of Job shows the reader that God does not shun dialog, nor does He shy away from it. From humanity’s harden heart, all that happens to Job would be seen as unjust persecution without any real gain. To allow suffering a person for no wrongdoing grates against the heart of humanity when judgment is made without full knowledge of all behind the scenes happenings. As humans, we sign petitions, have protested, even started wars, over the injustice we have seen. While the motives may not always be pure, and the collective sense of justice may vary from culture to culture as to what the definition of evil is, the response to injustice is common to all, “Why me? I haven’t done anything.”
God, however, has a perspective that the finite human mind cannot begin to comprehend. In God’s responses to Job, is the response to humanity. From the theater of God, there are other things happening behind the stage. While it would be a mistake to say all injustice, such as a starving child in Africa, is because of God testing someone, in the case of Job it appears clear some sort of injustice happening.
“You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means”
As described by God, Job is “a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil”, which by many accounts in the bible should set a “hedge” of blessing around him.  Even the Challenger points out that Job does what is right as this Hedge protects Job from the Challenger freely attacking him. In the movie The Princes Bride, the character Vizzini repeats the phrase “inconceivable” when the masked man overcomes seemingly overpowering obstacles in his way. Indigo Montoya responds to Vizzini’s use of the word, “Inconceivable” by saying, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” How words someone translated can often change the meaning of the conveyed idea. Most often the word haCatan is translated as satan, or rather, used in the personal name for a being named Satan. However, as Walton points out, haCatan may not always be the name of a being, as the same word is used of “the Angel of the Lord”, so someone could wrongly conclude the Angel of the Lord and Satan are the same being.  While some scholars may use “Adversary”, for purposes of this paper will be using the title Challenger.  Walton’s argument is that the word haCatan is not a name, but rather a function or “legal status” as someone who in a courtroom may accuse another with a crime.  So, here also in this paper, The Challenger will be used as recognition of position instead of a personal name.
Who is on trial?
At first glance, this question seems incredulous. Is it not obvious God sets up Job at the request of The Challenger and the focus is all about how Job handles adversity? That would be part of the story. However, then the issue of evil arises and needs to be addressed. How could a just God seemingly allow injustice toward Job? Would allowing injustice mean that God is unjust, thus in a sense, evil? These are ramifications that the idea that God is just testing Job.
A careful reader will notice that as The Challenger arrives with the “sons of god”, God inquires as to what The Challenger has been doing. Note that The Challenger is among those called the “sons of God”. This seems to add to the case that The Challenger is a function, as God knows all things, however challenges The Challenger. The one on trial, even while the story is centered on Job, is The Challenger. Here, the challenge is whether Job motivation is blessings, or possesses a true faith in God that goes deeper than mere earthly gain.
Job: In conversation with God
This may be a bold statement, but supposing Job is a proto-Jesus. In the story, Job is humbled from his high standing and laid low. Job even has his Garden of Gethsemane moment where he challenges God for a reason for his suffering, but then retracts it later and submits to God’s will. Even the seeming abandonment of Job is much like the Gospels account of Jesus. Later, Job is restored, and becomes the mediator between God and Job’s friends. This restoration is much like the resurrection of Jesus and symbolic of the “regeneration of all things”.
The list of similarities could go on, but Job also represents humanity's everyday struggles to overcome adversity that could come between his or her relationship with God. However, within the conversation from Job’s perspective, no mere human could possibly save humanity. However, Job seems to know of a Savior:
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God. 
Though at first Job seems abandoned, Job cries do not go unheard. God gives answers, as Jesus most often did in the Gospels, by responding with questions. Job continues to question God as to His motives in this “punishment”, to which God sets the record straight as to how much Job knows about the creation. To quote Estes:
He [Job] has offered his perspective on how God should manage his creation, but Job is in no position to make that assessment. Consequently, Yahweh directs Job to gird up the loins of his mind and get ready or strenuous exercise, as Yahweh will demonstrate by cross-examination how inadequate is Job’s ability to teach how life should work. 
According to Estes, God begins to ask Job unanswerable questions concerning the creation, the origin of the sea, the remotest parts of the earth, as well as “the way to light and darkness”.  This is a point of interest as God is talking about light and darkness as places or at least “ways” and not things.  God’s questioning continues with celestial phenomena and ends with questions about aspects of the physical world. 
As if this were not enough, God turns to the animal kingdom to press his point of His infinite knowledge compared to Job’s finite understanding. While more could be written on how each animal is chosen for a reason, the one that seems to stand out is the ostrich. Here is a glimpse that God has a sense of humor as Estes states the description of “an animal that seems bent on inefficiency and folly”.  The reason the ostrich is this way is “because God deprived her of wisdom, and did not endow her with understanding.” Symbolically, it would seem that in some way, comparing the ostrich to Job as far as how much God knows compared to Job.
The conversation continued
God begins the second speech with a challenge "Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it.'' To say it differently, “If you have charges against God, you better back them up with evidence.” In chapter 40, God precedes to hammer in the point that Job should not have justified himself at God’s expense.  Here, it is where Job begins of understanding that his knowledge was second hand and repents with dust and ashes. While Crenshaw may seem confused as to why Job felt compelled to repent for his incomplete knowledge, it seems apparent Job has a sudden revelation as to Whom God is. 
Job: the insightful man
While Job had heard with his ear second hand accounts about God, Job now has his eyes opened to see how mighty God is. Like the ostrich that hides her head in the sand in her folly, Job repents for his presumptuous attitude toward God in regards to his own folly. Here Eastern Orthodox Pastor Patrick Henry Reardon states that there is not much said to Job concerning an answer.  According to Reardon, God treats Job as if he was a child and tells Job “a children’s story about a couple of unimaginably dangerous dragons”. Again, according to Reardon, Job is never given an answer, but left with a story as God’s final answer.  There is much debate whether God gives any real answers to Job, though observant readers may observe otherwise.
There is an interesting point that God makes in chapter 40:8-14 that should not be overlooked:
"Would you indeed annul My judgment? Would you condemn Me that you may be justified? Have you an arm like God? Or can you thunder with a voice like His? Then adorn yourself with majesty and splendor, and array yourself with glory and beauty. Disperse the rage of your wrath; look on everyone who is proud, and humble him. Look on everyone who is proud, and bring him low; tread down the wicked in their place. Hide them in the dust together, bind their faces in hidden darkness. Then I will also confess to you that your own right hand can save you.
In this passage, it appears, God gives an answer within the questions. The point being made is, though paraphrased, “If a man can annul God’s judgment and prove he is justified before God, only then can humanity save itself.” Again, as with the Job 19:25-26 there is an allusion to a need for a savior. Here though, the Savior must be equal to God. There seems to be an interim solution in the works that would give a full answer. Job has a self-revelation that as a mere man, he cannot save himself. The deeper question seems to be answered not directly to Job, but to The Challenger. Job never curses God and in a sense held to his integrity boasted to The Challenger by God. However, while Job’s friends misrepresented God in many ways, the truth that Job’s friends and God both bring up is no one is innocent. 
The hidden answer is that there is no one but God who can save humankind. God alone stands as the Answer that later Jesus would speak of in Mark 4:11, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God”. Paul also speaks of the mystery in Romans 16:25 saying, “according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began”. The story of Job gives us insight into the mystery of a man who would be the Savior. The conversation between Job and God is also the conversation between fallen humanity crying out to God for salvation. While Job alludes to a “man” equal with God, we see a picture of Jesus in retrospect.
For I know that my Redeemer lives
While The Challenger is focused on the outside appearance, God digs deep into the heart of Job to reveal from where Job’s righteousness will come. Job’s answer is to trust God and believe He knows what He is doing. Job continues to give sacrifice, though now with understanding of Whom God is or in the words of Job, "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You.” Jesus stated something very similar, Matt 13:13 though it is in contrast, “Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.”
Parsons writes, “The concept of a mediator (or neutral party) is introduced in chapter 9:33 where Job wished for an impartial to arbitrate a settlement between God and himself.  Furthering this thought Parson’s notes Job is confident of a heavenly witness or intercessor, and that this witness or intercessor is already “alive”.  While Job may have been speaking in metaphor of a “kinsman redeemer”, according to Parsons, it appears unlikely Job would conceive God as being that very vindicator.  While this may be true, Job appears to grasp by faith the Mystery Man God speaks of in chapter 40:8-14. This hidden promise within the overall description as to how powerful God is, brings us back to the two dragons.
Strength and Pride
Within this conversation, God reveals through the story of the “two dragons” as Reardon spoke about the tail of two monsters humanity must overcome.  God describes the strength of the behemoth in chapter 40 and the pride of leviathan who is described as, “He beholds every high thing; he is king over all the children of pride”.  These two monsters appear to represent the weakness of humanity in their strengths. Humanity cannot save itself by the power of its own strength, nor can humanity overcome its own pride, which keeps them blind and deaf to their own plight.
Job hears and sees something that changes him from -- the inside. His repentance though based on fearing God, enables him to hear and see God differently than before his sufferings. Like Jesus, Job learns obedience through suffering. Job states, “"I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.'' This observation is the acknowledgment that the veil of the theater has been lifted. Job now sees God not as one to appease by sacrifice, but to honor with sacrifice. Job, who was so careful to give atonement for others before the suffering, now returns to offer sacrifice for others with a profound revelation of God.
And the Lord restored Job’s losses
To push the case of Job learning obedience and after hearing and seeing God, obeyed God in giving atonement for his friends and was restored. However, what once was a religious observance now become a new life not only for Job, but also for his friends. Job’s new understanding opens again that religion practiced without life or understanding is based on fear. Job now appears to be moved by faith in confidence in a God who makes the impossible possible.
God restored Job with a double portion of sheep, camels, oxen and female donkeys, yet only restores the same number of sons and daughters. It would seem that something is amiss, as God should have also doubled the number of children. Though this is purely peculation, though pulling from Job’s speeches, it appears Job had faith in a resurrection, and possibly understood he would see his children again at that time. However, regardless to that speculation, Job was blessed with 140 years of life and lived to see his children and grandchildren for four generations. This blessing would give assurance that Job would die with assurance all he did would live on through his descendants.
While theologians argue over whether God gave any real answer to Job, it seems apparent that God does give an answer. While we look for direct answers, God speaks in parables just as His son would, for those who can hear and see. The answer God gives to Job’s suffering is much the same God gave to Moses concerning Who God is.  God is the “I Am”, who does not need to give an answer to his creation, but is willing to condescend and converse with Job. As stated above, Job represents all of humanity, so the divine speeches become a conversation and cry for salvation. In the end, we see God who takes on the challenge of fallen humanity and declares He is the God who can, because, He Is.
Crenshaw, James L. Old Testament Wisdom An Introduction. 3rd. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998.
Estes, Daniel J. Handbook on the wisdom books and Psalms. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005.
Hoffman, Dr. Joel M. And God Said: How translators conceal the Bible's original meaning. New York: Thomas Dune Books, 2010.
Parsons, Gregory W. 1981. "The structure and purpose of the Book of Job." Bibliotheca Sacra 138, no. 550: 139-157. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed October 20, 2013).
Reardon, Patrick Henry. The Trial of Job: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Job. n.a.: Conciliar Press, 2005.
Walton, John H. The NIV Applications Commentary: Job . Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012.
 Walton, John H. The NIV Applications Commentary: Job . Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 169
 It is painfully obvious e the collective sinful nature of humanity causes most probably the bulk of injustice on earth.
 Job 1:8, 10, NKJ
 There is a great book dedicated to this topic by Hoffman, Dr. Joel M. And God Said: How translators conceal the Bible's original meaning. (New York: Thomas Dune Books, 2010)
 Walton 2012, 65, 66
 Walton 2012, 65, 66
 Job 1:6,7 NKJ
 (Matt 19:29
 Job 19:25-26, NKJ
 Estes, Daniel J. Handbook on the Wisdom books and Psalms. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005, 115, 116
 Estes 2005, 116, 117
 Job 38: 19-20
 Estes 2005, 117
 Estes 2005, 119
 Job 39: 17 NKJ
 Job 40:2 NKJ
 Crenshaw, James L. Old Testament Wisdom an Introduction. 3rd. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998.)
 Crenshaw 1998, 108. Personally I see Job’s integrity being replaced with humilty, which I believe is a greater virtue and opens the door to grace.
 Reardon, Patrick Henry. The Trial of Job: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Job. n.a.: (Conciliar Press, 2005), 102
 Reardon 2005, 102
 Job 15:14; as well as chapter 40:8-14
 Parsons, Gregory W. "The structure and purpose of the Book of Job," (Bibliotheca Sacra 138, no. 550: (1981):148
 (Parsons 1981, 148. But also note Job 16:8-21 and chapter 19: 25-27)
 (Parsons 1981, 149)
(Reardon 2005, 102)
 (Job 41:34, NKJ)
 (Hebrews 5:8 NKJ, “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.”)
 (Exodus 3:14, “I AM WHO I AM.'')