In my past posts, I have summarized that Job is a righteous man who has been dealing with extreme hardships. The reason I mentioned this every time is that both Job and his friends continue to debate God’s goodness based on Job current situation. We know that God sees Job as righteous from both the beginning of the book of Job and the end. In this response of Job to Bildad, we deal with some very surprising statements by Job. Can such things be said by those in right standing with God? The answer is yes.
1) Then Job answered and said,
2) I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?
I my last posts and in the post on Eliphaz, I point out that in general, much of what Job’s friends say are true. Yet, their statements are not completely true in respect to Job’s situation. I have called these “half truths.” In some ways, it is more complicated than that. The truths that Job’s friends describe is focusing primarily on God’s unwavering justice with out the wild card of God’s mercy. Job’s first statement highlights this: how can humans ever be good enough to NOT desirve God’s judgements?
3) If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand.
4) He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered?
5) Which removeth the mountains, and they know not: which overturneth them in his anger.
6) Which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble.
7) Which commandeth the sun, and it riseth not; and sealeth up the stars.
8) Which alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea.
9) Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south.
10) Which doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number.
Job describes here how God is cosmically powerful and his judgement can impact the universe. It is an amazing poetic portrait of the sovereignty of God over all of creation. As we have seen in previous chapters, the sovereignty of God is an extremely important theme in the book of Job. Man can’t stand as equals with God or argue for even one of God’s judgements against him as being wrong. This speech affirms much of what Eliphaz and Bildad have said about God. This affirmation of God’s sovereignty, on the surface, seems like Job is switching his position because he has been arguing that he has done nothing wrong to desirve his current hardships. This apparent flip-flop, if everyone assumes that Job’s hardships are punishment for sin, would be confusing. We know from the beginning narrative of this book, Job’s hardships are to test him and not as a judgement. Job is not changing is position on his innocence, but is working out how his friends can be telling the truth about God’s sovereignty and justice and yet be wrong about Job’s sin at the same time.
11) Lo, he goeth by me, and I see him not: he passeth on also, but I perceive him not.
12) Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him, What doest thou?
13) If God will not withdraw his anger, the proud helpers do stoop under him.
14) How much less shall I answer him, and choose out my words to reason with him?
Bildad and Eliphaz have both advised Job to turn to God and repent which is good advice if Job had sinned. Job, though, is saying that God is so beyond us that he can’t petition God to change his mind or stop him. Job is despairing over the possibility of God hearing him or having mercy, but not for long. In the next chapter Job does petition God. Still, Job is describing God as the last resort judge. If Job petitions God, God can do whatever he ants and has no outside obligation to change anything. This is true, yet Job still speaks directly to God later. Why? Because God is both loving and merciful. If God was not both, then none of us would desirve to live. We all chose from our earliest days to place ourselves over God in our hearts, choices, and actions.
15) Whom, though I were righteous, yet would I not answer, but I would make supplication to my judge.
16) If I had called, and he had answered me; yet would I not believe that he had hearkened unto my voice.
17) For he breaketh me with a tempest, and multiplieth my wounds without cause.
18) He will not suffer me to take my breath, but filleth me with bitterness.
19) If I speak of strength, lo, he is strong: and if of judgment, who shall set me a time to plead?
20) If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.
21) Though I were perfect, yet would I not know my soul: I would despise my life.
Job is saying that he has no argument he can make with God. Since all humans are imperfect, then Job could not present a convincing case that he hasn’t sinned to desirve this. Even if Job was perfect, Job is not all-knowing to be able to check every corner of his life to verify that. Some people may say that imperfection and sin are the same thing. I have not read beyond this point closely in Job to see if his friends says that (I did a fast read before starting this study to get a gist of the book and that is all.). Still, so far, Job at least does make a distinction between a conscious sin that separates us from our relationship with God and the unconscious imperfections that we do as human beings. Job does not claim to be perfect, and acknowledges that he is as flawed as anyone. Yet, he does claim to not have sinned. He sees sin as being the only just reason God would inflict a hardship as a punishment, because then someone can repent and change their ways. Even so, Job’s imperfections still stand as a barrier between him and God because he cannot prove perfect innocence.
22) This is one thing, therefore I said it, He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked.
23) If the scourge slay suddenly, he will laugh at the trial of the innocent.
24) The earth is given into the hand of the wicked: he covereth the faces of the judges thereof; if not, where, and who is he?
Out of all that Job says, this is probably one of the hardest things for Christians to accept. Ecclesiastes says “It rains of the justice and unjust alike.” Rain is a good thing and so we often can accept God’s common grace, but Job is reversing this to say that bad things happen to both good and evil people. Job then goes on to use hyperbolic language to describe God’s inaction when the innocent suffer. This sounds very bitter, yet many people wrestle with the question of “why does bad things happen to innocent/good people?” Job is not actually wrestling with that question. He just bluntly states that bad things happens to everyone and God does always act. My own understanding of this passage lines up with Clack’s commentary while my other two commentaries explain this as Job talking out in bitterness or pain.
25) Now my days are swifter than a post: they flee away, they see no good.
26) They are passed away as the swift ships: as the eagle that hasteth to the prey.
Job observes how his life moving faster during his hardships. In my own experience, I have felt my life to both go faster and yet slower at the same time. Still, a person often feels prematurely old and and even nearer to death when going through a long series of hardships.
27) If I say, I will forget my complaint, I will leave off my heaviness, and comfort myself:
28) I am afraid of all my sorrows, I know that thou wilt not hold me innocent.
29) If I be wicked, why then labour I in vain?
30) If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean;
31) Yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me.
32) For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment.
33) Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both.
34) Let him take his rod away from me, and let not his fear terrify me:
35) Then would I speak, and not fear him; but it is not so with me.
There is a feeling of being stuck that Job is describing. He can’t make himself pure and sinless in his own power, and he has no one who can be an intermediary between him and God. As Christians, we see Jesus as being the intermediary that Job is longing for. In Christ, we have a concrete hope of peace and forgiveness so that we can be reconciled to God. Christ’s work echoes throughout creation from the beginning (as seen in the book of John), but without seeing the work of Christ, the mercy of God felt uncertain and without foundation to Job. How should he argue for it? God still had mercy and grace in the Old Testament stories. He has not changed, but we understand the justice of God more easily than we do his grace without the physical work of Christ.
1) My soul is weary of my life; I will leave my complaint upon myself; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.
2) I will say unto God, Do not condemn me; shew me wherefore thou contendest with me.
Job turns his attention to God, and begins to speak to God directly. As I mentioned in previous posts, this is the most important difference between Job and his friends; Job is the only one who speaks directly to God.
3) Is it good unto thee that thou shouldest oppress, that thou shouldest despise the work of thine hands, and shine upon the counsel of the wicked?
4) Hast thou eyes of flesh? or seest thou as man seeth?
5) Are thy days as the days of man? are thy years as man’s days,
6) That thou enquirest after mine iniquity, and searchest after my sin?
7) Thou knowest that I am not wicked; and there is none that can deliver out of thine hand.
Job is asking God why he should create something (Job) and then despise his creation. Unlike Greek and Roman gods, Job does not see God as being petty with the limited point of view of humans. Job is so sure that he has not sinned to desirve this that he tells God, who Job knows to be omniscient, that he knows Job is innocent.
8) Thine hands have made me and fashioned me together round about; yet thou dost destroy me.
9) Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast made me as the clay; and wilt thou bring me into dust again?
10) Hast thou not poured me out as milk, and curdled me like cheese?
11) Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh, and hast fenced me with bones and sinews.
12) Thou hast granted me life and favour, and thy visitation hath preserved my spirit.
Again, Job is pointing to the fact that God created him out of nothing, so why would God then just arbitrarily destroy him? Job is assuming that God is a loving father and not a heartless unknowable force. In my post “Sploosh,” I explain how we cannot earn God’s love. God loved us before we were ever able to love him back, before we were even born. Because we did not earn God’s love and that love was given out of pure choice, we cannot then loss that love. God’s love is not affected by our actions. Our actions only please or hurt God, but it doesn’t change his love. Job’s friends were familiar with the general observation that son often leads to hardships, but they don’t understand that God is not a machine. God is a father who tries to guide, correct, and shape us. You may be hearing this and ask what about hell then? He’ll was not created for us. It was created for Satan who refuses to change from he destructive ways. The Bible states in many places including Jesus’s parables that when something has lost it usefulness, is unrepairable, unrepentant, and determined in their destructive ways, then there is no use for it but to be cast out. How many of us throw away a destroyed treasure without grieving? Job knows that God will not destroy anything in his creation that is repairable.
13) And these things hast thou hid in thine heart: I know that this is with thee.
14) If I sin, then thou markest me, and thou wilt not acquit me from mine iniquity.
15) If I be wicked, woe unto me; and if I be righteous, yet will I not lift up my head. I am full of confusion; therefore see thou mine affliction;
16) For it increaseth. Thou huntest me as a fierce lion: and again thou shewest thyself marvellous upon me.
17) Thou renewest thy witnesses against me, and increasest thine indignation upon me; changes and war are against me.
So, Job knows that God won’t destroy what is fixable, and Job also knows he hasn’t sinned. This leaves Job in a confused state. Why, then, is all these bad things happening? Job points out just how bad it is and that it seems to be getting worse.
18) Wherefore then hast thou brought me forth out of the womb? Oh that I had given up the ghost, and no eye had seen me!
19) I should have been as though I had not been; I should have been carried from the womb to the grave.
20) Are not my days few? cease then, and let me alone, that I may take comfort a little,
21) Before I go whence I shall not return, even to the land of darkness and the shadow of death;
22) A land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness.
We know return to the same kind of lament that Job’s very first speech began with. The whole dialogue with Job’s friends started when Job curses the day he was born. He is loudly morning his struggles. As I explained in that post, this expression of his emotions is a healthy working out of his grief do that those feelings don’t overwhelm him with unhealthy anxieties, depression, or suicidal thoughts. The expression and working out of our emotions at the time of pain can be done with a trustworthy friend, a counselor, and through the arts.
So, we have progressed one-fifths of the way through the book of Job and we have learned many things, but we still haven’t learned why bad things happen to good people. The truth is that Job won’t give up a flat answer to that question. The answer is as complicated as the variety of situations that question encompasses. What we do know, though, is that we don’t always desirve what happens to us, but God knows, has a purpose, still loves us, is still in control, and will make things right at some point.