Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Book of Job: Chapters 8-10

Dear Friends, Family and Fellow Students,

We had a meaningful discussion again today in our class on Job, dealing with Job's dialogue with his second friend and comforter, Bildad.

Bildad's thesis and his comfort to Job was that all God's ways are just. His foundation was the historical teaching of double retribution (good people are rewarded and bad people are punished) and that God never perverts justice. As one commentator put it, he champions that "old-time religion". The truth is, God does not pervert justice, so Bildad was right on this point. However, he applied this iron-clad truth at the wrong time and in the wrong way to his friend, Job, who was suffering under no apparent cause of his own sin. Although neither Job nor Bildad know this for sure, the reader does because we are privy to the prologue of the book and God's conversation with the Satan.

Unfortunately, Bildad becomes a sorry counselor and accuses Job of being a "windbag" and ends up wearing that label quite well himself. Worse yet, he tries to get Job to repent and deny his own integrity so that he will get blessings from God. This is exactly what the Satan wants, and what he indicated Job would do when suffering struck him hard, thereby proving that people only serve God for the good things that God gives them and not for who God is.

While Job goes through more lamenting, and he begins to question God's justice, he does so as a believer in God and one who continues to seek him with integrity. He even ponders the possibility of going to court with the Almighty, but quickly realizes that such legal dreams would end in disaster. . .who can call God to account, and who can defend themselves when the Creator of the Universe is your accuser? Ultimately, Job becomes despondent again and wishes he had never been born.

I like what Hartley has to say in his exposition of chapters 9 and 10 when Job is begging for a legal audience with God: "Job does not question God's right to punish him, but he thinks that God must try him officially before acting with such hostility against one who has been faithful. Ignorant of God's purpose, Job imagines that God is acting capriciously. If Job had knowledge of the proceedings of heaven recorded in the prologue, the trial would be easier for him to bear. In fact he would most likely have willingly accepted the test in order to vindicate God's trust in him. But for his testing to be as severe as possible Job must be unaware of God's confidence, for trust in God is tested to the ultimate when circumstantial evidence calls into question the integrity of one's devotion to God. God's silence intensifies a person's testing far more than physical and emotional pain."

Many of us have faced trials where our limited understanding leaves us groping for answers. The death of a child, a terminal illness, the loss of hope in a close relationship, the unfaithfulness of a spouse, protracted unemployment - all these can cause us to ask God some tough questions. We may be tempted to lose hope, even lose our faith in God.

In these moments, we must hold on to the truth that God is both good and sovereign; he does not pervert justice nor is he dis-engaged from our lives. We need to recognize, as Job did in 23:10, "But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold."

I think the apostle Peter may have had his Jewish wisdom literature open to Job 23:10 when he penned: "In this (our birth into God's family through Christ's resurrection) you rejoice though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." I Peter 6,7

Job looked outward for an "arbiter/mediator" between himself and the Almighty in chapter 9. He also recognized his need for a "deliverer" to free him from his oppression in chapter 10. We know that Job's hopes were not in vain, even if they were ulitimately fulfilled after his life time. We have lived to see the fulfillment of these yearnings in the person of Jesus Christ, who as a type of Job, suffered innocently with a purpose to be that mediator and deliverer to all who would come to him.

In Christ alone,


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