Thursday, February 23, 2012

Blog through the Bible: The Long rebuttal part 2

In Job 26-31, we get the longest rebuttal Job has given. In part 1, we looked at the summary, and covered 26-27. Now we come to 28, where Job speaks about God’s wisdom. He affirms that no person can fully understand God’s wisdom and reasons for making choices, in contrast with his “friends”, who are sure that they have God figured out and know what he is doing. This chapter feels somewhat isolated, but it does agree with Job’s earlier words about human inability to know God’s wisdom, and with his words about God’s sovereignty (contrast 28:24-27 with 26:5-13).
He starts by speaking about mans technological abilities in 1-11, speaking of nines for silver, gold, iron, and copper, as well as refineries. He speaks of the great work of men, going where creature can see, to turn up the mountains by the roots.

But then in 12, he turns to the rarity and extreme value of wisdom. Despite all this ability, wisdom is rare and hard to find. He asks, "But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?” His point is that we have little understanding of just how rare and valuable wisdom is. Job gets this, and this is the heart of the chapter, as he poetically expounds on the lack of wisdom,  the failure to understand it’s value (Man does not know its worth), the fact that it is not something that we come by naturally (“it is not found in the land of the living. The deep says, 'It is not in me,' and the sea says, 'It is not with me”)”, and the fact that it is not something that can be purchased, or even valued. It is invaluable, and untradeable. Then after listing all the places it can’t be found, Job says, “From where, then, does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding? It is hidden from the eyes of all living and concealed from the birds of the air.” Death and destruction say “'We have heard a rumor of it with our ears.”

So where is wisdom found? That's the thrust of the last section, 20-28. The answer is God alone. “God understands the way to it, and he knows its place. For he looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens. When he gave to the wind its weight and apportioned the waters by measure, when he made a decree for the rain and a way for the lightning of the thunder, then he saw it and declared it; he established it, and searched it out.” And what is God’s summary of the essence of wisdom, according to Job, the fear of the lord and tuning from evil, he says… “And he said to man, 'Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.'”

Jobs accusers say that Job had not feared the Lord, and therefore he was not wise. Job says, no, it’s the other way. I was fearing the Lord and hating evil, but you were not. Therefore wisdom and understanding is mine, not yours. In 29 he will go on to make that case. In the context of the book, this chapter does several things. It pushes back on his friends, and lands a hammer on their pretensions. It demonstrates that while Job has railed at what he sees as mistreatment, Job is still, as Caron notes “profoundly God-centered in all his thinking. Even while he publicly raises questions about God’s fairness in his own case, Job insists that all wisdom finally rests in God”. Furthermore, because all wisdom is irretrievably tied to shunning evil, Job demonstrates by his words that he is not only holding a humble position before God, but his commitment to living a righteous life is tied to his faith in God’s wisdom, to his own sheer God-centeredness.

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