Thursday, February 2, 2012

Blogging the Bible: Jobs response to Zophar

The debate between Job and his friends continues in Job 12-14. Here Job says, Don’t patronize me. Of course I know God is in control. I’m not an idiot. I’m as smart and wise as you. But while I’m being honest before God, you think you’re doing him a favor by telling lies about my character. It’s God I want answers from, and he doesn’t need your help. I still hope in him. But... God, how can you treat me like an enemy. Don't forget me to the grave.

Notice the bitterness in his voice as he speaks. He jeers at there alleged wisdom, and says snidely, “No doubt you are the people, and wisdom will die with you.” Then he lashes out bitterly lamenting the situation, “But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you. Who does not know such things as these? I am a laughingstock to my friends; I, who called to God and he answered me, a just and blameless man, am a laughingstock.”

Notice that he feels abandoned. “I, who called to God and he answered me, a just and blameless man, am a laughingstock.” He’s not hearing from God, and it’s killing him. Robbers are at peace, idolaters are secure, and he is being struck down.

Notice that Job then shows his understanding of God, as he speaks of all that the Lord has done. He speaks of his sovereignty, power, and wisdom. He speaks of his strength, and the way that he controls all things. He speaks of God’s control of nature, he speaks of God’s control of people, and nations, and he shows God is in control of all things.

Notice also that he uses the word Lord (Yahweh) in verse 9. This is the only time it shows up in the poetic discourses. It’s at the beginning and end, but not in the discussions. In 1:21 Job acknowledges that the calamities came from the Lord ultimately, and here he says the same thing.

Notice that he explicitly pushes back, saying, I’m on equal ground with you. “Behold, my eye has seen all this, my ear has heard and understood it. What you know, I also know; I am not inferior to you. Furthermore, I was greater. “I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue my case with God. As for you, you whitewash with lies; worthless physicians are you all.

Notice that he says, their words reveal their stupidity. It would be better if they just shut up. They are speaking falsely for God, and it won’t turn out well for them. At issue, says D.A. Carson, is what to make of God’s transcendent sovereignty? His friends use this base to argue that such a God can certainly sniff out evil and punish it; Job himself now turns the argument in a different direction.”
Carson points out three things about the turn in conversation.
First, far from prompting him to cringe in fear, reflection on who God is prompts Job to want to speak with the Almighty, to argue his case with God (13:3). His conscience really is clear, and he wants to prove it. He is convinced that if he could get a hearing, at least God would be fair and just.
Second, by contrast, the miserable friends merely smear him with lies (13:4). They are “worthless physicians”—i.e., they do nothing to help Job in his pain.
Third, and worse, Job insists that they “speak wickedly on God’s behalf,” that they “speak deceitfully for him” (13:7). They cannot find concrete evidences of gross sin in Job’s life, yet they think they are speaking for God when they insist Job must really be evil. Thus in their “defense” of God, they say things that are untrue and unfair about Job: they “speak wickedly on God’s behalf.” How can God be pleased with their utterances? Ends do not justify means. It is always important to speak the truth and not fudge facts to fit our theological predispositions. Far better to admit ignorance or postulate mystery than to tell untruths.

Notice that Job appeals to God, like a defendant in court, and asks to meet God as the defendant or the plaintiff. He doesn’t show, but even still, he speaks as a God fearer rather than an agnostic. Furthermore,  while he wants his day in court, he still trusts in God, God is still God, and  “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” what’s amazing about these words is that they could also be translated, he will surely slay me… he expects to die, and yet he trust in God.

Notice that suddenly, Job nosedives into depression. He laments Mans state, and His “Man wastes away like a rotten thing, like a garment that is moth-eaten. Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble. He comes out like a flower and withers; he flees like a shadow and continues not. And do you open your eyes on such a one and bring me into judgment with you?” “Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass, look away from him and leave him alone, that he may enjoy, like a hired hand, his day.” “But a man dies and is laid low; man breathes his last, and where is he? As waters fail from a lake and a river wastes away and dries up, so a man lies down and rises not again; till the heavens are no more he will not awake or be roused out of his sleep. In the end, he expects to die, declaring at the end of chapter 14, “You destroy the hope of man. You prevail forever against him, and he passes; you change his countenance, and send him away. His sons come to honor, and he does not know it; they are brought low, and he perceives it not. He feels only the pain of his own body, and he mourns only for himself."

Notice that in chapter 14; once again he sees the need for an intercessor, an arbitrator. “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one.” Job will not meet Him, but the day is coming, when the arbitrator will come, and he will be the perfect intercessor.

Notice that he hopes for a resurrection. While man lies down (dies), and rises no more, he hopes that the Lord will hide him in Sheol (the grave here), and that the Lord would conceal him until His wrath is past. But then he says “that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my service I would wait, till my renewal should come.” He expects to die, and yet he has hope in a resurrection. He says I can endure this, if God will remember me and raise me up… he looks out and says, resurrection…is it possible?

Finally, notice that while Job anticipates speaking to God, and making his case, he later has nothing. He shuts up, and has nothing to say.

The lesson in all this. No matter what, trust in God.

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