Monday, August 18, 2003

Job 9, 10: Job's Second Prayer

Job has raised the question of suffering and God. He noted the suffering of the innocent and the blind eyes of justice and asked. "If it is not He, then who is it?" Was Job about to fulfill Satan's wish and curse God?

This post is part of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning. At the end of each post you will find a link to the next.

What Now?

Job raised a hard issue and then fell into despairing self-pity:

My days are swifter than a runner, they speed by without seeing happiness. They glide by like reed boats, like an eagle that swoops down on its prey. If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint, I will change my expression and be cheerful,’ I dread all my sufferings, for I know that you do not hold me blameless. If I am guilty, why then weary myself in vain? If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands clean with lye, then you plunge me into a slimy pit and my own clothes abhor me. For he is not a human being like I am, that I might answer him, that we might come together in judgment. Nor is there an arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both, who would take his rod away from me so that his terror would not make me afraid. Then would I speak and not fear him, but it is not so with me. (Job 9:25-35, The Net Bible)

Of special note here: The accusations of Job's friends were now numbered among his misery, "I dread all my sufferings, for I know that you do not hold me blameless. ... If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands clean with lye, then you plunge me into a slimy pit and my own clothes abhor me." His friends could have lightened his load, but they made it heavier. Job knew that his sufferings led to their condemnation, and, therefore, dreaded them all the more. They had responded to his declarations of innocence by plunging him "into a slimy pit."

So Job desperately felt a need for an arbiter who could settle matters between himself and his God. The outcome, according to Job, would be clear. The arbiter would force God to remove his rod. 

However, it is the nature of God that no arbiter is possible. An arbiter is one who has authority over the parties in arbitration. God, being the highest and final authority, can never actually be a party in an arbitration.

Job's Prayer

And so Job prayed a second time. It was an honest, seeking, and angry prayer:

I am weary of my life; I will give free course to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. I will say to God, ‘Do not condemn me; tell me why you are contending with me.’ 

Is it good for you to oppress, to despise the work of your hands, while you smile on the schemes of the wicked? Do you have eyes of flesh, or do you see as a human sees? Are your days like the days of a human, or your years like the years of a human, that you must search out my iniquity, and inquire about my sin, although you know that I am not guilty, and that there is no one who can deliver out of your hand? 

Your hands have shaped me and made me, and afterward you destroy me utterly. Remember that you have made me as with the clay; will you return me to dust? Did you not pour me out like milk, and curdle me like cheese? You clothed me with skin and flesh and knit me together with bones and sinews. You gave me life and favor, and your intervention watched over my spirit. But these things you have concealed in your heart; 

I know that this is with you: If I sinned, then you would watch me and you would not acquit me of my iniquity. If I am guilty, woe to me, and if I am innocent, I cannot lift my head; I am full of shame, and satiated with my affliction. If I lift myself up, you hunt me as a fierce lion, and again you display your power against me. You bring new witnesses against me, and increase your anger against me; relief troops come against me. 

Why then did you bring me out from the womb? I should have died and no eye would have seen me! I should have been as though I had never existed; I should have been carried from the womb to the grave! Are not my days few? Cease, then, and leave me alone, that I may find a little comfort, before I depart and cannot return, even to the land of darkness and the shadow of death, to the land of darkness, like the deepest darkness, and the shadow of death and disorder, where even the light is like darkness.” (Job 10:1-22)

In this prayer, Job posed his questions and issues to God. His tone was from a man weary and in deep bitterness. He had nothing to lose and thus could "give free course" to his complaint. And so he complained that God caused his suffering and gave no notice to the "schemes of the wicked." He pondered why God bothered to create him in the first place. He wanted to know why the God, who would treat him harshly on account of sin, treated him harshly anyway. In other words, why was there not a difference. 

Concerning Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar Job said to God, "You bring new witnesses against me, and increase your anger against me; relief troops come against me." Job understood God's hand in the entire situation. Satan's vindication demanded that this be so. Satan wanted Job to curse the Lord to His face. That required that Job see his calamity as coming from the Lord and concluding that the Lord was not good. As some philosophers have put it, "Either God is omnipotent and not good or He is good and not omnipotent." Job did not question God's power, but he was beginning to question His goodness. As Job said to Bildad:

“It is all one! That is why I say, ‘He destroys the blameless and the guilty.’ If a scourge brings sudden death, he mocks at the despair of the innocent. If a land has been given into the hand of a wicked man, he covers the faces of its judges; if it is not he, then who is it? (Job 9:22-24)

As much as possible, pretend that you are reading Job for the first time. How would you advise Job knowing what you know from Job 1 & 2? Could you do it without making Job feel like an insignificant pawn in the hands of battling spirits? How would you advise Job if you did not know about the confrontation in the court of heaven, but understood him to be upright and blameless?

Zophar came next in the cycle. Perhaps he would give answer to Job.

Tuesday: Zophar

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>


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