Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Job 27: Job's First Monolog

This essay is #30 of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning.

Job

In the last segment, Bildad spoke briefly and then Job spoke briefly. There followed a discourse on the nature of God that I conclude came from the author of Job. If we treat Job's response to Bildad as the end of the speech cycles, then this next section of Job has the following structure:

  • The author reminds us of God's nature. (Job 26)
  • Job speaks of God's injustice (Job 27)
  • The author directs us to seek wisdom (Job 28)
  • Job speaks of his lost greatness (Job 29-31)

The interjections of the author are important literary elements and come at the point of the book's greatest tension. They promise and foreshadow the resolution of the story. Today I will spend some time of Job's self-righteousness. And then I will spend two to three days on the wisdom chapter.

The first words of Job to his friends lamented the catastrophes he had endured. He had no hope. He filled his early dialogs with death wishes and self-pity. As the accusations of his friends increased, Job's assertions of his innocence also increased until he, too, crossed a line of sorts. Eliphaz had crossed the line of falsely accusing Job of specific wrongdoing. Job now crossed the line to assert his complete righteousness contrasted with God's injustice. Note these next words of his:

And Job took up his discourse again: “As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made my life bitter— for while my spirit is still in me, and the breath from God is in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness, and my tongue will whisper no deceit. I will never declare that you are in the right; until I die, I will not set aside my integrity! I will maintain my righteousness and never let it go; my conscience will not reproach me for as long as I live. (Job 27:1-6)

Do you see the change here? God had denied him justice. The Almighty had made his life bitter. His friends were wrong in their accusations. Job was a man of integrity and righteousness. Job elevated his character above that of God. He was going to stay the course regardless.

What Job said next is puzzling at first, because it seems as if he is stating all the things that his friends had been saying. Close inspection does show some key differences:

“May my enemy be like the wicked, my adversary like the unrighteous. For what hope does the godless have when he is cut off, when God takes away his life? Does God listen to his cry when distress overtakes him? Will he find delight in the Almighty? Will he call out to God at all times? 

I will teach you about the power of God; What is on Shaddai’s mind I will not conceal. If you yourselves have all seen this, Why in the world do you continue this meaningless talk? 

This is the portion of the wicked man allotted by God, the inheritance that evildoers receive from the Almighty. If his children increase—it is for the sword! His offspring never have enough to eat. Those who survive him are buried by the plague, and their widows do not mourn for them. If he piles up silver like dust and store up clothing like mounds of clay, what he stores up a righteous man will wear, and an innocent man will inherit his silver. The house he builds is as fragile as a moth’s cocoon, like a hut that a watchman has made. He goes to bed wealthy, but will do so no more. when he opens his eyes, it is all gone. Terrors overwhelm him like a flood; at night a whirlwind carries him off. The east wind carries him away, and he is gone; it sweeps him out of his place. It hurls itself against him without pity as he flees headlong from its power. It claps its hands at him in derision and hisses him away from his place. (Job 27:7-23)

We need to understand that Job here referred to the legacy of the wicked man after he died. Note the repeated reminders of death. The godless have been cutoff, God has taken away his life, those who survive him are buried, etc. Job had not backed off from his complaint that the wicked often prosper and end their days in health and wealth. What he now contended was that the wicked despair at death and that his survivors suffer when he is no longer around to provide for them and protect them.

Job's friends had pointed fingers at Job and said, "You suffer because you are wicked." Job responded with, "No! I am righteous. The innocent often suffer and the wicked prosper. What is more it is their survivors that suffer when he is gone. God has denied justice to us all."

It is true that Job saw despair for the wicked at the point of death, but I think that the preponderance of Job's words, in the context of all his speeches, is to give one more bit of evidence to show that God judges men wrongly. Job claimed the high moral ground.

This sets the stage for the next chapter in Job, which is one of the most important. Indeed it points the way for us out of the pits to which Job and his friends have taken us. To get the most out of it, please review the book so far and answer these questions:

  • What was the common expectation concerning the life of a upright and God fearing man or woman?
  • What was the common expectation concerning the life of a wicked man or woman?
  • Job looked at the loss of property, children, and health and concluded what about God?
  • Job's friends looked at the loss of his property, children, and health and concluded what about Job?
  • What is the measure by which they perceived the Lord's blessings in the life of another person?

The next chapter in Job drives home, in vivid imagery, this point: the value system by which both Job and his friends have argued is flawed.

Next: Deep in Earth

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

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