Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Job 42: Reconciliation

This essay is #50 of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning.

Reconciliation

We began with Job's lamentation where he called for someone to curse the night of his. We cycled through the speeches of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar as they accused Job of wickedness. Job defended himself, became stronger, and finally argued his critics into bitter silence. Then he spoke one more time and we started to like him less as he paraded the glories of his former life and hinted at hypocrisy. Then young Elihu provided some illumination and sanity to the affair.

Now the Lord has spoken of his wisdom and majesty. And Job still covered with worm encrusted sores says this:

Then Job answered the Lord: 

I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted; 

You asked, ‘Who is this who darkens counsel without knowledge?’ 

But I have declared without understanding things too wonderful for me to know. 

You said, ‘Pay attention, and I will speak; I will question you, and you will answer me.’ 

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye has seen you. 

Therefore I despise myself, and I repent in dust and ashes! (Job 42:1-6)

Each of these lines is important.

I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted; This is a major admission on Job's part. At the lowest level, it gives back to God the moral high ground that Job had claimed for himself. Beyond that, it acknowledges that the catastrophes that assaulted Job were not beyond the power of God to avert. Beyond that still is the assurance that those catastrophes worked the purposes of the Lord. And yet beyond that is the confidence that those purposes are good. Job has still received no explanation. He still has no clue about the court of heaven. In does not matter; Job has laid aside the need to know.  It has been replaced by trust in the Trustworthy One.

You asked, 'Who is this who darkens counsel without knowledge?' This connects what Job is about to say with the first section of the Lord's speech. "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth," the Lord had asked. Question after question hints at the marvel of the Lord's design and making of the heavens and the earth.

But I have declared without understanding things too wonderful for me to know. Job now lays aside all his arguments. He has been given a glimpse of the awesome diversity and intricacies of the Creation. Job has been moved to worship. The Lord is greater and more wonderful than he ever imagined. Job's eyes have turned from himself to his Creator. Job has learned to rightly fear the Lord.

You said, 'Pay attention, and I will speak; I will question you, and you will answer me.' This connects what Job is about to say with the second section of the Lord's speech. "Will you declare me guilty so that you may be right?" is the thrust of this section. Through Behemoth and Leviathan, the Lord lays out two destinies for Job. He can relent and become like Behemoth or persist and become like Leviathan.

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye has seen you. Religion and its practices provide an abstract theological and doctrinal view of God. It is the stuff of debate and higher learning. At one level, the study is helpful: there is real truth to discern and know. But when doctrine is the goal and we fail to push on to numinous of God--His manifested presence--we fall short of a knowledge of Him that will carry us through difficult times. Doctrine proclaims the omnipresence of God; the numinous brings awareness that He is with me now. Doctrine proclaims the omniscience of God; the numinous gives His wisdom to meet the situations that I face. Doctrine proclaims the omnipotence of God; the numinous inspires complete trust that the events of the day happened just as the Lord purposed. Doctrine proclaims the holiness of God; the numinous initiates worship of His majesty.

Therefore I despise myself, and I repent in dust and ashes! Job voluntarily humbles himself before the Lord. He regrets the attitudes that he has had in his heart. He know longer requires that the Lord do anything about his condition. Job is now in the place of safety. No man can receive mercy he does not think he needs, and the Lord delights in mercy. The rise of humility in Job marks the completion of the Lord's chastening work. Mercy can now flow.

Job was a man unlike any on the face of the earth. He was blameless and upright. he feared God and turned away from evil. He did these things to a degree unequaled by any other on the earth. But that achievement began to interfere with the relationship. He believed that his prosperity came because he had earned it from the man upstairs. God owed him the life that he led. He was concerned for the sins of his children, but had no concern for his own sins: He had stopped looking: He had arrived at perfection. The Lord brought Job to a place where he knew that he needed salvation from some other hand.

At this point, we must understand that what is about to follow has nothing to do with Job's repentance. Job had not finally earned the Lord's good will again in his life. Rather Job is able to receive whatever the Lord has for him. Job is at a place where it does not matter what the Lord does next, because what ever He does will be for His purposes in His Creation and those purposes are good. Doctrine says, "All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purposes;" the numinous brings assurance that this is true.

It's all about the Lord. We do best to seek His face and not His hand. He delights in our asking for daily bread. So, we must always be ready to give thanks.

Wednesday: Trickle down reconciliation.

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

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