In the face of Job’s loss, the friends have no answers. They try to defend God by saying Job must not be in the right.
Why? Because it’s unthinkable, unbelievable, incomprehensible, that something so terrible would happen to a righteous man. I wonder how often the Christian has pointed the finger to protect himself/herself from unbelief, instead of offering true comfort. As Job says, “For [my friends] have now become nothing; [they] see my calamity and are afraid.”
In chapter 13, Job loses his patience and goes on a rant against his friends. Here are some really interesting bits from that passage:
“As for you, you whitewash with lies;
Worthless physicians are you all.
Oh that you would keep silent,
and it would be your wisdom!
Here now my argument
and listen to the pleadings of my lips.
Will you speak falsely for God
and speak deceitfully for him?
Will you show partiality toward him?
Will you plead the case for God?…
He will surely rebuke you
if in secret you show partiality.”
Here, it seems that Job is accusing his friends of sinning in their attempts to defend God. This is such a radically different thing than what I was taught in Youth Group. I remember taking a class where we were instructed how to share the gospel, where we were encouraged to wait for a vulnerable moment in the people around us and spring on it.
I’m not saying that classes aren’t helpful or that I didn’t need that training. But I wonder. I wonder if sometimes God is wishing we’d shut our clumsy mouths and let Him defend Himself. I’ve heard the story countless times—a wrong, unsympathetic word to a nonbeliever (heck, even a young Christian) at a vulnerable moment that ended up turning the person bitter against Christianity for years, if not a lifetime. I don’t want to be that kind of friend.
I think in the text here is a cry for a perfect judge. His friends can never be perfect, yet they pass judgment left and right, trying to find sins big enough for the punishment Job’s received. Again, instead of really listening to what Job says with an impartial ear, they cling to answers they think they understand and pronounce judgment to cover up their own unbelief.
In chapter 19, Job cries out:
“Have mercy on me, have mercy on me, O you my friends,
for the hand of God has touched me!
Why do you, like God, pursue me?
Why are you not satisfied with my flesh?”
And yet, the very next thing that Job says is this:
“Oh that my words were written!
Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
Oh that with an iron pen and lead
they were engraved in the rock forever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
Whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me!”
How can a heart so wounded, alone and bitter still praise God like that? Still find his hope in God?
In chapter 26 (which in the translation I’m using is titled “God’s Majesty is Unsearchable”), Job says again of his friends’ defense for God:
“How you have helped him who has no power!
How you have saved the arm that has no strength!”
I think that Job is not questioning God’s right or righteousness. He goes on in chapter 26 to praise God’s unknowable power. Job doesn’t need God to be defended. He doesn’t need someone to tell him, “Hey, God’s bigger than this problem. God’s still in control.” I think what he’s searching for is a deeper understanding of who God is.
That’s the conflict, isn’t it? That God is all knowing, all just, all powerful—but crap still happens.
More to follow.