Monday, April 17, 2017

Reading Through the Book of Job #1 (1-2)

Today we begin the Book of Job accompanied by the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 6: Job, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs, by August H. Konkel. Job took on special meaning for me this time, considering my current situation. There are no easy answers to the problems of suffering and evil in this world. I am posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

The book of Job is one of the most difficult in the Bible to understand. Generally, biblical wisdom states that when one acts wisely one will be rewarded with blessing. Job and Ecclesiastes provide the alternate view that there may be reasons that does not always work out. God is incomprehensible. That is, no human being can fully understand God or His plan for creation. We certainly cannot fully understand why He acts in our lives in specific circumstances. Faith recognizes the basic goodness of God's character and acts and speaks in submission to Him no matter what present circumstances bring.

The book of Job does not resolve the rational question of the problem of the innocent suffering. The story of Job suggests that, in human experience, the cause of individual suffering may remain forever a mystery. Readers are privy to the reason for Job’s anguish, but Job himself will never learn of the challenge in the courts of heaven that so drastically changed his life. The quest for wisdom does not lead us to explain the order of the universe but to live within it under the sovereign control of God. A large portion of the dialog is an attempt to explain the order of the world in terms of justice and retribution; but in the end this effort is condemned by God...Job is a solemn reminder that our attempts to defend the order of God may not be honoring to him at all. 4

The primary theme of the book of Job to be the problem of suffering—or, stated more comprehensively, it is about the mystery of evil. In the book of Job the problem of evil is presented in terms of justice, which is to say that if something is considered to be unjust, it is regarded as evil. Justice and goodness are the products of God’s sovereign rule; they are manifest in his provision for his people. 17

An understanding of God’s justice is not possible for humans, but they are assured of the ultimate triumph of that justice. 23

The prologue sets the stage by assuring us that Job's suffering is not because of sin. He is a righteous man of great integrity. At first, he responds to the situation rightly, by continuing to worship God as good. We are happy to see that his friends show up to comfort him…until they open their mouths.

The prologue presents Job as a paragon of virtue who survives the test of integrity; Job worshiped God in spite of the testing that deprived him entirely of God’s blessing. However, this is not all there is to Job. The virtuous Job provides the perspective from which we can observe the contradictions of human character and faith and evaluate what it means to have integrity of both reason and faith in times of trial. 30

The Accuser serves to remind naive readers that they cannot trust their own judgment of themselves. The use of the word “bless” causes the more perceptive to reflect on their own motives and how their words and actions may be perceived by God (cf. 1:5). 34

The only question for Job was the proper human response to divine providence—in whatever form it is experienced. Job’s answer was that the only possible human response is submissive faith, trust that God knows what he is doing. His response affirms the sovereign providence of God. Job 2.7-10, 42

At such times, it is important to be a friend, most importantly by simply being present. The custom followed by the friends in being silent is prudent; we must not presume we have something to tell people in such circumstances. It is best to let the sufferer speak first, for the comforter has much to learn from the afflicted. When the afflicted does speak, a response must be judicious and not presume too much knowledge, particularly in efforts to defend God or provide explanations. Job 2.11-13, 44

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