Sunday, April 30, 2017

Reading Through the Book of Job #5 (Chapters 38-42)

JobToday we move on to the final section of the Book of Job, accompanied by the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 6: Job, by August H. Konkel. In this section God steps in to provide the final word on the situation. 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…

Now the only one who has the knowledge to defend God, YHWH Himself, weighs in. First, he challenges Job with the scope of creation and his ability to govern it with all its diversity. Creation operates for God's glory and at His direction and its purpose is much larger than that of any one person or humanity in general.  Creation is a beautiful, yet dangerous, place which we cannot understand or control. To presume we have the answers to our life in the face of God who controls it all is presumptuous.

The lament of Job at the loss of all his property and family was understandable. His assumption that this somehow was an indication of a flaw in divine providence was presumptuous. Creation is bigger than Job and his concerns. It is not that the concerns of Job were unimportant to God, for it is evident that God had heard his complaint. However, God’s plans for Job within this vast universe extend beyond his ideas of what constituted a proper and good life. Job 38, 221–222

It may seem strange that God should speak about his creation in such a manner, but violence and the peculiar beauty of violence are the very point of what God has to say to Job. The animal realm is non-moral, and its sharp paradoxes make us see the inadequacy of human moral calculus. Violence in the natural world does not conform to the explanations that Job’s friends give for suffering, but neither does it fit Job’s protesting his integrity in the face of his anguish and loss...In this strange manner, divine providence cares for all of these esoteric creatures. Fecundity and violent destruction are twin forces working together in the imponderable mysteries of how God cares for his world. Job 39, 226

Job's first response is to recognize his limited knowledge, repent of his presumptuous challenge to God and submit to His rule.

The questions forced Job to confess his exceedingly limited knowledge. This is a surprising turn in the function of wisdom, since the purpose of wisdom is to increase knowledge. In this case, the increase of knowledge comes in knowing which things one cannot know. This is a great gain, for there is nothing so damaging as presumptuousness, as the friends have amply demonstrated. The most dangerous situation of all is to not know that one does not know. Job had been demanding answers but came to recognize that he must live within the confines of what he did know. Job 40.1-5, 228

From the beginning, the primary problem of humans has been their inability to accept dependence on God while, at the same time, having the status of representing God. Being representatives of the divine rule does not grant humans the status of determining that rule. The representative of God does not have the power to determine justice in this world...the point is clear: it is man’s place to submit to God rather than the other way around. Job 40.6-14, 230

God then challenges Job with His ability to control the "power and beauty" of the hippopotamus and the "danger and beauty" of the great crocodile. If Job cannot control these small examples of the powerful and chaotic forces of creation, how can he challenge the Creator who made and controls them?

The world is an immense arena of power and beauty amidst awesome, warring forces. This world is permeated with the order of divine providence, but it presents to humans a “welter of contradictions, dizzying variety, energies, and entities that man cannot take in.”...The grandeur of creation is the place where mortals meet God. The home of humans displays the face of a foreign and fascinating divinity. They cannot understand his creation, much less his divine nature. Rather than challenge what they do not know about themselves in their world, they are invited to live in its mystery and to know they stand before its Creator. Job 41, 237

The epilogue ties the themes of the book of Job together. God defends the integrity of Job as the three friends must submit to him for their approach to God. God graciously restores the fortunes of Job, doubly. Job has gained a greater perspective on God from his submission to Him. God does not run the universe based on retribution, but on grace and his love and care for all creation.

Job had now found wisdom, which led him to repentance and submission before God. He now understood that he could not dictate to the Creator what is just and right for his life. Neither could Job determine what is right for his life—in comparison to what happens in the lives of other people. All his comparisons and points of reference were finite and inadequate in his attempt to understand justice. Job 42, 39

In light of God’s speeches, the restoration cannot be understood as a matter of divine blessing for righteousness. Rather, it shows that God provides for those who submit themselves to him. More importantly, the blessing is an expression of God’s grace toward those who trust him; it is not a reward on the basis of ethical obligation...Divine grace in human affairs cannot be predicted or controlled, but it will end favorably for those who have found favor with God. Everything under the whole heaven belongs to God, and, by his grace, he gives it as he wills. Job 42.11-17, 241

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