Posted: 25 Feb 2011 11:00 PM PST
THE LAST SPEECH FROM JOB'S "miserable comforters" is that of Bildad (Job 25), and it is pathetically short because even he now recognizes that he has nothing new to say, and neither do his friends. Job's answer is long and complex (chaps. 26–31), as if he is determined to drive his friends into silence. Some of it is mere review. The opening chapter (yesterday's reading, Job 26) finds Job mocking these "comforters" for their callousness, the sterility of their counsel in the face of suffering like Job's. It also finds him agreeing with them regarding God's unfathomable power. After a breathtaking review of God's powerful deeds, Job concludes, "And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?" (Job 26:14). While the "comforters" charge Job with reducing God to impotence, Job so insists on God's transcendent power that he entertains the view that God is distant.
That brings us to Job 27. Here are all the tensions in Job's position. Job puts himself under an oath ("As surely as God lives") to make his point. He will never admit his opponents are right, for this would mean denying that he has lived his life with integrity: "Till I die, I will not deny my integrity. I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live" (Job 27:5–6). But ironically, the God by whom Job swears, whose greatness Job has praised in chapter 26, the God who provides the very breath in Job's nostrils (Job 27:3), is also, Job insists, the God "who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made me taste bitterness of soul" (Job 27:2–3).
More irony: this does not mean that God is corrupt or unjust. Job recognizes that God calls unjust and wicked people to account (Job 27:7–10)—often in this life (Job 27:11–23), but finally in death.
This is not Job's final position, of course; the drama is not yet over. But we may reflect on the place we have reached so far.
First, it is always best to be honest in our reflections on God, to avoid positions that distort facts (the folly of the three "comforters"), to remain transparent before God. He knows what we think anyway. Hope of advance is possible where there is honesty, but almost impossible where deceit reigns.
Second, this means that at various stages of a believer's pilgrimage there may be times when opponents will see in him or her conspicuous ironies or profound mysteries. One should not glory in contradictions, of course, but in matters relating to God, mysteries are inevitable. In time, some of these edge toward resolution, but almost always accompanied by the unfolding glory of new depths.
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