Posted: 12 Mar 2011 11:00 PM PST
THREE REFLECTIONS ON Job 42:
(a) Job's response to the Lord (Job 42:1–6) is not, "Now I get it. Now I understand," but hearty repentance. He even summarizes God's argument back to him: "You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?' " (Job 42:3). Without a trace of self-justification, Job responds, "Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know" (Job 42:3). Job is now certain that in the last analysis none of God's plans can be thwarted (Job 42:2). In fact, God's massive self-disclosure in words to Job has revealed so much more of God that Job contrasts his present seeing of God with what he had only heard about him in the past—which of course reminds us that very often in Scripture God enables us to "see" him by disclosing himself in words. "Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:6). This is not saying that the three friends were right after all. Job is not now admitting to large swaths of hidden guilt that ostensibly brought on his suffering, but to the guilt of demanding that God provide him with a thorough explanation.
(b) The three friends are forgiven for all the false things they said about God only because of Job's intercession (Job 42:7–9). This eminently suits the crime: they have been condemning Job, but only Job's prayers will suffice for their own forgiveness. What they have said that is not right about God (Job 42:7, 8) can only be their simplistic tit-for-tat merit theology. They have allowed no mystery and grandeur; implicitly, they have allowed no grace.
(c) The drama ends with a massive vindication of Job. His wealth is restored (and doubled), he is given a new family, and all of the old honor in which he was held is restored and increased. Many a contemporary critic finds this fanciful, or even a secondary ending that some dumb editor has tacked on to the end of a more nuanced book. Such skepticism is profoundly mistaken. One of the points of the book is that in the end the people of God are vindicated. God is just. Similarly, Christians are not asked to accept suffering without vindication, death and self-denial without promise of heaven. Evil may now be mysterious, but it will not be triumphant. We are not spiritual masochists who can only be fulfilled by suffering. If there is any sense in which we delight in sufferings, it is that we delight to follow the Lord Jesus who suffered. Even he did not delight in sufferings. The pioneer and perfecter of our faith was the one "who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:2, italics added). So "let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Heb. 12:1).
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