google-site-verification: google3e8cc4742c5fd8a2.html Job - Why God? - Part 3

Study 3 : Job 12 - 14

Job states his case.

Chapter 12 - after all his ‘friends’ have stated their cases and he has answered them Job makes a major statement in these 3 chapters of how he views the situation. Much of what he says could be regarded as very pessimistic as he expresses his, quite natural, unhappiness at what has happened to him and his family. But I think we are expected to learn several things from his experiences and what he says, so we will try to make the most of it!


To repeat yet again what was said in the introduction to the first study: behind all the arguments of the 3 friends is what we are calling a CEP, a cause-effect principle, operating in moral theology. They are all, his friends and Job, saying that everything that happens to a person has a moral cause hidden behind it. In essence: good things happen to good people; bad things happen to bad people. From that starting point his ‘friends’ have deduced that however much Job may protest otherwise he is not a good person because bad things have happened to him! This theology is still around both inside and outside the church. It appears every time someone says “he didn’t deserve that!” or “God’s not fair!”. In these chapters Job begins to understand and to argue that the world does not work that way. Life is just not as simple as that.


Question: Here is a question about those verses. What does Job really mean by what he says here? How would you describe his attitude expressed in these words?


Answer: Job is being very sarcastic. You have to be quite a clever person to be as sarcastic as this! He is clearly quite fed up with the way his so-called friends are treating him. He knows, as we know from having read the first 2 chapters of this book, that he is not guilty of serious sin; his experiences are not a reflection of who he is or what he has done; he is not being punished in any way for misdeeds he may have committed. What has happened is part of the NCL, the normal chaos of life.


Job is still being sarcastic through the rest of the chapter – the animals are wise, wiser than his friends, God treats the high and mighty, people like his friends, just the same as everyone else, nations rise and fall as God decrees. And we suddenly realise that, in being sarcastic, Job has actually moved forward to understand that life is chaotic, the NCL does happen, that is the way the world works.


The next step that he takes in the next chapter is to start arguing that he wants to appear before God in a court of law to argue his case. Job 13:1–19.


Job is starting to be a great deal more positive. I am no expert on the stages of grief but I think this might be regarded as a good sign – he is starting to think more forcefully and in it all he is still declaring his faith. He said ‘though he slay me, yet will I hope in him’. Well done Job – that sounds good.


He continues in much the same way in the remainder of the chapter – Job 13:20-28.


But it proves to be a false dawn. In the next few verses, 14:1–6, he slides back into despair. He wants God to leave him alone.


But then, equally suddenly, he thinks of a metaphor for his existence in 14: 7 – 9. READ. If a tree is cut down it is not finished – it will send out new buds, it will sprout again. It won’t grow to be the same tree it might have been before, but it will grow, more plant like, less tree like, but still alive and still valuable. There is something we call hope.


And yet again he changes direction in 14: 10 – 22. READ. He goes backwards and forwards. Humans die and that is the end of them unlike a tree. But perhaps that is a good thing because his sin, supposing that that is the problem after all, will be covered over. No – perhaps it isn’t because the Lord God destroys hope the way a stream in flood wll destroy the surrounding ground.


Make up your mind, Job. Which way is it?


It would be easy to get fed up with Job in his swinging backwards and forwards, his pessimism and his optimism, his inability to make up his mind about the future – is there hope, somewhere in the future, or is his future, our future, as black as he thinks in his down moments.


What positive, helpful, ideas can we get from this tossing and turning of Job. They are not immediately obvious but I think there are three.


The first is this. Job is becoming furious with his 3 friends because they have gone on blundering along with so many words using OK phrases as bandages to wrap around his wounds without healing them at all. Paul said the gift of prophecy is ‘to speak to people for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort’. It is all too easy to major on the first 2 of those and forget about the comfort bit. Not everyone is able to say the right words to offer real comfort to the suffering or struggling. It is a real gift for those who can. These 3 guys did not have it.


Question: what about you? Do you have this gift?


Answer: up to you, of course. If you do have it – use it. If not – don’t make the same sort of mistake these guys did.


The second idea we can get from these chapters is this: We can go down like Job. Horrible things can happen to us, and to those whom we love, our world can crash round our ears but that is not the end. We should still have faith; we should still be faithful. ‘Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him’ said Job and that can and should be our statement too. I didn’t call it a prayer in that last sentence, but a statement, for fear that it might then be read as a possibility and not, as it should be, as a certainty.


We are all subject to the NCL, some of us more heavily, more dangerously, than others. We don’t know why that is the way the world is, we just have to accept that the world that our loving God, our Creator God, created is a world of chaos. He may know what it all means – he does know what it all means – but we do not.


And the third thing we have to learn from these experiences of Job is this: the nature of God is such that we may argue with him. He is that sort of God. No, shut away, unapproachable God is he. Job, like the psalmist, was allowed to complain, to lament, to grumble, to sulk, but God did not refuse to listen to him. Sometimes we are like that: complaining, grumbling, lamenting, sulking, but God is still our God, our loving, listening, hearing God. That is easier for us to understand, to grasp than it was for Job because we know about Jesus. We know that, although Jesus was the agent of creation, responsible for all that is, he was still prepared to listen to, even to argue with, the non-Israelite woman who was desperate to have her daughter healed. He said ‘it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs’ and she retorted ‘even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table’. And he accepted what she said and changed his mind so that her daughter was healed.


That is the sort of God with whom we have to do: a loving, caring, arguing, concerned God – in fact an amazingly human God (because we are made in the image of God so, to at least some extent, he has to be in the image of what is best in being human).


Jesus, God, walked on water in the midst of the storm that so upset the disciples in the boat. What a wonderful metaphor that is of how our God will walk with us in the midst of all the storms of life on this earth, the NCL. Job was struggling – very understandably. But by the grace of God he had some idea that he was not alone. In all his mood swings, God was with him. He might despair for the moment but that despair would pass because God was with him. That’s the way it is with us – if we are prepared to recognize it.

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