Day 120—Why?—“Imagining God” Job 38:1 – 42:17
April 30, 2021, 7:45 AM

Day 120—Why?—“Imagining God” Job 38:1 – 42:17    Glogger—John Weiler, Christ Church, Duanesburg

The world is broken. Life is transitory.

Still, we ask, why do bad things happen to good people?

The question is shopworn to the point of cliché and its force is blunted by its seeming simplicity and overuse. And in times of intense suffering, the simplicity of the answers well-meaning friends provide do little to ease the pain.

There is only frustration and futility in seeking easy answers; to ask how a caring God could allow the righteous to suffer, as if God is a cosmic hall monitor permitting or diverting the buffeting forces of a universe in entropy as it impacts our little lives for good or ill.

But God, do we want answers. Certainly, Job’s friends had answers, and not particularly good ones.

And so, Job finds himself bereft weeping and spitting into the teeth of the whirlwind demanding account from the source.

The LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?”

And so, God lays it out.

A glorious, staggering poem as argument.

A picture of the empty wilderness where no man lives, of forces of nature that no human hand can grasp or control.

God asks who begets the dew? Who divides the sky for the path of the thunderbolt? Who pours rain upon the desert places to bring sudden flowers and greening shoots bursting from the arid earth in a spring that no human eye will see?

The focus pulls out, higher and higher leaving our busy little blue pebble and quotidian human concerns far behind.

Out to the conceivable limits of the limitless and inconceivable compass of God’s conception as He asks Job if he can bind the Pleiades or loosen the buckle of Orion’s belt.

Then the vision falls like a raptor, wings tucked close dropping to earth and the animal kingdom; a realm independent of humankind where Instinct is the gift of the Divine Mind and we have no say. The creatures of the wild from the sparrow to leviathan do not answer to us yet each and every creature is under the LORD’s care.

God has shown Job – and all of us – just how vast and intricate the universe is, just how small we are in it, how it’s simply not all about us, and how all of the limitless universe is the realm, the conception, the creation of a God that knows, understands and sees every detail.

Even us. In all our smallness, all our insignificance, all our limitation, all our ignorance.

And so, God challenges Job – and all of us – in our presumption.

Challenges us to humble the proud, to tread down the wicked with sure justice and a wisdom fully formed and seeing all possible sources and all possible ends.

If we can do that, then, sure, says God, He will confess that only our own hand can save us.

The thing is, our own hand cannot save us.

The thing is, we foolishly persist in thinking it can.

History is soaked with blood that proves we can’t. It is littered with the wreckage of our errors, the ruin of our assumptions, the damage of our prejudice, the bitter wage of our certainty: Suffering; endured even by good people.

Consequences so often unforeseen are, in retrospect, utterly foreseeable.

Because we don’t know.

We don’t know what God knows.

We can’t know what God knows.

So, Job stands humbled, anger spent.

He lays his hands across his mouth.

Job shuts up and quits his Monday morning cosmic quarterbacking. He sees the very human limits of his understanding and repents.

But here’s the crazy thing, God listened.

God came to Job.

God responded to Job’s bewilderment, ire and desperation.

He responded not because Job deserved an answer, but because God cared enough to answer. God loved Job enough to answer; a love established in the weird folktale setup of the book – God and Satan make a water cooler bet? Yikes! – yet God’s response resists easy answers not out of obstinate perversity, but because there are no easy answers.

The book of Job does not presume to provide an answer. That’s kind of the point.

It’s shape, its poetry invites us to contemplate the problem.

It means nothing if we don’t wrestle with it. That’s what this whole book has been about. It is in part what the Bible is all about.

Israel, after all, means “wrestles with God.”

So, contemplate the question, wrestle with it.

How do we presume to understand all ends? Who are we to ask what kind of God allows people to suffer? What level of puppetry would be acceptable to keep us, our families, our neighbors from forces of nature that sustain us all, even as those laws bring us to our own inevitable end? Or from human decisions that course like ripples on the surface of life and grow, amplified by all those other ripples, to destructive waves? 

Is God a public pool lifeguard?

Is God a hall monitor?

God will not turn our every suffering aside, but He will come to us in the heart of the whirlwind, and His magnitude and mercy and His love will bear us up if we let Him.

And when we suffer loss, we will go on. We may even go on to find blessings again, discover joy again and this may even bring its own anger and guilt, but this too is life.

The book says Job’s losses were restored; but look closer.

Job didn’t get what he lost back.

We never do.

Look closer still, Job was restored when he forgave and prayed for his friends. His lousy friends that accused him of some unseen, monumental sins to explain away the inconceivable suffering they could see; well-meaning friends who raised Job’s ire and wound him up until he found himself spitting into the teeth of the whirlwind.

Job died old and full of days. As will we all, full of days or not.



Comments

04-30-2021 at 8:08 PM
Helen Smith
No words. Except, thank you.
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