Yahweh is usually depicted in the Bible as a God of love and justice, yet on a number of occasions he stands aside and watches his most faithful servants face adversity completely alone and without any divine protection . Do such actions make logical sense? Not in the least bit. However, one might reasonably query: should mere human beings insist that an omnipotent, omniscient God make logical sense? Logic is bounded by the limits of the human mind, but God’s wisdom transcends human reason; hence it does not and should not need to make logical sense.
The book of Job is the quintessential biblical illustration of this point, where God asks Job: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me if you understand (Job 38:4). The human mind cannot understood all God’s ways or it too would be deemed omniscient. For this reason God gives some wisdom to those who have faith, which is, after all, the beginning of wisdom from a biblical perspective. Those who have faith can get a glimpse of divine understanding, yet they too are unable to grasp its true scope. Many wrestle with understanding God’s intentions in the book of Job because its profundity transcends human logic. Several interpretive points indicate this higher divine logic: God ultimately made Job immune to the emotional pains of losing close ones by taking them away, He gave Job the divine strength to endure great physical pains, and finally He humbled Job by showing him trust in God surpasses simply being righteous.
Despite the logical conclusion of the evil nature of a God who commits apparently evil actions, one comes to understand that in the text God exhibits divine love rather than evil. If a mother always carries her baby boy, with the intention of keeping him safe all the time, the baby will never learn how to walk on his own. The seeming logic of being hyper-protective out of love becomes a hindrance to the baby’s growth in the longer term. Every baby, when learning to walk, is definitely going to fall and scrape his knees at one time or another. The baby may at first feel abandoned by his mother and cry for help, but only when the baby has learned that his mother will pick him up and heal his wounds does maturity develop. A baby who is never allowed to fall can never learn to have this confidence. One can thus make an analogous case from the book of Job: God wanted Job to go from walking as a mere human being to soaring as an invincible soul. God did so by pushing Job to his limit, because only then can he transcend those limits.
As social beings, mankind cannot help but build relationships with the people who surround them. As a general rule, one follows human instincts in creating bonds with others rather than doing so self-consciously out of some logical sense of consequence. If one attempts to take a bird’s egg out of its nest, the maternal bird will instinctively attack the interloper to protect its young. When Job heard that his children died, he showed signs of sorrow by tearing his clothes and shaving his head, but his subsequent grieving was in the form of worship of God and resignation in the face of the worst misfortune a parent can face. This is not a logical response to the death of all of one’s offspring. Job obviously loved his children and prayed for his children regularly, yet his second reaction to accept this tragic circumstance went beyond the bounds of logic. He pursues wisdom and states: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (Job 1:20). As a faithful servant, Job understands that his children were given as a conditional divine gift of life. Job wisely attributed his loss to God’s doing rather than Satan’s. His faith has given him the divine wisdom to put aside the logical notion that all evil comes from Satan, because he knows that Satan requires God’s permission to intervene in the lives of the faithful.
To make matters even worse, Satan did not wipe out everyone in Job’s life at once, because certain major people had to remain to contribute to his suffering. He still had his wife and friends, but their presence only amplified his problems rather than easing them. When Job’s own wife wrongly advised him, Job responded with: “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10). In Ps.14:1-3, a foolish person is defined as an unbeliever; Job’s statement implies that his wife’s rejection of trouble is equal to disbelief in the ultimate wisdom of God. When Job’s wife curses God, he is badly hurt, because she is opposing his faith, the only thing he has left. Despite his wife’s discouragement, Job recognizes that God uses both good fortune and calamity to fulfill his divine purposes. From then forth, the book of Job does not mention Job’s wife again until the end, showing that Job’s wife was mentally absent during his turmoil. It is bad enough to lose someone to death, but if one loses someone’s heart, one builds resentment as opposed to lament. To add to Job’s misery rather than comforting and helping him through this trial, his friends began ranting on about Job’s unrighteousness for cursing himself. Satan attacked Job from all angles possible, yet Job held on to his life until God came to his rescue. As stated in Prov. 9:10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” This form of fear does not only mean being afraid but also means respect. Such respect for God is evidence of Job’s budding wisdom,which nevertheless, needed maturation.
The book of Job does not stop there but exposes the mystery of wisdom in its entirety; humility completes wisdom. God’s ultimate purpose behind “tests” is to facilitate humility, and once his faithful servants have fully absorbed this trait, they transcend human logic and acquire wisdom. Earlier in Deut. 8:2, Moses alludes to God’s thematic purpose for his servants: “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.” Job was indeed blameless, God fearing and faithful, but he was not humble. Job believed that he did not deserve to suffer as he did because of his self- righteousness (Job 9:21, 23:3-7). He took pride in his blamelessness and praised himself for having such character (Job 27:3-8). Even though his integrity was key to his perseverance, it also caused the pride which was God’s secret motivation for allowing this predicament to overtake Job. The flaw of pride would not have been revealed unless such a situation occurred. Job started off impressively coping with his predicament; in the early stages of the affliction, he acknowledged his righteousness but refrained from pride immediately after: “though I were innocent, I could not answer to him” (Job 9:15). As time progressed along with the pain, Job started to build up his not yet fully mature pride. Job himself did not realize that he was exhibiting pride until God’s scolding left him utterly speechless: “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth” (Job 40:4).
Job went from rambling on about his self-worth to standing dumbfounded as he stood in the glorious presence of God. Job’s encounter with God made him wise. He learned that his logical understanding of his affliction only led him to questions, but humility led him to wisdom. Towards the end of the book of Job, he states, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (Job 42:3). Many would misinterpret Job’s words of repentance as an act of embracing ignorance rather than acknowledging enlightenment. However, Job is speaking in past tense, for now he knows that humility is the other puzzle-piece to wisdom. With newly attained wisdom he understands why his predicament was necessary.
Job’s series of unfortunate events ended with a terrifying bodily affliction. Above all else, most people are ultimately moved by corporeal punishment because it is a hardship that influences the physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental aspect of their individual being. However, Job had to endure this affliction in order to break those barriers that set the boundaries and limits for the average human being—hence, making him invincible. Job was no longer using his own strength but rather the divine strength that God gave to him. Even with divine strength Job felt like God was absent during his tribulation, but he did not realize that God had been preparing him for this experience all his life: “…for the days when God watched over me, when his lamp shone on my head and in his light I walked through darkness…” (Job 29:3). Job had experienced darkness before, but during these times Job was consciously aware of God’s guidance because God had made himself known. God empowers Job by making him a blameless servant so that Job would hold fast to his integrity and seek justice. Job states, “let God weigh me in honest scales and he will know that I am blameless…” (Job 31:6). In the beginning of Job, God himself said that Job was a blameless man who fears him, but God significantly adds that he is the greatest among all the men in the East (Job 1: 1-3, 8). Since God declared Job’s blameless character to be true, Job was motivated to persevere until he can settle his case with God. Job was comparably blameless, but God wanted to raise Job beyond comparison. Job’s strength is stemmed from the foundations God built under him: Job’s blameless character, fear of God and his past “dark” experiences. Job knew that God had a reason for allowing this affliction, and so he neither cursed God nor did he take up his wife’s offer to die. Even when Job’s friends stirred his anger, he never once cursed God because of the foundation God had given him.
Where does the Satan come in? The Satan, in the context of Job, is God’s agent. The literal English translation of the Hebrew word is “the adversary”—specifically humanity’s adversary. Despite Satan’s malicious intent, without him Job would not have realized his fullest potential as a faithful servant of God. Satan cunningly stated, “Does Job fear God for nothing…have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?”(Job 1:9-10). Satan is essentially evilness by nature, and Satan has a burning desire to inflict harm. God is love by nature, but when he exercises love he sometimes authorizes both good and evil to do so. So even Satan’s “evilness” is under the authority of love, for God is love and God is the creator of both good and evil. As God declares through the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 45: 7, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” God is a God of justice, and therefore options like good and evil, pretty and ugly, rich and poor, happiness and sadness need to coexist.
If God is almighty then he should have the power to use only good to fulfill his loving intentions. Instead, he inflicts excruciating pain on Job that not even slumber could mask: “When I lie downs think, ‘How long before I get up?’ The night drags on, and I toss and turn until dawn. My body is clothed with worms and scabs; my skin is broken and festering” (Job 7:4-5). If God had told Job that he was prideful directly, Job would have been confused, because he had never exhibited pride in all his life. Some personality characteristics are only unveiled when a circumstance triggers that trait to reveals itself. A rich man might have no reason to steal, and may think that he is no thief until he becomes poor and poverty makes him susceptible to stealing. God uses pain so that Job might discover the pride hidden in his heart. This epiphany opened the door to humility and ultimately to a wisdom that tore down Job’s limits as a human being.
What does the book of Job reveal about the nature of God? As God states in Ezek. 18:4: “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” In the beginning, God’s breath was a piece of himself, which created our souls, explaining why our souls belong to him. Job knows that his children’s souls belonged to God and not to him (Gen. 2:7). So his divine love for God allowed him to understand that God could take back what has always been his. From this perspective Job views his children as gifts that he never explicitly deserved. Job was willing to suffer until God interceded, yet Job would not have loved God the way he did if God had not shown him love first. This love gave Job the capacity to love God back just as faithfully.
Despite the love God has shown to Job and the righteous character God exhibits through permitting free will, the nature of God still seems ambiguous. How can God truly be just if he stood aside while Satan crushed the lives of the innocent? How can God allow the assassination of his own creation if he is love by nature? Gen. 2:7 states that God created man from the dusts of the earth. Life itself was given to mankind; life was not earned and what the Lord gives, he can easily take away (Job 1:21). It is quite evident that the nature of God has to be a combination of love and justice. God gives life to mankind, but he also controls time. So even though everyone has the free will to live life the way they please, God controls everyone’s life span and the wise, like Job, are granted more time to live fruitfully (Job 42:16). This does not seem fair, but receiving consequences for actions is the key principal of justice.(Job 1:5). From the beginning, God cursed man because he knew that human beings with free will are inclined to do evil (Gen 3:16-19). Therefore by God’s standards, everyone is flawed and will suffer the consequence of death. God’s love allows him to show human beings mercy from time to time as he did with the Israelites; however, everyone will ultimately suffer death because of mankind’s inclination towards sin. No one is innocent, and God only spares his faithful servants. For God, a man’s life is a gift which is unearned, and so striving to understand the nature of God based on human logic is fruitless.
Many come to numerous conclusions concerning the nature of God within the context of the book of Job, because the fact still remains: God’s wisdom transcends logic. Applying human wisdom to understand the illogical nature of God is simply futile. He is above sense, and because of this He is all the more worthy of acknowledgment or in this case, Job’s fear, respect and adoration. We intrinsically admire higher levels of brilliance that we lack ourselves. Just as parents forbid their children to participate in what may be detrimental to them in the long run, God also makes seemingly malicious decisions for his servants’ best interest. When the child grows up, they come to understand their parents’ intentions all along and then realize that only experience provides a deep enough understanding. In the same way, God reveals his ways to those with the wisdom to fear him. God would not have spoken to Job face to face if Job did not fear God (Job 38-41). The combination of fear and humility enables Job to understand God’s intentions for him. Job is like a child who keeps asking his parents “Why?” and his growth in age comes only with his fear in God and humility. Ultimately, divine wisdom cannot be appreciated without humility because pride sets limits on knowledge. Logic is limited, but divine wisdom is limitless; God only reveals his nature to those he makes wise.
Holy Bible: New International Version, Burgundy, Bonded Leather, Thinline Bible.Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. 462-92. Print.
Leave a Reply