If I got to write a story about my own trials in life, I’d write it EXACTLY like the book of Job.
Wanna know why?
Too bad! I’m going to tell you anyway.
Job makes his suffering into an epic tale of a God that doesn’t think twice about making bets with Satan, and doesn’t bat an eye at gambling with human lives (1:6-12).
Isn’t that macabre? It gets even better!
The book of Job demonstrates in painstaking detail how human reason, when applied to human suffering, only increases our experience of suffering. When one suffers unjustly, one is tempted to feel they would be much better off just crawling into a hole to die alone. No one has words of comfort for you. Not even God.
There are scholarly commentaries that explore the many layers of the book of Job in depth. This is not one of them.
I have but one objective here: to call the Sunday school version of Job into question.
I could write a whole blog series on the dialogues between God and Satan in Job chapters 1 and 2. But I’m not going to. However, this is where the story of Job begins. Suffice it to say, Satan doesn’t appear to be an Adversary of God at all. No, here Satan is more like one of God’s lackeys. Doing for God, with God’s expressed permission, what God is too busy to do Himself.
Anyway, poor Job’s life is destroyed… Not because of his sin (1:1), or because of some greater Divine plan, but because Satan wagers with God(1:9-11) and God takes him up on his bet!
What was the wager? Satan bet that Job would curse God the moment God withdrew His blessings and protection from Job.
So, after Job loses his children, possessions, and his health…. Does Job curse God?
Well, technically, Job does not. Although, in 40:8, God totally calls Job out for condemning the Divine in order to save face… But, we’ll get to that later.
Instead of outright cursing God, Job says exactly what you’ve heard quoted in Sunday school. Job’s friends arrive on the scene. Horrified at Job’s current state, they all go into mourning with him, and are collectively silent for 7 whole days (2:13).
However…when Job finally speaks again, he starts by cursing the day he was born (3:1).
Job then goes on to say an awful lot of unflattering things about the God he once praised:
“The arrows of the Almighty are in me; my spirit drinks their poison” (6:4)
“Do not human beings have a hard service on earth, and not their days like the days of a laborer(… )So I am alotted months of emptiness, and nights of misery are apportioned to me” (7:1-3)
“Let me alone, for my days are breath. What are human beings, that you make so much of them (…) test them every moment?” (7:16-18)
“If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of humanity? Why have you made me your target? Why have I become a burden to you?” (7:20)
“If it is a contest of strength, he is the strong one! If it is a matter of justice, who can summon him?” (9:19)
“It is all one; therefore I say, he destroys both the blameless and the wicked. When disaster brings sudden death, he mocks at the calamity of the innocent.” (9:22-23)
“Bold as a lion you hunt me; you repeat your exploits against me.” (10:16)
“I am a laughingstock to my friends; I, who called upon God and he answered me, a just and blameless man, I am a laughingstock.” (12:4)
I could go on (and on) here, but I think I made my point.
The Sunday school Job praises God in suffering.
The real Job speaks frankly in the bitterness of his soul, because he no longer wants to live (10:1).
The real Job is incredibly relatable, isn’t he?
The Sunday school version of Job is like one of Job’s ‘comforters’– he stands as unsympathetic to the experience of human suffering as those crappy friends of his.
Not that the real Job offers us any insights that would explain why innocent people suffer (if it really is because God has a gambling problem, I don’t want to know). Which is the beauty of this Old Testament book– even when God decides to (finally) answer Job, God doesn’t really say anything that Job doesn’t already know.
But here’s where the story of Job shines brightest– Job says earlier “This will be my salvation, that the godless shall not come before him.” (13:16)
God coming to Job in chapter 38, proves Job is indeed not counted among the godless. Yay Job!
Job is humbled, gives up his case against God, and repents (ch 42). God chastises Job’s friends, and gives Job “twice as much as he had before”(42:10).
Um, ok. I guess.
And then, “all who had known him before (…) showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him” (42:11-12). Oh, and brought him gold rings and and money. And Job lived a really long time before he died (42:17).
This is where I start believing the book of Job must be some kind of twisted satire. Here’s our summary:
God has a gambling problem. Job pays for it dearly. God tries to make up for it, and everyone that left Job alone in his pain suddenly shows up and give him stuff and feel sorry for Job. And everything is wonderful, but God commits evil against innocent beings. The End!
If this post’s reflection on the absurdity of the real Job accomplishes anything, I hope it’s to drive you to re-read the Biblical account for yourself;)
And please, whatever you do, let’s put the whole mythology of Job-praising-God-in-suffering to rest, shall we?