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Now we are really starting to dig into the Book of Job. We have learned how God is good and He regulates suffering and wickedness because He knows that it is better to bring good out of evil than not to permit the temporary existence of evil whatsoever. This is what Augustine said, and this is what we see working its way out in heaven in the first few chapters. But, Job’s friends do not know this and neither does Job. We will find out later how God takes issue with this and corrects both Job and his friends on this point.
Why dig into the book now? I just gave you the whole point! You already know the conclusion! I am so grateful for the opportunity here to really relish what the book says, dig into the details, and truly learn it inside and out. Joseph Caryl took 30 years and more than 10,000 pages, about 10 times larger than our Bibles to explain this wonderful book. I have maybe a couple more months to try to give you just some of the goods those 10,000 pages have!
So, bear with me because upon reflection and prayer, I feel that it is extremely important to unpack what we were reviewing in the end of last week.
My wife pointed out a very good point to me last week, and it was something I was concerned about too and I was not quite sure how to phrase it, but I’ll give a go at it now. We are nearing the end point of our discussion of Job chapters 3 to 31. Teaching these chapters in a chronological manner is challenging, because Job and his friends do not make their points one after another like Paul does in the Book of Romans. Rather, they make the same kinds of points in varying order.
For this reason, I have in varying order gave us categories to understand the responses of Job and his friends gave considering suffering.
For example, Job’s friends said that Job suffered as a punishment for sin, but what else did they also say? Yes, that Job is totally depraved and can be punished at any moment, and God is inscrutable.
In the same way, Job’s responses vary throughout the chapters, but also tend to fall into a select few categories. These include laments of his suffering, defenses of his own righteousness, accusations that his friends are wrong, and accusations against God’s justice.
The accusations against God’s justice also tend to fall into several categories and are repeated in an uncertain order. These include that God is overly scrupulous, acting inconsistently with the Gospel, gets His way by force, and creates disorder.
I am going to make the case to you today that a significant part of Job’s responses, at the very least 45 verses which is equivalent to two chapters of the book, relates to the accusation that God is a God of disorder, both creative and social.
This is particularly true in chapters 9 and 12. Chapters 17, 18, 20, 21, 27, and 30 all speak of the issue of social disorder, particularly God blessing the wicked and allowing the righteous to suffer. We cannot ignore this issue. Too much of the book covers it.
Let me lay out for you what I mean by creative and social disorder. First, what is creative disorder? Creative disorder means that God made the physical world, its weather and geology, in such a sense that it could have been done better. For example, couldn’t God have made the world where there are no hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts, and meteor showers?
Social disorder is a simpler concept. Social disorder is when society is not ordered the way it ought to be, whether it be by caste, honor, equality, equity, or whatever measures and concepts we conflate with order. Corrupt politicians, crooked preachers, ISIS, crimes, and race riots are all examples of things that create social disorder. You know, like the final scene in Police Academy.
When we suffer and say in layman’s terms, “Something is not right in the world,” what are we really saying? What’s not right? We are really saying, “The world could have been made better, it is not ordered right!”
And, this is what Job is saying in chapters 9 and 12 when he accuses God of creating disorder. Is there any truth to this accusation? No. The Scripture says, “[F]or God is not a God of confusion (Greek: disorder) but of peace” (1 Cor 14:33).
Now, who made the winds who killed Job’s children and set loose the Sabeans and what not to kill his servants and steal his property? Not God, Satan! Satan sows disorder, not God. God allows Satan to sow disorder to an extent, just like God lets the tides of the ocean and waves rise and toss to an extent. But then he marks a line where they cannot cross and says, “No farther!” In the same way, God tells evil, just like Satan in the first two chapters, “No farther!”
Job’s accusation is very serious, as it accuses God of doing what Satan actually does! Let’s unpack Job’s accusations:
First, Job 9:1-16:
Then Job answered,
2 “In truth I know that this is so;
But how can a man be in the right before God?
3 “If one wished to dispute with Him,
He could not answer Him once in a thousand times.
4 “Wise in heart and mighty in strength,
Who has defied Him without harm?
5 “It is God who removes the mountains, they know not how,
When He overturns them in His anger;
6 Who shakes the earth out of its place,
And its pillars tremble; (What does this sound like? This sounds like volcanoes or Earthquakes. Were there volcanoes and Earthquakes killing animals and threatening Adam and Eve in the garden? No! They are a result of sin. Satan is behind the destructive elements of weather.)
7 Who commands the sun not to shine,
And sets a seal upon the stars;
8 Who alone stretches out the heavens
And tramples down the waves of the sea;
9 Who makes the Bear, Orion and the Pleiades,
And the chambers of the south;
10 Who does great things, unfathomable,
And wondrous works without number. (These are all references to God’s power in creation. God’s power scares Job.)
11 “Were He to pass by me, I would not see Him;
Were He to move past me, I would not perceive Him.
12 “Were He to snatch away, who could restrain Him?
Who could say to Him, ‘What are You doing?’
13 “God will not turn back His anger;
Beneath Him crouch the helpers of Rahab.
14 “How then can I answer Him,
And choose my words before Him?
15 “For though I were right, I could not answer;
I would have to implore the mercy of my judge.
16 “If I called and He answered me,
I could not believe that He was listening to my voice (Job 9:1-16).
We need to remember what Job said in Job 9:20 as a result of everything he just said: “For though I were right, I could not answer.” He is calling God wrong!
What is Job’s premise for saying this? God’s creative power is discussed in a way that invokes fear and does not reflect positively upon God. It is as if Job is saying he could have done it better, without the Earthquakes (“pillars tremble”), cloudy days (“covers the sun”), and what not.
Let’s go to chapter 12:6-25, where Job gives examples of God creating disorder in both the social and physical realms:
“The tents of the destroyers prosper,
And those who provoke God are secure,
Whom God brings into their power. (God brings into power those who create social disorder)
7 “But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you;
And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you.
8 “Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you;
And let the fish of the sea declare to you.
9 “Who among all these does not know
That the hand of the Lord has done this, (Job is saying ALL OF CREATION testifies that God uses His power to sow disorder.)
10 In whose hand is the life of every living thing,
And the breath of all mankind?
11 “Does not the ear test words,
As the palate tastes its food?
12 “Wisdom is with aged men,
With long life is understanding.
13 “With Him are wisdom and might;
To Him belong counsel and understanding. (Let’s see what God uses His counsel and understanding for according to Job.)
14 “Behold, He tears down, and it cannot be rebuilt; (Likely a reference to Earthquakes–creative disorder)
He imprisons a man, and there can be no release. (He puts men in jail–social disorder)
15 “Behold, He restrains the waters, and they dry up; (He creates droughts–creative disorder)
And He sends them out, and they inundate the earth. (He creates floods–creative disorder)
16 “With Him are strength and sound wisdom,
The misled and the misleader belong to Him. (He creates confusion among men–social disorder)
17 “He makes counselors walk barefoot
And makes fools of judges. (He creates injustice–social disorder)
18 “He loosens the bond of kings
And binds their loins with a girdle. (He creates political instability, think of tyrants–social disorder)
19 “He makes priests walk barefoot
And overthrows the secure ones. (He creates religious confusion, think of false preachers–social disorder)
20 “He deprives the trusted ones of speech
And takes away the discernment of the elders. (He creates intellectual confusion, think of the universities–social disorder)
21 “He pours contempt on nobles
And loosens the belt of the strong. (He creates instability among castes and social classes–social disorder)
22 “He reveals mysteries from the darkness
And brings the deep darkness into light.
23 “He makes the nations great, then destroys them;
He enlarges the nations, then leads them away. (Again, political confusion–social disorder)
24 “He deprives of intelligence the chiefs of the earth’s people
And makes them wander in a pathless waste. (Again, intellectual confusion–social disorder)
25 “They grope in darkness with no light,
And He makes them stagger like a drunken man (Job 12:6-25).
Thomas Aquinas writes in his interpretation of the preceding, “For God sometimes darkens the mind of those men by taking away his grace so that they cannot find the truth, and, consequently cannot speak it, as Romans says, “Saying that they were wise, they have become foolish.” (1:22)”
Now let me ask everyone here, is Aquinas right about this? Yes. Is Job saying that the things in chapter 12 are a just punishment for sin? No!
Job is saying that God messes up both nature and people. If God messes up both of those things, then He in effect is messing up the whole of creation, which makes him a bad God. But, what’s the one other part of the world that Job is missing? The spiritual part! What happens behind the scenes to makes these different things happen in nature and society? What we saw in Job 1 and 2! But Job does not know that.
Job is most definitely, without reservation, not concurring with 1 Cor 14:33! He gets a pass because it was not written for another 1500 years. But we cannot ignore Job’s accusation, God creates disorder, and so His justice is arbitrary and should invoke fear.
We can see the idea that God creates social disorder elsewhere in the book.
Last week, we began unpacking what Job said in 30:15. If we can understand this verse, it will help us see how profoundly important the social order was to Job. This helps us appreciate how big a deal his fall from grace was, and why he would be so bitter at God for allowing it to happen.
An interesting comment Job makes about these men is that, “They pursue my honor as the wind” (Job 30:15). In modern societies that do not follow practices such as “honor killings,” the term honor does not quite carry the importance or implications that it would in Job’s time.
Space does not permit an extremely detailed discussion here, but “honor” was to the ancients a bank account of respect. Think of it how maybe during the Great Depression, everyone was poor so no one had any financial means in which to be respected more than the next. So, a man having “his word” meant something. He might not have any money, but that man had “his word!”
Likewise, in older times, the “family name” meant something. For example, the idea of divorce was very difficult for many to swallow, but not because of religious reasons. Rather, people were afraid of ruining, as you may guess, “the family name.” The “family name” was important for people who wanted to marry into “good families.” A “good family” was not always rich, but marrying into such a family was sought after because they were seen as a cohesive body of respectable people. Having the reputation for being good was in many ways more important than money.
These illustrations help us understand what honor is like, but in reality honor itself is a little more complicated than this. Individuals had honor such as their “word,” but they also had honor as a family unit (i.e. “the family name.”) The way this plays out in an honor killing would often work like this: a man sleeps with an unwed daughter of another family. The man not only gratifies himself, but by shaming the woman accrues personal honor at her expense. She is not supposed to be sleeping with anyone so by not doing her socially expected duty, she loses her honor and it is given to the man who slept with her. The family, due to their family’s shame, likewise loses their overall honor.
When one’s honor is slighted, outsiders perceive you as weak and prime for shaming, so that they can accrue honor at your expense. It essentially becomes a free-for-all at the expense of the family that just lost their honor.
How does one protect himself from being abused in a vicious cycle? In this situation, a male representative of the shamed family often will kill the man who slept with his sister. This restores to his family some degree of honor, while accruing personal honor to the brother for fulfilling his fraternal duty. In some situations, the woman is also killed because her continued existence is seen as a slight on the family’s honor. In this way the family preserve their good name! This still exists in Israel amongst the Arabs today. The killing part is important, because by ridding their family of shame they regain their “street cred” which in effect is a protective measure.
Now all of this sounds crazy, but understanding it helps open up meaning in many parts of the Bible. In the Old Testament there are designated “cities of refuge” (Num 35:11-24). The dynamic at work with the vengeance killing has to do with restoring honor, because we already know that the cities of refuge were for involuntary manslaughter. As we said before, among pagan cultures, to let someone just kill your family member (or sleep with them, or defraud them, or wrong them in anyway) dealt a blow to one’s honor, leading to one being open to continued abuse. God in His mercy provided a way for His people to have their lives preserved and mitigate the role that “honor” would have played in perpetuating bloodshed.
So, when the lowlives pursue Job’s “honor as the wind,” they are targeting Job in his moment of weakness. It is to be expected in this honor-obsessed culture. But, because Job is a blameless man, it is a grave injustice that he holds God responsible for because “He has loosed His bowstring” (Job 30:11).
Let’s now sum up the rest of what Job and his friends say about social order. We are going to blow through this so sit tight!
In Job 17, Job makes the comment, “But He has made me a byword of the people, and I am one at whom men spit” (Job 17:6). In chapter 19 he speaks of how his family abandoned him, his wife hates his breath, and children criticize him. We know from Job 30, what Job means by this that he is a man worthy of immense respect who has been humiliated by God.
Bildad responds in Job 18:5-7, 17-19:
Indeed, the light of the wicked goes out,
And the flame of his fire gives no light.
The light in his tent is darkened,
And his lamp goes out above him.
His vigorous stride is shortened,
And his own scheme brings him down…
Memory of him perishes from the earth,
And he has no name abroad.
He is driven from light into darkness,
And chased from the inhabited world.
He has no offspring or posterity among his people,
Nor any survivor where he sojourned.
That the triumphing of the wicked is short,
And the joy of the godless momentary?
He returns what he has attained
And cannot swallow it;
As to the riches of his trading,
He cannot even enjoy them.
For he has oppressed and forsaken the poor;
He has seized a house which he has not built.
Because he knew no quiet within him,
He does not retain anything he desires.
The heavens will reveal his iniquity,
And the earth will rise up against him.
The increase of his house will depart;
His possessions will flow away in the day of His anger.
This is the wicked man’s portion from God,
Even the heritage decreed to him by God.”
(Job 20:5, 18-20, 27-29)
Translation: What goes around comes around, they’ll never enjoy their ill-gotten gains and won’t even have kids. God simply CANNOT allow it.
Why do the wicked still live,
Continue on, also become very powerful?
Their descendants are established with them in their sight,
And their offspring before their eyes,
Their houses are safe from fear,
And the rod of God is not on them (Job 21:7-9)
Job in both chapters 21, 24 and in 27, where he mocks Zophar’s intended response, makes the argument that God should recompense men while they are alive–not the afterlife, and not their children.
They spend their days in prosperity,
And suddenly they go down to Sheol.
They say to God, ‘Depart from us!
We do not even desire the knowledge of Your ways.
‘Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him,
And what would we gain if we entreat Him?’
Behold, their prosperity is not in their hand;
The counsel of the wicked is far from me. (Job affirms the judgement)
You say, ‘God stores away a man’s iniquity for his sons.’
Let God repay him so that he may know it.
Let his own eyes see his decay,
And let him drink of the wrath of the Almighty (Punish the wicked in this life, not the next)
“Behold, I know your thoughts,
And the plans by which you would wrong me.
“For you say, ‘Where is the house of the nobleman,
And where is the tent, the dwelling places of the wicked?’
“Have you not asked wayfaring men,
And do you not recognize their [s]witness? (This disproves Zophar, everyone knows much of the wicked live sweet lives)
“For the wicked is reserved for the day of calamity;
They will be led forth at the day of fury.
“Who will [t]confront him with his actions,
And who will repay him for what he has done?
“While he is carried to the grave,
Men will keep watch over his tomb.
“The clods of the valley will [u]gently cover him;
Moreover, all men will [v]follow after him,
While countless ones go before him. (God, by not striking these men down when they are living, encourages continued wickedness)
(Job 21:13-16, 19-20, 27-34)
Why are [a]times not stored up by the Almighty,
And why do those who know Him not see His days?
2 “[b]Some remove the landmarks;
They seize and [c]devour flocks.
3 “They drive away the donkeys of the orphans;
They take the widow’s ox for a pledge.
4 “They push the needy aside from the road;
The poor of the land are made to hide themselves altogether.
5 “Behold, as wild donkeys in the wilderness
They go forth seeking food in their activity,
As [d]bread for their children in the desert.
6 “They harvest their fodder in the field
And glean the vineyard of the wicked.
7 “They spend the night naked, without clothing,
And have no covering against the cold.
8 “They are wet with the mountain rains
And hug the rock for want of a shelter (Job 24:1-8).
What is Job saying? “He mocks the despair of the innocent. The earth is given into the hand of the wicked; He covers the faces of its judges. If it is not He, then who is it” (Job 9:23-24)?
This argument between Job and his friends is about social order. If God allows the wicked to be successful and run things, it at least appears on the surface that God endorses a malevolent social order. So, even if there is judgement on the wicked in the afterlife, it still does not explain why God would uphold wickedness in this life.
When we appreciate how central Job’s desire for order is to his responses, all his casual mentions about Sheol start making sense:
‘Why then have You brought me out of the womb? Would that I had died and no eye had seen me! ‘I should have been as though I had not been, Carried from womb to tomb.’ Would He not let my few days alone? Withdraw from me that I may have a little cheer Before I go—and I shall not return—To the land of darkness and deep shadow, The land of utter gloom as darkness itself, Of deep shadow without order, (Earth was a “formless void” in Gen 1) And which shines as the darkness (Darkness is the antithesis of light which God made)” (Job 10:18-22).
Yeah, Job simply wants to die so he does not feel more pain, but there is more it it than that in what we just read.
Because God’s view of order appears to Job unjust, he wishes to go to Sheol where there is no order at all. This is the connection between Job wishing he was never born and the images of disordering creation he often invokes. God’s view of the social and moral order is wrong, according to Job. The creative order is also wrong. Therefore, this makes disorder preferable to order. (This is difficult to grasp, let me repeat this!)
There’s more to it than that. We will cover next week about how Job is faithful and looks forward to his restoration. Sheol, to Job, is temporary. It relieves him of his sufferings until he can see God face to face.
Let’s review the response of Job’s friends and Job himself, so we know how to internalize suffering.
The friends are wrong in that we don’t suffer because simply because we committed sin. Neither is God’s inscrutability or our total depravity the reason.
Likewise, Job got a lot of things wrong too. God is not overly scrupulous, inconsistent with His Gospel promises, tyrannical, or unjust in any way.
Throughout Job, all of these different ideas are picked up and put back down in a varying order. It is easy to forget what is being talked about but just remember, they are all wrong.
What lesson can we draw from Job’s friends’ responses? Don’t respond to suffering like Job’s friends!
What lesson can we draw from Job’s responses? It is important to speak the truth. Everything Job said was true until he started talking about God.
Unlike the friends who were being sophistic, Job was being sincere. So, we should be sincere but we must be aware that we ground what we view as the truth in God’s word. Job should have done this, as he did earlier in the book in his first two responses to Satan’s assaults.
Instead, he questioned God.
Maybe he simply did not know enough about God. God is going to fix that later! But none of us do, we like Israel, like Job, wrestle with God. We learn more about God in our wrestlings, in our suffering. But those wrestlings are mitigated if we are grounded in the Bible.