Editor’s note: Throughout the month of May we will explore hard/weird/confusing/hilarious passages or verses in the Bible and try to make sense of them (or try to model how you make sense of them) to better understand God and the stories contained in scripture.
6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 8 And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” 9 Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. Job 1:6-12
For those of you who haven’t read Job, it’s the story of a rich, righteous man who loses everything after God points him out to Satan. His friends tell him that it’s all his fault and wife tells him to curse God and die. God comes around at the end and essentially says, “I’m God, for crying out loud. You don’t know me.”
***spoiler alert*** Job ends up with even more money and kids when it’s all said and done.
There are a couple of things in this story that bug me. First of all, God almost tells Satan to mess with Job. I have a hard time reconciling that story with the overarching biblical narrative of God as love. It almost feels like Love is saying, “Hey, Satan! Attack that guy!” and that doesn’t make sense to me.
Job’s kids die. His wife pushes him to compromise. Job’s friends “comfort” him by telling him that he’s secretly a terrible person. Job asks God to vindicate him in front of his accusing friends. He asks why he was born. Job asks God question after question, and for 39 chapters, God is silent.
I took a Lyft home from work yesterday. The driver and I dove into a discussion about rain. He explained that in his home country of Nigeria, rain storms are considered a blessing. He said that people rejoice, grab drums, and collect the rainwater. This water is seen as sacred and it is saved for special occasions like baptisms. But he also said that the rain from thunderstorms is seen as a curse. People stay inside and let the rain go where it may.
Which makes me wonder…have we lost our sense of awe?
Rain is just… water. I go inside. I stay inside. I don’t give it another thought.
When did rain turn from a miracle or a curse to the most boring of conversation starters? What else has lost its gravitas?
We’re all mixed up. Weighty, incredible things flit across my attention span, but I spend an hour watching Jimmy Fallon clips on YouTube.
While I’m being honest (because hey, we millennials all about being real) I believe that this is why Job messes me up worse now than it did when I was younger.
I’ve created some politically-correct niceties that I expect the Author of Infinity to follow. And He doesn’t. It bothers me and makes me uncomfortable. The more I feel like I’ve figured Him out, the less I like reading the Old Testament.
Job 40:7 says, “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” God doesn’t answer Job’s questions. He reasserts his sovereignty, as that’s enough for Job.
God’s the one who asks the questions. It’s his world, and we just live in it. This kind of dialogue is unpopular in our current culture because it has been skewed and misused as a way to manipulate and control others. But it’s true. The most beautiful facets of our faith have a history of being abused (don’t even get me started on the Holy Spirit).
But God’s sovereignty is not the same as the manipulative power of an abusive parent or spouse. And it’s not like a tornado ripping through our homes, haphazardly destroying our lives at random. God had a deeper story, planned before the creation of the world, when he mentioned Job to Satan. The narrator may not have added it, but God makes it pretty clear at the end of the book that he knows what he’s doing when it comes to this whole ”running the world” thing.
I like the idea of running my world. I want to know exactly how much money I’ll have when I hit retirement age. I want to figure out if I’ll end up getting married, who I’ll end up marrying, and how many kids he’ll let me adopt. I want to control these things, but there’s a God much more powerful than I. He’s the only one who actually has control of anything.
Why do ignore and hide and blame?
What right do I have to question His ways?
Do I, in my 27 years of life, have some deep wisdom that escaped my Heavenly Father?
Where was I when He created the world?
Did I understand His thoughts when He knit me together?
When I examine my frustration with the story of Job, I realize that, truly, I need to brace myself. God has some questions for me.
God, I’m ready to listen. I’ve listed my frustrations and complaints. I’ve hid from your voice. I pick and choose aspects of your character so that I can create a god in my own image, but you are not like me. You are holy and separate and other and wonderful—majestic and powerful, beyond my imagination.
I know that I can’t handle your voice, but I need to hear from you. Open my ears, open my eyes, and open my heart. You are God. I am not. Teach me to follow your story. Expand my vision so I can catch a glimpse of your glory.