Today: [Job Twenty-Six] Job Describes God. In this chapter Job begins his longest monologue in the book of Job. He draws on very negative adjectives to describe God. He uses words such as “nakedness, hell, death, binding, reproof, smiting, etc.” as his word association responses revealing what his thoughts are when he considers the subject of God almighty. Is this who God is? How would we describe Him differently?
[Job 26:1-14 KJV] 1 But Job answered and said, 2 How hast thou helped [him that is] without power? [how] savest thou the arm [that hath] no strength? 3 How hast thou counselled [him that hath] no wisdom? and [how] hast thou plentifully declared the thing as it is? 4 To whom hast thou uttered words? and whose spirit came from thee?
After Bildad’s final reply to Job we do not hear further from him or his friends. Job’s comforters are exhausted. They have lost all objectivity. They have forgotten they initially came to comfort Job. They lost their way and strayed into endless and vehement attack against Job stopping short of anything but physical violence. All four men have attacked, vilified and accused. The 3 comforters accused Job and insist he is a vile sinner and being justly punished for his actions. They are now spent. They have nothing further to say. Their accusation and vileness against Job is fully exhausted. Job on the other hand is accusing God and unlike his friends who make an end of accusing him – Job goes on now for 8 more chapters in his self justification of himself and accusations of unfairness against God.
In the beginning of this chapter Job dismissed Bildad’s final remarks and lumps them in with the diatribes of Eliphaz and Zophar as worthless speech. He tells them they have been no help at all. He says to them in effect “who do you think you are talking to?” Job’s friends think they are wise but Job insists that he is not without wisdom either and that they haven’t added anything to his understanding of his trial. Job in making this statement reveals that his idea of his great need is to understand why (in his view) God is tormenting him so. In fact what Job needs is not an explanation (God doesn’t answer to Job). What Job needs is humility in himself and mercy from a loving God.
Our best understanding of what is happening to Job originates in a vulnerability brought about in his life through fear (Job 3:35). Because of fear the enemy had access to Job (Job 1:11-12). God is not the originator of Job’s suffering. God is neither punishing Job or otherwise. Yet Job wrapped up in his mind and ignoring his heart. He thinks that explanations are in order. He demands through the book that God explain Himself to him. He thinks he is owed a seat in the court of heaven to protest what a good person he is and how unfair his suffering. We can certainly question Job’s revilings against God but also have to remember his losses. His children are gone, his property, his livelihood. His own wife urges him to curse God and die. Were we in the same position as Job we might respond with little more grace than he does.
5 Dead [things] are formed from under the waters, and the inhabitants thereof. 6 Hell [is] naked before him, and destruction hath no covering. 7 He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, [and] hangeth the earth upon nothing. 8 He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds; and the cloud is not rent under them. 9 He holdeth back the face of his throne, [and] spreadeth his cloud upon it. 10 He hath compassed the waters with bounds, until the day and night come to an end. 11 The pillars of heaven tremble and are astonished at his reproof. 12 He divideth the sea with his power, and by his understanding he smiteth through the proud. 13 By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent. 14 Lo, these [are] parts of his ways: but how little a portion is heard of him? but the thunder of his power who can understand?
In verses 5 through the end of the chapter Job demonstrates to his friends (as far as he is concerned) just how wise he is and how deeply (he thinks he understands God). It is interesting in beginning to describe the greatness of God in v. 5-7 he evokes dark metaphors such as death, nakedness, hell and emptiness. These are the first things Job thinks about when he thinks of God. When he shares with others about God these are the thoughts – the dark thoughts that first come to his lips. It is no surprise to us then that he says in Job 3:35 “the thing that I fear the most has come upon me…” There was something in Job’s fear of God that was not legitimate in view of the fact that he sees God so negatively and in such a dark context.
Job’s negative view of God continues in v. 8-10. He describes God as in control of the weather systems of the earth using the words to describe God’s actions as “binding, holding back and bringing an end…” So we see even further that Job in seeking to explore the depths of God continues to see and unravel a very negative and pessimistic view of God. In his effort to define God there is very little we see of the goodness of God that Abraham (Job’s contemporary) experienced. Abraham saw God as his great friend. The God Job describes is nothing to be compare with Job’s covenant partner.
How does Christian culture describe God? Perhaps we can look at the nature or character of what is most often said about Him in our pulpits? Too often God is seen as a scolding parent. Much emphasis is placed upon judgment – usually not upon the faithful but upon those we consider offenders and outside the covenants of grace. It is true there is judgment that cannot be ignored as an eventuality but where is our attention placed? Do we emphasis the grace and mercy of God in our thinking (even toward sinners) or do we focus on the negative aspects of God to the exclusion of His goodness and benevolence? Job is preoccupied with the judgment of God. He would be quite welcome and find himself very much at home in the pews of many churches today who denounce, renounce, proclaim judgment almost to the point of ignoring the tender mercies and loving-kindness of our Father who sent His son to die.
In v. 11-14 the negative descriptors continue to dominate. Job describes God as reproving, smiting and “forming the crooked serpent”. Here is only the second veiled reference to Satan in the words of Job and his friends. Throughout the preceding chapters both Job and his friends with copious words and eloquent dialogue insist and identify and determine that God is causing all of Job’s suffering. In the first 2 chapters it is clear to us in the frame narrative that it isn’t God harming Job but Satan himself. Job and his friends however pay no mind to the true culprit in their zeal to blame God and hold Him responsible for all that Job is going through.
In the last verse Job emphasizes that for all his verbose description of God his words only begin to express just who God really is and must be. Then Job reveals his deep resentment by saying in effect “for all of this greatness of God that I can only begin to speak of – He is totally ignoring me – and in fact He is ignoring all mankind!” We know from chapters 1-2 that this is not true. God is very interested in Job’s life. He is very interested in our lives. It may seem at times that He holds Himself aloof from our struggles but nothing could be further from the truth. If Job had gotten quiet and stopped listening to others he might have found that out. The lesson for us is to avoid debate and wrangling over the why’s and wherefore’s of what we may be going through. Get quiet and listen for God’s voice. Then we will encounter the reality of His mercy and grace and hopefully hasten the end of our struggle at the time whatever it may be.
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