Job 8:1-10:22 Tainted Love

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…”If God is just, then trouble must be our own fault”… but how should man be just with God?… God really does seem a hard master …Save me from the folly of despair, and from dark-colored glasses that reveal only your justice and not your love.

Job 8:1-10:22

Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said, How long wilt thou speak these [things]? and [how long shall] the words of thy mouth [be like] a strong wind?

By this time, Bildad (“confusing [by mingling] love“) the Shuhite (Shuchiy, from Shuwach, wealth) must be bubbling over with frustration. He skips the usual pleasantries to shower Job with rhetorical questions:

Doth God pervert judgment? or doth the Almighty pervert justice?

That’s really the question, isn’t it? It seems a fair point, until you see how it is applied:

If thy children have sinned against him, and he have cast them away for their transgression;

The NIV translates this as “when” rather than “if”, which seems to fit the context. If God is just, then trouble must be our own fault. That also seems to imply a particular solution:

If thou wouldest seek unto God betimes, and make thy supplication to the Almighty; If thou [wert] pure and upright; surely now he would awake for thee, and make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous.

Job is doubly exhorted to seek God (shachar ‘el shachar). if he is pure and upright (zak yashar ), then God will answer and restore him. Simple, isn’t it? Especially since we’ve already been told Job is upright, though the word ‘pure’ is new.

Perhaps surprisingly, Job grants the truth (‘omnam) of Bildad’s premise, but disagrees with his conclusion:

I know [it is] so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?

The NIV has “how can a mortal be righteous before God*” Interestingly, the question does NOT seem to be “Who is truly righteous?”, but “How can a man prove it?” Don’t believe me? Check out the next verses:

If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand. [He is] wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened [himself] against him, and hath prospered?

The antecedents get messy (that’s a big reason why I capitalize divine pronouns ), but Job is basically saying: God is wise (chakam) and mighty (‘ammiyts) — how can I take him on? After reiterating this theme a few times, Job adds:

This [is] one [thing], therefore I said [it], He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked.

Strong words. Perfection (tam) — which accurately describes Job earlier — is no better than wickedness (rasha’) at preventing God’s wrath. No wonder Job is depressed!

Let him take his rod away from me, and let not his fear terrify me: [Then] would I speak, and not fear him; but [it is] not so with me.

That’s why Job won’t take up his friend’s suggestion and confront God. He knows its futile. If God would promise to fight fair, Job would be happy to oblige them. But as it is, there’s no point.

While a bleak picture, it does tie in with our earlier psychoanalysis of Job. He really does feel God is out to get him:

[Are] thy days as the days of man? [are] thy years as man’s days, That thou enquirest after mine iniquity, and searchest after my sin? Thou knowest that I am not wicked; and [there is] none that can deliver out of thine hand.

Translation: don’t you have anything better to do than to pick on someone who’s done nothing wrong and can’t fight back? What’s more Job, apparently feels that God has always had it in for him:

And these [things] hast thou hid in thine heart: I know that this [is] with thee. If I sin, then thou markest me, and thou wilt not acquit me from mine iniquity. If I be wicked, woe unto me; and [if] I be righteous, [yet] will I not lift up my head. [I am] full of confusion; therefore see thou mine affliction;

I have to say, Job sounds like nothing so much as an angry spouse on the verge of divorce. “You’ve always hated me. Nothing I did was ever good enough for you.” With all that, it is perhaps surprising — even a little creepy — that Job doesn’t abandon God, he asks God to abandon (chadal chadal shiyth shiyth) him:

[Are] not my days few? cease [then, and] let me alone, that I may take comfort a little,

Once again, I find myself resonating with Job, at least emotionally. God really does seem a hard master, and there are few things more frustrating than the idea that doing good has no benefit. Its like a salesperson who set a new record and still gets fired. Now wonder Job’s enraged. And since he has no venue for exercising his rage — he has “arms too short to box with God“, as they say — he just sits there depressed.

Thankfully the book doesn’t end on this pathetic note. But the chapter does, so we’ll have to stay in this uncomfortable state until tomorrow.

Prayer

God, I confess that I have often felt like Job. You are inscrutable, all-powerful, and I am frail and full of imperfections. How can I plead my case to such as you? Thanks be to God, for Jesus Christ my Lord. Save me from the folly of despair, and from dark-colored glasses that reveal only your justice and not your love. Teach me to grieve my pain, and restore my relationship with you. Save me from myself, and from tainted visions of you. Amen.

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