Moreover the LORD answered Job, and said,
Its interesting how the Lord is answering Job (Y@hovah `anah ‘Iyowb) a second time. Perhaps the connotations of ‘testify’ or ‘respond’ — or even shout — is better than answer, since Job didn’t get a direct answer the first time, and I doubt he’ll get one now. God’s earlier response could be summarized as “I am God and you are not.” What does He say now?
Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct [him]? he that reproveth God, let him answer it.
It appears that God — having made His primary point — shifts from the rhetorical to the imperative, with a command for Job to answer (`anah) Him (‘elowahh). Job stands accused of trying to sue (riyb ), correct (yiccowr ), and judge (yakach) God. Harsh! Is that what Job did, or least what he thinks he did?
Well, to the first point: yes, Job basically said he wanted to take God to court. To correct God? Implicitly, yes – Job seemed to think if he could get God into court, God would relent. Judge? Well, Elihu would think so. In what way? Well, the most likely issue at stake is whether God had any reason for allowing Job to be refined. Job said “no”, and God said “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
I admit, the idea that Job had sin needed purging is a little difficult to reconcile with the righteousness ascribed to him in the prologue. Yet, maybe that’s the point. Even someone so righteous that God Himself uses him as an example of virtue still benefits from suffering and purification. Even such a man has no right to consider God’s actions pointless or thoughtless. Job certainly gets that point:
Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further.
What’s going on? Is Job merely cowed by God’s power? I don’t think so. I think he is shamed by God’s wisdom and compassion over the earth and living creatures. I’ve had this experience a few times in my life, when I’ve encountered a true expert on something I’d been puttering around in. I remember thinking, “Oh, that’s how grown-ups approach this problem.” Which is very humbling when you’re over thirty years old! Imagine how much worse that would be for a respected elder, when confronted with the full splendor of God.
Then answered the LORD unto Job out of the whirlwind, and said,
I believe is the third time God answers, and the second from the whirlwind.
Gird up thy loins now like a man: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.
God seems to be pretty much repeating his original instructions. But now He goes in a different, and perhaps more pointed, direction:
Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous?
Ouch! After talking pretty obliquely for a couple chapters, God goes for the jugular. Will you discredit (parar) my justice, by condemning (rasah`) me rather than doubting your own righteousness (tsadaq)?
That’s really the heart of the issue, isn’t it? Ultimately, one has to assume something in order to reason about anything. And frankly, an implicit assumption in most arguments is “I am right”, which could be translated as “I am emotionally invested in this perspective, so I will avoid considering alternate interpretations which would cast me in a bad light.”
Not that I consider Job intellectually dishonest, or self-deceived (in the usual sense). I actually think his perceptions of himself, and even of God, were fundamentally correct — which is more than I can say for myself! The problem is that he viewed himself as righteous in human terms — which was correct — but then he extrapolated that to being righteous in God’s eyes, which was folly.
Consider a circle. It might think itself perfectly round. And it is, in a two-dimensional world. But in a three-dimensional world, a so-called circle is really a disk. Perfect roundness is found in the sphere, which may look like a circle in two-dimensions, but is really something quite different. Ironically, the truly round sphere will look like many different circles, some of them quite small, depending on how it intersects the 2-D world; whereas the blocky cylinder can appear as a constant circle at many depths — as long as it isn’t tilted.
Sorry, too many conic sections in my youth. The point (if you’ll pardon the term) is that our goodness is a shadow of God’s, and thus we can’t trust either a) our own righteousness or b) our perception of God’s righteousness. Our eyes are too small to box in God.
Perhaps that is the point of the next section:
Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with a voice like him?
Deck thyself now [with] majesty and excellency; and array thyself with glory and beauty.
These words are so pretty that it is easy to brush past them. But that might be a grave error. What do they mean? Exaltation (ga’own), loftiness (gobahh) — a sense of perspective as well as power.
Glory (howd) and beauty (hadar) — more about worthiness than just appearance.
Cast abroad the rage of thy wrath: and behold every one [that is] proud, and abase him. Look on every one [that is] proud, [and] bring him low; and tread down the wicked in their place. Hide them in the dust together; [and] bind their faces in secret.
Interesting. Perhaps God isn’t just talking about having power, but also about how and why it is used. Possessing a divine wrath (‘aph) which motivates a judicial rage (`ebrah). The stature to humble (shaphel and kana’) the proud (ge’eh) just by looking at them (ra’ah), and trample (hadak) the wicked (rasha’) underfoot.
Then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee.
This is really the bottom line. God accepts the responsibility of being the ultimate judge. He has the power, and the emotions, and the status necessary — as He claimed the wisdom and compassion earlier. If we want to take His place, we need all of these — and we have none. We can’t even save (yasha’) ourselves.
A powerful rebuke. And God still isn’t finished. There’s still an elephant in the room, or at least a behemoth, which we’ll discuss next time.
God, forgive me for the arrogance of trusting in my own righteousness. Of responding emotionally — and negatively — to your correction, for I felt that I had nothing to learn. Of condemning you rather than humbling myself. Teach me to worship you, in spirit and in truth. Grant me a vision of your 3+-dimensional splendor and beauty. Not that I can ever grasp you fully, but rather that I may see myself as I really am. By the blood of Jesus your Son, Amen.