Posted by: Heather | February 2, 2012

Another Wrong Question

Since Ama left off posting with her questions about the book of Job, I found time to dabble around in the book a bit and had to laugh at myself. Here I was searching the pages, thinking, “Why did this happen to Job?” and upon rereading, I thought, “Huh, that’s exactly what the characters in the book are doing: they are asking why and trying to answer why.” How ironic.

Why is it so hard to figure out why Job suffers? I’m getting the sense that it is the wrong question. God does speak in the book, and in quintessential Jesus Christ style, he ignores their questions. Instead, he tells Job something about who He is, specifically who He is compared with Job. He changes the question from why to who. And admit it, who is a hands-down cooler question, first because it can be answered and second because God’s answer takes us on a romp through his creative genius.

I am aware of many beautiful explanations of Job’s suffering that seem compelling and water-tight. I’ve heard speeches. I’ve made speeches, metaphorically, meaning I’ve tried to answer the question before and thought what I said made sense. And yet, were any of these words heard or spoken any better than what Job’s friends offer? I doubt it. Couldn’t God say of us that we’re just darkening counsel with words without knowledge? I suspect he would. Job’s friends say a lot of wise things, and yet, God remains unimpressed.   

So the introduction of the book where we peek into the heavenly courts doesn’t satisfy the question of why Job suffers. Job’s speeches and the speeches of his friends don’t satisfy the question of why Job suffers. And I think we’d all agree the recompense at the end ultimately doesn’t satisfy the question of why Job suffers. To be rewarded with more of what he already had before his ordeal? Please. Given the choice, I think Job would have passed if that was the point.

Is it crazy to read Job–at least on some level–as a mirror of my human questioning? Am I way off base here? Maybe the point is that no answer will ever be satisfactory: climb into heaven, claw your way down to hell, scour the whole world, speak with men and angels, and you know what? You still won’t know why. But while you’re on that journey, you just may find out who’s yo’ Daddy. And that is more than enough.

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Responses

  1. Hi Heather,

    God speaks in the book? Where? Oh I know, at the end where he ignores everything he has put Job through, and Job’s family and servants, and starts pontificating about how wonderous ‘he’ (God) is. How does that help me to understand ‘him’ .. when I am stopped dead by the cruelty of the actions, the lack of love that he showed Job through all the torture, and everyone else by terminating their lives .. just to show the devil that Job ‘might’ remain faithful?

    The human mind wants to find answers to everything, its how we were created. Trying to find a ‘good’ answer in all the “I am bigger stronger .. and yes, crueler, than all your little pipsqueaks” .. is not what I think the God of Jesus is about. Jesus taught ‘love everyone as I have loved you’ .. if Job’s God was our God, I think we better hide.

    The Book of Job was written by three men, not one, and not God. Using it as a tool to ‘know’ God .. doesn’t work for me.

    Love & Peace
    Ama

  2. […] over a minute and pop over here to Heather Benson’s very good site Move from this Mountain. Her question sparked my comment on the page, which I have copied […]

  3. I’ve grappled with this issue myself. I’ve said that I’d rather keep my original family than just getting a new one because there’s real feelings involved here. Replacing a pen is one thing but a loved one is another. It’s just not the same. I haven’t figured this out yet so maybe these verses apply: “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter…Prov 25:2) And Rom 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!

    Or perhaps there’s something bigger here. The only thing I can come up with that sort of helps is the fact that it’s not all about us. We deserve nothing, but that’s not my point. If you look at scripture as a whole, and study thematically, you will see the same scenario repeating. Man sins, God punishes, they repent, God restores. This happened many times with Israel. But Job was a righteous man not engaged in willful sin. So we can look to examples of Israel again. Sometimes Israel’s enemies were judged and afflicted and Israel was restored. So in those cases where Israel did not sin, we see God acting the same way only towards her enemies. But the theme remains the same – sin, judgment, restoration. (Israel’s enemies does not qualify for repentance because that’s why they’re being judged in the first place) So if you look at this thematically, the Lord is revealing Himself to us. It’s not so much about Job as it is about God and His overall plan for humanity.

    And us, we sinned, repented, and He restored us back to the Father and now we have salvation. The earth has been defiled due to our sin, He will judge the people of the earth, and burn the earth by fire in order to cleanse it, then restore the earth. Can you see the same pattern? So if we look at things thematically, we might get a clearer picture of what the Lord is trying to reveal to us about Himself.

    • That’s a good answer, Carol, but it doesn’t address the central issues – 1) why did God do this to Job, and 2) why is this book even in the bible at all? The original story is not from the Israelite culture, and none of the characters are Israelites.

      No, quite truthfully, I can’t see the patterns you speak of repeating. I see God allowing the torment of one man who was one of his true and faithful believers. It raises many questions, most without answers, and leads good Christian people into trying to find excuses, or reasons, for God’s behaviour .. rather than truly looking at what has happened and accepting that God could act in such a way as to allow the destruction of his followers, without just cause.

      One of the big questions is – What does Job’s persecution mean for other true believers? God punishes so many other people, whole nations, in the OT .. why pick on a true believer? Why turn into a pompous verbose dictator and expect Job to find fault with himself, when there was no fault? What was Job supposed to have repented of before God had Satan kill his family, and then strip away his health? How do we defend ourselves, now when we die, or in the time of Revelation, if God treats someone without sin in the way he has Job? Why could God not say ‘I am sorry’? Jesus teaches us to love one another, and not do harm .. which God is Jesus representing? It’s not Jehovah, not after the way he treated Job. Was God frightened that Job would not forgive Him for his destruction of all of Job’s family, his health and his entire life? Does that make God a coward? And why would he allow Satan to harm any of us at all?

      Or is the simpler answer that this book should never have been selected as one to put into the Christian bible, regardless of the “I am wonderous” statements God makes later on. Irenaeus and his assistants must not have read it very well when they created the Book we call the Bible today.

      Wishing you a lovely day,
      Love & Peace
      Ama

  4. Carol and Ama (although, Ama, I don’t think you will like this answer too much–ha!), I feel pretty strongly that we can glean this one essential truth from the book of Job: we cannot always read our circumstances as evidence of how God feels about us. God can love us tremendously and let us go through things we think are horrible. God’s love is one thing; our circumstances are another thing.
    Are there connections? Sure, but they are explicitly spelled out in the Law: cause & effect. But beyond that, what I learn from Job is to leave off tea-leaf reading in my own and other people’s lives. He, meaning God, Jesus, is with us and for us. That’s what we need to know. It doesn’t mean that we won’t suffer.
    Carol, I am with you in the sense that I think Job fits thematically with the Bible. I’d miss it if it weren’t there.

    • Hey Heather 🙂 .. shall I surprise you and say I like you answer .. because I do .. just one small problem ..

      God didn’t LET Job go through what he did – God and Satan set Job up, they created his pain and suffering.

      I agree God lets us experience everything we choose to .. but he’s not acting behind our backs to make it worse .. there no Love in that. God is not the monster we find him to be in Job, IMO.

      Love & Peace
      Ama
      p.s. never could read tealeaves .. LOL

      • : ) Isn’t the tree of the knowledge of good and evil sitting in the midst of the garden of Eden a setup? Isn’t being born in a fallen world a setup of sorts? I’m okay with a setup. Setups have a purpose. Job’s setup at least shows the limits of Satan’s kingdom in this world. It has a purpose in the heavenly game of Risk (do you have that game in AU?).
        Re: God not acting behind our backs to make it worse, well, I’m not so sure. Remember how He hardened Pharaoh’s heart, which made life actively worse for the Hebrew slaves? Or consider the bitter herbs in the Passover Seder. God commands us to eat those bitter herbs. Tasting bitterness, feeling the pain that God sends our way, actually fulfills a command of God! Chew on that one!

        • Hi Heather, 🙂

          The tree as a setup? No, the tree was there because people were given free will by God. The ‘snake’ or serpent in the garden .. that’s the puzzle. How long had it been there? Who let it in, and when? Is it (representing evil) also perfect, since everything in the garden was supposed to be perfect? In that case the only imperfect things were the human male, twice created, and his female offspring .. taken from his rib. She was ‘flesh of his flesh’. Did God create Satan to tempt his newer creations into harm’s way – because God created everything else? But how does this relate to Job, because Satan wasn’t ‘tempting’ Job .. he was attempting to destroy him, or get him to destroy himself .. I wonder what God would have done to Job if Job had abandoned Him the way God had abandoned Job to the tormenter?

          A fallen world setup .. Did you have a choice in being born, Heather, or was the choice thrust upon you by your parents’ desire for a child? Hopefully we are created through love, some people are created by rape .. does that make any difference to how our parents, or God, feels about us? For some people yes, for some no. How big a test does God want us to pass, each newly created spirit, when the stakes are set against us? Why would God drop us into this ‘fallen world’ if there’s no way we can redeem ourselves? No one is perfect, no matter how hard we try, and since we are going to be measured by God in ‘thought, word and deed’, after spending a lifetime struggling to be better people on a ‘fallen’ world, what chance do we have? This doesn’t sound like a ‘setup’.. it sounds like a downright ‘fail’. Does God then set up everyone to fail, not just Job? We are back to the question of ‘is God a monster’ ..

          How is this world fallen? The planet is not evil, some of the inhabitants are .. but evil is a concept that is measured by the eye of the beholder. Different societies have different rules of behaviour, some are acceptable to you and I, and some aren’t. That even happens with the Christian society. We are told that anyone who follows Christ will be saved, but then we have all different versions of the ‘one true faith’ .. so who is right and who is wrong .. only God decides who follows the ‘true faith’ .. and we can’t guarantee which one that is. Is God deliberately setting up the majority of humanity to go to hell because of this problem we have with the translation, and then interpretation .. the bible? What about the people who have never even heard of God, or JC .. or any god that you and I would recognise? Again I have to ask ‘is God so cruel’? What happened to ‘Love one another as I have loved you .. ‘ .. Was Jesus deluded?

          So no, this is not a fallen world, it is a world of cause and effect, of struggle and enlightenment .. its up to us, because God us free will, to follow one set of teachings or another. And sometimes we do hold strongly to one set of beliefs all our lives, and sometimes we change as we learn and grow. From my own experiences with God, I do not think he is so unloving as to set us all up to fail.

          I have never heard of the game called Risk? I see what you mean about Job limiting Satan’s role among humans .. again, I think this book should never have been added at all. Perhaps the demons would be leaving more people alone, without the tacit permission the book (by human belief in it), gives them to act.

          Do you really think God is not to be trusted? That we can never turn our back on ‘him’, just in case he hardens someone’s heart against us? I really have to go back to everything Jesus taught us about a loving God .. because thinking God would harm us is in direct conflict with trusting God, unless we are foolish. And how can we love a God that would treat us the way He treated Job? No wonder our society is falling to pieces, when there is no one, or no being, that we can truly trust or love. And then Jesus sacrifice for us appears wasted – I guess we must have no value to God at all, unless we are all perfect, and yet he sent Jesus to save us, to give us that message of His Love? Why would God bother if we are all going to go to hell anyway? I guess he likes playing games?

          What command does poisoning ourselves and accepting the pain that God sends us fulfil? It can’t be any of the Ten Commandments? I checked through them? Thanks 🙂

          Love & Peace
          Ama

  5. Ah! I think I found something fundamental that we see differently. When I wrote that feeling the pain God sends our way fulfills a command, you said,

    “Do you really think God is not to be trusted? That we can never turn our back on ‘him’, just in case he hardens someone’s heart against us? I really have to go back to everything Jesus taught us about a loving God .. because thinking God would harm us is in direct conflict with trusting God, unless we are foolish.”

    You are reading suffering as evidence of God being untrustworthy, or God sending harm our way as evidence of God being untrustworthy. It’s as if pain = bad/evil/wicked. I don’t see it that way. (This is where you stick me in the “foolish” category.) 🙂 I trust God to save me, reconcile me to himself, grant me eternal life through Christ. I don’t expect him to save me from pain, suffering, discomfort, or ultimately, the persecution he promises will come. Jesus Christ, in my view, died and rose to save me from destruction, not make me happy and safe.

    Which command of the ten asks us to accept bitterness? Hmm. Which one of the 10 doesn’t ask us to accept bitterness! They all deny pleasure as a guiding principle in life:

    I am the Lord your God (even if you are wretchedly unhappy about it)

    Have no other gods before me (even if idols bring you every joy)

    Don’t use my name in vain (even if you end up in a bind)

    Remember and keep the Sabbath (even if you hate to stop working)

    Honor your mother and father (even when you don’t feel like it)

    Don’t murder (even when someone makes you really angry and killing him would make you happy)

    Don’t commit adultery (even when you’re suffering from ungodly desires)

    Don’t steal (even if you really, really, really want it)

    Don’t bear false witness (even if it hurts to uphold justice)

    Don’t covet (even if it brings you pleasure to think about it)

    I think they all ask us to suffer when our desires run contrary to the commands of God. And to my mind, that’s not wrong of God or foolish of us to resist “unto blood striving against sin” (Heb. 12:4). I don’t think suffering is all bad, and I don’t think happiness is all good.

    • This is fun. 🙂

      No, Heather, I don’t see suffering as evidence that god is untrustworthy. Suffering is what we create for ourselves, which helps us learn to be better people, if we have the courage to use the suffering as a tool to better ourselves, instead of wallowing in self pity. You see, I don’t think God does anything but sit and watch, the creations he gave ‘free will’ to (us), use that freedom to learn our own way, which might not be in ways the average Christian person expects, since they often appear to think they have a monopoly on God. Pain is not wicked or evil, pain – physical, spiritual or emotional, warns us that something is wrong somewhere, and that we need to address whatever is creating the pain and change it somehow.

      I trust God. I trust that He created me to be what I am and who I am and that He gave me the right to choose my own reality. I trust that He gave me free will, the same He gave to all of humanity, from the beginning. I also don’t expect Him to save me from pain or suffering. But I do not believe that He intends to persecute anyone, it doesn’t make sense given what we know of what Jesus taught.

      I agree Jesus died and rose to save us all from destruction, but also from captivity. We were under Satan’s thumb .. which could be another explanation of Job’s story, with a twist, and Jesus broke that, redeemed us all .. and here we are still behaving exactly the same (as a human collective) as we did back then, but where is the smiting?

      I love what you did with the ten commandments. Thank you. 🙂

      And I agree that suffering is definitely not all bad, nor happiness all good. It’s very easy to remain complacent and coast through life when it’s too easy .. we need the challenges to grow as people, without them we would be empty vessels, but .. I haven’t heard of God providing anyone a challenge, not that we can truly prove .. not just their word for it .. since before Jesus came. Our God, Jesus’ God, isn’t the Jehovah of the OT – the differences are too deep. Yes, Jesus referred to the OT in his teachings, because that is what his followers knew, but he did say “I have come to teach you a new way” .. and then he did. Sadly the new way is not as controlling as the old .. and didn’t suite the teachers that followed him. They went back to the old to try and create the new .. but, what’s the saying, ‘you cannot put new wine in old skins’? And as much as I love that book, the churches focus too much on the old, hell, Satan and damnation, and not enough on the new .. IMO.

      And the greatest commandment of all (paraphrased) was “ Love God totally, and love one another as he loves us”. Apply that to the story of Job, since this is where this discussion started. But I’ve covered that ground already. Apply it to you and me. True love does not include persecution or condemnation, there is no hellfire in it, no denial of redemption .. otherwise God loves only when it suits Him, and only those He chooses, and gives and takes blessings .. but where is that in the NT? .. Doesn’t the Bible says that ‘God so loved the world (most people assume He meant humanity and not just the planet)that he gave his only son….” then how do we know if the religion we ‘follow’, to follow JC, is the correct version, given the mistranslations of the various versions of the Christian Bible, the adaptions, the redactions, just to start with? We might be all meant to be speaking Aramaic these days. Hopefully not, since I have such a problem with learning new languages. LOL And did God create all of mankind, in all its splendid varieties .. only to destroy it when not enough became the Christian that Christ wasn’t? I guess we all should be Jewish then? Or is God big enough, loving enough, all encompassing, omnipotent etc .. and wise enough, to allow us all to follow Him, Her, or It, our own way .. that’s what free will actually is. Freedom to choose.

      Love & Peace
      Ama

  6. First, that’s a cool reading of Job as a picture of humanity under the power of Satan! But I have to move to the issue of freedom. Ama, how can you be free if you are not free to reject God and/ or His provision for us to be with Him? He made a way for the whole world to be reconciled to Him; that doesn’t mean he’s going to slap chains around our necks and drag us through that door. He doesn’t deny redemption–we do!

    If your core concern is for those who don’t know about Jesus, don’t worry: God’s got a plan for them. Acts 17:30 says he “overlooks” our man-made religious efforts; then once we hear, he calls us to repent. I’m not in the camp that says every soul is swept into some furnace at the moment of death. Jesus preached to the souls in the grave. If judgment happens at the moment of death, there’s no point in the resurrection and no point in the white throne judgment when all the dead are presented before God. What, like he couldn’t make up his mind the first time? I doubt it. I think that’s really the judgment. It ain’t over till then. And I don’t think we all have eternal life. I think that’s a specific gift that Jesus grants to souls who are reborn in Him. I could be wrong–and I hope I never have firsthand knowledge of this–but I don’t think people live forever in the lake of fire.

    • Hi Heather,

      Is that a question about free will? Were we created servants, with no will of our own? Then why the story of Adam and Eve .. if we had no will, the ‘fruit’ would still be on the tree, and you and I would not exist. The thing with free will is – it’s all or nothing. You can’t have ‘degrees’ of free will, otherwise you are not free at all.

      The bible says we have to follow God, via Jesus, or we are going to hell. How does that work for the Orthodox Jewish people, who will also be saved (according to Rev), because they don’t follow Christ, that I am aware of?

      I agree that some people deny their own redemption, I just don’t think God is a villain and going to act on that denial and keep ‘his’ children away from his love, just because some of them are too frightened, or too angry, or sceptical, or untrusting, because of their life circumstances, to accept that God is real, the way you and I do. And yet the bible says that if we aren’t reconciled through Christ, what is the other choice, but the chains and eternal fire?

      Acts 17:30 says .. in my book .. “While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent’ .. it’s a sentence written about the past, around 2000 years ago, not about current times. And we are still ignorant, still struggling to understand, because Christians are still expecting to be ‘rescued’ or ‘avenged’ by a Christ Messiah with flaming sword. Who do we need avenging from? I think, as in the confusion with the story of Job, people have got the actions of the devil tangled up with what they expect from Jesus. Jesus taught love, not war; peace, not hatred; acceptance not judgment. And no, I am not concerned about the people who do not know God and way you and I think we do .. I think God ‘knows’ all of us, and reads our hearts, not the belief systems that cloud our judgment.

      I agree judgment doesn’t happen at the moment of death, I don’t think it happens at all. If we are judged, we do it ourselves, and redemption is within our own hands. God knows we are children, and need time to learn and grow .. and we are slow learners, given the state of the world these days. Who is ‘arguing’ most right now, Heather .. the Christians, the Jewish people and the Muslims .. and they all are followers of ‘God’. They all think they are doing ‘God’s’ will .. my next question would have to be ‘which God’?

      Love & Peace
      Ama

  7. Blindness in part has come to Israel, but the pendulum is starting to swing the other way. The promised reconciliation is already beginning, I think. And while most believers live comfortable lives now, that will change. If we’re all getting hacked to bits, I’m going to want my Deliverer to show up and put his foot down–right on the Mount of Olives. 🙂
    Which God? The God who intervenes in history, brings his people out of Egypt, splits seas, speaks through prophets, fulfills promises, and causes his name to be known, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God who brought us out of Egypt. That’s the one I’m banking on.


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