The Book of Job Part 3 – Job Calls God His Enemy

The Book of Job Part 3 – Job Calls God His Enemy February 9, 2024

The common Evangelical interpretation of Job states that Job was a righteous man who refused to blame God for his loss and was commended by the Lord for his piety. In the introductory post in this series, I argued that this is the absolute opposite of what the text shows us, and that the wool has been pulled over our eyes, with devastating consequences. In the second instalment, we began to look at the text, establishing several key points:

 

  1. Job was not a Hebrew and didn’t have any knowledge of the Lord as revealed through Abraham. He was a man with his own view of God, whose behaviour and ultimately, whose words, demonstrate the nature of those beliefs.
  2. Job had lived in fear of disaster, of punishment for sin. He never knew or trusted the goodness of God. His spirituality was based on two key pillars – his own goodness and terror of the Lord. If he mis-stepped in the first he’d fall foul of a legalistic, vengeful God.
  3. That although Job initially watches his tongue, refusing to ‘curse God’, this stemmed from fear rather than authentic faith.

 

Today, I’ll examine the ongoing text in Chapters 4-10, in which Job’s heart is progressively exposed.

 

Chapter 4

 

Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, enter the dialogue at this stage. All three share a belief – that God’s blessing is earned by perfect behaviour while divine punishment is meted out when a person sins. They reiterate this point of view throughout the book, becoming increasingly frustrated with Job because he won’t accept that the disasters which have befallen him are the result of his sin. They have no knowledge of grace or mercy.

 

As becomes clear in later chapters, Job shares their belief system, but insists that he is perfect, fully righteous in every way, and that the disasters which have ruined his life are the attacks of an unjust God. The three friends shine no light throughout the book, never deviating from their dogma, so I won’t be going into the chapters dedicated to their erroneous, repetitive monologues. At this point, all four characters are deceived about the nature of God and are utterly committed to self-righteousness – perfect behaviour earns you blessing, while imperfections earn you punishment from the divine. The difference between the three friends and Job is that the three friends insist Job must have sinned, while Job insists his behaviour is perfect. Job is utterly reliant on self-righteousness, and soon begins to justify himself instead of the Lord.

 

Chapter 6

 

Job speaks again. His true feelings/thoughts are on the tip of his tongue but he’s desperate not to give them voice, for fear he would curse God and be on the receiving end of further divine wrath. (v. 8-10):

 

Oh, that I might have my request,

    that God would grant what I hope for,

that God would be willing to crush me,

    to let loose his hand and cut off my life!

Then I would still have this consolation –

    my joy in unrelenting pain –

    that I had not denied the words of the Holy One.

 

Job wants God to end his life before he blasphemes. Despite his many sufferings, his terror of Lord still trumps his pain and loss. This is the turning point for Job. He is desperate not to blaspheme, preferring to die than to face the consequences of cursing God, but the pressure has got to him, and his heart begins to be exposed. Job begins to justify himself to his friends, arguing that he is righteous (v. 29-30):

 

Relent, do not be unjust;

    reconsider, for my integrity is at stake.

Is there any wickedness on my lips?

    Can my mouth not discern malice?

 

Job’s principal concern has moved from avoiding blaspheming against God to justifying himself. This is the first time we see it clearly, but his words are directed at his friends and not yet at the Lord.

 

Chapter 7 – Job Accuses God

 

Job reveals more of his understanding of God (verses 17-20):

 

What is mankind that you make so much of them,

    that you give them so much attention,

that you examine them every morning

    and test them every moment?

Will you never look away from me,

    or let me alone even for an instant?

If I have sinned, what have I done to you,

    you who see everything we do?

Why have you made me your target?

 

Is that the God we serve? Does God test us in every moment? Does he make us his target? Job’s view of God is far harsher than even Hebrew Law, which at least provided forgiveness for sins in lieu of the coming Christ, but Job has no concept of grace.

 

Contrast this with King David who, despite the gravity of his sins, understood that God is gracious (Psalm 145, 8-9):

 

The Lord is gracious and full of compassion,

Slow to anger and great in mercy.

The Lord is good to all,

And His tender mercies are over all His works.

 

David knew in his bones that God is ‘slow to anger’ and ‘great in mercy’. If Job had understood either of those things his response would have been entirely different. Instead, he turns his accusations on God – ‘If I have sinned, what have I done to you?’ He is compelled by his own righteousness.

 

Chapter 9 – Job continues to justify himself:

 

Job’s language becomes increasingly accusatory towards God, citing him as the source of injustice (v. 23-24):

 

When a scourge brings sudden death,

    he mocks the despair of the innocent.

When a land falls into the hands of the wicked,

    he blindfolds its judges.

    If it is not he, then who is it?

 

God mocks the despair of the innocent and blindfolds judges? Is this a righteous man speaking here? Someone who knows and honours the Lord?

 

Job speaks at length of the unequal footing he stands on with God, painting the Lord as an unjust tyrant (v. 33-35):

 

‘If only there were someone to mediate between us,

    someone to bring us together,

someone to remove God’s rod from me,

    so that his terror would frighten me no more.

Then I would speak up without fear of him,

    but as it now stands with me, I cannot.’

 

Chapter 10 – Job openly accuses God

 

Job blasphemes the very nature of God in verse 3:

 

‘Does it please you to oppress me,

    to spurn the work of your hands,

    while you smile on the plans of the wicked?’

 

Job is willing to accuse God of being an oppressor, while defending himself to the hilt (verses 5-7):

 

Are your days like those of a mortal

    or your years like those of a strong man,

that you must search out my faults

    and probe after my sin –

though you know that I am not guilty

    and that no one can rescue me from your hand?

 

He views God as a rule-keeping perfectionist, ready and eager to judge (v. 13-14):

 

But this is what you concealed in your heart,

    and I know that this was in your mind:

if I sinned, you would be watching me

    and would not let my offence go unpunished.

 

It should be clear by this stage that Job despises God, considering him unjust and cruel. His previous piety was a defensive measure against a God he believed was testing him at every moment, ready to destroy him if he sinned.

 

We’ve been sold a fake

 

This is not the Job we hear about in Church, is it? The false Job of Evangelical dogma is a righteous man, who never accuses God and is right in all the things he says. He’s someone who is meant to represent the perfect suffering servant, and used as an example of how each of us ought to behave when trouble arrives on our doorstop.

 

This could not be further from the truth and is utterly contrary to the text. Job is self-righteous and continually blasphemous. His heart is against God, and by the end of the book, Job has been thoroughly rebuked by the Lord for his words and attitude. We’ve been sold a fake by teachers who should know better, but for whatever reason, have little interest in looking more closely at the text. This is the nature of dogma – it is received as a package, and we are not allowed to question it. It becomes our theology, even when it is not Biblical, and from then on strangles the joy that is our birth right as children of God.

 

I want to encourage readers of this series to shake off the rigid dogma that’s hemming you in. I will continue this series over the next few months, taking it several chapters at a time, but for those who want to sink their teeth into this, I’ve written a book called Job: A Story of Salvation that examines the text chapter by chapter (under a pen name, James Bewley). For UK readers, Job: A Story of Salvation can be found here. I urge anyone who feels stuck in the mire of heavy, Evangelical dogma to read this book – it will set you free!

 

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