Recently I had the opportunity to speak to a group of teenagers about the epilogue in the book of Job. They had spent the previous four weeks exploring the overall themes in Job and exploring the implications about suffering and how God interacts with that suffering. I had the fun job of trying to wrap everything up by dealing with the rather confusing and almost insulting epilogue to the book.
I will lend my voice to the throngs of biblical scholars and lay people who really struggle with the book of Job. The story told in this book stands out amongst scripture painting a picture of God that is less than savory. In many ways, God takes a departure from the redemptive God to one who looks pretty mean.
The problem is people see the epilogue of Job as evidence of God’s redemption of the situation. But, really? Because God agreed to it, Job lost his entire family, possessions, and health through what looks like a wager between God and the devil. All of Job’s piety and holiness could not save him from the incredible suffering brought upon him. Then at the end of the book, magically Job gets all of his possessions and even 10 more “replacement” children back.
For years I was taught this was okay. Then, I became a dad and now utterly reject that everything would be okay with Job getting his children back and thus, being okay.
You see, if I ever lost my kids (knock on a thousand pieces of wood) – I am not sure if I would be okay with starting over again. And, definitely having two new boys wouldn’t make everything okay. You see, life teaches us that pains and scars just don’t simply go away when we are appeased.
That is truth.
But something else really interesting happens with Job that points to how we find what is true in this world. A majority of the book contains a conversation between Job and some of his friends as they attempt to wrap their minds around what had just happened to Job. They were trying to reason why a perfectly good man should have to suffer. Then out of nowhere, God shows up.
Some of my favorite passages of scripture are contained in Job 38-41. We get a rare glimpse into the wild and untamed nature of God. These chapters contain God at full force like looking into the depths of of geyser when it opens up.
Job and his friends were left without words to speak or a good retort. My guess is we would react the same way.
At the end of God’s monologue, Job speaks truthfully to God, but really doesn’t absolve God of any wrongdoing. Job said it this way:
Then Job replied to the Lord:
“I know that you can do anything,
and no one can stop you.
You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’
It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about,
things far too wonderful for me.
You said, ‘Listen and I will speak!
I have some questions for you,
and you must answer them.’
I had only heard about you before,
but now I have seen you with my own eyes.
I take back everything I said,
and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” (Job 42:1-6)
Job never really apologizes, but he does say that he has seen God in a new way. He has learned something new about God, but it doesn’t make things okay. In fact the last line of the passage reading “and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance” has been a problematic translation for bible scholars. One way it could read is –
“Therefore, I recant and relent, being but dust and ashes.”
So in the passage, Job does recant what he said about God, but then acknowledges his own humanity in relationship with God. Job is fragile, broken, and totally dependent on the God who created him in the first place. Job’s final words contain what is really true. We are nothing if it were not for our creator.
Though we do everything in our power to take credit for our talents and abilities, accomplishments and piety, we have nothing if it were not for the creator that gave us those things.
And this is a truth that gave Job a new perspective on things. He now understood his own humanity in relation to a very powerful God.
Job isn’t the center of the universe, but he does have a role to play.
There are some clues in the last part of the epilogue that give us a glimpse of how Job’s new perspective on God changed how he dealt with the world around him.
It is really cool. But, it will have to wait till tomorrow. Check back in tomorrow morning as we finish our discussion on truth and how it leads to freedom.