The Impatience of Job

My plan to post daily, clearly didn’t work out. Nevertheless, we plod on.

Job, a long, often boring book. An often a misunderstood book. Sometime people talk about the book of Job as if it contains the answer to the problem of evil. If you read the book, it doesn’t. Evil and suffering are not explained. People talk about the patience of Job. However, I don’t think Job is particularly patient.

Job is a man who loses everything. His friends come to comfort him- and they do for a while. But eventually the friends can’t help themselves, they decide to explain Job’s situation to him. They explain why all the bad things happened to Job. It’s quite simple, Job sinned. ( FYI, they are using the idea of sin in a particular way. Sin in this context is not a state of being, it’s not a moral failure. here sin is a breaking of a particular set of rules.) Job professes his innocence. The friends continue to tell Job that he has sinned and needs to confess and repent. Job maintains that he hasn’t sinner and so has nothing to confess. This dialogue goes on for a very long time.

At the beginning of the book, Job just wants to die. He doesn’t understand why God has done (or allowed) tragedy to strike him. Job isn’t interested in understanding, he simply, desperately wants his suffering to end. But over time, Job’s perspective changes. He decides he doesn’t want to die. What he eventually wants is a chance to make his case before God and he wants God to explain God’s actions. In this request, demand even, Job is persistent. He is however, not particularly patient. Patient is defined  by as “bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, etc., with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger, or the like.”

For example, in chapter 19 Job answers his friend Bildad, saying, ” If indeed you magnify yourselves against me, and make my humiliation an argument against me, know then that God has put me in the wrong, and closed his net around me. Even when I cry out, ‘Violence!’ I am not answered; I call aloud but there is no justice. He has walled up my way so that I cannot pass, and he has set darkness upon my paths. He has stripped my glory from me, and taken the crown from my head. He breaks me down on every side, and I am gone, he has uprooted my hope like a tree. He has kindled his wrath against me, and counts me as his adversary.”

Job continues in this vein for 18 more verses. Not very patient.

What Job is, is persistent. He says, “Today also my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy despite my groaning. Oh that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his dwelling! I would lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would learn what he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me. Would he contended with me in the greatness of his power? No’ but he would give heed to me. There an upright person could reason with him, and I should be acquitted forever by my judge.” (23:2-7)

Job is persistent even though he is afraid. “But he stands alone and who can dissuade him? What he desires, that he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me; and many such things are in his mind. Therefore I am terrified at his presence; when I consider, I am in dread of him. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me; If only I could vanish in the darkness, and thick darkness would cover my face!” (23:13-17)

Job maintains, in the face of the wisdom of the time, that he is innocent and is being treated unfairly. He tells his friends and he tells God. Even though he is afraid, Job maintains his innocent. He expects God to hear and to respond, even though Job is “terrified at his presence”

While Job is hardly an example of patience. Job is a model of persistence. And he stands in a long tradition of people who, in essence, stand up to God and demand God pay attention to what is going on.

What do you think about this? Do we dare call God out over injustice? Should we?


One thought on “The Impatience of Job

  1. I like the Book of Job. The storyline and unexpected events that give shape to one of the more literary books of the Old Testament are interesting and a perfect frame for great discussions.

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