Thursday, 11 July 2013

Questioning God's Ways - Job: 1-43

Thus far I have now relayed the highlights (in my opinion) of the book of Genesis. Before moving on to the next book in the Pentateuch (Exodus) my chronological plan inserts the book of Job. In my Bible Job is the eighteenth book. I don't yet know why the books of the Bible are arranged in the order that they are, neither chronological or in the order of writing.

The book starts with a conversation between God and Satan, where Satan questions why Job should be God-fearing when God has kept him safe from all harm, and nothing to fear. God seems to agree with Satan(!):

1:12 'The Lord said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger."'

I find this dialogue puzzling, wondering why the two would meet to so casually discuss this idea. Things then start going wrong for Job, but, 'In all this, Job did not sin by God with wrongdoing.' (1:22)

One quote of which I do not think was intended to stand out but did was in Job's distress, he cries:

1:21 "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall depart*." *or 'shall return there.'

Although not critical to the story, quotes like this stand out to me as hidden sacred references; this one referring to rebirth.

In Job's second test, with more destruction he corrects his wife by asking:

2:10 "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?"

I find this to be the core meaning of Job's story. Suffering is a test of faith in God. But in this story it is Satan who is sending the destruction, and God condoning it, watching on. The rest of the story is an almost continual monologue of Job's, where he finally breaks down and questions God, with others reprimanding him for it. Some interesting quotes arise.

12:7-10 "But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind."

My Pagan senses lit up when I read this, describing the sentience and unity of all things, including the earth itself.

Despite criticizing God's methods, he does not deny God and even maintains his honour in this: 

13:15-16 "I will surely defend my ways to his face. Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance, for no godless man would dare come before him!"

Because Job's story ends well, we can learn that it is OK to take a critical stance on religious matters in trying to find answers, with the humility to see that just because we don't understand, it does not mean it isn't so, or that God therefore doesn't exist. I think this is still very relevant to people today. Job later cries out that he wishes his words would be recorded on a scroll (19:23) which makes me wonder who did write this, and 'remember' what was said?

A reference to Jesus appears here too, "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth." (19:25)

Before a storm approaches and God appears to respond, Elihu personifies God in nature: 

37:2-3 "Listen! Listen to the roar of his voice, to the rumbling that comes from his mouth. He unleashes his lightning beneath the whole heaven."

It is very interesting that God is seen manifesting in a thunderstorm, because the Semitic God El was also a storm God and scholars have provided convincing arguments for the Hebrew God originating from El. This is a very clear link to the Jewish Pagan past!

And now God speaks and reprimands Job and reveals his masculine and feminine nature, as father and mother. Obviously as a Pagan I find this significant, and it comes from God's lips him/herself.

38:28-29 "Does the rain have a father? Who fathers the drops of dew? From whose womb comes the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens?"

To conclude the book Job confesses, "Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know." (42:3) God forgives Job and rewards him with a long life and prosperity. The key meaning of this story is to acknowledge our natural inclination to question God's actions, and to explain to the Jew or Christian reading that this is OK, so long as we do not deny God and accept that the ways of God are beyond our comprehension; this is something I have been repeatedly told by Christians and Pagans alike. Us humans cannot know all of the answers, however hard we try.