Reading: Job 1 – 2:10
Job has long been a difficult book for me to read. There are so many things about this book that tends to make me angry. Sometimes it is what is inside the book, sometimes it is what is not included in the book, and most of the time it is somebody who quotes the book.
I cannot read the first chapter without hearing somebody say something about the “Hedge of protection”. The person who says that goes on to talk about some strange view that Satan cannot touch us without God’s permission. The problem with this is that it is very difficult for me to put myself in Job’s place. Job was the richest guy anybody knew. He was the huge landowner and one of the main employers in the area. When Satan goes and destroys all that Job has, everything includes Job’s children and Job’s employees. God might have protected Job but God failed to protect all the people who made their living by working for Job. If I were in the story, I would have been slaughtered by the Chaldeans when they took the Camels.
It gets even more difficult for me because I am uncomfortable with the picture of a God who places so much value on an argument that God is willing to kill scores of people. Job 2:3 has God speaking to Satan saying: “Look at Job, he’s a good guy, even after you got me to destroy him without any cause. (ah ha! I win, I was right, you were wrong.)” God seems more petty than loving in this story. If God is anything, God is not a just God.
When I react less emotionally, I soon see that that all these people who were killed never were part of the story. The discussions are rather philosophical, whether the discussions in heaven or on Earth. Satan and God talk about the nature of humanity, and how humanity reacts to the good and bad that comes to them in their lives. Job and his friends talk about what meaning (if any) suffering plays in our daily life. This little story is a set up for detailed discussion of a much more abstract concept.
The first discussion is about the nature of humanity: “Are the people who are devout, just, and wealthy good because they have received good things, or is there a goodness something that is intrinsically part of them? Satan accuses Job, and by extension, all humanity of being merely selfish, and only being good because they expect to be rewarded by God. Job shows that he is a man of such character that he blessed God when all was going right, and when everything goes wrong he’s the type who would bless God until he dies.
The story ends up defending humanity. We don’t pray because God prospers us, we pray because we believe in God. Most people are careful to treat others fairly, and even get angry when we see somebody cheated. Most people would not steal, and if they take something by accident, will go out of their way to return, or purchase it. This desire for justice is not dependent upon a desire for reward, nor a fear of punishment; it is part of how people deal with the world. Job did not become less righteous because he lost his property; humanity can be motivated by something higher than selfishness.
Continued with Job 2:11-13