I’m reading Job again. Intently. There are parts where my heart quickens. Was it David who was a man after God’s own heart? David does not speak to me. It was not a king, as Saul, who afflicted Job -- it was Satan, and it was God. Seems like a bigger deal. Perhaps there was some drama in the heavenlies of which we are not informed, where David too is handed over to Satan. Well, we know God plays favorites. For all that Job was, eventually, blessed, David was chosen.
The book isn’t easy to follow, all the arguments and poetry. It would have been written long after the events, with much license. Job’s friends, his comforters, are bores, and boring. Job is riveting. “What is man, that You should magnify him, set Your heart on him, visit him every morning and test him every moment? How long? Will You not look away from me and let me alone till I swallow my saliva? Have I sinned? What have I done to You, O Watcher of Men? Why have You set me as Your target, so that I am a burden to myself? Why then do you not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity? For now I will lie down in the dust, and You will seek me diligently, but I will no longer be.”
It is enough. Too much. Job is doubled over on his knees, soundless, strings of drool undoing a lifetime of dignity. Promises that we are not given burdens greater than we can bear do not ring true. Promises that God will comfort us sound like noises from the other side of a door. There’s something inconsistent, about being both a savior and a judge. “Though I were righteous, I could not answer God. If I called and He answered me I would not believe that He was listening to my voice -- for He crushes me with a tempest and multiplies my wounds, without cause. He will not allow me to catch my breath.” Job’s children were crushed in a tempest; Job’s body was infected with wounds; of course he can’t breathe.
There’s righteous and there’s righteous. We try, and that has to be enough. That’s the deal. We try, and fail, and get forgiven -- then through the Law, now through the Cross. Always, through blood. But there is too much evidence to the contrary, to suppose we’re not pieces on a game board. God may at any time chose to turn our lives into object lessons.
“God destroys the blameless, and the wicked. If the scourge slays suddenly, God laughs at the plight of the innocent. The earth is given into the hands of the wicked. God covers the faces of its righteous judges. If it is not God, who else could it be?”
We were told right up front that God gave permission, for some untold reason, to Satan, to torment Job. If it’s not God’s doing, whose? It must be that suffering doesn’t really matter. Sure feels like hell though, don’t it? But we’re also given the answer, pretty clearly. “God is not a man, as I am, that I may answer Him and go to court together. Nor is there any Mediator between us, who may lay his hand on us both.” Mediator, Reconciler, Councilor. God without Jesus might as well be Satan. A Judge who can only condemn doesn’t need an Accuser.
If it is not God, who else could it be? It’s a complex situation. God uses the wicked as well as the good, and both the weak and the strong. God optimizes, and everyone suffers, and evil doers have happiness perhaps as much as the righteous, right up to the end. Clearly our understanding of justice cannot be accommodating all the variables. It’s nuanced. God cannot tolerate imperfection, yet we’re counted as good enough. That’s why quantum mechanics is necessary -- because particles are waves.
Job, blameless Job in the bitterness of his pain said true things that are not true. God laughs at our pain. But it’s not so much laughter as a chuckle with a shake of the head, as at a crying child who is overly distressed by some small thing. Small, and not small.
The pain of life is like fetish pornography. It’s not at all interesting, unless that’s your thing. Otherwise you have to just shake your head, and chuckle, if it’s not too gross. Poor, foolish, wretched creatures. Just get on with what’s important.