Are you a man or a mouse?

I’m working on some thoughts in the book of Job. This is old and familiar territory, but I always find obstacles to feeling like I have a good grip on this book. I’m trying to get a handle on the different viewpoints the various characters have — including God and Satan, Job, his wife, his friends, and Elihu.

First, some quick thoughts on Job’s wife

So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

His wife said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!

He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

Job knows this trial is ultimately from God. We might think that Satan is responsible for all the bad in the world, and God for all the good, but Job knows enough of God to know He is sovereign over all of it. And it’s clear from the text: it is God who initiates the dealings with Job. The accuser is casting about, looking for trouble, and God says, “Look over here…”

Job’s wife knows, also, that God is ultimately responsible here. She knows this “shouldn’t be happening”, and, like Job, she knows it is ultimately from God. Since she knows Job has loved and served God, this seems monstrously unfair. In the brokenness of her heart, the bereft mother of ten children all suddenly dead, the keeper of a house suddenly gone empty, has no one but her husband. And she sees him now going away, covered in boils and twisted with pain, sitting outside as a broken man among the broken shards. His head is bowed, his manner meek, as he scrapes at his sores. God did this. God is a monster. Curse him, husband. Don’t take it sitting down. Go down like a man. Rage against the night.

There’s a similarity between her thinking and that of Job’s friends. She knows that Job is pious and “righteous”, and she knows this is “punishment” is undeserved. This isn’t fair. Fairness requires God to act differently. He is an unjust monster.

Job’s friends are also concerned with the fairness of God, and the fact that he cannot be unjust. So they suspect Job is not pious at all. We’ll come back to them tomorrow. But beneath the thoughts of both sets is this idea: we know how God works. He does — or should — treat people according to what they deserve.

Is this early book bringing to us this first, elementary lesson in grace? Treatment that is not merited? Something beyond justice, something greater than retribution?

Do we want God to treat the world fairly? Seriously, do we really?

Think of Job. Think also of Jonah, and the workers who worked all day in the vineyard…

More thoughts later.

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