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Why? And other unanswered questions ... (2): Miserable Comforters & Innovative Hope

. 5 min read

2015/07/19
Christ Church, Mountain Top
Children,
2 Samuel 7.1-14
Message,
Job 2-27, selections
Review,
plot:
      Fear God, shun evil … great man
      Fortune, children, health
      Backstage: God and the Satan, unknown to
Job
This
week: conversation between Job and his friends, not going well
Gone:
      The Satan
      Patient Job (James 5.11)
            Should we receive the good at the
hand of God and not the evil?
            Now: Curse on day of his birth …
protest, then prosecute
      Job’s wife
      Job’s compassionate friends (7 days and
nights in silence)
            Now: Job is their “project” … and
they prosecute, so helpfully
Review,
retributive justice:
      A fairness that underlies the world
      Correlation between what we do and what
happens to us
      Both Job and friends take it as a given
            Friends: therefore, Job has done
evil
            Job: therefore, God has done me
wrong

Friends:
Job has done evil
·        
Eliphaz: “Those who plow evil and those who sow trouble
reap it” (4.8).
·        
Bildad, “Does God pervert justice?” (8.3).
·        
Zophar, “If you put away the sin that is in your hand, …
then you will lift up your face without shame” (11.14-15).
Variations:
·        
Your children must have done evil. Bildad: “When your
children sinned against [God], he gave them over to the penalty of their
sin” (8.4).
·        
It could be worse – and you would deserve it, too. Zophar:
“Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves”
(11.6).
·        
Human righteousness is neither pleasurable to God nor truly
possible for human beings. Eliphaz, “What pleasure would it give the
Almighty if you were righteous?” (22.3). Bildad, “If even the moon is
not bright, and the stars are not pure in his eyes, how much less man, who is
but a maggot!” (25.5-6)
Other
themes:
·        
Trouble is innate to the human condition.
Eliphaz: “Human beings are born to trouble just as sparks fly upward”
(5.7). There certainly are times when we all wonder if this might be true. But
it does not indicate anything particular to Job, does not (on its own) impact
the logic of retribution, and does not explain why the friends are doing so
well while Job is suffering so cruelly.
·        
You are full of hot air.
Bildad says, “Your words are a blustering wind!” (8.2). Eliphaz tells
Job that his belly is full of “the hot east wind” (15.2). Now, to be
clear, this is not meant to be a compliment.
·        
Your refusal to admit your sin dishonors me. Zophar declares, “I hear a rebuke [from Job]
that dishonors me” (20.3). In a society in which relationships are
structured with honor and shame, there is tremendous pressure on those who are
afflicted to accept it as what they justly deserve. It reinforces the social
order, allows everyone to nod their heads and tell their children, “You
don’t want to become like Job now, do you?” Though honor-shame dynamics
are part of all human emotion and relationships, we don’t live in a classical
honor-shame society. But we all have experienced those moments when someone
confronts us out of their own issues, wanting us to admit wrong so that they
feel better. They want us to be the
scapegoat
, and to go along with it.
Ever been treated like this by your friends?
“He really means
well.”
“With friends like these,
who needs enemies?”
Job feels corrected and
unheard
Do you mean to correct what I
say,
and treat the words of a despairing man as wind? (6.26)
You, however, smear me with lies;
You are worthless physicians–all of you! (13.4)
Miserable comforters are you all!
Will your long-winded speeches never end?
What ails you that you keep on arguing? (16.2-3)
Job even wonders whether God
hears him (because of friends?)
      Even if I summoned him and he responded,
      I do not believe he would give me a hearing (9.16).
I think we all get this: One
of the biggest reasons that people are uninterested and even hostile to
the gospel
 of Jesus Christ is the people of Jesus Christ. If the
people of God don’t listen, why should folks expect God to listen to them? Correlation – behavior of people,
perception of God
      “Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do
not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking when they
should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon
be no longer listening to God either …. This is the beginning of the death of
the spiritual life” (Bonhoeffer, Life
Together,
98).

But in Job’s experience, God is not simply absent or estranged. God is
intimately present – and causing me pain.
      The arrows of the Almighty are in
me,
      my spirit drinks in their poison;
      God’s terrors are marshaled against
me (6.4).
I have never personally felt like this, though I know …

Job evaluates the conventional wisdom of retributive justice and concludes
not that he has sinned, but that God has done wrong
.

·        
“I will never admit you are in the right; till I die, I
will not deny my integrity” (27.5).
·        
God has “denied me justice” (27.2)
·        
“God has wronged me” (19.6).
At the end of the story, God
commends Job for his God-talk.
      Not logical
      Two conclusions:
·        
If our only witness of God is one of pain, we should say it.
·        
If the Scriptures can so powerfully describe the full range of
emotion and argument in the context of suffering, then we must have a God who
is personally acquainted with pain. HOPE!
Creative as a theological
thinker
.
·        
Conventional wisdom turned upside down
·        
Go to court against God
·        
Theory of a witness, advocate, redeemer – unprecedented
Even now my witness is in
heaven;
my advocate is on high (16.19).
I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God (19.25-26).
Job anticipating Jesus?
      Another “heavenly being”?
      Job’s own enduring words, a lasting witness
“All of the above”
Doubtful that the writer was
aware, but biblical writers often say more than they realize
The comfort:
      No matter the pain, we are heard.
      Even when we experience God as mean-spirited, have an advocate
Our words are not lost.
Our pain is not forgotten.
Our suffering is not
overlooked.

      HOPE!