Three things stood out as I read today’s passage.
Listen before you speak
First, in 16:4-5 I’m struck by Job’s challenge to his ‘comforters’. He says that if he was in their position and they in his, he could speak just as fluently, and perhaps glibly, as they do. He knows his theology, but unlike theirs, his theology has had to face up to the mess of life. Perhaps it’s a universal that theology is only real when it can survive the pressures of reality.
It’s not that simple
If ever Job did, as he suggests, think like his friends, that is long gone. In chapter 19, it’s as if he’s throwing back at his friends their assurances that the good prosper and the wicked suffer, in effect asking, “have you actually looked around you?” In the real world, the wicked seem all too often to do very well in life. The easy, moralistic wisdom of his friends doesn’t actually work in a messy and compromised world.
It should work. All too often I hear people angry that the world isn’t fair. And sometimes I hear people use that anger as an excuse not to play thplay own part with God in making it a bit fairer. Yes, the world should be fair. No, it isn’t. And if we don’t share some of Job’s frustration not just with the fact that it’s unfair but also with the fact that some people are in denial about that, we’re probably not looking at the world too hard either.
I know that my Redeemer lives…
They’re not words I can hear without imagining swelling chords behind them, courtesy of Handel. In 19:25-27 Job looks beyond this life for vindication, for real justice. And whether or not the author meant it this way, it’s surely valid to see here the hope we share, of a living God who will in the end re-establish justice and put the world right. Holding on to that hope doesn’t take away the need to wrestle with the questions now, but it does set them in a bigger picture.
So long as we don’t forget that even the best of theological answers only really make sense when they have been filtered through the reality of life.