At last, God speaks, and ends the debate. He doesn’t really explain to Job why ask this has happened, and doesn’t answer any of the questions that have been voiced. But he does answer the bigger question that has been behind all this – in the face of suffering and injustice, dies it make sense to trust God?
God answers Job’s questions with more questions of his own, to make it clear that Job doesn’t have the perspective that God has to make sense of the world. There’s a glimpse of God taking delight in the creatures he has made, like an artist proud of his work. And Job is silenced. He recognises that he is not in a position to demand explanations from God after all, but perhaps he finds since reassurance in the recognition that God cares for all that he has made – including Job.
I’ve always had reservations about the end of Job. The mystery of God is indeed overwhelming, but it can feel a little cold. Having read a couple of days ago Job’s plea for an umpire, a Mediator, I see it a little differently. I’ve been struck by the glimpses in this book of the Gospel hope, and that changes things.
I’ve also been a bit annoyed in the past by the fact that Job has new wealth and family by the end of the story. It feels as though a later author is trying to take away some of the harshness of Job’s suffering, but in so doing taking away the closeness of his identification with those who suffer today.
Today, though, I’ve noticed something else. The beginning of and key to Job’s restoration is his prayer for his friends (despite all they have said) and the renewal of their friendship. Again, forgiveness takes us to the heart of the Gospel.
And there’s an incidental note – Job once restored treats his daughters equally with his sons. That must have been radical indeed. It’s a challenge to culture and tradition which comes out of the experience of deep suffering and the realisation that traditional wisdom has its limit beyond which only trust remains.