Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book of Job, Session Three

Bible Study @ Calvary Presbyterian Church, Hawthorne, CA
Winter Semester … The Sorrow and Hope of Job

Tuesday Jan 15
Saturday Jan 19
Job 1-7
Jan 22
Jan 26
Job 8-14
Jan 29
Feb 2
Job 15-21
Feb 5
Feb 9
Job 22-28
Feb 12
Feb 16
Job 29-35
Feb 19
Feb 23
Job 36-42

Job is a study in suffering, and how the sufferer responds - no punches are pulled in the description of Job’s losses and ailments. It’s a terrible thing that has happened to him, and Job descends into the pit of despair and anger. He comes to the end of his rope. There is nothing more to lose for Job, and his bitterness grows.

Job is a study in relationships - Job’s friends come to comfort him, and do so with considerable respect, waiting just the right time, seven days, in complete silence, offering Job their presence and not burdening him with words, at least, not yet.

We learn a lot about human nature, not only from the portrait painted of Job, but that of his comfortable friends, comfortable in their material status and spiritual understanding. Ultimately, they believe comfort will come to Job if Job accepts their world-view of divine reward and punishment, a world of retribution, a world of easy answers.

Job’s discomfort becomes their discomfort, and the friends are determined, so we learn, to lay it all out for Job, to explain to Job why he’s suffering, and, in a nutshell, he’s suffering because he’s a sinner - evidently he or his children, or both, have failed God and so must suffer the consequences.

Job stands firm on his righteousness … he’s been a good man, and he’s been faithful to God. He’s been an outstanding member of the community, he’s helped friend and neighbor. He’s done well materially and didn’t forget God.

Job readily admits that he’s not perfect, but contends that his punishment is over the top, way beyond whatever sins he may have committed. In other words, the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, and that’s the issue for Job.

Job questions the character of God - Job understands that God is powerful; no doubt about that. But what Job DOES question is God’s decency, God’s justice, kindness and love. 
At this point in the Book of Job, it’s a wrestling match … Job’s three friends laying out their case and pressing Job to admit his error.

And Job, even in his despair and sorrow, remaining steadfast in his contention that something is wrong with God. The God of power, if that’s what it is, has laid waste to Job’s life for no reason whatsoever. And if Job can find the God of righteousness, Job will be vindicated.

Job’s friends, and Job himself, become increasingly irritated with one another. The relationship, if you will, goes nowhere fast.

In chapter 15, Eliphaz weighs in again and goes after Job with a vengeance - his patience with Job is wearing thin in the face of Job’s determined self-defense. As far as Eliphaz is concerned, Job’s refusal to learn from others who are older and wiser is absolute folly. 

1Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered:
2      “Should the wise answer with windy knowledge,     
      and fill themselves with the east wind?
3      Should they argue in unprofitable talk,
      or in words with which they can do no good?
4      But you are doing away with the fear of God,
      and hindering meditation before God.
5      For your iniquity teaches your mouth,
      and you choose the tongue of the crafty.

Having dismissed Job’s contentions as nothing more than hot air, Eliphaz continues with the attack:

 17      “I will show you; listen to me;
      what I have seen I will declare—
18      what sages have told,
      and their ancestors have not hidden,
19      to whom alone the land was given,
      and no stranger passed among them.
20      The wicked writhe in pain all their days,
      through all the years that are laid up for the ruthless.

The author lays out for us one of the great challenges of religion - going with an idea and using that idea against another person when that person, for whatever reason, can’t abide by the answer. 

The author wants the reader to understand that the 3 friends who come to "comfort" Job in his distress have a theological agenda to lay out for Job, and as the story unfolds, their determination to impose on Job their theological take grows increasingly bitter, as Job, on the other hand, refuses their simple answers and conventional wisdom.

Simple answers have done great damage, and all the religions of the world are tempted by the simple answer. Christianity, as well, has been crippled by the desire for simple answers, which provide the "comfortable" with an artificial sense of security. But such answers always fail huge numbers of people, and when people refuse the answer, those with the answers grow increasingly agitated and aggressive. Their comfort zone is threatened by those who refuse the simple answer they offer.

Fundamentalist/Evangelical religion is rife with this: “Believe as we tell you, and you will be saved. Raise a question about it, and you’ll end up in hell. Pure, plain and simple.” Remember what was offered last week: There is cruelty in simple answers. There is humility in complexity. In humility, there is compassion.

The wicked suffer, so if Job is suffering, he must be wicked … such is the logic of the three friends. As logic goes, it fails; A never implies B. Job is suffering (A), sinners suffer (the idea), so Job must be a sinner (B).

Job replies (16-17) … 

He, too, could offer this kind of empty advice:
1      Then Job answered:
2      “I have heard many such things;
      miserable comforters are you all.
3      Have windy words no limit?
      Or what provokes you that you keep on talking?
4      I also could talk as you do,
      if you were in my place;
      I could join words together against you,
      and shake my head at you.
5      I could encourage you with my mouth,
      and the solace of my lips would assuage your pain.

Vs. 5 is dripping with sarcasm: I could encourage you just like you’re encouraging me, and the solace of my lips would assuage your pain just like your words are easing mine - NOT!

They each call one another windbags - going on and on, without saying anything of value, as far as the other is concerned. In Job’s eyes, his friends are cruel; in their eyes, Job is stubborn and vain.

Job goes on: God has utterly laid waste to his life … God, in some act of wanton cruelty, has stripped away everything and left Job suffering in body and soul. 

Job has lost everything:

7      Surely now God has worn me out;
      he has made desolate all my company.
8      And he has shriveled me up,
      which is a witness against me;
      my leanness has risen up against me,
      and it testifies to my face.
9      He has torn me in his wrath, and hated me;
      he has gnashed his teeth at me;
      my adversary sharpens his eyes against me.
10      They have gaped at me with their mouths;
      they have struck me insolently on the cheek;
      they mass themselves together against me.
11      God gives me up to the ungodly,
      and casts me into the hands of the wicked.
12      I was at ease, and he broke me in two;
      he seized me by the neck and dashed me to pieces;
      he set me up as his target;

But in spite of his agony, Job reaffirms his righteousness, and contends that there must yet be justice in the world. There is, there must be, a God of righteousness, as strong as the God of might, and while the God of might has proved his mightiness against Job, Job will as of yet be proved right, if only he can gain a hearing from the God of righteousness.

16      My face is red with weeping,
      and deep darkness is on my eyelids,
17      though there is no violence in my hands,
      and my prayer is pure.
18      “O earth, do not cover my blood;
      let my outcry find no resting place.
19      Even now, in fact, my witness is in heaven,
      and he that vouches for me is on high.
20      My friends scorn me;
      my eye pours out tears to God,
21      that he would maintain the right of a mortal with God,
      as one does for a neighbor.
22      For when a few years have come,
      I shall go the way from which I shall not return.

Chapter 17 …

Job is broken, and has no regard for his friends whom he calls “mockers,” and warms them - their betrayal of Job will leave a terrible legacy for their children. Their hardness of heart, harshness of spirit - they denounce for reward - could that reward be some anticipated “moral victory” - not financial gain, but the pleasure of trouncing someone, proving them wrong, embarrassing and discrediting them?

The friends have, indeed, declared war against Job. But Job fights back, declaring that God must have closed their minds to understanding, so God will not let them triumph.

 1      My spirit is broken, my days are extinct,
      the grave is ready for me.
2      Surely there are mockers around me,
      and my eye dwells on their provocation.
3      “Lay down a pledge for me with yourself;
      who is there that will give surety for me?
4      Since you have closed their minds to understanding,
      therefore you will not let them triumph.
5      Those who denounce friends for reward—
      the eyes of their children will fail.

It’s all done for Job - he’s more than eager to die:

11      My days are past, my plans are broken off,
      the desires of my heart.
12      They make night into day;
      ‘The light,’ they say, ‘is near to the darkness.’ 
13      If I look for Sheol as my house,
      if I spread my couch in darkness,
14      if I say to the Pit, ‘You are my father,’
      and to the worm, ‘My mother,’ or ‘My sister,’
15      where then is my hope?
      Who will see my hope?
16      Will it go down to the bars of Sheol?
      Shall we descend together into the dust?”

Chapter 18, Bildad, round two.

Bildad keenly feels that he and his friends have been insulted by Job. In an effort to demolish Job’s argument, Bildad describes most eloquently the fate of the sinner - everything they cherish will be destroyed. For Bildad and the friends, there’s no listening to Job’s sorrow and agony. They have a point to make, and by God, they’re going to do it, no matter what.

Chapter 19, Job’s response.

Bitterly, Job expresses his contempt for the friends who have scorned him and ignore his misery.

If Job has sinned, yes, it’s his sin, but it would seem that God is the one who has brought all of this calamity upon Job:

1      Then Job answered:
2      “How long will you torment me,
      and break me in pieces with words?
3      These ten times you have cast reproach upon me;
      are you not ashamed to wrong me?
4      And even if it is true that I have erred,
      my error remains with me.
5      If indeed you magnify yourselves against me,
      and make my humiliation an argument against me,
6      know then that God has put me in the wrong,
      and closed his net around me.

Yet Job stands firm and wants his words inscribed in stone:

23      “O that my words were written down!
      O that they were inscribed in a book!
24      O that with an iron pen and with lead
      they were engraved on a rock forever!

But is there still some shred of hope in Job?

 25      For I know that my Redeemer lives,
      and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; 
26      and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
      then in my flesh I shall see God,
27      whom I shall see on my side, 
      and my eyes shall behold, and not another.

With a reminder to his friends: be very careful in the ease with which you condemn me.

      My heart faints within me!
28      If you say, ‘How we will persecute him!’
      and, ‘The root of the matter is found in him’;
29      be afraid of the sword,
      for wrath brings the punishment of the sword,
      so that you may know there is a judgment.”

Chapter 20 - Zophar.

A few more hammer-blows against Job.

All of the friends are now fully incensed: Job is not only wrong, but he ignores the wise counsel of his friends. Zophar describes the short-lived prosperity of the wicked.

How easily the friends indulge in descriptions of human suffering … 

I am reminded of an incident that occurred in my first or second year of seminary - I was assigned to teach a Bible Class on Wednesday evenings. At one point, I raised doubts about hell - at least about hell being co-eternal with heaven. I think we were studying the Gospel of Mark. A gentleman stood up and began to expostulate on the gory details of hell and the suffering of the wicked therein. The man turned red and grew increasingly vehement as he described the fire and pain, in lurid detail, of hell. 

I’ve never forgotten that moment. To this day, I believe the man loved hell more than he did heaven, convinced that others would be there, of course, and he would escape because he believed in Jesus, or something like that.

Job’s friends loved Job’s suffering, for it proved to them what they believed, and their beliefs were of greater importance than Job’s suffering.

Which reminds me of another incident related to me, with tears, by a widow. Her husband was stricken cancer at a time when they were members of a very conservative church and prayer group, with Pentecostal leanings. They prayed for his healing, and “claimed” the healing, “in Jesus’ name.” The man died suddenly one night, and an autopsy indicated a hemorrhage.

A friend called to offer consolation, and when told that it was a hemorrhage that ended his life, the friend exclaimed, “O good, he was healed of the cancer. The cancer didn’t take him.”

The woman left the church and the prayer group and for years remained away from the church. The cruelty of simple answers was more than she could handle.

For her friends in the prayer group, their beliefs about healing were more important than offering consolation to a grieving widow. It was more important that their “powerful prayers” indeed had led to the man’s healing from the cancer (which wasn’t the case) and that his death was caused by another matter.

Chapter 21 - The wicked often go unpunished.

Job lays into his friends and demolishes their arguments. There is not an even sense of justice in this world. Plenty of evildoers get away with it, and live happy lives, going to their grave quite content, and given a funeral full of pomp and praise.

28      For you say, ‘Where is the house of the prince?
      Where is the tent in which the wicked lived?’
29      Have you not asked those who travel the roads,
      and do you not accept their testimony,
30      that the wicked are spared in the day of calamity,
      and are rescued in the day of wrath?
31      Who declares their way to their face,
      and who repays them for what they have done?
32      When they are carried to the grave,
      a watch is kept over their tomb.
33      The clods of the valley are sweet to them;
      everyone will follow after,
      and those who went before are innumerable.
34      How then will you comfort me with empty nothings?
      There is nothing left of your answers but falsehood.”

So where are we?

Pretty much a draw so far.

The battle goes on, between Job and his friends.

The friends contend that Job deserves his suffering; the punishment fits the crime. If only Job would admit the crime, God would relieve his suffering.

Job defends his integrity. Sure, who isn’t a sinner, but this punishment doesn’t fit the crime at all. If I’ve done something to deserve THIS, please, someone, anyone, God, tell me what it is.

How will this be resolved?

To be continued ...

Monday, January 28, 2013

Book of Job, Session Two

Bible Study @ Calvary Presbyterian Church, Hawthorne, CA
Winter Semester … The Sorrow and Hope of Job

Tuesday Jan 15
Saturday Jan 19
Job 1-7
Jan 22
Jan 26
Job 8-14
Jan 29
Feb 2
Job 15-21
Feb 5
Feb 9
Job 22-28
Feb 12
Feb 16
Job 29-35
Feb 19
Feb 23
Job 36-42

  1. Keep in mind - the Book of Job is more interested in exploring the terrain of suffering and the loss of hope rather than simply offering quick and easy answers. 
  2. There is truth to be found in what the four friends say, but not the whole truth. Life is more complex, and so is faith in God, and God’s ways with us, and our ways with God.
  3. There are textual issues with Job, especially toward the end. Translators have great difficulty; go ahead and scratch your head. It’s okay.
  4. Job often “quotes” his friends, or the received, or conventional, wisdom of the day. Hebrew, of course, has no quotation marks, so it’s a challenge to the reader: What is Job actually saying about his own faith or beliefs, and what is he merely quoting, or alluding to, from his friends?

Chapter 8

The gloves are off … Bildad jumps into the conversation and gets all over Job for saying “foolish” things. Bildad defends the justice of God. It’s Job’s sin that causes all of this. 

Please note: there’s not a shred of compassion in Bildad’s harangue. This is sometimes called “theology from above” - it’s all about ideas about God. Whereas “theology from below” always begins with the human condition.

When Jesus says, “People were not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for people” (Mark 2.27), Jesus is “doing theology” from below. In other words, Jesus begins “down here” and works his way upward. 

In theology “from above,” it begins with ideas and works its way down.

Once again, there is “truth” in Bildad’s speech - essentially the same as Eliphaz, but with an edge: Do good, get good; do bad, get bad.” The laws of retribution..

Sure, of course; we all know, “you reap what you sow” (that’s in the Bible); the Book of Proverbs and simple human wisdom (garbage in, garbage out), but it’s not the whole truth, and that’s the problem explored in the Book of Job. 

As one pundit put it, “For every hard question, there’s a simple answer. The only problem, however, it’s the wrong answer.”

Simple answers often lead to cruelty. Simple answers, black and white thinking, in and out, up and down, who’s in and who’s out, who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.

You better watch out,          
You better not cry,
Better not pout,
I'm telling you why:
Santa Claus is coming to town.
He's making a list,
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out
Who's naughty and nice.
Santa Claus is coming to town.

He sees you when you're sleeping.
He knows when you're awake.
He knows if you've been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake!
Oh, you better watch out!
You better not cry.
Better not pout,
I'm telling you why:
Santa Claus is coming to town.
Santa Claus is coming to town!

Bildad uses an image of plants - one endures hardship and overcomes - the righteous; the other fails, the way of the godless. 

Chapter 9:

Job “agrees” - there is much in Bildad’s speech that’s good and right, but something is “rotten in Denmark” … 8.20-24 - Job here declares, “If this is the way it is, then God is pretty much a god of destruction and suffering.

“What do you want me to do?” - put on a happy face? (9.27-28) - “I can’t.”

Chapter 10

Job’s complaint continues - tell me what I’ve done, and Job readily admits, he speaks out of bitterness (10.1).

Job intensifies his attack on God … more references to Psalm 8 … why would God reject the work of God’s hands and cause the purpose of sinners to shine?

Job cries out for a God of justice rather than a God of power … Job contends that God’s decision to punish him has nothing whatsoever to do with Job’s guilt or innocence. He cries out for the peace of death.

Chapter 11                   

Zophar now weighs in … without mercy. God has punished Job for his sins, if not known, then, at least, secret. Period. In fact, God has reduced Job’s punishment, and it’s simply beyond human understanding. To be restored to life, Job needs to repent his sins and become worthy of God’s forgiveness and favor.

For people of faith, it remains a significant question: is there something we do that can trigger God’s forgiveness, or does God’s forgiveness come to us before we can do anything? 

In Christian history, it’s the difference between the Reformed Family of thought - God makes the first move; it’s grace, and grace alone, that fashions our soul for salvation - and the Arminians who believe that we have to confess our faith first of all in order for the grace of God to enter in and redeem us. For the former tradition, it’s God who makes the first move; for the latter, it’s the believer who makes the first move.

This is seen in the difference between preaching in the two traditions - one focuses on God and God’s goodness and greatness; the other focuses on the human being, our sinfulness and the need to repent of our sins - the quintessential expression of this is the revival service with the emotional/rational appeals to “come forward” and “be saved.” 

The hymn, “Grace Alone” is a solid example of Reformed thinking - the primacy of grace, as well as “Rock of Ages” -

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyes shall close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown,
And behold Thee on Thy throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee. 

Chapters 12-14 - Job’s reply to Zophar

The key to understanding these chapters lies in recognizing the “use of quotations.” Job cites the words of his friends in order to refute them, or Job quotes ideas found within his own religious traditions in order to support his own position. 

Job’s speech begins with a sarcastic reference to the friends’ claim to have superior knowledge of God.

As for Job, God may be powerful, but what good does such power do when it’s manifested only in destruction. That’s hardly a god worthy of praise or worship. Merely being big is no virtue, and proves nothing, other than “size matters.”

Job looks for hope and considers a new idea - immortality which after the Exile appeared in Jewish thought - that if this life is filled with injustice, there will be redress in the after-life.

By the time we get to the New Testament, the notion of the after-life has taken hold, and Jesus supports the idea, though the Sadducees do not - in that interesting encounter noted in: Matthew 22.23 ff, Mark 12.18 ff and Luke 20.27 ff.

Though it must be noted: nowhere does the New Testament support the Greek/Roman notion of immortality, but resurrection from the dead … but that’s a whole other study - what happens to us 1) upon death, and 2) what is the New Testament vision, rooted in the Hebrew Bible, of Resurrection from the dead.

As the early Christians confessed in what came to be known as the Apostles’ Creed.

For now, let it be noted: Job considers the possibility of some kind of afterlife and then rejects it. No reward in the afterlife could compensate for his sorrow and suffering now. What good does it do to anyone for whom life is a misery to tell them that it’ll be okay when they die. And what kind of a god would create such a miserable life and then offer compensation for it in the afterlife?

Historically, this promise of “happiness in the sweet by-and-by,” is what Marx called “the opiate of the people,” a tool used by the powerful and the comfortable to maintain their privileged status (ordained by god) and offered to their serfs and slaves a hope of things to come, certainly not in this world (don’t get uppity), along with other verses of Scripture that can be interpreted to mean, “stay in your place, as god ordained.”

Job takes no comfort in an afterlife promise; Job looks at life here and now and sees a terrible injustice afoot. Something is wrong. Job is not content with either what his friends offer 1) repent and all will be well, or 2) the notion of afterlife compensation.

To be continued ...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Book of Job, Session 1

Bible Study @ Calvary Presbyterian Church, Hawthorne, CA
Winter Semester … The Sorrow and Hope of Job - Session 1

Tuesday Jan 15
Saturday Jan 19
Job 1-7
Jan 22
Jan 26
Job 8-14
Jan 29
Feb 2
Job 15-21
Feb 5
Feb 9
Job 22-28
Feb 12
Feb 16
Job 29-35
Feb 19
Feb 23
Job 36-42

The Book of Job consists of two elements that can stand by themselves. 

The Fable of Job, a very patient man (1, 2 and 42).

James 5.7-11

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

The Fable presents a very simple scenario - Good man, bad things, faithfulness and patience, good things and then some.

The Poem of Job (everything in between 1, 2 and 42; likely written at a later date (after the Exile) when the Jews were wrestling with some very large questions. Though Job is no Jew, and his friends aren’t either. This is Everyone’s story! Universal in scope - questions everyone has asked.

In the Fable, it’s all rather simple; in the Poem, nothing is simple.

At some point in time, the ancient Fable, a rather simple story, becomes the framework of a struggle between 1) conventional thinking, represented by Job’s friends - do good, you get good; do bad, you get bad. 2) Job’s dogged defense of his life - yes, he’s not perfect, but he’s a man of integrity. Whatever he’s done wrong, or good he’s failed to do, doesn’t deserve this kind of loss and suffering. Something is wrong in the universe, and if there is a God of compassion, Job needs that God to come to his defense against the God of Reward and Punishment. 3) God’s speech, which doesn’t touch upon the question of suffering, but brings to Job a larger picture of creation (see Psalm 8). While God doesn’t address Job’s suffering, God does show up to address Job - Job is that important to God. 

The Fable

A man of great prosperity and piety in the Land of Uz - likely Edom, since most of the names in the story are drawn from Esau’s geneology (Genesis 36); Esau’s first son is Eliphaz, the first of Job’s friends to speak.

Satan, who seems to be a spy of sorts for the LORD (Yahweh), joins a  meeting of the heavenly council. The conversation turns to Job, a very good man. Then comes the question: Who wouldn’t be good and faithful since you have blessed everything he’s put his hand to. Turn against him, and we’ll see what kind of man he truly is.

Angry at God, folks will tell me, “I don’t go to church anymore, because what good did it do me anyway. I’ve been …, I’ve served …, I gave …, and now look at me. What a mess I’m in. I have no further interest in God.”

The central accusation: Human beings are faithful to God when life is good for them, but seriously disrupt that life, and they’ll quickly turn away, cursing God to God’s face.

What are the conditions of our relationship with God? Do we “love” the LORD our God for God’s sake, or our own, or a combination of the two? Have we ever “cursed” God, and wondered why God was “doing harm to us, and for what purpose? Do we deserve this, or is God going after us senselessly, for the heck of it (like the other gods who trouble humanity - many cultures of the past saw the gods as troublers, teasers, tormentors, of humanity for their own entertainment)? Or is God against us from sins, known or unknown? 

Have I wasted my time in worship and service? Is this what I get for all my effort?

How could God answer the question?

So begins the experiment - what is the character, the true character, of a human being - this strange creature possessed of divine qualities embodied in the dust of the earth. In other words, can there be genuine devotion, worship and praise? Or is it all tainted by self-interest.

Does Satan see something God doesn’t see, or refuses to see?

Satan takes everything away from Job, but Job remains steadfast. Satan and the heavenly council gather again, and once again, Job comes up for discussion. Satan suggests that Job’s faithfulness will collapses if his health is taken. 

So, let’s see how far this can go to uncover Job’s “true” character.

Three friends come by to comfort Job, and they’re silent for seven days and seven nights; they give Job the gift of presence. They didn’t come to argue with him, though it comes to that. They came to offer him comfort, and counsel. They await his words.

Job curses the day of his birth (see Jeremiah 20.14); he doesn’t curse God. Though, as we will see, Job believes something to be wrong.

The easy manner in which the comfortable dispense counsel to the suffering.

Chapter 4: Eliphaz enters the discussion and begins in a kindly way, to say what Job himself has likely said to others in the day of their distress. Ultimately, says Eliphaz, Job has, indeed, sinned, as everyone does, thus bringing calamity upon himself. Job may be a good man, and he is, but no one’s perfect, not even angels. We all make mistakes and we have to pay for them.

But commit your way to the LORD (5.8); the LORD wounds and heals (5.18) … this has been well-studied by us; pay attention to it and know it for yourself (.5.27). “What we say to you Job is tried and true; you’ve likely said it yourself.” It’ll all work out, just you wait!

Chapter 6 - Job replies and stands by his claims, and challenges God to come to his aid. “Tell me what I’ve done to deserve this?” His pain and sorrow are unrelenting. And Eliphaz’s words are tasteless to him (6.6-7). Job says, “My friends have betrayed me.”

6.24 - give me more than cheap advice and counsel. Teach me. Show me where I have gone wrong.

Chapter 7, further reflection by Job on life’s hardships: life is short, and ends in death … and, 7.11, Job says, “I’ll not shut up. I’ve a complaint, a just complaint, and I’ll make noise until I get some satisfaction.” 7.17, an ironic play on Psalm 8, which asks the question: Why is God concerned about humankind, as small as we are? Job turns it a bit, wondering why such a “big god” would bother with creatures so tiny? “Why don’t you let me alone? What am I to you?”

Summary: it’s all about big questions.

Satan: What is the character of humankind? Are they capable of loving God, or are they driven by self-interest?

Job: Why is this happening to me?

Eliphaz: What did you do wrong to deserve this? 

Job’s question: Why does God even bother with me?