For the Love of God, Volume 2/March 12
From Gospel Translations
Exodus 23; John 2; Job 41; 2 Corinthians 11
LIKE THE PREVIOUS THREE CHAPTERS, much of Job 41 is designed to help Job come to terms with his limitations. If Job admits what he does not know and cannot do—all of which God knows and can do—then perhaps he will be less quick to accuse God.
One verse, Job 41:11, demands further reflection. God speaks: “Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.”
Is God’s immunity from prosecution built on nothing more than raw power? We imagine the lowliest citizen in Nazi Germany trying to sue Hitler, and Hitler’s brutal response: “Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything in the Third Reich belongs to me.” Coming from Hitler, this would have seemed a distinctly immoral declaration. So why should God avail himself of its cosmic analog?
First, if this were God’s only declaration about himself, it would not be a very good one. But this declaration comes within the context of the book of Job, and within the larger context of the canon of Scripture. Within the book of Job, there is common ground between Job and God: both acknowledge that in the last analysis God is just. Job is not a modern skeptic searching for reasons to dismiss God; God is not a Hitler. But if God and Job agree that God is just, at some point Job must also see that God is not a peer to drag into court. Trust in God is more important than trying to justify yourself before God—no matter how righteous you have been.
Second, within the context of the entire canon, God has repeatedly shown his patience and forbearance toward the race of his image-bearers, who constantly challenge him and rebel against him. He is the God who with perfect holiness could have destroyed us all; he is the God who on occasion has demonstrated the terrifying potential for judgment (the Flood; Sodom and Gomorrah; the exile of his own covenant people). Above all, despite the Bible’s repeated insistence that God could rightly condemn all, he is the God who sends his own Son to die in place of a redeemed new humanity.
Third, within such frameworks Job 41:11 is a salutary reminder that we are not independent. Even if God were not the supremely good God he is, we would have no comeback. He owns us; he owns the universe; all the authority is his, all the branches of divine government are his, the ultimate judiciary is his. There is no “outside” place from which to judge him. To pretend otherwise is futile; worse, it is part of our race’s rebellion against God—imagining he owes us something, imagining we are well placed to tell him off. Such wild fantasy is neither sensible nor good.