For the Love of God, Volume 2/February 2
From Gospel Translations
Genesis 34; Mark 5; Job 1; Romans 5
THE BIBLE DEALS WITH THE REALITY of evil in many different ways. Sometimes justice is done, and is seen to be done, in this life. Especially in the New Testament, the final recompense for evil is bound up with judgment to come. Sometimes suffering has a humbling role, as it challenges our endless hubris. War, pestilence, and famine are sometimes God’s terrible weapons of judgment. These and many more themes are developed in the Bible.
But the book of Job is matchless for causing us to reflect on the question of innocent suffering. That is made clear in Job 1, which in some ways sets up the rest of the book. Job “was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” (1:1). Although Job was blessed with wealth and a large family, he took nothing for granted. He even engaged in what might be called preemptive intercession on behalf of his grown children: he prayed and offered sacrifices on their behalf, fearful that perhaps at an otherwise innocent gathering, one of his children had sinned and cursed God (1:5).
Job does not know, as the reader knows, that another drama is playing out in the throne room of God. Little is said about these “sons of God,” these angels, who approach the Almighty; little is said about Satan, though transparently he is evil and lives up to his name, “Accuser.” The exchange between Satan and God accomplishes three things. First, it sets up the drama that unfolds in the rest of the book. Second, implicitly it establishes that even Satan himself has restraints on his power and cannot act outside God’s sanction. Third, it discloses that Satan’s intention is to prove that all human loyalty to God is nothing more than crass selfinterest, while God’s intention is to demonstrate that a man like Job is loyal and faithful regardless of the blessings he receives or does not receive.
Job, of course, knows nothing of these arrangements. He couldn’t, for the drama that follows would be vitiated if he did. In short order Job loses his wealth and his children, all to “natural” causes that Job knows full well remain within God’s sway. When the last bit of bad news reaches him, Job tears his robe and shaves his head (both signs of abasement) and worships, uttering words that become famous: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (1:21).
The narrator comments, “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (1:22)—which of course means, in the context of this chapter, that God’s assessment of the man was right and Satan’s was wrong.