Tuesday, August 7, 2018

"Though He slay me..." (Job 13:13-16)

A DELICATE BALANCE: NOT SILENCE BUT CONFIDENCE  (Job 13:13-16)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2018
 
Different environments pose different challenges to maintaining order and cleanliness.
Keeping Jill's old farmhouse clean was a constant challenge. Muddy boots, socks embedded with straw, dirt blowing through the windows, grandchildren, cats and dogs, even the occasional newborn calf warming up on the porch all contributed to her daily routine of sweeping, shaking, vacuuming, and washing. She thought she was pretty neat and tidy until a friend from the city with no kids and no pets complained about how dirty her house would get. "How bad can it be?" Jill asked. "There are just the two of you living in a new house." "Well," her friend explained, "have you ever noticed how much dust flies into the air...when you pull a tissue out of the box?"
Different environments pose different challenges to maintaining order and cleanliness. Similarly, different arguments, like the one Job advances, require different responses in order to maintain "A Delicate Balance: Not Silence But Confidence."
 
Job is in a difficult position. He has a reputation of being a righteous man, but he is suffering a debilitating malady that many people attribute to divine judgment for being unrighteous. Despite appearances, however, Job has chosen to maintain his faith. In fact, he makes the bold assertion, "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him (Job 13:15a). Indeed, the repeated testimony of God affirms Job's impeccable character:
The LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil." (Job 1:8)
[Again,] the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason." (Job 2:3)
Even Satan admits it:
"Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face." (Job 1:9-11)
[Again,] "stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face." (Job 2:5)
In all this, Job's faith remains unshaken:
[Job] fell to the ground in worship and said: "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." In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (Job 1:20b-22)
[Again,] he replied...."Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. (Job 2: 10b-c)
Nevertheless, through all his trouble, even to the end, Job remains unaware of Satan's involvement in his suffering or of God's instigation.
 
Although God gives him no incentive to believe one way or another, Job must have had an earlier encounter with God that shaped his faith and prepared him to deal with the challenge he would face later, as the book that bears his name records. In it, the narrator explains the rationale behind Job's faith, the thought process that compels him to adopt his particular viewpoint of trust and that enables him to cope with the problem of theodicy (a vindication of divine goodness despite the existence of evil):
Job 13:13 Keep silent and let me speak; then let come to me what may. 14 Why do I put myself in jeopardy and take my life in my hands? 15 Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face. 16 Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance, for no godless man would dare come before him!
Job does not simply accept his plight and suffer in silence. He knows he is innocent of any great sin that would warrant the punishment he is experiencing, and he argues with God over the injustice of it all.
There is a common assumption that all suffering is the result of some specific transgression. Jesus' disciples held this opinion:
He saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." ...Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. "Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam." ...So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. (John 9:1-3, 6-7)
All suffering is the result of man's original fall in the Garden of Eden, and so man currently lives in a corrupt universe subject to disease and death. But all man's suffering (i.e., each specific instance subsequent to the fall) is not necessarily the consequence of some particular transgression. In Job's case, for example, his suffering is the result of Satan's interference.
 
As Job struggles to understand his miserable condition, God remains silent, unresponsive to the man's plea for answers. Not until the end of the book does God speak to Job, and even then He does not satisfy Job's curiosity but reminds the man of his small place in the grand scheme of creation:
The LORD said to Job: "Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!" Then Job answered the LORD: "I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more." (Job 40:1-5)
Even as he struggles with his suffering, Job evinces a strong commitment to God, as this passage illustrates. Many of the supporting texts employ a courtroom motif.
 
I. Job argues for a different opinion (Job 13:13).
Job 13:13 Keep silent and let me speak; then let come to me what may.
Job knows that God is listening, despite His apparent silence. Job's suffering has attracted his friends' attention, however, who assume he is guilty of some sin, and they are not silent.
[Eliphaz asked] "Should not your piety be your confidence and your blameless ways your hope? Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished?" (Job 4:6-7)
[Bildad said] "If you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your rightful place." (Job 8:6)
[Zophar said] "If you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then you will lift up your face without shame." (Job 11:14-15)
Their "easy solutions" do not really account for his plight. As his companions await an alternative explanation for his difficulty, Job condemns their fickle friendship and urges them to hear him out before he meets whatever final fate God has in store for him.
[Job said] "If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales! ...A despairing man should have the devotion of his friends.... But my brothers are as undependable as intermittent streams.... What do your arguments prove? ...Reconsider, for my integrity is at stake. Is there any wickedness on my lips? (Job 6:2, 14-15, 25, 29-30)
Job denies what his malady allegedly indicates, that he is guilty of sin. He is not, and he rejects his friends' interpretation of the matter.
A. He is eager to present the case.
...and...
B. He is ready to accept the consequences.
...of whatever the verdict may be.
 
Still, despite his innocence...
 
II. Job argues from a perilous position (Job 13:14).
Job 13:14 Why do I put myself in jeopardy and take my life in my hands?
Job maintains that he is blameless, that he has done nothing to warrant God's displeasure despite the fact that his objection may put him at odds with God.
What have I done to you, O watcher of men? Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you? (Job 7:20-21)
Job realizes that taking such a stance may contradict God's opinion, especially if the Lord is legitimately not pleased. After all, "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb 10:31). Job's stance of asserting his innocence is perilous, particularly if the evidence proves otherwise.
 
A. He is aware of a potential loss.
...if God does not rule in his favor, and...
B. He is ready to risk his life. as he presents his case.
Pressing on...
 
III. Job argues for a boundless devotion (Job 13:15).
Job 13:15 Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face.
Job does not give up on his claim to being innocent of the accusation that he has sinned in some way. Nevertheless, "Job's faith is bold, not blind" (Hartley 1988:223).
Oh....that God would grant what I hope for: [a hearing of my case].... Then I would still have this consolation...that I had not denied the words of the Holy One. (Job 6:8, 10)
Job maintains his trust in God as well as his loyalty to God, despite the charge against him.
A. He is aware of its possible cost
...and...
B. He is ready to appear in court.
...to defend himself.
 
...Then...
 
IV. Job argues to a positive decision (Job 13:16).
Job 13:16 Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance, for no godless man would dare come before him!
Job is sure that he will win in the end, that his argument of innocence will prevail.
I desire to speak to the Almighty and to argue my case with God.... Now that I have prepared my case, I know I will be vindicated. (Job 13:3, 18)
As Paul asks, "Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?" (Rom 8:33) The implied answer is "No one." So it is with Job, who considers himself to be godly (versus "godless") despite his sin.
A. He is confident of a victorious outcome.
...and...
B. He is expecting to encounter little opposition.
...when he actually appears in court.
 
Although Job does not know Jesus, nor is he familiar with the savior's atoning work, Job's faith in God gains him access to the salvation available through "the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world" (Rev 13:8), a deed already accomplished in the mind of God.
 
Application: Job's faith in God is unwavering. Not many believers today could say, "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him" (Job 13:15). Yet that is what God expects. He expects that you will trust Him to have your best interest at heart and will work even the worst of conditions to your ultimate advantage. Jeremiah records God's abidingly good intentions: "I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jer 29:11). As a child of God, as among those God has redeemed, you have His promise of security and success no matter how the circumstances of your life may appear to the contrary. "In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Rom 8:28). You also have the repeated promise of His presence with you even in the most difficult circumstances. The key to this abiding confidence in God is to take a long view of His involvement with you, one that does not limit His activity to this life only. As Jesus says, "I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matt 28:20b). God will ensure the best of results for you even in the worst of conditions.
 
Job attempts to maintain "A Delicate Balance: Not Silence But Confidence" as he argues his case before God. Job presents a justification for his behavior, especially as God seems both to affirm and to deny Job's righteousness. Job's friends are all certain that unconfessed sin is the cause of his plight, but Job demurs, insisting that he is innocent and throwing himself on the mercy of the divine court for a final verdict. He is confident that God will vindicate him in the end, as He will vindicate all who rely on God's great pardon: "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him" (Job 13:15a).

For the Footnotes and Bibliography see the pdf here.