"For just think, Job. Throughout the book God is not portrayed very highly, don't you agree, Job? Let's go back to the beginning. God is there in his heaven, watching over the world, and then he approaches this guy called "The Satan." Now, this guy is not Satan, the one whom Christians love to hate. It is "The Satan," as if it is some kind of title the guy has. It means an adversary. But the guy is hanging around heaven or at least wherever God is, and so we have a heavenly conversation between God and this creature. And guess who starts it? God. And what does God do? He, like a proud parent, brags about you, Job. But then the Satan suggests a hugely cruel scheme to "test" your faith--that would involve massive loss to you. What does God do? Instead of telling this creature to "Begone," like Jesus talked to the real Satan in the Gospels, God said, figuratively, 'duh, go ahead and see what this affliction does to Job.' Now, isn't that about the dumbest thing that God could have agreed to, Job? It suggests that he doesn't know about your fidelity and that he needs to agree to suggestions of a seamy prosecuting attorney in order to try to determine it. It is a kind of "experiment," a kind of "let's see what this guy can take before he breaks" kind of experiment. Weren't those the kinds of experiments that some of the Nazi doctors tried to perform on Jews and other "undesirables"? So, the long and short of it, Job, is that God doesn't fare well in ch.1. Or, the early part of ch.2, for that matter.
Then, God doesn't really look very good in chs.38-41, in my judgment. I would love to hear you talk about that too, Job, but my sense is that God does exactly what you didn't want God to do when you asked him to appear. You wanted a nice conversation with God, even though you were afraid that if God appeared he would, figuratively speaking, blow you right out of the water. And, what happened when God finally appeared? Right. He blew you right out of the water. He berated you with your smallness and ignorance, and generally made it seem that he didn't have time for your pusillanimous requests and complaints. Rather than being blown away by the "majestic" God of Job 38, I think that a person could be disgusted by the naked power grab of God in these verses. It is like sending a tsunami on someone who is already drowning and wants dry land.
But then, when God says, "as my servant Job has," almost as a seeming afterthought in 42:7, it is almost as if I see God maturing right before my eyes. Now God is becoming a God to be reckoned with because he admits that you were right all along, Job. It takes quite a big person to admit a mistake, we always say. Well, doesn't it take quite a big God to admit one, too? I think, actually, it is much harder for God to admit a mistake than for a puny human, but he does it.
Let's take an example from current history. You know, one of the most important things in the life of the Japanese-American community of the last 50 years was an apology given by President Reagan to the interned Japanese-Americans during the scare of WWII. Internment was a wrong thing to do at the time; it trampled on the freedoms of good American citizens without due process and without trial. When President Reagan apologized, however, that apology meant more to the Japanese community than the partial reparations that then followed. It was the apology that was the symbol of reconciliation, the sign that the "great power" had made a huge mistake. Not until such an apology was forthcoming could full restoration or reconciliation take place.
Using that insight to understand Job 42 can now open some eyes, can't it, Job? And, the first thing I note from the text is that after God speaks the words in 42:7-8, there is a ceremony of reconciliation and there are words of restoration (42:9-10). How interesting is that! That means that the deep human dynamics of apology, reconciliation and restoration are at work in this passage. But, it has to get started by an apology, doesn't it? There really can be no "restoration" of Job without an apology, isn't that right, Job? Well, as a matter of fact, I am going to probe the idea in the next one or two talks of whether you ever really were restored, Job, but for now, let's leave that question aside.
So, it seems to me, Job, that here is where I am. I am interpreting 42 as telling me that an apology of God is both literarily at work and psychologically necessary at this point. God is saying to you, "Yes, Job, you were right, and you are right. I am sorry." How hard was it for God to say that? I mean, apologizing to the creature is not something God has had much experience doing. But, as my mother used to say, we can all profit by learning how to do things that are difficult for us. So, it is really providing God a great growth opportunity by learning to apologize for his actions toward you, Job.
I have to admit, then, that I am starting to admire God. But more important to me at this point, Job, is to try to ask you and think about how YOU felt at this point. You must have felt more stunned than Joseph when, in disguise, he saw his brothers come down to Egypt asking to buy grain for their famine-stricken flocks. Did you, who already were undone completely (42:6), feel more fully exhausted? Or did these words begin your process of restoration? You know, Job, I can't get an image out of my mind when I hear 42:7. I see the picture of the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz before the four are sent out to bring Oz the broomstick of the witch of the West. Oz thunders at the Cowardly Lion for no seeming reason. The lion faints. Dorothy berates Oz. Oz thunders at her. Then he seemingly relents. He says, that the great and magnificent Oz may indeed hear their requests. Suddenly the Cowardly Lion sits bolt upright and says, "What's that? What's that?" Oz's seeming relenting brings the lion back from his stupor.
Sorry, Job, I just can't get that picture out of my mind. But now I really have to get back to YOUR feelings at this time, don't I, Job? I am freezing an action that probably took all of a few seconds, and I am trying to suck out every ounce of meaning from it. Forgive me, Job, but I don't know how to do much of anything else in life than to read texts very slowly. I really would like to know more of how you were feeling in ch. 42 now.