"So, let's return to review what I have said, Job, as I try to understand some other things about your words in 42:1-6. Here is how I think I see things, though I am open to revision on this, Job. You were very firmly committed to the rightness of your position--that God had unjustly brought this torment into your life. You had done nothing remotely deserving of this fate. Oh, lots of people think you are obsessive, Job, that you are a little selfish, a little bit thinking like "the world revolves around me." But maybe you, Job, are like everyman--and, if confronted with the kind of loss you experienced, even the most liberal-minded and universally-oriented shrink or Buddhist would collapse into a tangled mass of incoherent babbling and twisted pain.
What made things most painful for you, Job, was not only the felt anguish of the body and mind, but the fact that others would not accept your explanation of things and that God was apparently silent throughout the whole ordeal. So, you wanted to talk with God. You gave God all kinds of scenarios where he could appear and converse with you, but you begged for two things only -- "withdraw your hand far from me, and do not let dread of you terrify me" (13:21). That is, you recognized that God is God and terrifically powerful, and that he could obliterate you in 1/10 the time it takes one to blink an eye, and so you asked God to be nice to you, to consider your frailty and to talk to you sincerely. What could be more reasonable? Well, was it arrogance, Job, to demand an explanation from God? Is God answerable to us? Why shouldn't he be? I mean, ever since the "democratic revolutions" of the 18th century came about, it has been a harder and harder sell in the West to portray God as an Eastern despot, being able to do anything he wants. Indeed, the US Army, oops..the Coalition Forces....displaced one such guy as recently as 2003. So, even if in your time, Job, people could have envisioned God as some kind of omnipotent unaccountable force, that picture loses some of its appeal for thinking people today. I said thinking people, Job.
So, you really want God to speak to you, and you believe, no you know, that you have an airtight case. The friends were a pretty miserable lot, from your perspective, even if I think, Job, that you were a bit too harsh with them in ch.6. They were no help. So you had to get God to respond. In any case, you would never have been satisfied with the words of these intermediate stooges, these fawning apologists for God. But then, when God shows up, God appears in precisely the way you don't want God to speak. Well, let's pause on this one for a second. When God speaks in ch.38, he begins critically. I always loved the sound of God's first few words: "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge" (38:2)? It is almost as if I imagine a deity being awakened from sleep, stretching and rubbing his eyes and being a little pissed off because someone has disturbed him. He is a God who gives you the impression that he has better things to do, that you are a pesky peon who really doesn't deserve an answer to your question. You have bugged him so significantly that he will answer you. But he is still really mad about it. That's how I see God in ch.38. Do you agree, Job?
So, here is how I see the situation. You wanted God to talk to you "man to man," so to speak. But God didn't want to do this. So what does he do. He just blows into your life like the wind that took your 10 children. What effect did that have on you, Job? I mean, as God was speaking in ch. 38 were you listening to him? When God asked you, for example, if you had "entered into the springs of the sea" (38:16), were you listening to God quietly? Overwhelmed already? Mad that God had not agreed to your terms? Ignoring God because he wasn't listening to you? Were you thinking, 'Yep, I should have known I was just going to run into all kinds of difficulty when I dealt with God. He is just such a self-centered arrogant God, a God consumed by anger, that it was a vain thought for me to ask him to transcend himself for just a moment and to relate to me as I needed to be related to..?' Is this what you were thinking?
The only clue you give us as to how you were feeling or thinking during the divine barrage, if I may so term it, is in ch.40. There, God requires you to speak. It is almost like a parent MAKING the kid answer the question when the kid really doesn't want to talk. "Anyone who argues with God must respond" (40:2). That is what God says. And so you have to respond. I bet you didn't want to answer at all, did you Job? You don't like it when people pull rank on you and force you to do something, do you? But that is what happened. God pulled rank and made you answer. So you said, "See, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice but will proceed no further" (40:4-5).
Now aren't these words of yours fraught with double meanings, Job? On the one hand it looks like you are not just playing humble pie but that you are partially or fully undone. You cleverly use that phrase to "lay my hand on my mouth," that looks really similar to the phrase used in 29:9 and 21:5 to describe an abashed, a fearful or even a terrified response. Wow. If this is the way to read your words here, it is as if you are saying that you are well on the way to being overwhelmed and discomfited. But then, there are those words in v.5, where you said that you have already said what you have to say and that you will not speak again. Is that an act of further defiance, Job?
If so, it would be sort of like an 'I have said my piece. I have made my case. You got to be big enough to deal with it God. If you are not, I am not going to say anything more. Indeed, in the state of mind I now am in, begin overwhelmed and all by you, I probably would end up saying something really dumb, something where my mouth convicts me as soon as I say it. Then, you, God, would only focus on the second thing I said, ignoring my beautiful case that I have crafted over 30 chapters, and then dismiss me because of some judicial technicality.' I bet that is how you were speaking at that point, Job. You were not fully submitting to God, yet, as he wanted you to submit. You gave mixed signals but God picked up on them and thought that you weren't quite submissive enough. So, he had to keep on the barrage.
Well, we are out of time AGAIN, but I want to pick up on this point when we return to talking again, Job. Thanks, again, for your time. You don't know what it means to me.