"Job, I now want to return to what we were talking about before I took my long digressions in the last few sessions. I want to know what happened to you near the end of the book. I think I will use this talk to lay out my 'thesis' about you, Job, and then ask you if you think I am on the right track or completely befuddled. Some of this is repetitious, but I am often slow--it takes me two or three takes to get something at times, even if I want to learn it very eagerly.
Here is the way I see it and the questions that I have. Maybe I should put things in a number of bullet points, since that is the way of the world in 2005. People don't write in sentences anymore; they write in bullet points. I am very confident of 1-5, somewhat uncertain about the rest. That is why I am asking you.
1. By the end of ch.31, you had "made your case." You were confident that you were right, that you had done nothing remotely deserving the kind of treatment you received. Thus you are quite confident that God has to vindicate you.
2. You interpreted your pain as God's rejection and hatred of you. Your interpretation of your pain was pretty strongly wedded to the pain itself, and your friends had not been able successfully to put a wedge in between your pain and the interpretation of your pain.
3. You will not abandon your perspective that it is God who has brought this distress on you. Mediate causes, such as raiding Sabeans or acts of nature (i.e., great winds) are not sufficient explanatory vehicles for you.
4. Elihu spoke and spoke and spoke and spoke. He was concerned about the way that God speaks to people even though they may not perceive it (33:14). He specifically believes that God is speaking to you in your distress and through your distress. That is, distress is the arena in which you are hearing the voice of God. God is getting your attention through distress.
5. God's "message" to you in your distress is that he wants to woo you from your pain into a broad place where you will have rich things on the table. I take this language to be metaphorical and to suggest that God will be leading you into new avenues of freedom through distress.
6. I think you warm up to Elihu's message, though there is nothing in the text to confirm this. That is, Elihu's function seems to be to drive a wedge between your pain and your interpretation of your pain by giving you a plausible alternative construal of it. I beleive that Elihu is the most creative thinker among the friends, and has suggested something that you hadn't considered Job. You were too obsessed with "judgment and justice" (36:17).
7. Thus, when God begins to speak to you in ch.38, you are inclined to "be open" to God. You have let down your guard, thanks to Elihu's words, and have exposed yourself to God with some vulnerability. You were previously worried about God's simply "blowing you away" if God was to appear, and so you tried to lay out some ground rules earlier in the book about how an encounter would work.
8. When God begins to speak in ch.38, he really does take you up on your words in 13:22--"Then call and I will answer; or let me speak, and you reply." God decided on alternative 1. He would "call," at first in chs.38-39 and he would require you to answer (cf.40:2).
9. But God doesn't take you up on your earlier request in 13:21. That is, God will pick and choose among your requests and desires. In 13:21, Job, you asked that God would "withdraw" his hand from from you, "and do not let dread of you terrify me." So, you were, in the language of law, wanting clarity on legal procedure when God appeared. You gave your suggestions for mode of appearance and conduct of parties. God took one of the alternatives you suggested for mode of appearance (God speaks; Job answers), but he completely ignored your request on the other front.
I think I need to go to the next essay to lay out more of my "theses, Job." It seems like all of us are "full of words" (cf. 32:18).