I’ve been reading through Job lately (see more recent posts) and thought I’d jot down a few thoughts I had on God’s response to the dialogue Job was having with his friends.
God issues Job two challenges, the first of which is to ask Job where he was when the universe was created (38:1-40:2), and the second was to ask Job about his power in relation to God himself and to other creatures God has created (40:6-42:34).
In both instances Job is reduced to silence, for God is addressing him and not his three “friends” (who are anything but friendly).
The friends had drawn wrong conclusions about Job based on his circumstances, because they assumed things about Job that were hidden to them (namely, that he was sinful) and, simultaneously, Job had drawn incorrect conclusions about God because he assumed things that were false (the nature of justice).
God makes the point about two mighty beasts, Behemoth and Leviathan, which no man has been able to tame (it’s unfortunate that we don’t know exactly what these beasts are but the point is that they are mighty). Since these animals are part of creation, and hence subject to God, their untameable nature means that man can’t presume to pin God down to their own notions of justice.
Hence, God is addressing concerns Job had that He was acting out of character by allowing his suffering. Job’s response is to repent and submit to God’s will, even though God doesn’t tell Job the reasons why he was afflicted. Why doesn’t he ask? Because he knows now that understanding it is beyond him.
I don’t think God’s telling Job to just shut up and take it (if He is, Psalms such as 88 would be “wrong”): rather, He’s saying that a full understanding of God’s purpose is not required to be faithful while suffering.
This is good news, but I’ll be honest that I’m struggling to see how this could be of comfort to someone who is suffering and remaining faithful, but maybe that’s the point of the passage- “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28), that we may not see its outcome in our lifetime, but that the sure hope we have means we will see its final fruits when we meet God face to face.