Monday, August 30, 2010

My heart leaps out of its place

So, I was reading Job the other day. Job is a great book, and... I'm going to write about it. Here we go.

So, basic plot of Job. Job is awesome, God brags about him, Satan gets permission to mess with him, etc. The vast majority of the book is a sort of back-and-forth between Job and three of his friends. He says, "This sucks." They say, "Yeah." He asks, "Why is this happening to me?" They say, "Oh, come on, Job, we all know there has to be some sin in your life. Come on, 'fess up, what is it?" He says, "Nothing. I do not deserve this. I have done nothing wrong." This continues until chapter 32, when the three older friends give up. They cannot refute Job, and (since they know Job) probably kind of agree with him. He hasn't done anything to deserve this. However, this isn't the end of the book. As a matter of fact, it's where things get really interesting.

Elihu, the youngest who's come to visit Job, has remained silent this whole time. He's been respectful in letting the older three go first. But now he's mad. They've given up, giving Job the victory, implicitness if not explicitly. I imagine him squirming in his seat as the older three, in his view, beat around the bush, not getting to the real issue at hand. When he realizes that they're never going to get there, he bursts out in indignation both at Job and the three friends. He doesn't even bother with Job's sin (or lack of it), the justification for what God has allowed to happen to Job (if it can be justified). He doesn't care about these things. The main thing, indeed the only thing that's important to him is that Job is a man, and that God is God. He says to Job in 35:2, "Do you think this to be just? Do you say, "it is my right before God,' that you ask, 'What advantage have I? How am I better off than if I had sinned?" That, Elihu says, is the core of Job's complaint. What good has my righteousness done for me? Me and God had a deal, and he hasn't held up his end of the bargain.

Elihu continues, "Look at the heavens, and see; and behold the clouds, which are higher than you. If you have sinned, what do you accomplish against him? And if your transgressions are multiplied, what do you do to him? If you are righteous, what do you give to him? Or what does he receive from your hand?" In other words, he says, "Look around you! Do you realize how utterly small you are? Do your sins hurt God? And does your righteousness give him anything he does not already have?" He goes on to say, "Your wickedness concerns a man like yourself, and your righteousness a son of man." This is why he was so frustrated with his elders and Job. All the time that they've been debating whether Job has been wicked or righteous, he's been wanting to jump up and shout, "It doesn't matter!" Because it really doesn't. Righteousness, among us fallen images of God, can only ever be a relative term.

He goes on, extolling the greatness and majesty of God, and something really cool is going on. He talks about how God created the world, how he governs the nations, etc. But then there is a shift in tone, a sense of immediacy, which makes me think that he is now talking about things that are happening right that moment. "Behold, he scatters his lightning about him and covers the roots of the sea... He covers his hands with the lightning and commands it to strike the mark. It's crashing declares his presence; the cattle also declare that he rises. At this also my heart trembles and leaps out of its place." I really think that, throughout the entire conversation, a crazy storm has been gathering, and now it's raining and thundering and Elihu says, "Look! Look at what God can do! Isn't it awesome?" He says, "God thunders wondrously with his voice; he does great things that we cannot comprehend...The Almighty--we cannot find him; he is great in power; justice and abundant righteousness he will not violate." Elihu has found that awe and sense of marvelous wonder that Job (and most of us, at times) seems to have lost. The knowledge that, in light of the visible greatness of God and his power, he is in the right. Always.

I think I'm losing control of this post. I don't really have a clear vision of what more I want to say, and I don't think what I've said already is very clear. I think it's because there's just so much cool stuff that I want to talk about, and I didn't think about it sufficiently before actually starting to write it. Anyways, here's my point (or one of them). Our righteousness, in and of ourselves, is of absolutely no importance when determining what we deserve from God. Compared to God, we are all (but for Christ) irrevocably damned to Hell. In addition to this, and keeping this in mind, we must remember to keep things in the proper perspective--do we, fallen, rebellious people that we are, really want to question God's judgment concerning us? Let us remember that God is great, and let our hearts tremble when we consider his power and majesty.

In other news, I'm going to England to study at Oxford in a couple days. So, in addition to my theology stuff, I may be writing on my experiences in British Land.

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