Lecture 39: The Theology of Job 3
Course: The Book of Job
Lecture: The Theology of Job 3
We have been discussing various issues related to the message of Job and particularly to its meaning for us and its relationship to the New Testament. We
are going to continue in that now and we are going to consider in a little more detail what Job tells us about the heavenly mediator.
First of all, however, we need to remind ourselves of something. Job through his affliction comes to face the problem of evil and the enormity of suffering in the human race.
I. Prior to His Affliction, He Was Almost God-like in Being Relatively Free of Suffering
A. The ground Job walked on prospered
When we look at Job prior to his afflictions and then during his afflictions, a very striking pattern emerges. Job tells us for example in chapter 29, verse 6. Let me read it for you: “My path was drenched with cream and the rock poured out for me streams of olive oil.” Then in verses 18-20: “I thought, ‘I will die in my house, my days as numerous a the grains of the sand. My roots will reach to the water and the dew will lie all night on my branches. My glory will not fade and the bow will ever be new in my hand.’”
If you are familiar with ancient mythology, the idea of “everywhere his foot steps, oil and cream comes out,” of course it is a metaphor in Job, but it is a God-like function. For example, the Greek God Dionysius was the god of fertility and abundance and of course he is associated with wine. Wherever Dionysius went, if he wanted to, grape vines could simply sprout up and bear fruit immediately. It was all around him. So when Job describes himself as having oil and wine just bubble up wherever he lays his foot, and when Job describes himself as having abundance and fertility and long life and prosperity, he almost sounds god-like from the standpoint of an ancient person.
B. People fell silent in his presence
Notice also what he says about himself in this same chapter in Job 29:8-10: “The young men saw me and stepped aside and the old men rose to their feet; the chief men refrained from speaking and covered their mouths with their hands; the voices of the nobles were hushed, and their tongues stuck to the roof of their mouths.” In other words, everyone fell piously silent whenever Job was near. He was so revered that people would shut their mouths when he stepped by. Yes, he was very honored; but again, it is almost a god-like honoring. He is so high and lofty that people don’t even say anything, they just fall silent in his presence.
C. He put on righteousness as a garment
We read also in verse 14: “I put on righteousness as my clothing; justice was my robe and my turban.” In Job this is a metaphor. Job is saying, “I was a very
righteous man.” And so when he speaks of righteousness as his clothing as a metaphor, it simply means that Job was so righteous that when you looked at
him, what you saw was righteousness; just as with us, when you look at us, what you see is our clothing. For Job, it’s just a metaphor saying “I was a very, very righteous man.” But the language of righteousness as his clothing is quite striking.
Here is what Isaiah says about God in Isaiah chapter 59 verse 17: “He put on righteousness as his breastplate and the helmet of salvation on his head. He put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.” We can see some echoes of this also in Ephesians of course. But what I want to get across at this point is the idea of being wrapped in garments or armored in garments of righteousness and power are in Isaiah a characteristic of God. Again, Job is described almost as though he were god-like.
D. He punished the wicked
Then we read again back in chapter 29 in verse 17: “I broke the fangs of the wicked and snatched the victims from their teeth.” Job was a powerful man and
as a powerful man with a lot of influence, as an elder in his community, no doubt he had what we would call judicial duties. He would serve as a magistrate or as a juror and he would have a part in punishing the wicked. From that standpoint there is nothing miraculous about this. He is not claiming divine power. But the language of “breaking the teeth of the wicked” and “triumphing over them” of “bringing the evil to justice,” is again a kind of god-like function.
So for example, we read in the book of Psalms, chapter 3, verse 7:”Arise, Lord! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the
So we see here Job actually using the same metaphor for himself that is used of God in the Psalm, that God breaks the teeth of the wicked, and so does Job.
E. He cared for people who were suffering
Job was not cruel or indifferent to the suffering of people. He instead nurtured the poor, the fatherless and the widows. We see this in chapter 29, verses 12 and 13: “I rescued the poor who cried for help, the fatherless who had none to assist them. The one who was dying blest me; I made the widow’s heart sing.” Again, there is nothing divine strictly speaking about this. It is the task of a righteous man to take care of widows and orphans throughout the Old Testament. So that of itself is not unusual. But he presents himself again as the one who is kind of the savior of the weak and the lowly, which ultimately is the task of God, who is the father to the fatherless.
F. Eyes to the blind and feet to the lame
Similarly, Job certainly could not miraculously heal, but he says of himself in verse 15 of chapter 29: “I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame.” So he could not literally heal the blind or make the lame to walk; but he presents himself as someone who was such a helper to them, that it was as if he could give them eyes.
II. Job Had No Firsthand Experience of Suffering Until He Experienced Calamity
Let’s be clear what I am saying. I am not saying Job claimed to be God or that he in any way thought of himself as god-like. What I am saying, however, is the language of Job has so many echoes of divine power and divine prerogative, you can’t help but notice it. You can’t help but see the similarities between how Job lived and what he was, and things that are said of deity.
All he meant was that he was righteous before God, he was prosperous and he was compassionate and he did everything that a righteous man should do. But if Job had some, if we can call it, shortcoming at this time, it was in fact in his god-like status. Job was so high and so powerful, Job was so blest that I don’t think he could fully understand what it was to be poor, to be oppressed, to be weak. I don’t mean to say that he is not telling the truth when he says he was compassionate toward them and that he strove to help them. What I am saying is, it’s one thing to be compassionate to the poor, it’s another thing to experience it yourself. It’s one thing to minister to the sick and the suffering; it’s another thing to be sick and suffering yourself.
A. Job now knows what it means to suffer
Once Job has come to the point that he has fallen from his god-like status, that he now fully is engaged in what it is to be human and mortal and weak, here is what he says: “Man born of woman, short on days, but glutted with vexation.” In other words, he can now really say in no uncertain terms what it is to be human and what it is to be in pain. When he is impoverished, when he is twisted with physical agony, he becomes the voice of all who live in such a condition.
Let’s remind ourselves very briefly of what he says in chapter 24:5: “Like wild donkeys in the desert, the poor go about their labor foraging food; the wasteland provides food for their children. They gather fodder in the fields and glean in the vineyards of the wicked. Lacking clothes, they spend their night naked; they have nothing to cover themselves in the cold. They are drenched by mountain rains and hug the rocks for lack of shelter. The fatherless child is snatched from the breast; the infant of the poor is seized for a debt. Lacking clothes, they go about naked ; they carry the sheaves, but still go hungry. They crush olives among the terraces; they tread the winepresses, yet suffer thirst. The groans of the dying rise from the city; and the souls of the wounded cry out for help, But God charges no one with wrongdoing.”
We have talked about this passage before, so we are not going to go through the details again. But at this point we want to ask a question. Could Job have ever said such things before he was afflicted with all his torments? Would Job have recognized the scandal, the enormity of human suffering? Would he have been able to even ask the question, where is God? when he was in the position that everywhere he stepped was wine and oil and wealth and prosperity? It is Job’s pain, his suffering, his embracing of what it is to be a human that enables him to give this beautiful and eloquent, powerful and painful statement on the nature of human suffering.
B. Job spoke with compassion for common sinners
Job in his suffering could even speak with compassion for common sinners; not just people who suffer, but even people who suffer because of their sin. They are trapped in darkness. They murder, they steal, they commit adultery, but their lives are nothing. Everything they do fails and the wrath of God is heavy upon them. In the end, they vanish into oblivion.
Here is what Job says again in chapter 24:13: “There are those who rebel against the light, who do not know its ways or stay in its paths. When daylight is gone, the murderer rises up, kills the poor and the needy; in the night steals forth like a thief. The eye of the adulterer watches for dusk; he thinks, ‘No one will see me,’ he keeps his face concealed. In the dark, thieves break into houses, but by day they shut themselves in; they want nothing to do with the light. For all of them, midnight is their morning; they make friends with the terrors of the darkness. Yet” he says, verse 18, “they are foam on the surface of the water; their portion of the land is cursed, so that no one goes to the vineyards. As heat and drought snatch away melted snow, so the grave snatches away those who have sinned. The womb forgets them and the worm feasts on them; the wicked are no longer remembered but they are broken like a tree. They prey on the barren and childless woman, and to the widow they show no kindness. But God drags away the mighty by his power; though they become established, they have no assurance of life. He may let them rest in a feeling of security , but his eyes are on their ways. For a little while they are exalted, then they are gone; they are brought low, gathered up like all others; they are cut off like heads of grain.”
Again, we have looked at this passage and we have seen on the one hand how Job describes the pervasiveness of evil in the world. There is a great deal of crime. There are people who are vicious, people who are violent, people who commit unspeakable deeds; and this itself is something that calls out for justice. We have already looked at that.
At this point I want to notice another aspect of how Job speaks of these wicked people. He certainly doesn’t deny that they are wicked. He doesn’t deny that they have done terrible things and that they deserve punishment. But he also describes them in pitiful terms. “They hide all the time. They are trapped in
darkness. Their only friend is the terrors of the night, the terrors of the darkness. They live for a while and then they vanish. Their names are forgotten. They are cut off. They have no place in the world and God Himself strikes them down.”
Yes, they are sinful. But Job once again is able to speak of them as not just bad people, but as people, people who suffer, people whose lives are wasted, people who are crushed and broken and entrapped in darkness.
What I am saying to you is that we have in these two chapters of Job, chapter 29 and then chapter 24, a remarkable contrast, between Job who is almost god-like in his prosperity, in his ability to help people, in the way he is able to conduct himself in life; and Job who is struck down, who is suffering, who has nothing, who is in pain; but now knows fully what it is to be human and can absolutely embrace humanity in their suffering, in their sin, in their weakness and in their mortality. Job has gone from this high status to a very low status; but in the process, in a sense has become much more human.
III. The Need for a Mediator and Redeemer
The second thing we want to take note of is how Job speaks of the need for a mediator and redeemer. We discussed this at length, so we are going to work
through this fairly quickly.
Job has made it clear that he realizes humanity needs a mediator between God and us. At first, his conception of a mediator is a little different from ours because Job is innocent and he wants a mediator to stand between himself and God so that he can have a conversation with God and make the point that, “Hey, I’m not guilty. You are punishing me without just cause.” That is not our situation. We know we are guilty and we need a mediator between us and God because we need someone to intercede for us who are sinners.
A. Job wanted a mediator to plead his case
Even so, in the book of Job, Job fully understands that he is not sufficient to stand before God. He is small, he is weak, he is mortal. God is immortal, all-powerful. God is the Great King. Job has no standing to go before God and make any claims against God. Therefore, Job wants a mediator between himself and God. Job is innocent, but he is treated as if he is guilty. His sufferings terrify him. It is as if God has rigged the system. Once again, he needs someone to stand between himself and God, to bring the two together so that he can finally be justified. Job was frail and he felt himself to be dying.
Of course, we humans are all frail, we are all dying and we all desire redemption and resurrection. So although Job’s condition is not exactly like the condition we find ourselves in, he makes the point very clearly that we humans need a mediator between us and God. We need someone who will rise up against the dust, who will conquer death and allow us to rise from the grave as well. We need someone to intercede for us, to plead for us that we might stand before God and not be condemned.
B. We know that Jesus is the mediator between God and humans
Of course we Christians understand who the mediator is. We know that the mediator is Jesus Christ. We are sinners and Christ has died for us. Christ has risen from the grave. In Christ the dust has been conquered and we too will be raised up. Not only will we be raised up, but Christ will stand between us and God at the judgment to say that His blood has covered our sin, His resurrection has redeemed our life and in Him we are redeemed. Thus, just as Job knew, we also know that there is an immense distance between us and God, something that we cannot bridge and we need a redeemer.
C. Job became aware of human suffering by experiencing it
Let’s bring these two ideas together. On the one hand we saw Job the man who was God-like in how he lived and all his power and all his wealth; and how he needed to fully embrace the sufferings of humanity to really understand what it was all about and to be able to speak for humans who suffer. And we have the need for a redeemer.
D. Characteristics of a mediator
What does this tell us about the mediator? What it implies and what the very idea of a mediator implies is of course, on the one hand the mediator has to be equal with God because he has no standing before God unless he is equal to God.
On the other hand, the mediator, in order to be in that position, must fully embrace the suffering of humanity. He would have to go through the same
experience as the rest of us, of suffering, of pain, of even temptation, if he is to know what it is to be truly human and to stand in our place.
The book of Job tells us we need a mediator, but the mediator must have an incarnation with nothing phony about it. The mediator needs to be someone who goes through life not shielded from all of life’s pains and sorrows. He is not a person who when he gets hungry just turns stones into bread. He is not a person who escapes the hardship of humanity, mortality and weakness. He is not to be shielded from pain if he is one of us.
The first Christian heresy was the heresy of Docetism. This was the heresy that said that Jesus was truly God, but he was not man at all. Of course, there are various varieties of Docetism. One variety said that when Christ walked around on earth, he only appeared to be a man. He looked human; he seemed to have human flesh; but it was all kind of virtual, it was an illusion. Of course, that is not in keeping with Biblical teaching. He is truly God and truly man.
How did Jesus describe himself? He described himself as “the Son of Man.” He didn’t walk around saying “I’m the Son of God.” He would occasionally say that. He certainly did not deny it. But he did not routinely speak of himself as the Son of God. He never called himself the Son of David. Other people did and again, it is true, he was the Son of David. But he did not use that title for himself. When he was speaking of himself, typically in his teaching, in his preaching, in his interaction with people, he didn’t say, “The Son of God must suffer and die for sinners.” He said, “The Son of Man has come, not to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for sinners.” When Jesus was faced with the temptations of Satan, which I have already alluded to, he once again fully embraced what it was to be the Son of Man, the suffering servant, a person who fully takes on humanity.
Jesus did not walk around on earth with grapevines and olive trees sprouting up wherever he stepped. Jesus had divine power. He certainly could give sight to the blind. He could literally heal the lame in a way that Job could only do it, so to speak metaphorically. Yet, he did this while embracing all the pains and all the sufferings of the human race.
The Son of Man, he said, has no place to lay his head. The Son of Man took up his cross and he calls upon his followers to do the same thing. There is something to be seen in the suffering of Job as a pattern of what it is to be the servant of God in the world.
Many of us would like to be a kind of servant of God, a man of God or a woman of God who just has kind of god-like powers, that we can just pray for people and they get well. Someone has a problem and we have this deep well of wisdom and we just know all the answers. So that we think, if I could just be so much like God, kind of an angel here on earth, then that would be what it is to be a true servant of God. It is, in fact, in our suffering, in our pain that we are most redemptive. When we are most human and yet also relying upon God in our ministry to people, then we are truly imitating Christ and we are also repeating the experience of Job.