I love this text, but every attempt to write a reflection on it this week has seen the comment grow too long.
The book of Job was a puzzle to me when I was young. In my early adulthood, I didn’t have the patience or experience to appreciate the struggle behind the poem. But my appreciation for the skill of the poetry has improved with age. My perspective on the conversation between God and the satan has changed. And my understanding of Job’s complaint has grown as I have tasted some of life’s bitterness.
I see now that the text overflows with grace. Yet I know many people may have trouble seeing that, so let me offer just this one sweet word: “The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind.”
God answered Job. God is under no obligation to answer our cries and complaints. God owes us no explanation. God is, after all, God, and we are not. (The book of Job puts it so much more graciously and beautifully than that, but that is the substance of God’s answer.) God owes Job nothing. But God answers.
God answers. God answers our cries in the night. God answers our grief. God answers our bewilderment at the inhumanity in our world. God answers our rage at injustice. God answers our despair and hopelessness. God answers when we are full of ourselves and empty of ourselves. God answers. The immortal and timeless one speaks to us mortal and ephemeral creatures.
God speaks. God speaks words that lift our sorrows, that carry our burdens, that forgive our sins. God speaks words that raise our spirits that they may soar like the eagle. God speaks words that cut to the heart like a dagger. God speaks to our vanity and to our brokenness. God speaks to our hate and to our experience of hate. God speaks.
God does not remain aloof in the heavens. We are a people with a book through which God speaks. We are a people with a worship through which God speaks. We are a people with a community through whom God speaks. We are a people to whom God speaks even in the silence.
“The Lord answered Job.”
And he answers us. Not with explanations, not with principles and doctrines and rules, but with words of love, fidelity, assurance, hope, promise. Words that call us out from ourselves and back into relationship with God. What happened to Job in his complaint was that he was cut off from God by his complaint. Demanding God give an account of himself makes God a stranger. When one person demands that of another, whatever trust was between them, whatever sympathy of spirit, is ruptured.
But God does not ignore Job. God does not condemn Job. God answers. He speaks. And by his speaking God calls Job back into a relationship of trust. He draws him back into God’s fidelity and love.
This is the font of all grace in this wondrous poem: God answers Job.
And he bends to speak to us.