I had a discussion with a friend earlier tonight about whether or not God causes pain, punishment, and generally bad things to happen or whether or not he lets things happen. It was basically about one of the Christian Science beliefs which states: "No. Christian Science does not involve pleading with God to heal the sick and then accepting His will, good or bad. Nothing in Christian Science theology says it’s God’s will that anyone suffer, be sick, or die. Christian Science shows God to be entirely good, and therefore His will for each individual is only health and life."
This caused me to look back at Job and what my professor had once taught us in my religion class while at TCU. Particularly the verse Job 42:7.
Here's my professors reasoning. During that time, pain and punishment was built on the principle of "retributive theology" that God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked, period. But Job seems to be the opposite.
First of all, beginning in Job 1:1 God refers to Job as perfect and upright, blameless and righteous. That there is no one like him in all the earth. That he avoids evil and that he has seven sons, three daughters and he is the "greatest of all the men in the east" so he's wealthy.
Then satan enters heaven..."satan's", my professor believes, role is to find the righteous and bring their name to God so that God could test them. Not so sure about this particular reasoning, although it does say in Job 2:1 that the "angels came to present themselves before the LORD and Satan also came with them". So my professor's reasoning is that this is not Lucifer but, an angel that belonged there. That's where my professor was coming from. But, I digress.
So, by this time, Job has already suffered once. And, God says to satan have you considered Job...he tells Satan! Weird...and then God says "And he still maintains his integrity though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason" 2:3. So why did God, who declared that Job was righteous and upright and blameless, do this? Still something that makes me ponder. Actually, the first time that I questioned the character of God.
Then comes Job's three friends: Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. All three say things such as repent, face your sins, confess, God is just, you're a sinner, humans are worms and maggots, humans are impure and unrighteous, the innocent never suffer. And Job says that he's blameless, that he's innocent, that he wants God to be his mediator, his vindicator and redeemer for these wrongs. Job then says that God is the hunter and he is the target 10:2-10,16 and that God has a bullseye on Job and uses him for target practice 16:11-13. Pretty harsh statements.
Then in the epilogue, God speaks and poses many questions. And then God says to Eliphaz "I am angry with you and your two friends because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has" 42:7. Really? So every strong statement that Job used before was correct?? God really was the lion and Job really was his prey? What?
Yet, Job repents and says "Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes". I do find it interesting that the word "repent" here in this verse that means to be sorry, to console, to avenge is only found in the old testament. It changes meaning in the new testament to "repent" meaning to think differently and to turn away.
So, my professor says that God becomes Job's redeemer. He restores everything Job lost, doubles it.
WHAAAAAAT? It's all VERY confusing to me. So, God lets these bad things happen to Job for no reason? And in fact at one point he points Job out to "Satan"? But then avenges Job in the end and says that he is still right and spoke right about God? Is the whole point that retributive theology is not always true? That God is above cause and effect and all reason? Or what is the point?
I read up on some other commentaries just to take a look. Here are the links: http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?b=18&c=42&com=mhc and this one I like http://www.blueletterbible.org/commentaries/comm_view.cfm?AuthorID=7&contentID=2360&commInfo=6&topic=Job. In particular, I like that this second author explains why Job repented. That he was correct in his argument against his friends and their false theories, but that he took it to the extreme.
So, all in all I'm confused -- haha, to say the least. And if you read through this mish mash, you're probably confused by what I'm trying to say! Sorry, it's almost 2:30 in the morning and I'm tired.
What are your thoughts? Offer other interpretations that I'm just not seeing?