- JOB´s ´FIGURE. In dialogue with God

Created: Monday, 07 July 2014 Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 September 2014

In dialogue with God

1.- The figure of Job means a deep reflection on human suffering. Job´s book, written perhaps in the time of the exile (about 575), has two parts: a narration in prose (prologue and conclusion) and a body of poems (central part) in a dialogued way. It begins like this: “Once upon a time there was in the country of Uz a man called Job: a blameless and upright man who feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters” (Job 1, 1-2). Job is situated in the time of the patriarchs in the North of Arabia. He enjoys large prosperity. He is a just man (see Ez 14, 14) and God himself is proud of him.
2.- But Satan says to God: “Does Job fear God for nothing?… stretch out your hand to destroy everything he has, and I bet he will curse you to your face!” (Job 1, 9-12). The Lord answers: “All that he has is in your power. But do not lay a finger upon the man himself” (Job 1,12). The bandits, the fire, the hurricane…  fall over his property and upon his children. Job keeps himself faithful to God: “Yahweh gave, Yahweh has taken away. Blessed be his name! (Job 1,21). But Satan insists: “Skin for skin! For his own life, a man will give everything he owns! But lay your hand against his own flesh and bones and he will curse you to your face!” (2, 4-5). The Lord tells him: “Very well, he is in your power. But spare his life” (2,6). Satan left the presence of Yahweh and afflicted Job with “festering sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.” His wife revolves against God, but Job told him: “If we receive good things from God, why can’t we accept evil from him?” (Job 2, 7.10).
3. – Three Job´s friends (Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar) heard of the misfortune that came upon him. They decide to visit him. They see him from the distance and fail to recognize him. They wept aloud. From seven days, they sat on the ground beside him. They do not say a word to Job, for they saw how terribly he suffered (2, 11-13). Job breaks the silence, cursing the day of his birth (Job 3,1), longing for death (3,21). He is an upset man, with no rest or ease (3, 24-26).
4.- Job´s friends practice the retribution doctrine according which any misfortune is a sin’s consequence. Eliphaz tells Job: “Shall we speak? Do you mind?” (4,2) He believes to have received a word in confidence, a voice in the night visions: “Can a mortal be just in the eyes of God? Can a man be pure before his Maker? ( 4,17; see Psalm 143,2). Job must hope in God. His misfortunes are a, painful but healthful lesson (5, 17-18; see Gn 17.1).
5.- Only that one who goes through it, knows what he is suffering: “That is why his reasons get out of order”  (6, 3). He even losses his friends´ support (6, 26-27). The time goes by slowly (7,4). And in the night, he is frightened by dreams and visions (7, 14). Job asks God: “Suppose I sinned, what has it done to you? (7,20).
5. Sólo el que lo pasa, sabe lo que está sufriendo: "por eso sus razones se desmandan" (6,3). De la comida siente hastío (6,7). Pierde incluso el apoyo de sus amigos (6,26-27). El tiempo pasa lentamente (7,4). Y por la noche, espantos con sueños y visiones (7,14). Job le pregunta a Dios: "Si he pecado, ¿qué te he hecho a ti?" (7,20).
6.- Illness provokes in the sick reactions and questions that want to find a reason of what is happening, but there is no easy answer: Why do I have this misfortune? Why this illness? Why precisely now? What may I have done to deserve this? Where is God´s justice? The sheltering and understanding of the sick person’s reactions is something that alleviates the weight of the wounded heart. Before the ease of those who blame God for his sufferings, many feel themselves called to come out in God´s defence. Really, they can become false and inopportune comforters, like Job´s friends (see 8,2-7; 11,2-6; 15, 2-8).
7.- Job makes a confidence to his friends. His case is not an exception. It is not true that in the land the good succeeds and the wicked fails: “Why do the wicked survive?” (21,7; see Ps 73 y 37). It will be said that the wicked is punished for his sons, but Job believes that the wicked must pay in person (21, 19).
8.- Eliphaz, convinced that God punishes automatically, accelerates himself in concrete defamations (22, 4-9). Job has committed injustices; besides he has mocked God when he supposes that he would not see them. If he confesses his sins, God will forgive him (22,21). Job would like to meet God and have explanations with him. But, where can he be found?. “If I go eastward, he is not there; if I go westward, I still cannot see him” (23,8; see Ps 139, 7-10). It looks like God avoids the world. That is many people daily experience (24,12; 24,14-15).
9.- Job nostalgically recalls his previous life. He again affirms his justice and his reason. Its results were his prosperity and his influence: “He was the father of the poor, the stranger’s advocate.  (29-16). Now Job is matter of mockery. Destroyed by the disgrace, he is nothing already. And request an answer from God (Job 31, 35 – 37).
10.- Elihu, not mentioned before, intervenes. Being the youngest, he had maintained himself expectant,. He feels himself moved by the wisdom, which comes from God. He tells Job: “I heard what you have said, none of your words escaped my hearing… : I am clean and without sin… Why then do you complain that he will answer none of your words? See God gives a warning but does not repeat it a second time. In a dream, in a night vision, while they slumber in their beds, it is then he opens the ears of men and gives warning by terrifying them; so he turns man from wrongdoing and keeps him away from pride, to preserve his souls from the pit” (33, 8-18). In the midst of a justified suffering the man may find an angel’s intercession, a mediator who declare to the man his duty, who have pity on him and say: “Deliver him from going down to the pit; I have found for him a ransom” (33, 24). Once he is saved, he quits to pretend being right; he announces God´s justice to the others and sings it among men (33, 27 – 28). God is the just by excellence (34, 12; see 34, 17-21), Job cannot impose his point of view to the universe’s judge (34,35-37; see 7,20; 34,8 and 36,21). Finally, Elihu tunes a hymn to God´s Wisdom (36, 22-37,24).
11.- God answers Job from the tempest’s womb: Who is this that obscures divine plans with ignorant words? (38,2). God orders Job to come out. With the evocation of nature and, in special, of animal world, so mysterious for man, God takes Job to acknowledge the emptiness of his wisdom: “Do you know when the mountain goats breed?” (39,1). Who is he, then to judge God´s actuation? How can he rise like censor of the universe’s God? Job must shut up. “Must a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?” (40,2). Job answers to God: “How can I reply, unworthy as I am?” (40,4). God has the power to immediately end with the wick. He slightly shows his lordship in the way he has limited the power of animals terrific for men, the hippopotamus and the crocodile (40, 15- 41,26). Job answered to the Lord: “I spoke of things I did not understand… My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you” (42, 2-6).
12.- The healthy relationship with God, especially in the suffering, requires a constant purification. We easily project on Him our fears, wishes, thoughts… and we do not have a true relationship with Him such as He is. (see  42,7. 13-17)  It is really better to avoid an answer and to fall in God´s hands, than to adopt false solutions.
* Dialogue: From Job´s figure, what calls out more attention from us? What teaching does it provide on human suffering? And also: how do we confront sickness?
-             Medically (Eclo 38)
-             Like human condition
-             Like a testing of the whole human person
-             Like an accuser testing (with some basis or not)
-    Like a signal of the evil; it is bad to be sick
-             Like a rebellion before God, requiring Him to account for
-             Resorting to pray
-    In the light of the word
-             Doing what Jesus did: He went about healing (Acts 10,38)