How We Visualize God

by Shlomoh
March 17, 2018

35 5 “Job says, ‘I am innocent, but God denies me justice. 6 Although I am right, I am considered a liar; although I am guiltless, his arrow inflicts an incurable wound.’

35 Then Elihu said: 2 “Do you think this is just? You say, ‘I am in the right, not God.’

36 Elihu continued: 2 “Bear with me a little longer and I will show you that there is more to be said in God’s behalf. 3 I get my knowledge from afar; I will ascribe justice to my Maker. 4 Be assured that my words are not false; one who has perfect knowledge is with you. 5 “God is mighty, but despises no one; he is mighty and firm in his purpose. 6 He does not keep the wicked alive but gives the afflicted their rights. 7 He does not take his eyes off the righteous; he enthrones them with kings and exalts them forever. 8 But if people are bound in chains, held fast by cords of affliction, 9 he tells them what they have done— that they have sinned arrogantly. 10 He makes them listen to correction and commands them to repent of their evil. 11 If they obey and serve him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment. 12 But if they do not listen, they will perish by the sword[a] and die without knowledge.

Epilogue 42 7 After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.

The Book of Job ends on an interesting note. Job is justified before God. When we say that God is unknowable, we are saying more than we realize. There are so many different portrayals of God in Scripture. In her Yale series, INTRODUCTION TO THE HEBREW BIBLE [available for free download on YouTube], Professor Christine Hayes points out that people may often say that the Bible contradicts itself. She says what appears to be contradictions are just different ways of looking at things. People have come to think of the Bible as one book. It is not. It is a series of writings that span thousands of years. Each book had something new to say about God and about man. In fact, the men who canonized the Bible had as a criterion for inclusion that the book must show both the power of God and the power of man. God was portrayed in each book as the particular author received his or her own inspiration.

We generally have chosen to stress and cling to those images of God that give us comfort and have pushed other images away. We love to agree with Elihu that "He does not take his eyes off the righteous; he enthrones them with kings and exalts them forever."

But we all know that this is not always true. Sometimes He does and sometimes opposite. Look at Psalm 44. It's a great example of a person crying out at what he sees as divine injustice, just as Job originally did. The Psalmist there proclaims not only his innocence but his loyalty to God, and yet it appears that God has abandoned him.

And I appreciate this as an answer to those who claim the Holocaust was a result of sin. If the Holocaust was the result of sin, it was the collective sin of people
who perpetrated it and people who abetted it and allowed it to happen. We tend to blame victims in our society because we've been brought up to believe like Elihu, that there is observable, understandable divine justice in the world. The Book of Job makes us think twice about that assumption. I know many people personally who say as Job said: "I am in the right, not God." That's how they feel, betrayed - even though we can't call misfortune divine betrayal. The expectation to be "enthroned them with kings and exalted" is our expectation, not necessarily the divine. And God rightly credits Job. Job said that he suffered through no fault of his own, and God responds to the 3 friends who come to console Job but only make him feel worse that He is angry with them because they have not spoken TRUTH about Him as Job has. God is unknowable at many times, not Whom we claim to know at all times.

Unlike other people who say that the value of the book is that it justifies God, I claim that its value lies in that it justifies Job.

And after all - who is Job? In a supposedly Jewish book, he is not even Jewish. He is from the land of Uz. Uz is another name for Esau. Job is an Edomite, a people who were the enemies of Israel for centuries. It's a name that the rabbis use when they talk about the Roman Empire. When they are not saying Babylon, they are saying Edom. The book shows the power of God and the power of man, not just Jewish man, but everyman. Obviously, it's not Job who is patient. It's God.

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