вторник, 20 июля 2010 г.

Job's righteousness

The Book of Job begins with the words: «There was a person in the earth Uz, his name was Job; and this person was blameless, upright, feared God and shunned evil» (Job 1:1), - and these words become for us that "door" through which we “enter” the book. And at the same time they create the problem connected with their interpretation: we cannot understand how - if Job is righteous and God is fair - such sufferings could come to a life of this just and pure person? Actually, the question about the relation of God to suffering is a classical question of theodicy - but the unequivocal answer to this question for all history of mankind, in my opinion, has not been found yet. The full and universal answer to this question cannot be received by a theoretical speculation - it is possible only to experience such things in real contact with God and His revelation, as occurred to the suffering Job.
Long time Job's book remained closed for me, and the history about sufferings of this righteous person caused inconsistent feelings in my soul: on the one hand indignation by the fact this servant of God should have gone through «so deep waters», on the other hand, the horror before God who does not report to anybody and ready to test those who serve him so selflessly in order to deal with Satan. Bob Sordge expresses this opinion in his book «Pain, Bewilderment and Eminence». He writes: «Actually God calls Satan to a struggle, Job here is a whipping boy». This thought is developed also by another Christian writer: «Job has been selected as the main weapon in great dispute in heavens. God uses Job to prove to Satan: the faith of a man can be authentic and self-denying, it does not depend exclusively on blessings of God …. Having allowed us from the very beginning to glance for side scenes, the author of the book of Job deprives the story of all elements of the mystery. There is only one burning secret: how Job will react? Only one question demands the answer, and it is the question of faith».
Such interpretations, undoubtedly, seem spiritual, but they are not logical. God, first, has no need to argue with Satan – the outcome of their struggle is predetermined (See Rev. 20:10). It is possible to object, of course: though the Satan has lost the general fight – he nevertheless tries to make harm to God by gaining separate victories in struggle for souls of God’s servants. Well, it may be so, struggle actually is conducted for immortal human soul, but there is one important "but" - unlike Satan God knows the outcome of each such fight. As to the statement that tests have been sent to solve the "secret", namely, how Job will react to them it sounds a bit senselessly from the theological point of view. Can you imagine that God Who sees the heart of the man and judges his intentions required proving to Himself sincerity of the faith of Job? Besides, God is out of time that is why he knows how we will act before this or that action will be made. So, for example, was with Peter to whom the Lord has predicted, that he will renounce him three times before the cock will cry. So was with Judas whose treachery Christ expected even before «the Satan has entered into his heart». It turns out, that God does not need to prove anything to Himself – He knows all.
Then, perhaps, God proves something to Job? God torments Job, perhaps, to prove to Job, that he, Job, loves God sincerely and disinterestedly? A little sadistic version, isn’t it? In that case there is a question – is God love if He acts in such a way? What sane father will torture the child to be sure of his love or to make the child understand that he loves the father despite of everything? All these versions as it seems to me are rather superficial and artificial but, nevertheless, we hear them today in Church more often than any other.
However if such explanations of sufferings of Job can satisfy modern Christians they will hardly satisfy orthodox Jews, whose understanding of God is based not only on the statement of the Divine sovereignty, but also on declaration of His justice. If we decide that it is wrong to question Divine justice we thereby undermine the fundamental role of justice in faith of Israel. The divine justice was always as important for Israel as the Divine power. To remove a question on the Divine justice would mean to remain with God whom we glorify only for His power. But it is impossible for Israel. If Israel knows anything about God, it is that God is fair.
John Drain writes that long before events of the book of Job wise men from Babylon to Egypt faced a problem of suffering of kind people, «but in Israel two circumstances gave to this theme a special sharpness: Israel believed, that God manages a life of this world, and believed also, that God operates in strict conformity with morals principles». But can we say that our and Divine conception about justice does not differ from each other? Well, it could be so, but then does God have either moral, or legislative ground for judging man? Is it possible to judge the one who does not know the law, or even unable to know for what he is judged? C. S. Lewis, arguing over a theme of the Divine goodness in the context of human sufferings, asks the same question: «…if His moral judgment differs from ours so strongly, that "black" for us can be "white" for Him, we have not the right to name Him good; after all, saying that the Lord is good but his goodness is unlike anything we call goodness amounts to saying that He possesses a quality unknown to us». Thus, Lewis comes to conclusion that in this case «we are left with no moral bases for loving Him and even for submitting to Him». Lewis continues the argument:« If He is not “kind”, not "good" in our sense of the word, we submit only from fear, but fear can make us obey the all-powerful evil. The doctrine of complete human nothingness, i.e. that our idea of good does not suit anywhere, is capable to transform Christianity into worshipping demons».
However the internal conflict experienced by Job at the moment of his tragedy was the conflict of comparison of its habitual understanding of righteousness with now unknown to him justice of God. Stricken by terrible illness Job thinks about it in terms of justice. Therefore at once he looks for the answer to a question «for what?», and only later we hear Job asking another question «what kind of God?» Job starts an infinite stream of reasoning over the question tearing apart his soul. His habitual understanding of God and the Divine wisdom does not satisfy Job any more: he understands that answers available to him are absolutely useless in a present situation. The success formula «be good and you will reap the blessing» which Job selflessly followed has failed him, and he needed to find an explanation. Job suffered, and he clearly understood that he did not suffer for a particular sin but then who can explain: for what? The question about the reason of the sufferings is the central question of the book (and also one of the most important questions which we face in life), and we will later answer it, but now let's return to the question about the righteousness of Job.
Traditionally the Book of Job is considered in the light of already cited verses about the righteousness of Job though in some cases focus nevertheless extends to two first chapters. We will try to look at this book in the light of the general Bible Revelation.
Despite that fact that in the Bible certain people (like Noah and Job) have been named righteous, at the same time the Bible not less definitely speaks to us about impossibility of absolute human righteousness. Moreover, the New Testament doctrine about salvation speaks about human righteousness as vicious and not sufficient to be justified before God and to find salvation. Even those who think that Job's sufferings are not a consequence of his sins admit that Job’s righteousness was not absolute. In opinion of “the prince of preachers”, Charles Spurgeon, «in the end Job became much better, than was in the beginning. At first he was «pure, fair, but in some measure proud». And later he even adds, that God has led Job to understanding of his sin. “Yes, Job required correction. All of us require it. No one can become so mature that he will not need correction”, - Bob Sordge writes. Also it is necessary to tell, that this author affords courageous enough judgment, comparing Job with all of us, considering the characteristic given to Job by God himself. The majority of conservative-minded Christians underline that Job was the most righteous person on the earth. And still it is necessary for us to answer this question: what righteousness did Job possess?
According to God Job’s righteousness consisted of four basic virtues: he was blameless, upright, feared of God and shunned evil. But each of these characteristics could concern only a life’s outer side, as Job's history shows. Job was blameless, but as Pierre Dumulen writes, «perfection can be lifeless». Job was upright, but only when it seemed to him so. Job feared God, but in his fear there was no love. Job sinned evil, but evil has not been expelled from his heart. And still it is necessary to agree with Sordge that disasters have fell on Job not for any secret sins as his friends accused him. Job lived absolutely obediently to that law which was known to him, and according to this law Job was the righteous person, moreover, he was the most righteous of all people living at that moment – as has been noted by God. But does it mean that Job has reached the limit of perfection and spiritual growth was not necessary for him? Does it mean that he has reached the level of God’s righteousness?
The Bible says Job had seven sons and gives a short inventory of his property: «He had seven thousand small cattle, three thousand the camels, five hundred pairs an oxen and five hundred she-asses, and a lot of servants; also he was more noble than all sons of the East» (Job 1:3). Pierre Dumulen makes an interesting observation that all figures in this history have symbolical character, - Job's all property was multiple to figure ten, meaning human perfection, and each of its combinations bears in itself special meaning. Thus Job feels secure because he was surrounded not simply with material riches, but he was abounding with spiritual virtues and talents. «He was destined to loose all in order to receive something much greater».
Sometimes analyzing my life I ask a question: what do I search more – God or His blessing? Perhaps, for some this question will sound too offensive, but actually it is one of the central questions set by the Christ in the gospels. Material blessings in a life of the Israelites were a consequence of the obeying the conditions of the covenant which God made with them. However, at the moment of the beginning of service of Jesus Christ, Israel, remaining in the religious tradition the nation worshipping Yahweh, in the real life has ceased worshipping Yahweh: and most vividly it was seen in their relation to the material benefits. According to some theologians, service of the Christ has begun in 26 year of our era, and this was a Jubilee Year in Israel. Judaic anniversaries were directed against social injustice and were celebrated once in fifty years. Celebrating of anniversary year should remind Israel of the one to Whom they are obliged by the material benefits; therefore both Saturday, and anniversary year was, first of all, display of their belief and a symbol of their accessory to the precept people.
It all shows us that the Divine blessings come to our life only as the consequence of our faith in The one Who is their source. When we aspire to receive the Divine blessings but at the same time forget about God, the feeling of self-sufficiency imperceptibly comes to our life.
Something similar happens with Job. He feels self-sufficient: «Job for the time being was satisfied with his own blamelessness and piety. He worshiped God and obeyed His precepts therefore he did not need anything or anybody, he himself managed his life and did not understand his poverty and the impossibility to live without God’s direct participation and support». Drawing a parallel with the religious environment of our days we can say that Job had the greatest church: it did not require any support, on the contrary, others have been compelled to seek its favor. Those days in Arabia there was no anybody who would not know Job. There was no person who would not wish to achieve the same success.
Job was just, but was it Divine righteousness or only his own, human righteousness? Actually, God is not necessary to the self-righteous person, even if a part of his human righteousness is the recognition of and worship to God. It is possible to be the person of religion, it is possible to visit religious meetings, to participate in religious actions and holidays, it is possible to make all it to have a righteous appearance, but God does not require it at all. In days of Job it was impossible to be not religious – all people without exception believed in a God, but here is a question: in what god and how they trusted? Job was a righteous man, but did he know God personally? Or this he was only going to discover?
Atheistic times have sunk into the past, and today again it is fashionable to be religious. Many people assert that they believe in God, but if we to ask in which god they trust, we will not hear the unequivocal answer any more. As a rule, this god does not possess personal characteristics and, more likely, will be something like a universal reason infinitely removed from the world of men, quiet and indifferent, observing men "from above". Today, as well as in days of Job, many people are religious, moreover, many of them are righteous or at least try to be such, but thus there is a question, how many of them actually need God? How many of them need God as their Savior? However the faith does not consist only in one time recognition of God as God, and repentance does not consist in one time kneeling before Him in the presence of church on Sunday. Believing and repenting is a part of all our life. The believer feels the dependence on God every moment of his life. He does not repent just once but goes repenting toward God all his life. The repentance is not a one time event, but a process, and our salvation – not only something already come true, but also hope of the future.
The interesting fact is that the name Job in the Arabian language means "repentance", and many believe that Job has received this name only in the end of the story after "righteous person" has refused his righteousness and repented: «I heard about You hearing of an ear; now my eyes see You; therefore I renounce and repent in ashes » (Job.42:5-6). We will learn about it later, as for now let's return again to the beginning of this story.

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