Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Trivia & the Book of Job

Hi Friends,

I had a fun baby shower this past weekend (thanks to all who came!), and one of the games was titled "Who Knows Mommy Best" - you know, one of those games where you try to guess trivia facts about a person. So, I thought it would be fun to post some of the questions and answers here, and then talk a bit about Job - you'll see why. So, here ya go:

Marlo’s favorite M&M’s: Peanut Butter

Marlo’s favorite color: Purple

Marlo’s favorite actor: Russell Crowe

Name of Marlo’s first book: Cry Freedom

Marlo’s First Car: Toyota Celica

Marlo’s favorite class in seminary: Greek Exegesis

Marlo’s favorite book of the Bible: Job

JOB - ah ha! I don't know anyone else who lists Job as their favorite book in the Bible (see, you knew I was a little crazy ;-)), but well, there you have it. And you know why? Because at its heart, Job is about witnessing the wonder of God. It's like this:

Here's a bit of a summary:

You've got a guy who God’s so pleased with that he brags about his righteousness. Job is the shining example of what a person ought to be. But Satan doesn’t like that one bit, so he wants to test Job, saying Job will curse God if things go wrong.

God believes in Job. And so, Job’s children are killed, his crops fail, he loses everything except his wife who is not at all helpful. Then he gets sores all over his body, sits in an ash heap, and scratches his sores with a broken piece of pottery. Lovely, isn’t it? The ash heap -- a great place to witness the wonder of God.

Then his friends show up. They mourn silently with him for seven days. They should have stayed silent. But they didn’t. Instead, they’re going to tell Job why he deserves all this. Problem is, Job knows he didn’t do any of those things they’re accusing him of. He knows he didn’t do anything to deserve all this.

The friends, of course, aren’t convinced, so you get thirty-some chapters of “Did-too/Did-not” in poetry. (This is where the book of Job gets its bad rap.) And Job crying out to God, “I don’t get it. Why is this happening to me??”

We've all been there, haven't we? That place where life doesn’t make sense, doesn’t seem fair, and is just hard. The “good grief, what did I ever do to deserve this??” places.

And then, it happens. After all those chapters. God shows up in the whirlwind. God Himself comes with the answer. Now, we have to assume that God’s answer is an answer, that He’s been listening in all along and knows what’s been going on. And if it’s Job’s answer, it’s also ours …

But what an answer! It's not, "Well, let me explain to you, Job, you see, you’re such a great guy I knew you could do it. You could stand up to Satan. All right, buddy" with a pat on the back. Nope, God doesn’t give a clue as to anything that went on in the heavens in the first two chapters of the book. Job remains forever ignorant of that.

And here's the key:

God doesn’t answer “WHY” at all. He answers “WHO.” And what a WHO! A glimpse of grand and intimate God. A God who made the stars to sing and also let the wild donkey go free. A God who cuts the path for a thunderstorm and is also there when the mountain goat gives birth. A God who holds the constellations together and also feeds the ravens. That is a God of wonder.

The point is: Job shows us that the answer to “Why” is no good to us. It’s what we cry out to know, and yet there’s so little value in it. It doesn’t change anything. We don’t find the God's wonder in the answer to “why.”

But “who” is a whole different thing. Seeing God for who He is, glimpsing Him in new, wondrous ways, having our eyes opened to the reality of HIM. That’s a gift. And that changes everything.

That’s why I don’t think God is being mean in chapters 38-39. He's not saying “you peon you, get out of my way” (besides, we know how highly God values Job from the book’s beginning). Rather, God is coming to Job to say, “My friend, you have no idea … let me give you a glimpse of the wonder you’ve never seen. That’s the gift Job is given in chapter 38-39.

It’s the answer to things like when life isn’t fair, when health is bad, when we grieve, when loss happens, when the life we lead has lost its luster … day to day, day after day, all our lives. The answer is the wonder of God, the reality of who He is.

So, you see, that's why I love Job ... because we glimpse God and find the answer to life's questions is not found in "why" but in "who." And somehow that makes all the difference.


Anonymous said...

You might be interested in this online commentary "Putting God on Trial: The Biblical Book of Job" (http://www.bookofjob.org) as supplementary or background material for your study of the Book of Job. It is written by a Canadian criminal defense lawyer, now a Crown prosecutor, and it explores the legal and moral dynamics of the Book of Job with particular emphasis on the distinction between causal responsibility and moral blameworthiness embedded in Job’s Oath of Innocence. It is highly praised by Job scholars (Clines, Janzen, Habel) and the Review of Biblical Literature, all of whose reviews are on the website. The author is an evangelical Christian, denominationally Anglican. He is also the Canadian Director for the Mortimer J. Adler Centre for the Study of the Great Ideas, a Chicago-based think tank.