Job Continues

How Can Mere Mortals Get Right with God?

1-13 Job continued by saying:

“So what’s new? I know all this.
    The question is, ‘How can mere mortals get right with God?’
If we wanted to bring our case before him,
    what chance would we have? Not one in a thousand!
God’s wisdom is so deep, God’s power so immense,
    who could take him on and come out in one piece?
He moves mountains before they know what’s happened,
    flips them on their heads on a whim.
He gives the earth a good shaking up,
    rocks it down to its very foundations.
He tells the sun, ‘Don’t shine,’ and it doesn’t;
    he pulls the blinds on the stars.
All by himself he stretches out the heavens
    and strides on the waves of the sea.
He designed the Big Dipper and Orion,
    the Pleiades and Alpha Centauri.
We’ll never comprehend all the great things he does;
    his miracle-surprises can’t be counted.
Somehow, though he moves right in front of me, I don’t see him;
    quietly but surely he’s active, and I miss it.
If he steals you blind, who can stop him?
    Who’s going to say, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’
God doesn’t hold back on his anger;
    even dragon-bred monsters cringe before him.

14-20 “So how could I ever argue with him,
    construct a defense that would influence God?
Even though I’m innocent I could never prove it;
    I can only throw myself on the Judge’s mercy.
If I called on God and he himself answered me,
    then, and only then, would I believe that he’d heard me.
As it is, he knocks me about from pillar to post,
    beating me up, black-and-blue, for no good reason.
He won’t even let me catch my breath,
    piles bitterness upon bitterness.
If it’s a question of who’s stronger, he wins, hands down!
    If it’s a question of justice, who’ll serve him the subpoena?
Even though innocent, anything I say incriminates me;
    blameless as I am, my defense just makes me sound worse.

If God’s Not Responsible, Who Is?

21-24 “Believe me, I’m blameless.
    I don’t understand what’s going on.
    I hate my life!
Since either way it ends up the same, I can only conclude
    that God destroys the good right along with the bad.
When calamity hits and brings sudden death,
    he folds his arms, aloof from the despair of the innocent.
He lets the wicked take over running the world,
    he installs judges who can’t tell right from wrong.
    If he’s not responsible, who is?

25-31 “My time is short—what’s left of my life races off
    too fast for me to even glimpse the good.
My life is going fast, like a ship under full sail,
    like an eagle plummeting to its prey.
Even if I say, ‘I’ll put all this behind me,
    I’ll look on the bright side and force a smile,’
All these troubles would still be like grit in my gut
    since it’s clear you’re not going to let up.
The verdict has already been handed down—‘Guilty!’—
    so what’s the use of protests or appeals?
Even if I scrub myself all over
    and wash myself with the strongest soap I can find,
It wouldn’t last—you’d push me into a pigpen, or worse,
    so nobody could stand me for the stink.

32-35 “God and I are not equals; I can’t bring a case against him.
    We’ll never enter a courtroom as peers.
How I wish we had an arbitrator
    to step in and let me get on with life—
To break God’s death grip on me,
    to free me from this terror so I could breathe again.
Then I’d speak up and state my case boldly.
    As things stand, there is no way I can do it.”

To Find Some Skeleton in My Closet

10 “I can’t stand my life—I hate it!
    I’m putting it all out on the table,
    all the bitterness of my life—I’m holding back nothing.”

2-7 Job prayed:

“Here’s what I want to say:
Don’t, God, bring in a verdict of guilty
    without letting me know the charges you’re bringing.
How does this fit into what you once called ‘good’—
    giving me a hard time, spurning me,
    a life you shaped by your very own hands,
    and then blessing the plots of the wicked?
You don’t look at things the way we mortals do.
    You’re not taken in by appearances, are you?
Unlike us, you’re not working against a deadline.
    You have all eternity to work things out.
So what’s this all about, anyway—this compulsion
    to dig up some dirt, to find some skeleton in my closet?
You know good and well I’m not guilty.
    You also know no one can help me.

8-12 “You made me like a handcrafted piece of pottery—
    and now are you going to smash me to pieces?
Don’t you remember how beautifully you worked my clay?
    Will you reduce me now to a mud pie?
Oh, that marvel of conception as you stirred together
    semen and ovum—
What a miracle of skin and bone,
    muscle and brain!
You gave me life itself, and incredible love.
    You watched and guarded every breath I took.

13-17 “But you never told me about this part.
    I should have known that there was more to it—
That if I so much as missed a step, you’d notice and pounce,
    wouldn’t let me get by with a thing.
If I’m truly guilty, I’m doomed.
    But if I’m innocent, it’s no better—I’m still doomed.
My belly is full of bitterness.
    I’m up to my ears in a swamp of affliction.
I try to make the best of it, try to brave it out,
    but you’re too much for me,
    relentless, like a lion on the prowl.
You line up fresh witnesses against me.
    You compound your anger
    and pile on the grief and pain!

18-22 “So why did you have me born?
    I wish no one had ever laid eyes on me!
I wish I’d never lived—a stillborn,
    buried without ever having breathed.
Isn’t it time to call it quits on my life?
    Can’t you let up, and let me smile just once
Before I die and am buried,
    before I’m nailed into my coffin, sealed in the ground,
And banished for good to the land of the dead,
    blind in the final dark?”

Zophar’s Counsel

How Wisdom Looks from the Inside

11 1-6 Now it was the turn of Zophar from Naamath:

“What a flood of words! Shouldn’t we put a stop to it?
    Should this kind of loose talk be permitted?
Job, do you think you can carry on like this and we’ll say nothing?
    That we’ll let you rail and mock and not step in?
You claim, ‘My doctrine is sound
    and my conduct impeccable.’
How I wish God would give you a piece of his mind,
    tell you what’s what!
I wish he’d show you how wisdom looks from the inside,
    for true wisdom is mostly ‘inside.’
But you can be sure of this,
    you haven’t gotten half of what you deserve.

7-12 “Do you think you can explain the mystery of God?
    Do you think you can diagram God Almighty?
God is far higher than you can imagine,
    far deeper than you can comprehend,
Stretching farther than earth’s horizons,
    far wider than the endless ocean.
If he happens along, throws you in jail
    then hauls you into court, can you do anything about it?
He sees through vain pretensions,
    spots evil a long way off—
    no one pulls the wool over his eyes!
Hollow men, hollow women, will wise up
    about the same time mules learn to talk.

Reach Out to God

13-20 “Still, if you set your heart on God
    and reach out to him,
If you scrub your hands of sin
    and refuse to entertain evil in your home,
You’ll be able to face the world unashamed
    and keep a firm grip on life, guiltless and fearless.
You’ll forget your troubles;
    they’ll be like old, faded photographs.
Your world will be washed in sunshine,
    every shadow dispersed by dawn.
Full of hope, you’ll relax, confident again;
    you’ll look around, sit back, and take it easy.
Expansive, without a care in the world,
    you’ll be hunted out by many for your blessing.
But the wicked will see none of this.
    They’re headed down a dead-end road
    with nothing to look forward to—nothing.”

Job Answers Zophar

Put Your Ear to the Earth

12 1-3 Job answered:

“I’m sure you speak for all the experts,
    and when you die there’ll be no one left to tell us how to live.
But don’t forget that I also have a brain—
    I don’t intend to play second fiddle to you.
    It doesn’t take an expert to know these things.

4-6 “I’m ridiculed by my friends:
    ‘So that’s the man who had conversations with God!’
Ridiculed without mercy:
    ‘Look at the man who never did wrong!’
It’s easy for the well-to-do to point their fingers in blame,
    for the well-fixed to pour scorn on the strugglers.
Crooks reside safely in high-security houses,
    insolent blasphemers live in luxury;
    they’ve bought and paid for a god who’ll protect them.

7-12 “But ask the animals what they think—let them teach you;
    let the birds tell you what’s going on.
Put your ear to the earth—learn the basics.
    Listen—the fish in the ocean will tell you their stories.
Isn’t it clear that they all know and agree
    that God is sovereign, that he holds all things in his hand—
Every living soul, yes,
    every breathing creature?
Isn’t this all just common sense,
    as common as the sense of taste?
Do you think the elderly have a corner on wisdom,
    that you have to grow old before you understand life?

From God We Learn How to Live

13-25 “True wisdom and real power belong to God;
    from him we learn how to live,
    and also what to live for.
If he tears something down, it’s down for good;
    if he locks people up, they’re locked up for good.
If he holds back the rain, there’s a drought;
    if he lets it loose, there’s a flood.
Strength and success belong to God;
    both deceived and deceiver must answer to him.
He strips experts of their vaunted credentials,
    exposes judges as witless fools.
He divests kings of their royal garments,
    then ties a rag around their waists.
He strips priests of their robes,
    and fires high officials from their jobs.
He forces trusted sages to keep silence,
    deprives elders of their good sense and wisdom.
He dumps contempt on famous people,
    disarms the strong and mighty.
He shines a spotlight into caves of darkness,
    hauls deepest darkness into the noonday sun.
He makes nations rise and then fall,
    builds up some and abandons others.
He robs world leaders of their reason,
    and sends them off into no-man’s-land.
They grope in the dark without a clue,
    lurching and staggering like drunks.”

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