But we have been studying Job. And I trust that God is able to speak through His word, so often on a Sunday, I sit simply reading and rereading Job. Reading, trying to make sense of what each man is saying, what they believe about God. how they speak for Him.
Today, I came to the end. Jobs friends all speak. Job gets pretty ticked off. I like the guy. I mean there are just sometimes that you do know what your heart is.... and if your heart was wrong, you know God would talk to you about it since you are listening, wanting to know. Job was a man who loved God. He had a relationship with Him, and he knew it. He also knew that he had done nothing wrong. I don't think when Job says this that he states that he never sinned, but simply that he was not continuing in sin despite correction. Simply that he had not turned aside from seeking God and seeking to follow Him. That there was nothing he was hiding and refusing to ask forgiveness for.
Yet everyone judged him based on outward appearances. Everyone. His wife, his friends, his servants, the town. He had no one to stand with him. It was only his word against the obvious, and no one was listening to him anyway.
I felt for the poor man.
Different friends told him again and again that he was a sinner. Look, it is obvious. You are clearly messed up, and even worse, you are refusing to admit your sin. God should squish you like a bug.
Seems I've heard the same thing from missions leaders and pastors.
God was silent. Funny, we seem to know what that is like, too. He was silent. He let the raging of men go on; He let idiots speak for Him. He answered them all not one word. He let poor Job wiggle and squirm in the agony of his suffering and did nothing.
Seemed like He wasn't even paying attention.
But He was.
To every word.
And in the end, He speaks. To Job. He tells Job who He is. He shows him His wisdom. He never speaks to the suffering or to the "answers" Job's friends give. He speaks to Job and tells Job of His wisdom, His ownership, His design of the world and His absolute domination. Job is silent. He regrets speaking. And God keeps on. Finally, Job speaks again. He marvels at God and remembers that all He does is right. And He rests in moving from a place of hearing about God to seeing Him. And he is silent, but a peaceful silence.
Then God speaks again.
He speaks to those who crushed Job's spirit when they should have been comforters. To those who blamed Job when they should have been encouragers. I was interested to see that He never once corrects them for how they treated Job. He didn't. Go read it yourself if you have doubts. I had expected He would. I wanted Him to. Uh, uh, He just doesn't. Instead He judges how they spoke about Him. About His character.
It seems that how people treat God is more important that how they treat others.
Perhaps it is because all falls into place if you have a proper understanding of God. Perhaps. I am only guessing.
But God corrects them for their wrong speech about Him. Then, He does something which makes my bruised heart smile. He tells them that in order for Him to accept them, they have to take an offering and go to Job and ask him to pray for them.
I have to admit that I giggled.
God never corrects them for speaking evil of His servant Job, who even God does not speak evil of.... but He sure makes it clear to them who had a relationship with Him. They eat humble pie, and without a word, God defends His own.
But God knew more.
As fun as it is to imagine what the three friends went through to have to ask Job to pray for them and sacrifice on their behalf, and as fun as it is to imagine the justification Job would have felt at God's words and the humbleness of his formerly judgmental friends in front of him, God was aiming at something else, as well.
He was aiming at relationships.
God knew what we all know, but at times try to ignore. That we function best with whole relationships. That true, deep hurt can cause deep pain, and deep pain can cause wounds. Wounds can fester and become infected. And that infection is deadly. God placed Job in a position where he could chose forgiveness or refuse it. And Job chose to forgive.
Interestingly, it was when Job chose to bless with forgiveness
instead of holding onto a justified complaint that God blessed Job.
A lot for us to think about. I am not sure that if Job sat on that ash heap covered in sores with a silent God and had told his friends that he forgave them their wrong words and would offer a sacrifice for them that it would have any effect. Some people push forgiveness as a thing which has to be done at the first possible opportunity. Yet what I see here if forgiveness at the right time. When God speaks. When it was time.
I know in my life, there will be a time when forgiveness is asked of me - if not by people, by God for people. God has been clear that this time will come. The time will come, and I have asked God to prepare me for that time. It may be that those who exalt themselves with wisdom now will be humbled and ask for that forgiveness. It may not be. What they do or do not do will have little bearing on what God will ask of me. In time, there will be discussions of forgiveness. I have committed to God that when the time comes, I will forgive. In His strength.
So when discussions come up about forgiveness, I listen. This is not easy, and I will need all the help I can get.
Thankfully, God is a God who leads gently, and when it is time, He will tell me.
I hope I have the strength of Job to pray for forgiveness for my accusers. I don't have it today. But small steps at a time. Today, I prayed for wisdom for our accusers. It is a small step.
One small step at a time.