I’ve been excited to see John at Ancient Hebrew Poetry writing about Job 28. Even when I don’t follow it all, there are things he says which make a lot of sense to me and give me new and exciting insights. I appreciate his translations and the explanations he gives with them. So far he has written three posts on this chapter. I look forward to the ones yet to come.
It’s hard, really, to rank books of the Bible on any kind of scale. All I can say is that for now, one of the books that moves me most deeply and powerfully is the book of Job. It is a beautiful book.
Of course I like Job, since I’m going through a lot of tough stuff, right? But it’s more than that. Whether I’m suffering or not, it’s beautifully written. The dialogue is alive and real in an amazing way. I love hearing Job talk. I kind of like hearing his friends talk, even though their words frustrate me, because I realize there really IS nothing new under the sun. We still use the same kind of arguments to try to explain away or fix suffering today. But, when I read the book of Job, I hear the absurdity of those arguments in their extreme form so clearly, it makes me want to laugh, in a repentant sort of way. “Oh my word, THAT’S what I sound like?!?!”
And Job himself, wow, he sure expresses things in ways that I would be afraid to, and I’m not very afraid of talking about my hurt, pain or uncertainty. But Job is so real and so honest. He doesn’t seem to weigh every word and stop because what he’s about to say is going to contradict what he said a little while back.
He is honest with his fear and sometimes even terror of God’s power. And, at the same time, he trusts himself and his life to the all-powerful God over and over, to the dismay of his friends. They see his sins and the things he has surely done to cause his suffering, while he protests his innocence. He’s fed up with their pat answers and keeps saying, “Let me argue my case to God directly.” Even though he also complains about God and to God. Even though he thinks God treats the wicked too well. Even though He’s afraid of God and placing the full burden of his brokenness on God as the source of it all. Yet, he trusts God. Trusts him enough to beg to state his case before God.
For some time now when I’ve gone back to read Job, I’ve been doing it in a very this-is-not-the-way-to-read-the-Bible way. Instead of reading it straight through, with everything in context, I keep reading and rereading Job’s speeches only. And then God’s response to Job. I know it’s not great to jump around in a book and drop out whole passages of the context. But, there is something about Job’s trust in God that I see, which I have missed before when I was reading it all as dialogues between Job and his various friends. Even though Job is answering them, his heart keeps turning back to God.
No, he doesn’t always make sense and yes, he frequently seems to contradict himself. But, in that anguish, even when he rolls in and out of hopelessness, he seems to keep his face turned to God. It is God he cares about and wants to hear from. It is God he is wrestling with. It is God’s sovereignty that he is simultaneously acknowledging and feeling crushed by. He is full of questions, and has plenty of fears and frequent bouts of despair and hopelessness. But God is never far from his thoughts.
And then God’s answer. The answer that silenced Job’s questions without really answering any of them. But never mind that. GOD ANSWERED. And although the answer silenced Job’s questions, God, in His answering, did not silence Job. Job was right, even when he was wrong. He could trust God. God didn’t wipe him off the face of the earth for his brashness and challenges and “wrong thinking”. God answered Him.
Any attempt at trying to put into words the beauty of this book or the powerful ways it touches my heart falls very short. I’ve started this post a few different times. And then given up, because anything I say ABOUT the book doesn’t do it justice. But I’m going to go ahead and post this this time. Not because I’m saying anything new or amazing. Not even because I’m actually saying what it is I’m feeling. I’m not succeeding at that very well.
I’m going to post it because the process of trying to say it is my “Wow” (and even that isn’t a very accurate word). The process is the response of a heart that worships God more after reading a book that doesn’t always make a lot of sense, but which still penetrates to my heart very deeply. A book which draws me closer to God, even while I understand Him less. This book makes me worship with more awe and more honesty and more humility, yet also draws me to a more true and honest relationship with God.
How can a book make me fear God (and even fear the cost of truly and righteously following Him) more and yet cause me to be bolder in approaching Him? I don’t know, but the book of Job impacts me in those ways. When I read Job at different times, I hear different themes. But this time through, the theme that jumps out at me is “Safe in the Hands of a Frightening God”.
As I thought about this, I realized something else–the book of Job has affected me deeply in whatever translation style I have read it. I love reading it (as I do any book of the Bible) in more than one translation, but when I am drawn back to the book, I can pick up whatever Bible is nearest to me and be stirred and learn from the reading of this book again, whether the words and style are formal, literary or even super simplified. I can’t explain that, and my saying that doesn’t negate all the important elements of the dialogue about literary translation vs. any other type of translation. But it does give me comfort that, for all the things that may be missing and imperfect in any particular type of translation, the Holy Spirit is still at work and speaking through His Word to my spirit.
Having said that, I’d love to read a translation of Job, such as John illustrates with Isaiah. 50:4-6 in his post where he talks about keeping the structures of parallelism in translation. While I cannot deny that the book of Job is beautiful to me in and of itself, regardless of the styles of the translation, I do have great appreciation for the beauty of the poetry itself, which is brought out by John’s translation.
Have I just contradicted myself so much as to not make ANY sense?