Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Striking Words

"Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face." - Job

In my circles, if anyone uttered something like this, they'd be driven out on a stake. Or perhaps they'd be tied to a stake, while Christians carefully arranged the annual Reformation Day Bonfire around said individual. I know something would happen with a stake. I don't think "stake" is a word you ever want to hear after you've carelessly said anything around even remotely religious people.

The audacity of what Job said really hit me today. He begins with a totally suicidal hope in God and ends with a declaration that would have most of us looking up at the sky in a crouched position. They say chances of getting hit by lightning are slim, but if you're Job, or if you say things similar to Job, you may be warranted a realistic fear. "Those are striking words," someone who is guilty of really, really lame puns may say.

Are we honest with God? Job is. What sets Job apart from his friends and most of us is that he believed in a real God. Not a God that can be systematized, broken down into principles, or reduced to the straight-forward methods of cause and effect. And I don't want to undervalue Job's friends here. Their arguments were pretty sophisticated and on a surface level reading I believe that they would have had me convinced. But Job has a bold conviction that pushes past all their theorizing in a desire to be in and deal with the real God.

Job's argument would be just as missinterpreted today. Our own understanding, especially in the west, is that "righteousness" is our own individual goodness. Biblical characters would take issue with this definition. Righteousness implies right standing before God - a right relationship, not a personally willed goodness. OT righteousness was dependant on a God's faithfulness to His Covenant in which he provisioned a sacrificial substitute for his people. The NT is no different.

That's precisely why Job can argue his righteousness. He knows he's not a good person. But he believes that a real God has provided a substitute for him in the sacrificial system and that his case as a righteous person would stand before God. And sure enough it does.

Now don't missunderstand me, I'm not a biblical scholar and there may be a few holes in my thinking. But I believe and have asked around enough to feel that I'm going in the right direction in this interpretation.

Where am I going with all this? I'm wondering if we can have the same confidence and boldness before God that Job has in this striking verse. I believe we can. In fact, God's boundless provision for us in his very own son, his only son, encourages us to be bold. Bold in our individual righteousness? Absolutely not. Bold in our personal standing before God? Absolutely!

I believe that this can bring us into whole new realms of honesty and peace before our God. Rather than distancing ourselves before a God of cause and effect, a God of systems, theories and deadly threats, we can embrace the truths that we have a God of real justice and mercy to go to. The justice poured out on his son and the mercy given to us. We see the culmination of God's story at the Cross, but we also see it all through the OT and in Job.

While I'm a miserable wretch of a sinner (and I don't know the half of it), when I'm in trouble, suffering or simply broken by the fall I can call out to a God who pleads my case. Unlike Job's friends who "Speak falsely for God" and are "worthless physicians," we as new creations in Christ can bring our real suffering and crap to God.

With God, the real God, there's no need to hide. What began in the Garden's first game of hide-and-seek has been going on ever since. It's hard to be deprogrammed from our instinctual fear of God's exposure. And fearful we would be, if not for his provision. I find myself often running and ducking behind bushes, rather than leaning hard on my provision and allowing God to remake me and show me Life.

I believe the lies that say "If you do this, God does this." That's simply how the world works the lies say. But the truth is that we serve a God to which "we can argue our ways to his face." All because our ways are literally the perfect ways of Christ. Here I know I'm in a little over my head. But unless we get in a little over our heads in this ocean of God's truth, our lives will remain small, and it's quite likely we'll be satisfied with a God that's a figment of our own imaginings and not the real thing.

Plus unless we wade out into the truths of God's Good News to the Nations, it's likely we'll never find the joy of swimming in Him or share that joy with others.

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