Open your Bibles to Job, chapter 9.
So, now we enter the 9th chapter of Job where Job responds to Bildad’s assertions in chapter 8.
And in this section we see Job becoming more and more desirous of bringing God to court – as it were – to determine exactly what God is charging him of. What crime has Job committed?
Because certainly – in Job’s mind – God has to be charging Job with some wrong-doing that would cause him to bring such suffering into Job’s life!
Job 9 Commentary Retribution Theology
And that’s because – again – all of these men in this book are subscribing to what we call retribution theology. Good is rewarded. Evil is punished.
And we talked at the end of our last lesson in our little Q&A time about how natural this kind of thinking is to humanity.
In our unguarded moments, we might tend to think – for example – that if it’s a sunny day, God must be smiling on us.
“If it’s a sunny day, God must be smiling on us…” https://t.co/bIsN3t9nrb
— Paul (@ExplainTheBook) December 13, 2017
And vice versa – if it’s cloudy then God is angry.
In fact, the psalmists even use that kind of imagery from time to time.
When the psalmist asks God in Psalm 4:6 to lift the light of his countenance upon him, he’s alluding to the picture of a shining sun. God’s blessing is pictured as a bright cloudless day.
And in contrast, God’s anger is often pictured as a storm with clouds and darkness.
So, this is natural. We tend to look at the appearance of things and try to determine unseen realities based on what is seen.
Furthermore though, this is actually how God often works. The way God’s creation works is typically that if someone is rebellious against God’s rules, he will meet with punishment – in this life even! That’s emphasized in the Book of Proverbs. It’s also how God speaks at the end of Deuteronomy. Do good – be rewarded. Do evil – be punished. This is actually how God often works.
However, he doesn’t always work like this. And that’s the main problem with the thinking of these characters in this book. Their allegiance to Retribution Theology is unable to be modified. There is no room for exceptions.
And that’s the issue – Job is the exception. Job is righteous and yet he’s not being rewarded but rather – it looks like he’s being punished.
And so, it’s interesting that in this chapter we start seeing Job asserting that the Retribution Theology’s explanation for the way the world works… isn’t always right. And yet, that fact is still a great bother to him – as it usually is when our understanding of the way the world works is challenged.
Job 9 Commentary | Start
So, let’s start looking at this in verse 1.
9:1 Then Job answered and said,
9:2 I know it is so of a truth:
but how should man be [just with/in the right before] God?
Now, we need to consider how to think about what Job just said. He concedes that Bildad is right!
But what is Bildad right about?
Job can’t be saying that Bildad is right in insinuating that Job is hiding secret sin for which he needs to repent.
Rather, Job is saying that the way-of-the-world that Bildad describes – Job basically agrees with. The way Bildad describes things – good being rewarded by God and evil being punished – Job too thinks that that’s the way it works.
And yet, that second statement of Job’s indicates that he feels the need to settle something with God. In that sense he needs to be just or even justified – be proven right – before God.
Well, why is that?
Because Job knows that he isn’t suffering for hidden sin. He’s “good” in that sense. And yet, his “good” is not being rewarded – rather it’s being punished. At least, that’s how it seems. And so, in Job’s mind, God is not holding to his end of the bargain.
But Job knows that God is totally right. And so… there’s this mental impasse in his mind that goes like this. God should be acting this way, but he’s not. So, God is bad. Wait – no! God is good always. But then why isn’t he acting the way I think he should and how Bildad and Eliphaz are reminding me that he acts… And … on and on.
Job 9 Commentary | Inner Wrestling
And we see some of that inner wrestling in the next several verses as Job muses on how he would even get a hearing from God to address what he thinks is basically God not acting in keeping with his character.
9:3 If he [anyone…] will contend with him [God…],
he cannot answer him [God…] one of a thousand [times…].
So, Job notes the fact that God can’t be answered. And we actually see that later on – when God does indeed ask Job numerous questions to which Job has no answer.
Job 9 Commentary | God is Wise and Strong
Next, Job admits that God is both wise and strong in verse 4.
9:4 He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength:
who hath [hardened himself against/defied/resisted] him, and [hath prospered/remained safe]?
So, Job is recognizing that God knows everything and that he’s able to do anything.
And, yes, Bildad is right – says Job – people who resist God do not prosper! They face harm.
Job 9 Commentary | God Moves Mountains
And that’s because those kinds of people are up against the God who moves mountains. Verse 5.
9:5 Which removeth the mountains, [and they know not/suddenly]:
which overturneth them in his anger.
Job 9 Commentary | God Causes Earthquakes
And God does this often by causing earthquakes. Verse 6.
9:6 Which shaketh the earth out of her place,
and the pillars thereof tremble.
Job 9 Commentary | Sun and Stars
God can even command the sun and stars to not shine and they will obey. Verse 7.
9:7 Which commandeth the sun, and it riseth not;
and sealeth up the stars.
Job 9 Commentary | Heavens and Sea
In addition, God created the heavens and sea. Verse 8.
9:8 Which alone spreadeth out the heavens,
and treadeth upon the waves of the sea.
Job 9 Commentary | Constellations
And within the heaven, he made the constellations of stars. Verse 9.
9:9 Which maketh [Arcturus/the Bear], Orion, and Pleiades,
and the [chambers/constellations] of the south[ern sky].
Job 9 Commentary | Catch-All
And, finally, if there’s anything else wise or strong that God does, Job just throws in this kind of catch-all in verse 10.
9:10 Which doeth great things [past finding out/unfathomable];
yea, and [wonders/wondrous works] without number.
And I think that Job gets so close to figuring out how to deal with his suffering in light of God’s strength here. Job recognizes that God’s ways are past finding out. There are some things we just simply will never understand about how God works. And that’s exactly how Job eventually thinks at the end of this book.
And yet, Job still needs to make the leap from recognizing that God does wonderful and great things that no one can understand… to accepting the fact that sometimes God does painful and discouraging things – that again, no one can understand.
Job 9 Commentary | Wants a Hearing
And so, Job goes on in the next several verses to despair of ever getting a hearing from this strong and wise God.
9:11 Lo, [if…] he goeth by me, and I see him not:
[if…] he passeth on also, but I perceive him not.
In other words, if God wants to remain invisible and inaccessible to man, he is able to do that.