Today’s reading: Job 32-42, Psalm 70
In today’s section from the book of Job, we finally hear a word from God. After enduring the pop theology diatribes of Job and his friends, young Elihu appears on the scene to introduce the keynote speaker. The Creator of heaven and earth then enters the conversation with a bang. From the eye of the storm, God’s opening statement certainly gets Job’s attention: “Why do you talk without knowing what you are talking about?”
By the time God takes the first pause, giving Job a chance to answer for himself, Job acknowledges that he has been foolish: “I should never have opened my mouth!” As we approach the end of the book, we hear Job make a full confession of God’s greatness and his own need for repentance. Then, in the closing verses, we get a sudden twist. Even more abruptly than it had all been taken away, Job’s fortunes are restored.
Often when I have read the book of Job, I have felt this to be a less-than-satisfying ending. Too comfortable. Too easy. Too Hollywood. My own discomfort had more to do with its frequent interpretation, though, than with the story itself. Too often I heard people say that Job regains everything because, in the end, he really deserves it because he is such a good man. The story does not tell us this, however. A closer look reveals that the restoration occurs only after Job recognizes the foolishness of trying to equate his own righteousness with an entitlement to a pain-free life. At that moment, he becomes able to receive abundantly from God without mistaking the blessings as something he has earned.