Wednesday, September 29, 2010

No easy answers

Through the Bible in 90 Days: Day 38

Read: Job 25:1-42:17

Verse that stood out: My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in (of/concerning) dust and ashes - Job 42:5-6

True to form, Job ends in a bit of ambiguity. Job admits that in the past he has spoken as one who only knew about God, but now he has seen God face to face. As such he repents. He wants to take something he said or did back. The problem is, we aren't told from what he repents. Does he repent of challenging God's fairness? Does he repent of seeing his misery as a reason for despair? Does he repent of viewing life and obedience as meaningless? How you translate the verse makes a big difference, and yet even then, ambiguity remains. The NIV is listed above, here are a few more translations/paraphrases off 42:5-6
  • I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes - NASB
  • I had heard rumors about You, but now my eyes have seen You. Therefore I take back and repent in dust and ashes - HCSB
  • I had heard of youf by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes - NRSV
  • I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears!I'm sorry—forgive me. I'll never do that again, I promise! I'll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor - The Message

The epilogue doesn't clear things up either. The LORD critiques Job's friends for speaking falsely about him and says that Job has spoken rightly of God. But what part of Job's speech is God praising. Is he praising the protest itself? This makes some sense for it is Job's protest that stands in contrast with the friends' speeches. Or is God praising Job's repentance? Again, the Bible doesn't say. I've read a few commentaries on the subject, and let me just say, every and any answer is given at some point in church history.

Which leaves me with a very Job-like question: Why is the Bible so ambiguous? Why doesn't God spell it out a little more clearly? I don't know that I have a good answer to that question, except to think such questions encourage us to be humble as we explore questions of justice and rightness. The answers to what is just or what is right is not always as simple as we might like or think them to be.

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