I've been reading the Old Testament for about a year now. I've slowed down lately. I anticipated problems. All of the falling of Bible "heroes" in the O.T. bothers me . Consider just 2, one is considered "A man after God's own heart" and the other (the 1st's son) was given wisdom exceeding any man before him or since. David, having reaped untold benefits from God, given extreme talents in leadership, valor, and the arts, as well as an intimate relationship with the living God, and more that one wife, one of which at least, Abigail, was an attractive and discerning woman of his own choosing. After God had given all, David was still not satisfied. He covetted and took another man's wife. Then to compound his sin he conspired to murder his paramour's husband, involved others in his conspiracy, and succeeded. In the end, he retained this man's wife, and his progeny suffered for his sin. This thrice sinful relationship even figures into the geneology of Jesus. As I read the story, I identify with David's son Absolum, who was (apparently) offended by his father's poor judgement, sin, and inaction at the rape of David's daughter, Absolum's sister, who was raped by Absolum's half brother. Where is the justice? Ok forgive David, but he is still God's psalmist? In his psalms this murderer cries out for justice for those who persecute him without cause. David's lover's husband had no opportunity to cry out for help, as he was stabbed in the back (somewhat figuratively).
Now consider David's son, who impressed God with his prayer for wisdom. Solomon, who was history's wisest man, wrote extensively on not serving wealth, not covetting women or having many wives, the evil of pride, and the folly of serving other gods, was led away in shackles to great wealth, pride, and women, and his many wives who themselves served false gods, led Solomon to serve false gods. So I have to read three books in the O.T. from the wisest man in the world. I suppose having hundreds of wives and concubines, he would know more about women than me. Maybe he could teach me about resisting lust too. And then God chose the model of the love between Christ and His church t be one of Solomon's trysts, with one of his hundreds of lovers, not the love of some unknown monogamous pair who have successfully weathered decades of life's temptations and storms.
All of this lay heavily on my conscience, and "where is the justice of God in all of this inequity". Even more the weight of my own sin, my own covetiousnesses, and my own bitterness of unforgivenesses and judgementalisms.
So, just before my slog through the O.T. brought me to Job, as I finished up Solomon's "vanity", I heard (a few weeks ago) a popular Christian radio program. The program is a call-in format, with a host and a guest, usually an author. The guest in this case quoted Job as saying "though He slay me, yet will I love Him". I know this statement well, so I was surprised at the misrepresentation. Why did this person misquote Job? Job's declaration was "though He slay me, yet will I trust (or hope in ) Him". I have no interest in trying to judge the speaker's motive for misquoting Job, but it did lead me to study passage and the whole book of Job once again.
From Job's perspective, He is being persecuted by God. Having lost all of his children and wealth, and being ravaged by a horrible disease, his wife tells him to "curse God and die". Job's three friends come to comfort him. In what I view as one of the more heroic, unsung acts in the Old Testament, his friends spend a whole week with Job without saying a word. I could not do that; not without God's help. After a week, Job cries out, lamenting his anguish, and defending himself against God. Then, beginning with Eliphaz,
his friends begin to defend God, and they seem to believe that to do so, they must convict Job that he is being judged for sin.
Picking up in chapter 12, Job responds: No doubt you are the people, and wisdom shall die with you! [I wonder if Solomon was one of his friends, he he.] Job tries to assure them that he knows of such things as they have been preaching ("God accepts the righteous and rejects and destroys the violent man") but Job also argues that "the tents of robbers prosper, and they who provoke God are secure. Into their hand, God brings abundance." And the soul of every living thing is in the hand of God, to do as he pleases.
In chapter 13 Job again asserts that his knowledge is as complete as theirs. He continues: What you know, I know also. I am not inferior to you. But I would speak to the Almighty and I desire to speak with God. [Now he indicts his three friends] But you are forgers of lies, you are all worthless physicians. Oh that you would all together hold your peace, and that should be your wisdom [as at the first when they spent a week with him in silent vigil] Hear now my reasoning and hearken to the pleading of my lips: Will you speak wickedly for God? and will you lie for Him? *Will you show partiality toward Him? Will you plead the case for God? Will it be well with you when He searches you out? Or can you deceive Him, as one deceives a man? He will surely rebuke you if in secret you show partiality Will not His majesty terrify you, and the dread of Him fall upon you? Your maxims are proverbs of ashes; your defenses are defenses of clay. Let me have silence and I will speak, and let come on me what may. Why should I take my flesh in my teeth and put my life in my hand? Though He slay me, I will hope in Him; yet I will argue my ways to His face... *
Here I see two things, or three. First, and last that Job trusts in God. He does not understand. He can not make the ends match up, but even though he feels he has been wronged, and he wants God to explain His actions to Job, Job still believes that in the end God will turn out to be a trustworthy god. Second, I see that Job's friends also trust God. They trust that God is all powerful, and the rewarder of those who agree with Him. So, if they served the king of Syria instead, they would just as likely affirm that potentate's infallibility. They defend God's character, or what they believe to be God's character, to the extent of falsely accusing their friend. Even if Job had been as pure as Christ, they would have accused him in order to justify God, for a reward (v. 9). But God will not reward those who resort to lies in order to justify God, or make Him out to be what He is not in order to make a perversion seem just.
This then, in a small way salves my wounds. I'm grateful that Jesus came to save the ungodly, or else I, and everyone I love, as well as billions of others, would be eternally lost. I'm grateful that David wrote all of those beautiful Psalms, even though he was a cold blooded killer. I'm grateful for the wisdom God gave through Solomon, even though Solomon seems to have had no power over his own soul to follow his own council. It does not give me much hope for victory over my own sin, when the wisest man in the world was a known idolater. I do know that, thanks to Job, I can not have all of the answers about why things are the way they are. I do know that, thanks to Job, I can ask the tough questions of God, and although He is under no obligation to answer me, He is not threatened nor offended by the questions. I know that those who resolve the tough questions by coming up with easy formulas that make God out to be a capricious, favoritistic monster (one who has respect of persons: "He will surely rebuke you, if in secret you show partiality") and love him as such, will be found to have wrongfully characterized Him.
Finally, in a world where a person with charm, a sense of humor, and a little confidence and no allegiance to the truth can skate along and prosper above a basically honest hard working person, in a world where children die horrific deaths, or bear unbearable trauma, and evil henchmen live life filled and die in peace at a healthy old age, in a world where evil is made to look good and good is made to look evil, God can still be trusted:
With all of my questions intact, with all of my disappointments and bitterness extant, and all of my sin still
encumbering me, God can still be trusted. I may wonder if He has my destruction ultimately in mind, but still I can forever trust Him to do what is right and righteous in all of creation. He will not respect persons, because He must treat all equitably.
So much for my struggles, so far... It's only a consolation. "But when we see Him we shall be like Him, for we will see Him as He truly is."
*Passage between the asterisks is English Standard Version. Before that was King Jamesish (King James with Duaneisms.