How much do we agree with Bildad the Shuhite, that God does not pervert justice, nor the Almighty the right? (Job 8:3) How much do we agree that the pattern of sufferings and serenities we see in the human world around us and in our own lives reflects the working-out of divine or cosmic justice? How much do we expect it to? It’s a real question, one of the central questions raised by the text, Job 8:1-10 & 20-22, we are studying for Sunday, February 20. [Some notes on the text are here.] Here are a couple of follow-up questions we might want to think about, or discuss in class:
What do we think the distribution of human suffering in the world has to do with justice? What does this show us about our understanding of “justice”?
Or, for that matter, about the nature of the world and human life in it?
What do we think would be just when it comes to human suffering?
One of the larger questions posed by the Book of Job overall is why people obey God, or should. The premise of the book, the Accuser’s argument, and Bildad’s speech, all suggest that people serve God in expectation of reaping material rewards – blessings from the hand of God.
What are our thoughts and feelings about that? Do we ourselves ever find ourselves obeying or serving God because of what we think God will give us or do for us? How comfortable or uncomfortable are we with that? Why?
What does this show us about our understanding of God? Of ourselves? How comfortable or uncomfortable are we with what we’re seeing? Why?
Whatever else it is, the Bible is great literature. Great literature, if we engage with it, will make us think. That is, it will make us ask ourselves questions, and wonder about their answers, that lead on to other questions, until sooner or later we end up in the deep water. With the Book of Job, it seems to me, we start off in the deep end. I never pretend I’m asking all the questions here. This week, I feel especially keenly that I need to say, out loud, that I know that.
Image: “Figures in Conversation – Étaples,” Leslie Hunter, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons