Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse
Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages
“Why do I put myself in jeopardy and take my life in my hands? Though [God] slay me, yet will I hope in him…” ~Job 13:14-15
Reading Job is like reading a Shakespeare play. Job and his friends carry on a dramatic, poetic back-and-forth discourse on why people suffer. Their words are plainly stated on paper, but the poetry reveals the emotion behind every phrase. Biblical poetry is meant to work exactly like this, conveying both ideas and feelings.
For all the poetic beauty of their blustery words, Job’s friends are guilty of reductionism—the practice of reducing a complex theory or idea to a simplistic cause. They have narrowly, wrongly, and hurtfully concluded that the cause of Job’s suffering can be reduced to some sin he has committed. And they’re convinced that he is only making the situation worse by questioning God. The problem is that Scripture reveals that there are, in actuality, multiple causes and reasons for human suffering. (We will explore some of these later.) More importantly, Scripture tells us that God may conceal His reasons, at least for a while, as He does with Job.
Job, for his part, is aggravated that the one Being he wants to hear break His silence remains mum. Meanwhile, his friends’ words batter and wrong him and his frustration is palpable. “You, however, smear me with lies; you are worthless physicians, all of you!”(Job 13:4). And then, “If only you would be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom” (Job 13:5). Job’s friends were a greater comfort during their silent seven-day vigil with him (Job 2:13)!
Job continues to maintain his innocence in strenuous terms, and he wants to argue his case with God. Again, he is not saying that he is sin-free. In fact, like most people, both ancient and modern, Job has a few regrets from his younger years, and in chapter 13, he charges God with punishing him for those long ago sins (v. 26). Alas, he can think of no other reason why God is tormenting him like a windblown leaf (v. 25). Despite everything, Job promises to maintain his hope in God: “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him”(Job 13:15). But while doing so, he will tenaciously declare his innocence and ask for answers.
We probably aren’t going to be poetic in our pain, but may God give all of us the grace to pray with Job’s humility and courage. I don’t understand what You are doing or why You are allowing this. I sure wish I did. But I know this: though You slay me, yet will I trust in You. Even if we do not know what God is up to, we know enough about God to trust that He knows what He’s doing. And we know that, in our suffering, we can still plead for mercy and be heard (Job 13:20-21).