In my nightly Bible reading, I have hit the Book of Job. At first glance, this is a very troubling story for a Jew / Christian, because it apparently casts God in an unflattering light. Here’s the setup (Job 1:6-22):
6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan[a] also came among them. 7 And the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?”
So Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”
8 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”
9 So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”
12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
13 Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house; 14 and a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 when the Sabeans[b] raided them and took them away—indeed they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”
16 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”
17 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three bands, raided the camels and took them away, yes, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”
18 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 19 and suddenly a great wind came from across[c] the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”
20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.
But upon this reading, these events don’t seem so odd to me, because–as I often say on these Sunday posts–if you’re going to evaluate whether God is good or bad, you have to take the depiction of Him in its entirety. Obviously, if some prince did the above, he would be evil. But if God does it, things are different, and not because I’m saying a mere definition–”the acts of God are good because He’s God”–but because the context is different. Just as, if I say it’s OK for Jim to smash a car because he’s the owner of it, but it’s not OK for Mike to smash the same car, I haven’t just admitted to moral relativism. So, please at least recognize that I’m explicitly denying that there is one set of morality for God and another for humans; if you’re going to accuse me of that in the comments, spell out why my defense doesn’t work, please.
Anyway, back to my main point. Imagine Job dies and is united with the Lord in paradise for eternity. His kids (the ones who died) are all there too. God says:
Well done Job! I know I asked you a lot during your time on earth, but now from this perspective you see that your kids got to be with me sooner. I could have killed them with a heart attack, or a lion, or kidney failure at age 68, but instead I allowed them to be killed by a windstorm that knocked a building on them. No matter what, I ultimately was going to kill them and end their mortal existence, and I decided that it would best educate the future of humanity to do it this way. I knew you would rise to the challenge, and give a model of how people should respond to such calamities. You are now one of the most famous human beings in all of recorded history; My people have held you up as a role model for countless generations. As much as I asked of you, it was less than I asked of My own Son, who was tortured to death. It’s unfortunate that your and His suffering were necessary, but you know how people are: they need human role models to follow.
I submit that seeing the kind of person Job was on earth, if God said something like the above to him–and the kids who had been killed in the windstorm are there, beaming at him–he would respond, “Thank you my God, I am incredibly honored that you chose me for this purpose.”
So suppose for the sake of argument I’m right, and everybody who was “wronged” by God in His challenge to Satan thinks it was wonderful, after the fact: they think the lesson it taught the world totally justified the nanosecond of misery it caused them in their mortal existence. If we stipulate that for the sake of argument, then is it still so “obvious” that the God of the Christian Bible is fickle and immature? I don’t think so.
The more I read the Bible, the more I understand why Jesus said–referring to the “God of the Old Testament”–that no one is good but Him.