On Affliction in Job
Affliction is a worldly phenomenon that is borne of otherworldly providence. Man does not engineer his own suffering, but incurs it of divine relation. That Job, created just in God’s image as we all are, can be righteous and still be guilty is the very quintessence of being “born to trouble as the sparks [of God’s creation of us and the universe,] fly upward [signaling his hierarchy over mortals]” (Job 5:6-7). God having permitted Satan to test Job through the profundity of arbitrary suffering shows this.
‘Can a mortal man be righteous before God? Can a man be pure before his maker? Even in his servants he puts no trust, and his angels he charges with error’ (Job 4:17-18).
Having “heard of all this evil” afoot in the land of Uz, “Job’s three friends . . . came each from his own place” to posit their harsh philosophy on his tribulations (Job 2:11). Astonished by Job’s wretched renunciation of his own existence, and query of God’s intent, his confidante “Eliphaz the Temanite answered: . . . ‘as I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same’” (Job 4:8). The statement of Eliphaz expresses that the sufferer is not suffering without justification, nor God acting without provocation. So is it Job who must be “charge[d] with error” or the Lord himself? Why is it that God “puts no trust . . . even in his servants” (Job 4:17-18)? It is because “in his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:10).
Job’s rhetoric, “has not man a hard service upon earth, and are not his days like the days of a hireling?” confirms that man is a servant of God (Job 7:1). Likewise, Job recognizes through his rhetoric that he himself is such a servant, and more than a mere servant, “like a slave . . . so I am” he insists (Job 7:2-3). Understandably, if one is subservient to another, then the worker’s quality of life is determinable by that dictated by the master. Such a covenant is strongly demonstrated that “in all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong”; Job accepts it (Job 1:22). “[C]onside[r] my servant Job”, God boasts to Satan, wagering Righteousness in a gamble to fix the deficit of Error: “all that he has is in your power” (Job 1:8-12).
Man is but an emanation of God; placed in this world by the transport of “his lightning” (Job 36:30). The Lord, “he covers his hands with the lightning, and commands it to strike the mark [its destination]”, in essence, to deliver his verdict and his creations to our realm; “its crashing [to earth] declares [things] concerning him” (Job 36:32-33). It is through nature that God communicates, but it is through sparks of light that he acts (Job 37). Because of this, “there are those who rebel against the light, who are not acquainted with its ways, and do not stay on its paths” (Job 24:13). Despite an endless variety of sundry acts of rebellion against God, man has at his disposal a defining defiance: to “darke[n] counsel by words without knowledge” and take up the roles sacredly entrusted solely to God himself (Job 38:2).
Man darkens the counsel of God merely by contemplating such words as those which do have knowledge: the intelligence of the godhead. Such are they as Job; “they [who] do not know the light” (Job 24:16). Job, indirectly, through his sheer possession of great fortune and familial prosperity is possessed of an achievement no individual but the Lord should be (Job 1). That a soul could be so righteous marks it as being in need of a lesson; Job was too close in virtuous proximity to God. “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” a maxim of Eliphaz on the nature of divine creation teaches (Job 5:6-7). Man, having been brought to earth of God’s “sparks” of lightning is “born to trouble” by during his life, trying to manipulate his own existence which is mirroring acts of the Lord (Job 5:6-7).
This challenge begs for the institution of divine justice, whether Job intentionally challenged God with his prosperity or did so unintentionally. God wagers with Satan the reality check darkness brings “for darkness is morning to all of them [who challenge God]; for they are friends with the terrors of deep darkness” and charges the Devil with the task of teaching Job the value of light (Job 24:17). Darkness comes to the life of Job in the form of suffering great affliction (Job 1:13). Affliction can be known to be never created on earth, “for affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground; but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward”; earth is the harbour of dust from which man was created and nothing divine is created of the creation itself (Job 5:6-7). So Job’s torment is without doubt divine in its nature, with light representing divine creative ability. The image of the “sparks [that] fly upward” is one which confirms that man’s trouble stems from his birth in which he inherits a tendency to form his own path, but ultimately such subtle “sparks” of his petty aspirations, creations do “fly upward” to God, notifying the Lord of such abuse of authority (Job 5:6-7). This can be seen in Job’s beautifully-painful bewailing of his misery:
But when I looked for good, evil came; and when I waited for light, darkness came. My heart is in turmoil, and is never still; days of affliction come to meet me. I go about blackened, but not by the sun; I stand up in the assembly, and cry for help (Job 30:26-28).
From such misery Job, as God in his wager contends, finds solace in realization that “God is mighty, and does not despise any; he is mighty in strength of understanding” (Job 36:5). It is only through affliction, given as a teaching to individuals like Job, that it is realized that it is “God [who] has made my [the] heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me [man]” (Job 23:16). It is on account of a power struggle that affliction reaches man, not man who reaches affliction, as “men remove landmarks; they seize flocks and pasture them” (Job 24:2). As Job’s tale capitulates into the collective morality of man, “if you are pure and upright, surely then he [God] will rouse himself for you”, and affliction will follow (Job 8:6). Explaining to his friends his evolving theory of the vindication of God’s punishment, Job points out that he has observed “upright men are appalled at this, and the innocent stirs himself up against the godless, yet the righteous holds to his way, and he that has clean hands grows stronger and stronger” and in the end, he is thankful for it (Job 17:8-9). And it is for this that affliction is given to us; for “it be true that I [we] have erred, my [our] error remains with myself [ourselves]” (Job 19:4). Because “it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand”, man is truly blessed to have no control over his suffering (Job 32:8).
Job. The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version.