The Voice of Job

O that thou wouldst hide me in the grave, that thou wouldst keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldst appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.

— Job 14: 13-15

Like a child escaping from the dogs of the street, Job flings the door to the wall, and rushes to seek the presence of the living one. He would cast his load at the feet of his maker! But alas—nowhere can he see his face! He has hid himself from him! “Oh that I knew where I might find him! That I might come even to his seat! Will he plead against me with his great power? No! but he would put strength in me. There the righteous might dispute with him; so should I be delivered forever from my judge. Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him; but he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”

He cannot find him! Yet is he in his presence all the time, and his words enter into the ear of God his Savior. The grandeur of the poem is that Job pleads his cause with God against all the remonstrance of religious authority, recognizing no one but God. And grandest of all is that he implies that God owes something to his creature. This is the beginning of the greatest discovery of all—that God owes himself to the creature he has made in his image, for so he has made him incapable of living without him. This, his creatures’ highest claim upon him, is his divinest gift to them. For the fulfilling of their claim he has sent his son, that he may himself, the father of him and of us, follow into our hearts.

Commentary

THE DIVINEST GIFT (and the Claim We Have on God)...
by Dave Roney

“—You shall desire the works of Your hands. ”
from Job 14:13-15

I see two men representing humanity, one sitting in ashes the other lifted up on a cruel cross; the sufferings of the two are quite similar, their ghastly ordeals with pain, with loneliness, with seeming hopelessness, rejection, of weakness, of being misunderstood, scoffed at, chastised, of thoughts turned to death. "Job cries out to the Might unseen," and so does our Ransom in His darkest moment of the darkest hour, "My God!  My God!;" like Job before Him, our Lord "asserts his innocence and will not grovel."  The identity cannot be pressed too hardly, for indeed there are major differences separating between the two sufferings; but Christ was enough a man that in His own flesh he bore all of old Job's suffering and made it His own while Job was divine enought to declare in the preceding chapter "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”  Thus I perceive a direct link between the two.

Even so, concerning Job's understanding, "The thought had not yet come to him that that which it would be unfair to lay upon him as punishment, may yet be laid upon his as favor."  And of Christ, the major difference is that He had thought of it, did know it was laid upon Him as favor and no punishment; what could not be said of Job was surety in Christ; "For the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame..." (Heb. 12:2).  And with the light that shines through such thought begins the unraveling of the old Penal Substitution theory.

 

In the daily reading from the 24th MacDonald says Job "is the instance-type" of humanity.  The framers of what is known as "Reformed" theology, seeking to bind up their tenets coherently, have ascribed to Adam the position of "Federal head of our race" and by that concluded all who are the seed of Adam and children of Eve are born with an inherited sinful nature.  Scripture nowhere assigns this "Federal" position to Adam nor declares anyone to be born sinful; Adam is indeed a head of our race, as forebear, as father, as through procreation is the Seminal, but no Federal, head of humanity.  To ascribe to him the cause of our sinning is absurd for it would make God unfair; it would be to condemn a child for sin his father committed. 

Let me here provide a simple example.  In our Appalachian chain there are mighty hemlocks towering above the canopy, and these for some years have been attacked by a blight which has killed many of them; let a hemlock stand in the place of Adam.  These trees, though themselves diseased, produce annually seeds which are free from the malady though are subject to the same fatal infection as their forebears.  And each of us since Adam, living in a diseased and broken world, have fallen victim to the malady of sin by our own will and actions apart from anything in Adam.  Do not men know that Adam is the son of God, and that He is the Father of our father (Luke 3:38)? and that God Himself is therefore, through regression, our ultimate Father and our only Federal Head?  Every person can, as Job, "plead his cause with God against all the remonstrance of religious authority, recognizing no one except God."  Better our lot by far, infinitely better, that a pure and loving God be our Federal Head than any man, even the best of men.

One result of spiritual brokenness is pain, suffering, and death; another, the worst, is separation from God; but this is not the only separation.  It is darkness, it is the result of His children pulling away from Him and going their own way as Prodigals.  But it is also that darkness of the veil behind which He to large degree remains obscured; for He would walk with us as He supposedly did with Adam, and come into our midst as did He in the form of Christ Jesus, but He must for a time withhold Himself from His world; His face is hidden, His hand yet ever upon us, we walk by faith until we will, one Day, walk by sight.  "He [Job] cannot find Him, yet he is in His presence all the time!"  Here enters a profound thought;

"God owes something [that is to say is obligated to] His creature!  This is the beginning of the greatest discovery of all—that God owes Himself to the creature He has made in His image, for He has made him incapable of living without Him.  This, His creature's highest claim upon Him, is His divinest gift to them."

And, from another place, "He created them with needs which only He could meet."  And those needs are, firstly, for He Himself more than any things about Him.  And God will be no debtor to any man but has, even before the foundation of the cosmos, set the account right, which He has done in Christ, the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world."

I have often thought that our definitions of Grace are entirely inadequate and that, at times, widely and woefully miss the mark.  We may think that it is all of grace for an earthly parent to provide for their children, but that would not include the part of Grace which has to do with parental responsibility; for true grace is not only that which is received, but also that which is given.  In a sense the small child has done nothing to "merit" provision, and that the needful things of life come to him as that "unmerited favor" which we call grace.  Yet, in the same instant such needful provision is owed to the helpless child by those who brought him into the world.  There is in grace the thought of God doing what He ought to do, is responsible to do, which He freely, thus graciously does, and does in the selfless devotion of His Fatherly Love Divine.

Does it sound alien that God is obligated to us in salvic Fatherhood, and that Christ is the Father's means of providing for us what He is by His Fatherhood obligated to impart?  It is here I speak of the "remonstrance of religious authority," pushing back on the Penal Substitution Theory of the Atonement, which declares that Jesus "paid for our sins," standing between us an an angry God.  I am saying neither did He die in payment for sins, nor that God's supposed Wrath was poured out one Him, but for and out of Love God our Father sent Christ and Christ died out of the same Love willingly and obediently; that He would in His great rapprochement change the hearts of men so that they themselves would become the executioners of their sins, crucifying their sins and turning from them, turn to the God Who is Love, become obedient to Him, become His true children, and be partakers of the Divine nature, being then redeemed, restored, and reconciled.

It is to say that Christ might die in payment for His sins, had He any, but He could never die for my sins; for those I am responsible; it is I who must slay Self and sin within me; it is me, alone, who must as St. Paul be about "dying daily" and "crucifying" Self: As He has died for (because of) sin, I must die to sin that dwells in me.  The Justice of God is on two sides, ultimately, on the sinner's side, it is this: That on the one hand He would have the sinner to be the executioner of his own sin, would have him turn from the sin and repent of it (for God cannot force it on a man; "He cannot ravish but only woo"), begin to be obedient, count sins as does God, become like Christ and the possessor or real, and not some supposed imputed, Righteousness.  And on the other hand, the Divine Justice is for God to forgive the penitent, to forget sins past, and find therefore no cause for condemnation in His child.  This is no God Who hates sinners, Who is afar off, Who demands blood to assuage His anger; it is the true Father of Jesus, the God Who has shown Himself indelibly clear in the cruciform figure bleeding, suffering, dying, on Mt. Calvary with a heart shattered for Love.  To see God one must see Christ, for the Father is exactly like Jesus.

The obligation of man, which is that of every person, is to give him or her self to God fully, freely, without reservations, even as God has given Himself to us.  And that we, created in His image, reflect what is eternally in Him.  He has laid claim to us, and we therefore boldly lay claim to Him.  What is the greatest gift a man can give to God but himself?  What is the greatest gift of God to mankind?  It is He Himself.  He is the Divinest Gift to us...

"This, His creatures' highest claim upon Him, is His divinest gift to them.  For the fulfilling of their claim He has sent His Son, that He may Himself, the Father of Him and of us, follow into our hearts."

And in another starried place, drawn out from such a vast sea of constellations, is this:

"I saw, shadowed out in the absolute devotion of Jesus to men, that the very life of God by which we live is an everlasting giving of Himself away.  He asserts Himself, only, solely, altogether, in an infinite sacrifice of devotion.  So must we live; the child must be as the Father; live he cannot on any other plain, struggle as he may.  The Father requires of him nothing that He is not or does not Himself, Who is the one prime unconditional Sacrificer and Sacrifice."
--from the pages of Wildred Cumbermede