I’ve had two or three occasions during the last few months to do some extensive reading in Job, a lengthy poem that appears in the middle of the Old Testament. And its starting to grow on me.
People who know more about such things than me think that Job is the oldest book in the Bible. I don’t know if that is true or not. But if I were to order the Bible in terms of the way ideas develop, instead of the way history develops, Job would be the first book.
Job may not even be “theological.” It may be something more like pre-theology. It asks questions that end up weaving their way through the rest of scripture – questions that are never fully answered by any biblical writers. And – in a way – it is unflenchingly honest in asking those questions.
Why do people suffer? Why are people happy? Why does God bless or curse people? Does God even care about me? What does God want from me? And, while we’re on the subject, who is God anyway?
Job, with the help of a few of his friends, asks these questions throughout the book, and at the end of the book, Job “repents.” I’m not sure exactly what that means in this context, because its not altogether clear to me what he has done that is “wrong” (rather, thats one of the questions that the book poses). It seems to me more that he is simply humbling himself before a God who is clearly much, much, MUCH larger than him.
He sees that the universe is about God, not Job.
And he says this:
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand;
things too wonderful for me to know.
I am really wrapped up in that idea right now: that some things can be too wonderful to be known. We can only wrap our minds around so much of God/the nature of the universe/etc. But we can wonder at so much more.
Somehow, I think that if I suddenly could get it – if I could understand everything there was to know about God and everything in this universe – there would be a profound sadness in that experience. Chess , someone once said, is more likely than poetry to drive one to madness.
Job reminds me that to be human is not to understand God’s ways, but to wonder at them.