Job is often read as a book about suffering, patience, providence, righteousness, and faithfulness.
Certainly Job discusses all of those things.
But it is not primarily about those things.
It is primarily a book about someone coming face-to-face with this stunning and silencing truth:
Behold, I am of no account. (ESV)
I am nothing. (NLT)
We just finished reading Job in my Bible as Literature class. We plowed through its dialogues and discourses, its philosophical wonderings, and its theological thunder.
Job, like all of scripture, is richer, deeper, wider, and wiser than anyone can possibly understand in a single lifetime. Its narrative structure and poetic beauty are hallmarks of ancient literary genius.
In his introduction to Job, G. K. Chesterton – with typical brilliance, wit, and British pithiness – notes that God’s ultimate discourse (chapters 38-41) upends our expectations in four ways:
- Rather than offering answers to all the questions posed of him, God offers questions of his own – richer, deeper, wider, and wiser questions than any yet presented. “In dealing with the arrogant asserter of doubt, it is not the right method to tell him to stop doubting. It is rather the right method to tell him to go on doubting, to doubt a little more, to doubt every day newer and wider things in the universe, until at last, by some strange enlightenment, he may begin to doubt himself.”
- Though God offers deeper, darker, and more desolate riddling questions than Job has yet encountered, Job is strangely comforted by the Lord’s words. “[Job] has been told nothing, but he feels the terrible and tingling atmosphere of something which is too good to be told. The refusal of God to explain His design is itself a burning hint of His design. The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man.”
- As God unrolls a panorama of his mighty creation, he seems to “insist on the positive and palpable unreason of things” and to declare that the world’s inexplicableness is one of its finest truths. “Instead of proving to Job that it is an explicable world, [God] insists that it is a much stranger world than Job ever thought it was.”
- In a stunning use of imagery, and sacred language – and “without once relaxing the rigid impenetrability” of divine power – God drops here and there “the metaphors, sudden and splendid suggestions that the secret of God is a bright and not a sad one…like light seen for an instant through the cracks of a closed door.”
Indeed, oh yes indeed he does.
- God robes his earth in brilliant colors.
- He guides the Bear and her cubs across the heavens.
- He tilts the waterskins of heaven to satisfy the parched ground.
- He creates the cosmos to the celebratory accompaniment of singing stars and shouting angels.
The secrets of God are indeed bright. The inexplicability of God and his creation is indeed a comfort. The impenetrability of divine power is indeed a reassurance.
To be small, to be of no account, and to be nothing – this is in fact that most spacious truth within which to exist.
It is to be deeply content with my identity as a child of God (as opposed to believing I am a god myself).
It is to be thoroughly assured of my role in the universe as merely one of trillions (but one who is nevertheless fully and undeservedly loved).
It is to be wholly at rest in the arms of one I cannot condense, comprehend, deconstruct, or delimit (but one who I can surely know – personally and intimately).
Only when I believe of myself, “I am of no account. I am nothing,” will I be positioned to finally be all that God has made me to be.
Only when I accept the paradox of being fully loved while being nothing and being fully redeemed while being of no account will I finally understand the price and purity of God’s love for me.
Only when I embrace my very finite smallness will I be able to rejoice assuredly in the frightening magnitude of my Lord.
“Behold, I am of no account.” Yes and amen. Thus can I live and love with a full and free heart.
[Quotes taken from “Introduction to the Book of Job, by G. K. Chesterton (originally published 1916), available at chesterton.org]