And maybe we shouldn’t defend Him either
“Why do you hide your face and count me as your enemy? Will you frighten a driven leaf and pursue dry chaff?” (Job 13:24–25, ESV)
Many who object to the God of Scripture do so on the grounds that they can’t accept a God who behaves how our God does in the Bible. How could God permit slavery? How could He call for the annihilation of the citizens of Jericho? Why would He save some people and not others? How can a loving God send people to hell?
At their core, these questions are all asking the same thing: “Why?”
The question of “why?” is the central question of the oldest book of the Bible; the book of Job. In it, the titular character faces a series of horrific tragedies: in a single day, all of Job’s flocks, servants, and children were killed. (Job 1:13–19) Afterward, he was struck with sores all over his body. While these acts were technically the work of Satan, God was the one who gave Satan permission to torment Job.
“And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.’ So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.” (Job 1:12, ESV)
The bulk of the book of Job consists of a dialogue between Job and his friends. Job complains that God is treating him unfairly and his friends insist that, since there is no injustice with God, Job must have some hidden sin or that God is trying to teach him a lesson. Job is repeatedly urged to repent, but he continues to demand that God offer him an explanation.
Giving credit where credit is due, here is The Bible Project’s outline of the book of Job.
In chapter 38, God shows up, but much to Job’s dismay, does not attempt to answer Job’s question or defend Himself. Instead, God begins to ask Job a series of questions:
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” (Job 38:4, ESV)
“Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place?” (Job 38:12, ESV)
“Where is the way to the dwelling of light, and where is the place of darkness, that you may take it to its territory and that you may discern the paths to its home? You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!” (Job 38:19–21, ESV)
God’s point seems to be that, to understand why God acts the way He does, one would have to have full knowledge of the universe from its inception. In other words, only God has the wisdom to understand why He does what He does.Humankind is unqualified to assess God’s character or decision-making. The Bible echoes this principle in several places.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8–9, ESV)
“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand.” (Psalm 139:17–18, ESV)
“So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’” (Romans 9:18–20, ESV)
However, God reserves his strongest rebuke for the friends of Job who foolishly sought to explain God’s actions.
“After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: ‘My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.’” (Job 42:7, ESV)
In other words, what offended God more than Job questioning Him was Job’s friends believing that they understood God well enough to speak on his behalf.This is perhaps where we, as believers, should take warning. God does not need us to defend Him or his decisions to pacify the expectations of the world. Indeed, we are unqualified to speak for Him.
God is not safe. God is not a household deity, kept in our safekeeping. And — be warned — God’s safety is not our business. Our role on this earth, be it prophet, king, priest, or bank teller, is not to keep the Almighty from mishap or embarrassment. He takes care of Himself.
Mark Buchanan, Your God is Too Safe
So perhaps, when we are challenged by opponents of the Scriptures on the character of God, we should not rush to His defense or seek to explain His actions. Perhaps we are better served by simply saying what the Bible says:
“Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” (Psalm 135:6, ESV)
Live for Jesus.
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