I’m just going to assume you’re familiar with the book of Job and the general evangelical teaching on Job.
I always read the last chapters of Job as God putting Job in his very lowly place.
As I’ve been rethinking Job, I’ve also been rethinking (and experiencing) the nature of God. I grew up thinking that Jesus came to protect us from the sarcastic, busy, scary Father I saw presented in Job chapters 38-42. At David’s Tent in 2014, I heard Jonathan David Helser say, “Jesus didn’t come to protect us from the Father, He came to show us what the Father is really like.” This struck a chord in me that began a quest to know and experience the goodness of God.
The last time I read Job chapters 38-42 I thought about how the same Father went to the most extreme measures to, “put us in our place”. In fact, God gave all of Himself in order to make us one with Him in Spirit, seated with Him in heavenly places, having the mind of Christ, knowing the full measure of His love and walking in the full measure of His power.
God doesn’t point out things that are wrong with us because He’s offended with us. He points out the things that are wrong with us because He wants to be more intimate with us.
In light of the nature of God being joyful and kind, I’d like to suggest that what we witness in Job chapters 38-42 is what happens when we become fully exposed, fully authentic with God.
Father’s pursuit of us is not a pursuit of our lip service. He doesn’t pursue us looking externally like we have it all together. He cannot be tricked, He already sees the ultimate reality about us. His pursuit of us is the pursuit of our deepest, most authentic hearts. What I see in the end of the book of Job is a man who is tested by fire and what comes out is his authentic heart’s cry to God in all it’s messy glory. (Job’s heart attitude in chapter 31 reminds me a little of Psalm 42)
I’d like to suggest that on a scale of 1-10, Job experienced trauma that ranked a 10. As we go through the book of Job, from chapter to chapter he expresses his pain as a 5 and then a 6 and then a 7 and eventually he reaches his authentic truth. He expresses his truth: that his pain is a 10. He’s mortally offended and believes he has a right to be. Essentially he’s covered in “muck”.
God’s response is typically perceived as sarcastic and a bit mean but something gripped me about Job’s response when he finally responds after God speaks. He says, “My ears had heard of You, but now my eyes have seen.” I went back and reread the entire thing from the perspective of a God who is always smiling, who is always in a good mood.
I believe that God’s response was actually to give Job one of the most profound encounters ever recorded. I think that everything recorded in Job 38-41 were things Job was actually seeing. God wasn’t berating Job for not knowing who put the foundations of the earth in place, He was showing Job the foundations of the earth being put into place by the hand of God.
What I see now in the book of Job is a model of worship that I also see mirrored by David: David’s laments typically have a pivot point in them which I’ve always thought was odd. It seems there’s a model where we offer God our authentic reality, He responds by showing us His authentic reality and we’re changed because His reality is ultimately the only thing that’s actually really real. We come into agreement with His reality and that looks like worship.
Then there’s Thomas who was smashed to bits by the grief of watching the one he thought was the Messiah, probably his closest friend, die an horrific death. What’s worse, he’s trying to mourn and all his friends are telling him that Jesus had resurrected. He couldn’t get through his grief and into belief. Crumbling, he finally cracked into his authentic reality and exploded with, “Listen, I need to put my fingers into his wounds in order to believe!”
When people nowadays say things like this, we tell them to be careful but it seems like in scripture whenever this heart attitude emerges in the children of God, God responds with, “Ok child. Come here. Let me show you what’s real.”
Jesus walks through the walls of Thomas’ reality and says, “Ok. Come here. Let me show you what’s real.”
My entire point is not that we should never offer a sacrifice of praise where we confess that God is good when it doesn’t feel that way.
My point is that in addition to all of the other expressions of worship currently represented in the church, I think we’ve been missing out on the lament.
I believe there’s a time coming when we’ll learn the value of radical authenticity and pick the authentic lament back up fully as part of our worship and when we do, I believe we’ll break through into another realm of His presence that we’d barely even dreamed of.