Nov 30, 2022
"No one has taken a bigger risk than Job, and no one has faced longer odds; and yet, Job has taken God to court and won!"
Where can you find a superhero when you need one? In a Marvel movie perhaps…or a DC comic? You probably wouldn’t think to look in the Bible, and certainly not in the Old Testament.
Too bad! The Bible is chock-full of superheroes, especially the Old Testament. I mean, Abraham gives up a cushy upper middle-class lifestyle to become a nomad. Moses organizes a rebellion of Hebrew slaves and leads them on a 40-year trek across the wilderness to a new homeland. You get the picture!
My personal favorite is Job. The Book of Job was written a mere 2,500 years ago, but the story itself is probably much older than that.
Ok, granted, Job’s not your everyday superhero. In fact, on the surface, he’s anything but. We don’t meet him on a mountain top or at the head of a vast army; we meet him lying in the dust, his skin covered with sores, his family gone, his wealth wiped-out and his reputation in tatters.
In those days, if you had a streak of ‘bad luck’ (like Job), people assumed that God was punishing you for sins you’d committed. Proof was not required. If you were suffering, then you must have sinned. Case closed! “What need to have we for witnesses?”
I am reminded of the judicial system in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Lookingglass: The sentence comes first, then the verdict, then the trail, and last of all, the crime itself.
Imagine living like this. In our lives, we all have periods of relatively good fortune… and not-so-good fortune. Imagine your so-called friends ghosting you whenever your luck runs dry. Or imagine suffering their unjust accusations and their cruel taunts on top of your grief, your illness, and your poverty.
With friends like these, who needs enemies? Certainly, not Job! When he hits rock bottom, his wife tells him to “curse God and die!” His ‘friends’ gather, supposedly to comfort him, but actually to tease him, to shame him, to blame him for his own suffering.
Mrs. Job wants him to give up and die. His so-called ‘comforters’ want him to acknowledge his sins and beg God for forgiveness. But Job has other ideas. He won’t give up, and he won’t plead guilty to crimes he did not commit. He’s a superhero, remember?
Job’s idea of God is very different from his friends’. Job’s God is not uncaring or cruel; he is just and merciful. Even more importantly, Job’s God is not above the law. In fact, God wrote the law and, even more than that, he is the law! How could God ignore the laws that he himself put in place?
So, Job decides to take God to court! In your catalog of superheroes. Who else has the chutzpah to do such a thing?
Using an ancient Middle Eastern legal formula, Job summons God, and much to everyone’s surprise (except Job’s) God complies with Job’s summons; he appears.
At that time, the cornerstone of the law was God’s covenant with his people. Today we would call such a covenant a contract or even a constitution. God authored the covenant and Job expects him to follow it…and he does.
From here on, Job’s comforters sit in stunned silence. What manner of man is this that even God obeys him? But God is not obeying Job. God is simply honoring the terms of the covenant. God is obeying God. Even more fundamentally, God is being God.
All the characters in this ancient drama see God as fierce and unpredictable, even arbitrary - all except Job! Like Abraham and Moses, Job ‘knows God’. He knows that God cannot behave unjustly because he is Justice. He knows that God cannot stop being God.
So to recap, Job summons God and God appears. Is this the happy ending we’ve been hoping for? Not even close! The action’s just beginning, so buckle up!
Were you expecting God to appear as a meek little lamb, ready to submit to the will of the court, putty in the hands of the plaintiff (Job)? Then you were wrong!
God is furious! He has better things to do with his time than hang out in some District Court, answering Job’s impertinent charges. I mean, there’s a universe to run, for cryin’ out loud!
God appears, but he’s not happy about it, not one bit. He addresses the court “out of a whirlwind."
It’s undoubtedly an eye-catching performance. I mean, you don’t see that every day, do you? Admit it: you’d probably pause your remote to watch such a spectacle. Who could pass up a chance to walk down memory lane with God, exchanging war stories and listening to his tales of creation?
Job could, and he does; he ignores God entirely, but then, Job is a superhero after all. He keeps his eyes fixed firmly on the prize (‘judgment for the plaintiff’).
God mounts a spirited defense, “Where were you when I laid earth’s foundations? Have you ever in your days summoned daybreak? Have you ever reached the sources of the Sea and walked on the bottom of the Ocean?”
God’s strategy is clear. He will overpower Job. But notice, God’s arguments are off point. They are more a product of frustration than careful legal reasoning. They have nothing to do with justice in general, and even less to do with Job’s particular complaint. God is blurring the line between might and right.
Plus, this is not an episode of Law and Order. For one thing, God is both the defendant and the judge. We would never agree to such an arrangement today. We’d call it a ‘conflict of interest’, and for anyone but God, it would be.
If you were your own judge, you’d probably find yourself innocent most of the time…ok, all the time. We all would…but not God. He alone can build a true firewall between God-the-Defendant and God-the-Judge.
Job ignores God’s bluster. He does not take God’s bait. He won’t be drawn into a school yard game of one-upmanship; he will not show his NFL highlights reel next to God’s.
Job hangs tough, “I have spoken once - and I will not repeat. Twice - and I will no more!” Job smells blood. He is going for a directed verdict of not guilty…and he’s going to get it, too - if only he can keep his cool.
But not before God takes one last desperate shot: “Can you pull out the Leviathan (a sea monster) with a fishhook? Can you toy with him like a bird? Who has ever confronted him and survived? Even gods live in fear of his majesty; they’re in terror of the ruin he wrecks.”
In other words: If you’re not afraid of me, perhaps you’ll be afraid of my creatures. But, of course, God’s threats are empty, and his words fall on deaf ears.
Job has the last word: “I am fed up; I take pity on dust and ashes.” Translation: If I can’t get justice, no one can! Today, Job might be held in contempt of court for such a remark; but God lets him slide.
Now on to the verdict. The whole cosmos is of one mind: Job will be found liable and further punishment will be imposed. The whole cosmos…that is, except Job. Job knows he will be acquitted. He knew it from the beginning. Job knows God!
God moves from the plaintiff’s chair to the judge’s bench. He puts on his legal robes and prepares to rule. But first, he has a word for Job’s fickle friends: “You did not speak about me honestly, as did my servant Job.”
And now…the verdict! God finds Job “not guilty” on all charges and restores to Job more than he had lost and more.
What makes a hero? The willingness to do what’s right, to defend one’s values and beliefs, despite overwhelming opposition and with no realistic hope of success.
Then what is a superhero? A hero who succeeds, who wins out in the end after all. In the entire history of literature, mythology, and religion, no one has taken a bigger risk than Job and no one has faced longer odds; and yet, Job has taken God to court and won!
So, Job is my superhero.
David Cowles is the founder and editor-in-chief of Aletheia Today Magazine. He lives with his family in Massachusetts where he studies and writes about philosophy, science, theology, and scripture. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.