To be known and loved as you are is the essence of relationship. No relationship can last without the unrelenting pursuit of discovery, the desire to navigate the depths of a loved one and thus it is, that Adam and Eve were naked without shame. Theirs was an innocent love with transparency, not only between themselves, but between them and God. This was not to last, for the serpent’s whispers found a listening ear and with a bite of forbidden fruit, innocence was lost. No longer able to trust God to accept their no longer innocent selves, fig leaf aprons were no longer enough and so they hid. It was to show this, that God asked, “Where are you?” This question was not seeking the couple’s geographical location but was relational. It is a question born out of the Creator’s longing for His creation – it is the unchanging God detecting a change in the relationship.
In the book of Job, the tables are turned. God declares Job’s innocence, not in a forensic sense but a relational one. In a world of business transactions disguised as religion, Job stood out as a man in whose heart echoed the longing for open relationship with God. This longing percolated through the patriarchal culture that he lived in and expressed itself in the sacrifices he made on behalf of his children. Yet Satan brushed this piety off as mere payment for miracles rendered (an accusation more accurately aimed at Satan’s pagan religions). Thus, God allowed Satan to strip away all the goodies, confident that Job’s naked longing for communion with God would shine through all the more brighter.
It is an undeniable tragedy that Christianity has been reduced to a dispassionate assent to cold abstract doctrinal statements. In an attempt to counter the Enlightenment’s assertion that faith and reason could never reside in the same mind, Christians began to turn Christ’s life into a lifeless list of abstract logical arguments and many fell into the trap of believing that righteousness lies in assenting to abstract concepts. Independence from God is fatal (autonomy isn’t). It is the belief that one can ‘go it alone’ that is dangerous and it is all the more dangerous when it presents itself as intelligent independence of thought. To put it all in a nutshell, “think for yourself but don’t think by yourself.” Abstract theology is necessary but it is not all.
This is revealed in Job’s acceptance of God’s divine quiz. Job’s questions have troubled the faithful for generations. Trapped in the belief that God is an unrelenting dictator who cannot be questioned, it is difficult to understand how a blameless man can rail against God. At first, Satan said Job served God because he was on the receiving end of God’s blessings. This was evidently untrue. There is a danger that some would say Job served God because he would ‘understand it better, by and by’ but Job isn’t comforted by a revelation of the cause of his suffering and his inability to answer God’s questions shows that his trust in God is not dependent on his ability to understand reality. Job is comforted by God’s voice.
It wasn’t the loss of God’s goodies that troubled him as much as it was God’s silence. It was not knowledge of what caused his troubles that comforted him, it was God’s presence. Thus, God’s impossible quiz instead of intimidating Job, emboldened him to trust in the God who can tame the untameable leviathan. This was not to cut off Job’s and our curiosity but to remind him and us that at our very best, we are just sinners saved by grace.
It isn’t wrong to stretch the mind and inquire but don’t take comfort in that. Take comfort in the knowledge that the same God who created all that gives us sustenance is working to save us all.