Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Riddle Me This

Something occurred to me while writing the last post. I exercised enormous discipline and stayed on topic, more or less. But the thought intrigued me, so . . .
In Job 37, Elihu makes the assertion that God is indeed in control of earthly circumstances, even in charge of storm and wind. Especially pithy are verses 11 and 12, He disperses the cloud of His lightning. It changes direction, turning around by His guidance. Judging God liable for the wind would have been especially meaningful for Job, and quite possibly a very painful consideration.
If God micromanages the clouds with the wind, then He also would have been responsible for the mysterious tornado that struck the house that held Job's children.
It would have been painful enough to acknowledge God's passivity in this event. In other words, had Job gotten to the point where he was attempting to excuse God's culpability by reason of He giveth and taketh away, this startling declaration of Elihu's must have been excruciating.
It is easy enough to anesthetize your raw feelings with any number of variations on "Bad stuff happens" and say "Well, He really didn't mean it", or, "Think how much worse it could be."
(Two men were walking single-file through a thick wood. Brushing past a particularly thick, low-hanging branch, the front man held on to the branch as he kept moving and held on and held on until he let it go at precisely the point the second man was moving into line with the branch's original position. The branch swept back and flattened the second man, rendering him unconscious. When at last he came to, his words were, "Man, I'm glad you held that branch as long as you did, or it would've killed me.")
But Elihu was presenting a different proposition altogether. In effect, he was placing the blame for the death of Job's children squarely on God.
Now, we can forgive a slight if we feel it was basically an omission and we can excuse someone of guilt if it appears that intervention was beyond their control, but how do we cope when it comes to light that the incident was intentional?
You may say God was only allowing Satan the handicap in their wager, but you'll notice in Job 1:8 that God initiated the conversation about Job and in His omniscience foresaw the destruction of Job's family, livelihood and happiness.
Elihu was asking Job to consider this as a true "act of God" when it might have been much easier to shuffle the blame off as just one of those things.
James Dobson relates a story in When God Doesn't Make Sense about his son, Ryan. Suffering from a painful ear infection, Ryan was taken to the pediatrician. The doctor sadistically enlisted Dr. Dobson's assistance in holding the petrified child while the doctor performed a vary painful procedure. Dobson recalls the frightened, accusatory look in his small son's eyes. Why are you doing this to me? To Ryan, his father was participating in the attack and may as well have been the actual perp.
So the anguished question "Why did You let this happen?" might well be shifted from the passive to the active "Why did You do this?"
When you are under God's hammer, little relief may be gained from envisioning what fine instrument He is shaping. The quicker you become malleable the quicker the fire will cool, but who is to know what God is about. As a lump of formless steel, you may be content, desperate in fact, to be nothing more than a horseshoe, but God may be fashioning an exquisitely wrought spur or sword hilt. Unfortunately, it won't do any good to accept the pain in order to simply expedite the process, you must embrace it, forswearing any desire to be out from under the hammer and cooling in the sand box, unless it be His will. Incredibly, you must prefer to be on the anvil or in the furnace if that be His plan.
This is all well and good if we are operating under the premise that our existence is fundamentally a good thing or even inevitable, but what happens when that assumption is lifted? What lies beneath?
Yes, the lump of metal protests, but I did not ask to become a work of art. For that matter, I didn't ask to be mined and smelted. I was perfectly content as ore living in the dirt.
Or, in human terms, I didn't ask to exist.
Or, as Job asked, why was I not miscarried?
I hate to put this so presumptuously, but apparently God deemed the risk of pain and hell preferable to non-existence.
But this is the question I want answered.
If we did not yet exist, how could our welfare have been a consideration?
Any ideas? Or am I looking for an answer that lies beyond the grasp of mortal comprehension?


Anonymous said...


Nathan Carpenter said...

well, now we got that settled . . .