TODAY’S READING: JOB 13-16
The title of today’s blog post comes from the King James Version of Job 13:15. “Though he slay me, yet I will trust in him.” This is a well-known verse of scripture amongst many Christians. It is often preached and used as a declaration of encouragement to have faith like Job to trust in God in any situation.
But, is that what we are to learn from this verse? Is that what this verse is about?
For the moment, let’s assume this is actually what the verse says in Hebrew (there are other possible translations). So, Job is saying, “Even if God kills me, yet I am going to trust in him.”
Really? That is supposed to be a sign of great faith?
According to the popular understanding of this verse, I am supposed to trust a God who is my Father in all circumstances even if one of them is that this God is going to kill me. Would any of us ever trust an earthly father who acted in such a manner?
I think not. Nor do Jesus and the Father expect us to have faith in a god that kills us.
In Matthew 7:11, Jesus said, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him?” Next to God, all earthly fathers are evil. But, if even earthly fathers, who are evil, would not kill their children, then how much more would God, a good Father, not kill his children? If we can’t conceive of earthly fathers doing a wicked act, then it be obvious that our Father who is in heaven would not do that wicked act.
Not only is God a perfectly good Father and much higher than earthly wicked fathers, God does not kill. Jesus revealed this very clearly. In John 10:10, Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” According to Jesus, Satan is the one that kills. According to Jesus, he gives life. And, Jesus always and only did what he saw the Father doing. (See also my post Who Says I Destroy – God or Satan?)
So, at this point, we should see that something is wrong with what Job says. Clearly, Job does not have a true revelation of who God is. So, whatever faith or trust Job is exhibiting, if indeed that is what this is verse is about, is not based on the true reality of who God is.
But, should we even take Job’s statement “though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” as one of great faith? Is Job making a declaration of great faith in God?
Let’s remember Job and his three friends argue about theology back and forth for roughly 35 chapters. Then, God shows up in Job 38. And, for two chapters God asks Job question after question after question. God’s basic point to Job was that you and your friends have no idea what you are talking about. If the statement by Job – “though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” – was once that characterized Job’s great faith in God, then surely God would have acknowledged this great faith.
But, God does no such thing. Here is yet another sign that what Job said is not really a declaration of his great faith in God.
“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Is that even what the Hebrew really says?
The ESV substitutes the word hope for trust.
The NLT says, “God might kill me, but I have no other hope.”
The ASV says, “Behold, he will slay me; I have no hope.”
The Good News Translation says, “I’ve lost all hope, so what if God kills me?”
Young’s Literal Translation says, “Lo, He doth slay me – I wait not!
That’s quite the variety in how this verse is translated. Some of them indicate Job is hoping or trusting in God. Others say that Job has lost all hope so who cares if God kills him. Those are not even remotely the same in their meaning.
What’s going on here?
Well, so far throughout the book of Job, we have heard one thing from Job. He wants a chance to contend with God, to confront God. Job wants to tell God that he is blameless. He wants to argue his own ways to God’s face. Job wants to prove to God that he is right and does not deserve the affliction that he has received.
And, that’s exactly the context surrounding Job’s supposed statement of great faith, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Notice verse 13. Job says that if he could just get some silence, get his friends to shut up for a minute, then he would have a chance to speak. And, speak his mind he will regardless of what happens – “and let come on me what may.”
And, immediately after Job supposedly says “though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” Job says he is going to argue his ways to God’s face. Does that sound like Job is trusting in God even if God kills him?
Then Job says that his chance to come before God and argue his ways to God’s face will be his salvation (verses 15 and 16). While will this be Job’s salvation? Because only the godly can come before God – “the godless shall not come before him.” So, if Job gets a chance before God to argue his case, then Job believes this is an indication that he is godly. Therefore, it will be a sign of his salvation.
What Job is really saying here is that his affliction is so bad that he has given up hope and is ready to confront God because Job is right in his ways. Since Job has no hope, he must as well do this. If he’s right, then it will be his salvation. If he’s wrong, then God will kill him, which Job has asked for anyway (see Job 3:11 and 10:18).
So, instead of declaration of Job’s great faith the verse actually reveals Job’s utter lack of hope and despair and his willingness to throw caution to the wind to prove that he is right and he does not deserve the affliction he is going through. Job’s motive seems to be more to prove God wrong than it is to pray with perseverance for God’s goodness to manifest in his life. This is the strain of thinking that runs through all of Job’s discourses and is precisely why God chastises him when he shows up.
This is aa great example of Christians arriving at the wrong understanding of all an Old Testament passage of scripture because they let the Old Testament interpret the character and nature of God instead of relying on Jesus as their sole interpreter of God’s character and nature and then using the revelation of God through Jesus to interpret and understand the Old Testament.