Christianity 201

March 29, 2022

Why Should God Give Humans the Time of Day?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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The book of Job is one of the most difficult items in this collection that we call “The Bible” for us to understand. It sits in a sub-genre of scripture we call “The Wisdom Literature” along with an equally challenging entry, Ecclesiastes. And let us not even begin to discuss the various interpretations of Song of Solomon.

The question in today’s devotional titles comes from The Message rendering of Job 7:17.

“What are mortals anyway, that you bother with them, that you even give them the time of day? That you check up on them every morning, looking in on them to see how they’re doing?”

You’re probably more familiar with the more traditional wording,

“What is mankind that you make so much of them, that you give them so much attention..? (NIV)

Or perhaps a parallel passage in Psalm 8,

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? (vv3-4 NIV)

Or again, Psalm 144,

O LORD, what are human beings that you should notice them, mere mortals that you should think about them? For they are like a breath of air; their days are like a passing shadow. (vv3-4 NLT)

The Pulpit Commentary states,

It seems, at first sight, an exalted idea of God to regard him as too lofty, too great, to be really concerned about so mean a creature, so poor a being, as man. Hence, among the Greeks, the Epicureans [a Greek philosophy movement] maintained that God paid no attention at all to this world, or to anything that happened in it, but dwelt secure and tranquil in the empyrean [the heavens/skies], with nothing to disturb, displease, or vex him. And the holy men of old sometimes fell into this same phase of thought, and expressed surprise and wonder that God, who dwelt on high, should “humble himself to consider the things in heaven and earth.”

Pause to think about that for a moment. Would God create mankind and declare that his creation is good (or very good; see Genesis 1) and then just walk away and leave us fend for ourselves?

The commentary continues,

…all, except Epicureans, agree that God does, in fact, so concern himself, and a little reflection is enough to show us that the opposite view, instead of exalting, really degrades God. To bring conscious, sentient beings into the world – beings capable of the intensest happiness or misery, and then to leave them wholly to themselves, to have no further care or thought of them, would be the part, not of a grand, glorious, and adorable Being, but of one destitute of any claim to our admiration.

In a recent devotional post, The Incredible Shrinking Planet, author Philip Yancey notes that in asking the question of God, he is met by God asking questions of him. Although Yancey did not get into this digression, I can’t help but point out that stylistically, answering questions with questions was part of the way Jesus taught. Yancey states,

Job gets a direct answer from God, who speaks to him out of a whirlwind. Job had saved up a long list of questions, but it is God who interrogates, not Job. “Brace yourself like a man,” God begins. “I will question you, and you shall answer me.”

Reading this, the longest speech by God in the Bible, I hear God saying, “Let’s compare résumés, you and me, and I’ll go first.” Frederick Buechner sums up what follows: “God doesn’t explain. He explodes. He asks Job who he thinks he is anyway. He says that to try to explain the kind of things Job wants explained would be like trying to explain Einstein to a little-neck clam.” God does not need Job’s or anyone else’s advice on how to run the universe.

Brushing aside thirty-five chapters’ worth of debates on the problem of pain, God plunges instead into a dazzling poem on the many wonders of the natural world. God points out, one by one, the works of creation that give the greatest satisfaction. In effect, God asks Job, “Would you like to run the universe for a while? Go ahead, try designing an ostrich, or a mountain goat, or even a snowflake.” God even references astronomy: “Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? Can you bring forth the constellations in their season…?”

…Before beginning this, I checked to see if there were any previous references to Job 7:17 here at C201, and found the one where Charles Price turns a statement by Jesus upside down to how we usually interpret it. He begins with Matthew 13:

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. (v44 NIV)

and then — hang on to your seats, because this is quite different — writes,

A very common interpretation of this parable sees the hidden treasure as being Christ or salvation, and the person who sells everything to obtain the treasure is the penitent sinner who comes to Christ. In light of the entire picture given by Jesus in the eight parables, this would be a wrong  assumption. If we interpret it according to the symbols already used, the man who sells everything to purchase the field is the Son of Man who finds treasure in the world and gives up everything He has in order to purchase it.  Rather than being a picture of how the sinner obtains Christ, it is a picture of how Christ obtains the sinner.  It is Christ finding treasure in the world, and giving up everything in order to purchase it for His own.

What can be described as God’s treasure in the world? On what has He set His heart to the extent He gives up everything to purchase it?  The answer is that God’s treasure is people.  The Psalmist asks, “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you visit him? (Psalm 8:4-5 NKJV)  Job asks, What is mankind that you make so much of them, that you give them so much attention?  (Job 7:17)

If the treasure is human beings, the parable states, “When a man found it…” which implies he was looking.  Jesus said of Himself, “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.  (Luke 19:10)   It is a wonderful thing to be described as lost, because it means we are wanted and every human being is of value and precious to Christ. To obtain the treasure, he gave all He had to make our salvation possible.  Jesus did not only die for us, but with His blood, He purchased us outright. To be a Christian is to acknowledge we are not our own. Our salvation may be free, but it is not cheap.  It came at great cost and suffering to Jesus Christ.

The man in the parable did not begrudge the purchase. On the contrary, “…in his joy went and sold all that he had and bought the field.”  This fits what is said of Christ — …who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame  (Hebrews 12:2).  It was in joy Christ made the transaction and purchased us for Himself with His blood shed on the cross.

That was different.

In fact, you can’t really build a lot on Job’s rhetorical (but desperate) question, but I wanted to give the last word to the writer of Hebrews, who quotes the question in a different sense yet again.

CEB.Heb.2.2 If the message that was spoken by angels was reliable, and every offense and act of disobedience received an appropriate consequence, how will we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? It was first announced through the Lord, and then it was confirmed by those who heard him. God also vouched for their message with signs, amazing things, various miracles, and gifts from the Holy Spirit, which were handed out the way he wanted.

God didn’t put the world that is coming (the world we are talking about) under the angels’ control. Instead, someone declared somewhere,

What is humanity that you think about them?
        Or what are the human beings that you care about them?
For a while you made them lower than angels.
        You crowned the human beings with glory and honor.
        You put everything under their control.

When he puts everything under their control, he doesn’t leave anything out of control. But right now, we don’t see everything under their control yet. However, we do see the one who was made lower in order than the angels for a little while—it’s Jesus! He’s the one who is now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of his death. He suffered death so that he could taste death for everyone through God’s grace.

 

 

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