I've just finished the book of Job in my daily Bible study, and here's what I love about Job: it's one of those books that brings us right up to the line, but doesn't cross it. A lot of the dialogue centers around whether Job will curse God or not, and he ends up doing just about everything but.
It's a little too close for most of us. We wouldn't go as far as Job goes in his blunt honesty, but I think that's kind of the point - we can go that far. We can be real with God. Job is. And yet, he doesn't sin in being so.
We struggle, in our postmodern world in which just about everything is offensive and crosses some sort of line, to understand what it means to be raw-ly emotional and responsive to the world without "cursing" it (read: offending it). We read the way that Job calls God out, and we think that surely, he has offended the Lord somehow. Surely, God is not going to put up with this.
But look at what's happening here - for all Job's ranting and raving, for all his lamenting, for all the ways that he's pointing out what he believes is wrong here (and for the record, sometimes, he does seem to think that it is God who is wrong), what he's actually doing throughout his entire testimony...is affirming who God is.
And that's exactly what God expected him to do. That's exactly what God told the tempter that Job would do. You do whatever you want to Job, and he will continue to testify to who I am.
See, when Job says This is not what I expect from you, God, what he's actually saying is what he does expect from God. When he says this isn't just, he's saying that the God that he knows is just. When he says this isn't grounded in truth, he's saying that the God that he knows is truth. When he says that this is not what he anticipates God to truly be like, he's making a statement that he knows who God is.
And he's right.
This is what Job is trying to show us - when you know who God is, when you worship Him, pray to him, obey Him, and live your life for Him - then it's absolutely okay for you to put your feet down firmly on that understanding. When God has shown Himself clearly and demonstrated His own character and faithfulness, it's okay for you to demand from Him that He be who He claims to be, who He says He is, who He promises He is.
Notice that throughout the entire testimony of Job, the man never once says, God is not who He says He is. What he always says is, This is not who God says He is. It's not a sense of entitlement that God should be treating Job somehow differently; he's calling God to account on the basis of God's own testimony about Himself. He's very clearly saying, I know who God is, and this is not Him. And he's calling on the God he knows to step and be the God he's sure of.
He's trusting God to do just that.
To us, it looks really close to cursing God. To our postmodern minds, it seems very much that he's tempting fate here, pressing the line, testing the waters. He's pretty close, we think, to God just giving up on him and pushing him away. If Job didn't deserve all that happened to him before now, just let him keep speaking for a few more chapters, and we're sure that he'll get there.
But what's actually going on here, even in all his anger, even in all his grief, even in all his lament, even in all his protest, is that Job is praising God. He's making a bold, repeated, adamant testimony to who God is, even if that doesn't seem to be what God is acting like at this particular moment. He's banking his life on his theology that says that God is good and that God is still good. He's holding onto that promise, and he won't let go.
Even if his raw, scaly, diseased hands fail him.