Thoughts on Job, God, and Retribution (Part 2 of 3)

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In Part 1 I discuss the retribution principle, along with Matitiahu Tsevat‘s theory that in any given situation only two of the following elements: Job, God, and Retribution, can exist together at any single moment.

If the retribution principle is eliminated there is new freedom for a personal relationship between God and man.

But does this mean the retribution principle must be eliminated to understand the Book of Job? Only for Job–that is, for the suffering person. Job needed it removed from his primary focus so that God could move into that place. He needed to trust God’s methods without understanding them, and until he lets go near the end of the book he had been unintentionally fighting against the process in defending himself and God against his enemies (i.e. his “friends,” the spiritual battle, and even against a part of himself).

God, however, is not limited to this same time frame or struggle. From a heavenly perspective it is certainly possible for Job and Retribution to exist simultaneously. This, after all, is the nature of God: He both predestines, and changes His mind; He is transcendent above us, and immanent among us. God can interact with the sufferer, and be moved by compassion within the given moment, but He can also foresee the future, and develop plans accordingly.

God knew, from the beginning, that He would bless Job abundantly. Job considered this thought as well. But whereas Job’s focus was distracted by what should be and what is, God remained unflustered. He could see Job’s pain, recognize the necessary process for Job to fully surrender within his trial, and foresee the blessed outcome. The reader, too, should note God’s eternal mindset and patience. Neither the reader nor God needs to eliminate the retribution principle–Tsevat essentially advocates this, but I don’t think it is the best way to understand what God was doing. Rather, God put Himself in front of the retribution principle, so that Job could relax in the midst of his pain, trust God, and refresh himself in the refuge of the Lord.

The story begins with an equilateral triangular diagram as Tsevat claims, but by the end of the story it looks like this:

Job <——–> God ——–> Retribution

God is no longer transcendent from the situation, but places Himself at Job’s level, so that Retribution is no longer within Job’s view. God begins above the situation (the top of the triangle), then comes down into it. God can look both toward Job (us) and Retribution, which may take place now, or perhaps not until the “Day of the Lord” when our warrior King will punish the wicked, and reward the overcomers. Thus, the retribution principle is not removed, but realized in Kingdom perspective as Job comes into contact with the living God of eternity.

More to come in Part 3.

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