Job 13:15 “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face.”
While I appreciate the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible and generally read from it on Sunday mornings, there are a couple of places where I question what they’ve done with the translation. The most dramatic difference that I’ve found is in the translation of the first part of the above verse. What you’re reading above is from the New International Version, which is what we are using in the Daily Walk.
But here is the same verse in the NRSV: “See, he will kill me; I have no hope; but I will defend my ways to his face.” Talk about a dramatic difference in meaning! Both of these translations were put together by a large group of solid biblical scholars, and Hebrew (the original language of the book of Job) is pretty notorious for being able to mean several widely different things with the same words. So I’m pretty confident that the passage could, within the rules of Hebrew grammar, be translated either way. But how different they are! One shows a man of complete faith. The other shows someone who has given up on the goodness of God.
When I look at the tone and substance of the whole book of Job and at Job’s personality, I cast my vote with man of faith in the NIV. This little verse shows us the depth of Job’s faith, and it is the testing of Job’s faith that provides the framework for the whole book. We see other places where he is depressed and wishes he had never been born; but when it comes to his faith in God, Job never waivers. Whether God brings him good or ill, health or death, Job will stick it out with God. Which is exactly what he does both before and after this passage, even though he suffers disaster after disaster.
One of the reasons I love Job…both the book and the man…is that he isn’t just accepting God’s will with a depressed resignation. This is not Eeyore talking. This is a man who knows the deep goodness of God, and will trust it even if it means his own death; but it is also a man who trusts both the justice and the mercy of God so completely that he is willing to stand up and plead his cause before the very face of God. Job and God have a deep, real relationship. Ultimately he will accept God’s will, no matter what it means for his own life, but he doesn’t believe that God is either unreachable or uncaring about his personal circumstances. He knows this is a God involved in human affairs and a God who listens when we cry out.
Job’s friends don’t think that Job should challenge God. Job is basically saying, “He may kill me for doing it, but I’m going to present my case anyway, because God is my only hope. God is just and God will listen to me.” That is radical faith, and it is ultimately rewarded. Of course God does show up a number of chapters later and Job has quite the humbling moment as he realizes how vast is the chasm between God’s knowledge and ability and his own. But God does not slay Job for making the challenge, and at the end of the book it is the faith of the friends, not the faith of Job that God calls into question. God affirms that Job has not sinned…not even in challenging God’s justice and calling God to account...and Job’s faith is rewarded with twice the blessings that he had previously enjoyed.
This book, and this verse in particular, give me the courage and the confidence to bring my concerns before God. God won’t strike me down for questioning—or even for challenging God’s justice; and in the end, I will both understand more of my own condition and be even closer to the heart of God.
Grow our faith, Lord, that we might have the hope and the trust of Job. Amen.
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