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The Darkness of Counsel

The Darkness of Counsel

By David G. Duggan
Special to Virtueonline
October 29, 2021

"Who is this that darkens counsel without knowledge?" (Job 38:2)

So asks God of a remonstrant Job covered in boils, sitting in ashes, bereft of his family and earthly possessions. Job had earned this fate because God had decided to test him, an upright man, challenged to do so by the Prince of Darkness to see if a good man stripped of health, wealth and lineage would curse God. Three friends urge him to do so.

Written more like a Greek play than like a Hebrew narrative, Job presents God as insouciant, distant, even haughty. More than 20 centuries after Job's travails, Jonathan Edwards wrote a sermon, "Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God," likening our condition to a man holding a "loathsome insect" over a flame. With no internal heat, the insect would of course be drawn to the flame perhaps as we are to sin, but our holding the insect's wings above the heat with God's power of life and death over us shows how tenuous is our grip over our own destiny. Both the insect and we have been created by God, but only we have the power to defy His commandments. "Though he slay me," Job says, "yet will I trust in Him." (Job 13:15) At some point God slays us all.

Later, Job laments as all of us do (Job 30-31): why do I have this job, this wife, this child, this life? What did I do to deserve this? How close am I to the flame and how do I escape this fate? Sin seldom comes into this conversation, and repentance even less often.

"Where were you," God continues, "when I laid the foundations of the earth? If you know, declare it." Nobody can answer this; even if God had known us in our mother's womb (Psalm 139:13-16), our lineage doesn't stretch back to the first days of the creation.

Job doesn't bluff his way out of this inquiry. He acknowledges God's power, and even congratulates himself for not giving answers to God's unanswerable questions by claiming knowledge he did not have. God rewarded Job by doubling his possessions, recreating his family, and giving him a lifespan double that expected. Can we rely on this promise? Or do we continue on the path to the flame?


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