The book of Job, ancient Hebrew literature, little read today, is arguably the oldest and best written of the Old Testament lexicon. It portrays God as the original iconoclast.
The word iconoclast is not a word regularly used in today’s conversation. It is German. Icon means image. Clast means “to come against.” So an iconoclast is one who destroys graven images, traditions, fixed theology and the like.
Read Job and watch it happen as God the Lord relates to the man Job.
Now Job was a God-fearing man who tried to live his creed. He believed he well understood the Almighty. In fact, he had reduced God to a formula. “If A plus B equals C.” Translated to “If I live right, then God the righteous one will bless me, will prosper me.”
If it all sounds like TV evangelist prosperity theology, that is because it was an early version.
And Job considered his life was living proof the formula worked. His respect for God’s ways, his do-right life, had earned him peer respect, a good marriage, children, nice possessions, and vibrant health.
Ah, but that was all about to change. For, as the Book of Job tells us, Satan came into God’s presence, petulant and proud, looking to make trouble.
“Have you considered my man Job? There is none like him who fears God and does what is right,” God said to Satan.
“Tit for tat,” Satan sneered. “Job only serves you because you’ve set a hedge of protection about him, with material wealth. Only take away his stuff and Job will curse you to your face.”
So in God’s permissive will, God allowed Satan to cause Job to suffer. This righteous man lost his money, his children, his respect, and finally, his own health.
Yet he worshipped God. “Though He slay me, yet will I praise Him,” Job wept.
Enter Job’s friends. “Who righteous ever suffered so?” Thus they accused Job of not keeping the formula.
Well there’s much repartee between Job and his theological friends. Job impatiently rails against them, calls them “miserable comforters.”
Finally, God intervenes. He asks of the friends, “Who is this who darkens counsel purporting to speak a word from Me?” Not something any Bible teacher wants to hear from God.
Next God Himself interviews the man Job. And Job face to face with God the Lord is left humbled, seized with wonder and awe, and whispering penitently, “I have uttered things too wonderful for me.” He comes to know the Lord, not as a formula he espouses, but as a love he adores.
And the book ends in mystery, not a formula. “Lo, these are the outskirts of His ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him. But the thunder of His power who can understand?”
Thus Job’s cocksure, formulaic knowledge of God is destroyed like a cartoonish icon to be replaced with a more open-ended, mysterious knowledge of God, the Ancient of Days.
This is typical in the core of biblical Old Testament wisdom literature that includes Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, and the Psalms.
Proverbs is freshman literature, formulaic, if A plus B, then C must follow.
Job’s iconoclastic thought destroys this generally true but simplistic view. A plus B doesn’t always add up to C. I call Job sophomore literature for the believer.
Ecclesiastes is junior literature for the growing disciple. It points out that A plus B doesn’t often equal C. But A, B, and C matter.
Senior literature is found in the Psalms. It teaches “Praise the God of C and A and B!”
And so the Bible teaches and such is life. And our relationship with God is no graven image reduced to an equation. It is rather a mystery, a divine love affair weighted in ever expanding wonder and awe. And lived by faith.