"Job, I want to get right to it today. I read (present tense) God's words to you in 38-39 as God's attempt to cow you into submission. His words, however, didn't really accomplish that aim. Your equivocal answer to God in 40:3-5 told God that you weren't about to knuckle under to him when he began questioning you about your ignorance regarding the wildly flapping wings of the ostrich (39:13) or your inability to make the hawk soar (39:26). So, you can't make the birds fly or the wild ass go free. So you can't make that same wild ass fall down at your feet and serve you. Does that mean that your complaint, your meticulously researched and articulated complaint, ought to be dropped? I think you were thinking along those lines, Job. God forced you to answer in 40:2, and you were not too pleased with God's pulling rank on you in this way. Am I right Job?
The reason I think I am right is that God doesn't shut up after 40:2 but continues the barrage in 40:6. He must have discerned something in you, Job, maybe some lack of sincerity in your words in 40:3-5, that made him say to himself that he really had to bury you. And, look at God's tone in 40:6ff. in comparison to the tone of 38 and 39. In 38 and 39 God seems only interested in exposing your ignorance. However, in 40 and 41 he seems intent on unmanning you, on devastating you once again. Doesn't God realize that you are in a rather fragile mental state, Job, and that further abuse heaped on you might have disastrous psychological consequences? You admit that your words have been rash or wild (6:2), probably because words said in pain are often not always thought out with the kind of precision as are words uttered while listening to Mozart. God ought to know that simply wiping you out might make his day but that it will certainly spoil yours.
Oh, I can just now hear the voices of people, whom I call the great defenders of God, rising up and saying, 'God can do whatever God wants. Job needed to be cut down to size. It is arrogant for the creature to argue with the creator. Blah, blah, blah.' I know people who would talk like that, Job. Got to be humble, right? Step out of line and the Man will come and slug you. Right? So, in my reading of 40 and 41, Job, I see God employing a different tactic. He not only wants to try to convince you of your smallness; he wants to rub your face in it, forcibly dipping you into the mire pit just as you had suspected (9:30-31).
As I was considering this two-step divine discipline theory, Job, I couldn't get a movie out of my mind. You recall the mid-1970s classic "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," don't you Job? Kind of made Jack Nicholson's name a household word. He is the guy who keeps himself before the public by berating NBA officials from his front-row seat at the Staples Center. But what I really want to say about that movie, a movie I really liked, is that the way the hospital treated Jack is like the way God treated you, Job. The first time he acted out in a major way, they "disciplined" him gently. Jack gave the impression to the fellow patients upon his return that the hospital had lobotomized him. But it hadn't. Jack sprung up out of the chair and continued to devise mischief. He appeared to knuckle under the Rachet Regime at the hospital, but really did not. But then, after more mischief with the other residents, the hospital really did cut something vital out of his brain. He was rendered docile. But, of course, the cost of being rendered docile was the disappearance of his humanity.
That powerful picture is in my mind, Job, as I read God's second address to you in 40 and 41. I am wondering whether God acted like the state hospital in "One Flew Over." He tried to exert some gentle discipline on you in 38-39, but you wouldn't knuckle under. You tried to slither out of God's control. So, God decided he had to devastate you once and for all. He unleased his full fury on you, the effect of which not only was to render you submissive to him, but to make you a sort of babbling idiot that had lost most traces of his humanity.
Of course, this picture seems to go directly against the text of Job 42, which we will presently return to, but I don't know if it does. That is, I am willing to look at Job 42 again with the insight gained from this reading of God's two speeches in 38-41. All of this bears intimately on the question of whether your restoration was a psychological/spiritual one, Job, or merely a material one. It really is the question of life, I think, Job. Can a person be "restored" after great loss? As one person said to me, "you can get past it but not over it." Well, that is a kind of cute way of saying something, but I don't know what I believe now, Job.
In some ways, Job, you are such a sage and in other ways such a cipher. I just need to keep talking to you.