Day 37: Job 1-24 A Pentecostal Experience

Derek Ouellette —  February 23, 2011

Back in the days when I attended a Pentecostal bible college a great deal of pressure was placed upon the students to speak in tongues. I remember taking a full class on the Holy Spirit in which the teacher had made the audacious claim that by the end of the block every student will be speaking in tongues. I remember being the only student who did not receive the experience by the end of the block.

Feeling somewhat baffled and ashamed (in my naïve state) I turned to the godly men living in the dorms and shared with them my desire to “receive the Holy Spirit” (the signs of which were glossolia or “tongues”). We gathered together – about twenty of us – and began to pray. It was loud. People took turns placing their hands on me, most of them shaking. Most were speaking in tongues themselves. One in particular kept grabbing my stomach and shaking his hand assuring me that it’s in there, I just needed to speak in faith so that it can come out (yes, tongues apparently come out of the stomach). When that didn’t work he instructed me to confess my sins, to repent vocally of all the offences I had committed against God.

I repented of “lust”; I repented of “pride”, I repented of “bitterness”, I repented of… fill in the blank. I basically went through all the sins Paul lists and just to be sure, I repented of any sins Paul didn’t list.

Nothing happened.

This went on for three hours. Three full and exhausting hours. Everyone was sweating, leaning against chairs and walls and couches and breathing heavily as if they had just run a marathon. Finally a leading third year student spoke up. He accused me publically of having some “secret sin” which I was unwilling to repent of. It is the only possible reason why God would not grant me the experience of speaking in tongues (i.e. receive Spirit Baptism).

What was I to say to that? What came out of my mouth even shocked me: “I have just repented of every sin in my life, known and unknown. Right now, at this moment, I stand perfect in the eyes of God!”

The suggestion seemed blasphemous. Murmurs began right away. People were indignant.[1]

As I engaged the Book of Job I began to reminisce of my own experience. Job was a pious man. By all accounts – especially his own, but more importantly by the heavenly account (Job 1:8) – Job is depicted as being blameless and upright. After tragedy befalls him, however, his friends are in constant accusation mode.

There are certain assumptions which these men verbalized (covenantal assumptions – rightly so) which led them to conclude that God treats the wicked bad and the righteous good (by material and physical standards). With these assumptions they logically concluded (over and over and over again) that Job must have sinned somewhere along the way, and make many suggestions as to what those sins might have been

By contrast, Job continually defended his belief that he had done nothing to call God’s wrath upon himself. But Job’s worldview was clashing at just this point with what he knew to be true. As a result Job was convinced that if only he could plead his case before God, that the Lord Judge would be convinced by Job’s case of being “righteous” and “blameless” and would stop judging him as if he were wicked (See. Job 18).

But Jobs friends were more theologically astute then he. They saw in this ostentatious claim that Job was assuming that he was wiser then God. Does God need to be corrected by Job? “Can a mortal be more righteous than God?” asks Eliphaz (Job 4:17). Yet Job still demands, “Show me where I have been wrong” (Job 6:24). Bildad replies, “Surely God does not reject a blameless man” (Job 8:20). So Job must conclude two things: “Although I am blameless… He destroys both the blameless and the wicked” (Job 9:21-22). God is arbitrary.

Jobs beliefs contrast with that of his friends in one striking way: Job sees all things as coming from the hand of God (arbitrarily) while his friends conclude that God is innocent and only punishes the wicked or disciplines his children.

Job is insistent and argumentative to the point of Pauline Pharisaical zeal (when he was Saul the persecutor). “Come on, all of you, try again!” He arrogantly challenges his interlockers (Job 16:10). But where does this lead Job? Directly into the meaninglessness of Ecclesiastes (cf. Job 21 w/ Ecclesiastes 9)

Stopping midway through a dialogue makes it difficult to ascertain the full conversation, who’s right or who’s wrong (they are all probably a little right and a little wrong throughout the debate), but one thing I have noticed in particular is how, generally unlike Job, Job’s friends appeal to the Covenantal stipulations of Deuteronomy 27-30 as for example, Zophar in Job 11:13-15 or Eliphaz in Job 22:21-23 cf. 2 Chronicles 7:14.

Could there by a struggle in the mind of the writer to understand the cause of Israel’s exile and restoration here? How is it that it is Job’s friends – and not Job – who more accurately reflects Israel’s covenant charter then Job himself who is depicted as the righteous victim?

[1] Ironically, that third year student who believed that the reason I was not given the Holy Spirit to speak in tongues was because I harboured a secret sin, he would later be caught on the Bible College library computers after hours looking up porn. And he did speak in tongues. That’s gotta make you wonder…

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • Josh

    Really solid post Derek!

  • Crystal

    I had to laugh at this (and groan). I came to faith in a Pentecostal setting and struggled for a few years with the idea that I was somehow spiritually inferior or unfavored of God because I just couldn’t stomach the idea of opening my mouth, making unintelligible sounds, and choosing to have faith that it was actually God speaking through me.

    I can go nine tenths of the way with Pentecostals and their understanding of “Lukan Pneumatology”, but the conclusion of “Initial Physical evidence” as some sort of inevitable badge of having received the “fullness of the Spirit” is where I have to jump off the train.

    I think your connection with Job and misguided theological arrongance is very apt.

    As far as your overall take on Job, I don’t find the evidence for a Babylonian exile date at all convincing. But what do I know?…I’m still naive enough to be a dispensationalist! :)

    • Derek Ouellette

      Hey Crystal, no offense intended with my previous remarks regarding dispensationalism – I suppose I’m a little agitated because of my experience in it growing up. :(

      As far as my “overall take on Job”… while I do accept the view that it was documented post-exile, I’m only toying with what (if any) impact that context might have on the books overall purpose. I don’t see anything at a “loss” in this discussion, but I wonder if there might be hidden gems to be found. :)
      p.s. probably not, but why not play along :)

  • Crystal

    No worries, Derek. I don’t think your comments about dispensationalism were particularly offensive. I was actually just poking fun at the attitude of greater evangelicalism toward dispensationalists. I know we’re kind of viewed as the simple hillbillies of the theology world, with our massive ‘Left Behind’ collections always close by so we can make sure and grab ’em real quick should we be raptured at any second.:)

    There may well be gems to be found in this approach to Job. In any case, I appreciate (as Josh said) your very solid posts. Thoughtful, well written, and engaging.

    My take on why Job is depicted as the righteous victim is that it doesn’t have to do with the dialog with his friends, but with what God saw in him in the first place. If you want my opinion…

    • Derek Ouellette

      Good stuff Crystal. I love your insights (I especially enjoyed your Peter and Job connection).

      I also appreciated your reflections on “The Psalms vs. Systematic Theology” (I shared it on facebook).

      As I gear up to go through the Psalms via my 90 day (or whatever) challenge, it was a good warmup post. =)

  • Crystal

    Thanks Derek. And happy belated birthday…I hope it was grand!