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Monday, February 21, 2011

Job - A Man Who Trusts God No Matter What

Job – A Man Who Trusts God No Matter What Happens

The first few verses in the book of Job tell us something about the man, Job. “In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright, he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.” (Job 1:1-3)

Scholars believe that Job lived sometime between 1,000-2,000 B.C. And Job was a Gentile, a non-Israelite sage, believed to be a descendant of Nahor, Abraham’s brother. The land of Uz where he lived was a territory east of the Jordan River, or where Syria is today. Job was a wealthy man living a semi-nomadic life.

The book of Job deals with the subject of the justice of God in light of human suffering- especially the suffering of the innocent. In other words, why do bad things happen to good people? Or, where is God when it hurts?

Since the ancient Israelites studied the Scriptures, they believed that God is Almighty and has the power to do anything He wants. They also professed that God is just, fair, good and righteous. Along with these basics they had learned from Scripture that no human is totally innocent. Job also knew these Biblical truths. Since these three beliefs were and are fundamental doctrine, it was and is an easy step to jump to the conclusion that a just and loving God who is all powerful would not allow an innocent person to suffer. Obviously if terrible suffering does come upon a person, it must mean that that person has done something sinful to deserve the punishment. It does seem a bit logical and don’t we humans sometimes try to use our simple logic to try to second guess God?

Job is on stage of life and in his life’s drama, tragedies and sorrows are reigning down on him. Things are out of control and he doesn’t know why. But in the first two chapters of Job, the reader is given a peek behind the stage curtain. We are allowed to look beyond the earthly scene into another dimension to see some of the pieces to the puzzle that poor Job was not allowed to see. Job 1:6 and 8 read: “One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them.”

Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job?’ There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

Satan, the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10) replied, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” (Job 1: 9-11)

Satan laughs at God for delighting in Job’s faith and upright lifestyle. Job doesn’t love God because of who God is! Job obeys God because it pays! His godliness is self-serving! If God will take away the goodies, Job will curse Him to His face!

“The Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.’ Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.” (Job 1:12)

One day shortly after this occurrence in the heavens a messenger comes to Job and tells him that all of his oxen and donkeys have been carried away by the Sabeans and all of his servants who were tending them have been put to the sword. While this man is still speaking another messenger comes and tells Job that fire fell from the sky and has burned up all of his sheep and his servants with them. Before he has finished speaking another messenger comes and tells Job that the Chaldeans have swept down on all his camels and carried them off and put all of his servants to the sword. And while this man is still speaking, another messenger comes and tells Job that while his seven sons and three daughters were having dinner together at the oldest brothers’ house; a fierce wind swept in across the desert. The wind strikes the house, causing it to collapse on top of his children, leaving them all dead .

Job gets up and tears his robe and shaves his head. He falls to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:20b) Job has lost all of his children and all of his wealth but he has not lost his faith in God.

The second chapter of Job records another scene in the heavens where we are given information that Job never got. “On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them…” (Job 2:1) “Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.’” (Job 2:3) “Satan replied: ‘Skin for skin! A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.’” (Job 2:4-5)

Satan continues his crafty efforts of accusing Job of serving God because God has given him good health. Take that away and his faith will crumble, Satan insists. If God will allow Satan to inflict Job with terrible pain and thus break the link between his faith and God’s blessings of health, then Job’s faith in God will finally come apart.

“The Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well, then he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.’ So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.” (Job 2: 6-7) Job has now lost his children, his wealth, his comfort and his health. He stumbles around desperate and sick and in terrible pain and finally sits down in a heap of ashes. He finds a piece of broken pottery and while he is scraping his oozing sores with it, his wife comes to him and tells him to “Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9b)

Job is at his lowest point now. Three of his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar hear about his tragedies and troubles and decided to go together to comfort him. “When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him. They began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him because they saw how great his suffering was.” (Job 2:12-13) Can you imagine sitting for a whole week and not saying a word? Sometimes when we visit a sick or grieving friend, our presence there with them can mean more than our words.

Unfortunately after a week Jobs’ friends began to speak to him. They all sit around the suffering Job and try to answer the question of why he is suffering. Eliphaz starts out by stating that Job suffers because he has sinned. Bildad agrees with Eliphaz that Job’s troubles have come because he isn’t pure and upright. He says: “If you were pure and upright, surely He would awake for you.” (Job 8:6) Zophar agrees and accuses Job of talking and presuming too much. “Know therefore that God exacts from you less than your iniquity deserves” he concludes. (Job 11:6)

All three men agree that Job must have done something really bad to deserve all of his suffering! They argue that God favors good people by giving them health and wealth. And they assure Job that God shows His disfavor on sinful people by allowing trouble and suffering. They don’t take into account that God’s blessings or punishments might extend past this present life. Job’s proud friends have God and His ways all neatly figured out.

Job lashes back at his friends, fussing at them for making him more miserable in his time of need instead of comforting him. He insists that he is a good man and he hasn’t done anything wrong. Even though he doesn’t know why he is suffering so, he still trusts God. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Job professes. (Job 13:15) He will always trust God, no matter what happens! That’s just the way it is.

Job resents his friend’s judgments and he insists that both the godly and ungodly enjoy prosperity and both endure suffering. While he is still complaining bitterly about his sufferings, he curses the day that he was born! And by golly, he thinks that God owes him an explanation. Yes, that’s it, Job wants to question God! God needs to answer for His ways!

About this time a younger man named Elihu stops by and joins in on the conversation. Who does Job think he is to want to ask God for an explanation? A person has no right or authority to judge God or expect Him to explain His actions, Elihu believes. He wisely states that some things that God does can never be understood by us humans.

About this time God shows up! He shows up and speaks to Job out of a whirlwind! “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself as a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? Tell Me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!” (Job 38:2-5b) God goes on listing some of the things He has created: birds, animals, stars, etc. Does Job understand the many details that go into these creations or how God provides for the needs of His created ones? If Job can never begin to understand how God works in the physical world, how can he judge God’s actions in the moral and spiritual world?

God doesn’t attempt to tell Job why he is suffering. It was not for Job to know the reason why. Some things have to be taken on faith. But now Job didn’t want an answer any longer. It no longer mattered. Job answered God: “Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand. Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. …I have heard of you , but now my eyes see You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:3 and 5)

God speaks to Job’s friends and tells them that they had been wrong in their judgments of how God works. God turns and asks Job to pray for forgiveness for his friends. Job obeys and sacrifices a burnt offering and prays for his friends and God forgives them. Then God gives Job back twice the wealth that he had had before. He is given fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand oxen and a thousand donkeys. And in the latter part of his life, Job has ten more children – seven sons and three daughters. The book of Job ends with Job living to a ripe old age and dying after a full life.

What can we learn from the book of Job? First we learn that Job’s faith was of supreme value to God. God greatly treasured him and spoke proudly about Jobs’ faith in the heavens. Jobs’ reactions during his suffering would settle the outcome of a struggle in the heavens between God and Satan! A divine purpose was in the balance! Can it be that perhaps there is a divine purpose in the balance when we suffer and go through trials? Could God also speak proudly about our faith in the heavens?

We learn from reading the book of Job that God doesn’t give Job an answer for why he suffered, and God may not give us an answer for why we suffer either. Can we trust God when we are put to the test and don’t know why? Can we keep trusting God when our prayers never seem to be answered the way we think they should? Job’s faith meant so much to God. His life gave God such joy?

Let’s follow Job’s example and trust God the way Job trusted Him. Let’s love God –just because God is who He is – and not for any other reason. Let’s give God a reason to treasure our faithfulness. Let’s be like Job and trust God no matter what.

1 comment:

  1. Job Trusts God and loved God but Job the man is being beaten. Can he not ask God why me?