I’ve had my first Blog request! This from a friend of mine today:
Do you take requests? Blog topic: The Book of Job. I was listening to NPR today and they were talking about people’s search for meaning across time and circumstance in this old testament book. It got me to thinking what YOU would say about it. This is a hard one — very difficult to find a hopeful message in this story about a righteous man enduring so much suffering. I’d be interested to know what you think, and what uplifting nuggets (if any) can be found here. Do we look at it through the prism of the Job as a stand-alone old testament book only, or in tandem with the New Testament, God’s promise through Jesus’s sacrifice?
My response was that Job is one of my favorite books! Here’s why: First, I’ve suffered some in my life and can relate to Job and his struggle trying to understand it. Second, I figured it out – I figured out the God part of the Book of Job that makes the entire story work for us down here!
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Book of Job here’s the thumbnail sketch: Job (pronounced Jobe) is a righteous man in whom God delights. The Devil comes up to God and says that the only reason Job is righteous is because of all the blessings God gives him. If God were to take away those blessings Job would curse God. So God tells Satan do as you will with Job’s blessings but do not touch the man.
Satan goes out and takes Job’s children (kills them via a storm), and his wealth (bandits steal all his herds). Job is shaken but praises God. Then Satan tells God that the only reason Job didn’t curse Him is because he was not personally afflicted. Again God allows Satan to afflict Job but not to kill him. Job ends up with terrible sores/boils and is in excruciating pain. “Friends” come and explain that Job must have sinned and is being punished, but Job stands his ground that he did not sin. Job’s wife tells him to curse God and die. Job will not curse God. Now Job’s unhappy with God and wants to talk with Him face to face about how unfair this all is – being afflicted for no good reason. But in the end, God restores Job completely for his obedience and faith…and Satan loses.
So does God just play games with us as if we’re chess board pieces? Does He rejoice in our suffering simply to make a point? Not at all! Here’s my take on the Job story.
First many are surprised to see Satan in heaven after being kicked out for his own rebellion against God. Yet the story shows Satan before God accusing Job. This is important because it teaches us that Satan stands before God accusing all of us of being unrighteous. As Christians we are blessed that Jesus intercedes and defends us as His own. But Satan accusing us before God happens every day! “Look, God, Tom sinned again. He must not love you enough or have faith enough in you not to sin.”
But the most telling part of the story is the beginning. It is God that brings attention to Job. God tells Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blamessless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. “
Do you see what just happened? God picked his champion! Job will represent God in the arena of spiritual warfare against Satan!
I LOVE this! I just love the fact that God trusted His servant enough to stand him up against Satan. God basically said, “Take your best shot, but my money’s on my guy.”
Now follow me here – Every day God chooses you as His champion, too. He says to Satan, “Have you considered my servant (insert your name). He/she is blameless in my sight.” Satan then trash talks us and tells God that the only reason we follow Him is because of our blessings, whether those blessings be family, materials wealth, health, or something else. Then God says, “Go for it, Satan, but (fill in your name) will stay true to me.”
How cool is that?! God chooses me to defend the faith!!
But am I up to the task? In my own power, absolutely not! But I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I can do all things through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I can do all things because Christ died for my sins and sits at the right hand of the Father and intercedes for me.
Job never cursed God but he did question Him. The end of the story is pretty funny. Job basically starts questioning God’s authority to do this to him. God’s response? “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” and “Have you ever given order to the morning, or shown dawn its place?” God goes on showing Job in no uncertain terms the difference between the creator and the created being. Job, of course, sees the error of questioning God and submits himself appropriately.
Now, let’s dig just a little deeper into the question – what is the meaning of life and pain and suffering. First the hard part: Nothing touches you that has not first passed through the Father’s hands which He then allows. Even Satan couldn’t touch Job without God allowing it. God is omnipotent – all powerful – but his ways are not our ways. We cannot understand why He allows what He allows in some instances, but we can know that God brings good from all things for the people who love Him.
Some of it is easier to understand than others. Cancer, birth defects, Parkinson ’s disease, and all the other maladies of life come from the fact we are fallen and have fallen bodies. God’s original plan was for us to be completely disease free, but when creation fell so did our perfect bodies, thus we get everything from the common cold to cancer. Not God’s fault – we chose this when we chose sin.
Natural disasters – floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, and the rest – fall into this same category. When creation fell it included nature. Instead of having a perfect world we have one that rages and people die due to the consequences of those events.
Then there are man-made crises – murder, rape, child abuse, pedophilia, domestic violence, and all the rest. That too is our fault. In our sin nature we act against the rules of God that are clearly outlined in scripture and we transgress against each other. Why doesn’t God stop it? Because he would have to take our free will from us to do so, which would then undercut the entire foundation of our relationship with Him. No, man gets free will to choose God or choose against God and the consequences that come with both.
Lastly we return to spiritual warfare – Satan attacking you. Yes it happens! And yes God allows it. Rejoice in this! You are God’s champion and He will never give you more than you can handle. Here’s another secret – the fight’s rigged! Satan’s already lost. All you have to do is stay faithful and God will see you through!
I hope that give some food for thought to the original question. Why are we here? To be in relationship with God and relationship with each other for God’s good purpose. (Love your God with all your heart and all your soul, and love your neighbor as yourself.)
If you’re still struggling with this, that’s okay – remember that God’s ways are not our ways and He really doesn’t owe us an answer. If you’re still curious you’ll get a chance to ask Him when you see Him face to face!! In the meantime, I pray God’s blessings on you all, as well as courage and faith for you the next time God chooses you as His champion!