Lessons from Job: The Bet.

September 22, 2009

(Ch 1:6-12, Ch 2:1-7)

Nake Came I...

Nake Came I...

“Naked I came from the womb, naked I shall return whence I came. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” The Book of Job 1:21

Many Christians I talk to get offended when I use the term “bet” to refer to the challenge between God, the Lord, and Satan, the Adversary, but that is precisely what it is. Think about two boys on the playground. One kid starts bragging about how strong his dad is, and the other naturally has to challenge him and state, “I bet my dad can beat up your dad.” It is a challenge, but it is also a bet. A wager to see whose dad is more powerful. If their fathers were actually to fight, the kid whose dad won would also win bragging rights as a result of the bet. This is similar to what happened to Job, except there were cosmic beings wagering over his life! Job was innocently minding his righteous business and unexpectantly living his life while a challenge was being made that would alter that life forever. Many people are offended that God would play with a man’s destiny so lightly, let alone, someone who was considered to be the most righteous man on the earth. But what I find really scandalous is that God is the one who brought Job up! Look closely at the text. God, on his throne, has called all the angels to present themselves at court; apparently, even though Satan is fallen he is still expected to report to God all his activities. When God asks him where he has been, Satan doesn’t give too many details: “Um, just roaming around the Earth, you know, doin’ what I do.” God could have left it at that, or maybe even asked him to get more specific, but his next statement goes something like this: “Hey man, have you checked out my boy, Job, that cat is amazing, out of all my servants, he is the one who follows my laws the best!” Think about this. God pointed Job out to Satan. Perhaps I’m stretching here, but it is almost like God initiates the challenge. How would you respond if you were Satan, God’s Adversary? “Yeah, well, the only reason your boy is so good is because you take such good care of him. I’ll bet if you took all his riches away, he’d curse you in a second!” How does God respond? “You’re on! Do whatever you want to him, just don’t harm his body.” By the next paragraph, Job has lost everything in a matter of hours; blow after blow, his servants report to him one after the other how some crazy disaster has taken all his livelihood away, and finally he learns his kids are all dead! However, he does not curse God, in fact, he blesses him, and rationalizes that God provided all his riches in the first place, so he had the right to take them away.

End of story, right? God and Satan had a bet; Satan obviously lost; God can get back to blessing Job. But wait. That’s just the first chapter; there are forty-one additional chapters to get through, what could possibly be in those? Turns out, in the second chapter we have the exact same scenario going on. God is having another one of his angel line-ups; Satan shows up, and God apparently can’t resist bragging about his servant Job. “Yo, Satan, what have you got to say about my boy, Job? You bet he’d curse me, and he didn’t!” Once again, God initiates the challenge. Satan ups the ante: “Come on! You were too easy on him. You know how humans are, make that boy feel a little physical pain, and he’ll give in. He’ll curse you! You’ll see!” God could even have left it at that and told Satan to go suck on his loser wounds; instead, he takes the bet again! “Alright, do whatever you want to, just don’t kill him.”

Why would a loving and righteous God allow such a good man to experience so much suffering? We can never fully understand that question; because, as we learn later, we can never really comprehend the mind of God, but I believe that God does offer some revelation as we move further and deeper into the text, and a closer reading gives us a little bit of insight. The first time I read Job, I was still in my searching for truth stage. I finished the book, and I literally thought, “Wow, God’s kind of a &!(% in this story.” But I didn’t really understand it. Another explanation to why God brings up Job so frequently is that he is just a loving father bragging about his child’s accomplishments. Sometimes you just can’t keep your mouth shut. I am a divorced dad, and I know I have driven away potential women because in our conversations I would often direct the topic back to my kids. She might mention something she did or thought, and I would immediately respond with “Wow, that reminds me of the time my kids ________________.” When their kids are doing right, parents just love to tell the world about it. I don’t think God is any different. But God is omnipotent, right? He had to know where that conversation with Satan would lead, so why bring him up? I think once again, God is just being a loving father to his son. How is that loving? Well, fathers discipline and train their sons. But Job was the most righteous man on earth, what kind of discipline or training could he possible need? Many people interpret The Book of Job with a theory that Job’s sufferings are symbolic of Jesus Christ’s suffering on the cross. I don’t agree. The evidence of Jesus is all over The Book of Job, as we’ll discuss in a later post, but, in my opinion, Job is not a symbolic Christ figure. He’s simply not good enough. We’ll also discuss these details in a later post, but a close reading of Job reveals that even though he did everything he was supposed to do according to God’s law, he may have had a sin he was blind to, something many religious people fall victim to: pride and self-righteousness, and while he was God’s best servant, there is evidence in the text that shows he seemed to lack what is ultimately most important to God: relationship with him. God was giving Job the push he needed for self discovery and for a greater revelation of who God is. He wanted a deeper relationship with his best man.

Couldn’t God have done it in a simpler and gentler way? I don’t know; as The Book of Job teaches us, we can’t comprehend the mind of God, but I also believe there are more reasons why God had to take Satan’s challenge and wager with Job’s life. A bet simply wouldn’t be a bet unless both parties had something to lose. What could the God of the universe have to lose? Well, if Job failed to remain faithful, God would lose his best man, but I believe it goes deeper than that. Job, we’ve established, was the most righteous, in other words, he was the highest example of human integrity on the earth. Job spent much of his time, we later read, doing good in the name of God: helping and encouraging people in need, counseling them to do good and have faith in God’s provision; if Job comes on hard times, no matter how bad, and he gives up and curses God, he’d be seen as a hypocrite. Since Job’s life, in a sense, represented God’s actions on Earth, God’s perceived integrity depends on Job’s actions (something that all you Christians, myself included, should think about very seriously). And if Job, the best, fails, what does that say about the rest of us; how do we have a chance? But the real question here is “Why does Job serve God?” Is it, as Satan accuses, because Daddy’s got the wallet open, or is it because Job loves and honors his Creator, and he is willing to do anything for him? If God’s best man gives up on him as soon as something goes wrong, what does that have to say about his service? It would imply that Job only served God because he was afraid of him; afraid that he would take away his livestock; afraid he would take away his family; afraid he would take all his toys away, so let’s just kiss the Almighty’s butt, give him what he wants, so everything can work the way it is supposed to, so I can move on with my life. It is very much the philosophy of many pagan religions who made strange sacrifices to appease their unpredictable nature gods. Job’s failure would imply that God was not to be worshiped simply for who he is as a personal higher being, but only for what he can give. It is equivalent to the gold digger who “loves” her man when he’s rich and handing out gifts, but if he runs out of money, she’s out. She never loved him for who he was, only for what he had. It would actually make God look like he was lonely and desperate for all humanity’s affections, and he had to bribe people to worship him in order to satisfy his ego.

Now, I believe that God deeply loves all of humanity. He is our Creator, and our Father, but don’t think for a moment that he needs us. The Bible makes it clear in many places that while God is a god of relationship, he is set apart by holiness, and he stands on his own in eternity. I question God every day why he hasn’t struck me with a lightning bolt; I screw up so much, but it is his mercy, and his love for me that holds back his hand, and in fact, that love prompts him to continue to bless me despite my imperfections and constant abuse of our relationship. I have nothing to offer God but my broken love and my time. Because I have learned to love him back, I do my best to please him, and that means going about trying to do good, and trying not to do evil, but God doesn’t need me; he wants me. God wants a relationship with those of us created in his image so much that he is willing to work with us, and through us, to reveal his glory to the Earth. If you are a person of faith, do you worship because you want to know God and be known by him, or do you worship to get “blessed” and carry your “Get Out of Hell Free Card”? This is Satan, our Accuser’s, challenge to God. God wanted to prove, for our sake, that he is worthy to be loved for who he is; the I Am.

  • All scripture references are from The Oxford Study Bible: Revised English Bible with the Apocrypha.

 Peter L Richardson

 

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6 Responses to “Lessons from Job: The Bet.”

  1. chestera Says:

    One thing the Bible NEVER says is: God will make you happy. God meets our needs, if we line our free will up with His will, but He never promises us happiness. Weird, huh? So many people are waiting for God to make them happy……

  2. peterrock12 Says:

    Yeah, he does promise joy, though, but I think that joy is different than happiness. Happiness is temporal feelings based on circumstance, while joy is a state of mind that grows out of learning to trust God in our needs and finding the peace that comes with trusting in him. Once we find peace, we develop thankfulness, and a heart full of thankfulness is a heart full of joy! I think of Paul choosing to worship in joy after he’s been beaten and thrown into prison. He knew his suffering had a purpose…

  3. kathiek Says:

    Hey, Pete!
    I am really enjoying your posts on Job…I hope you write more on this subject. Thanks for sharing!

  4. peterrock12 Says:

    Thanks, Kathy! There’s plenty more to come.

  5. Steph Says:

    Hey Pete. I hope you have more on Job! I never understood that book!


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