Lessons From Job: The Man, the Myth, the Legend.

October 20, 2009

Part I: Job’s Integrity

Naked Came I...     PLR '99

Naked Came I... PLR '99

“Have I the strength to go on waiting? What end have I to expect, that I should be patient? Is my strength the strength of stone, or is my flesh made of bronze?” The Book of Job 6:11-12

Have you ever had one of those days when your alarm somehow didn’t go off, so you wake up already running late for work? The kids won’t get up and one of them claims to be sick, but in your stress and annoyance you don’t believe him, and as you are shuffling them out to the bus stop after shoving a Pop Tart down each of their throats, the kid pukes all over you. So, you send him back to bed, call around for someone to come over and baby sit, change your clothes, clean up the carpet, call the boss and admit you are going to be late, listen to his lecture, and when your mother finally gets there, the car won’t start. What two little words does every human being state at a time like this? Why me?!? Who are we really asking this question to? Even atheists ask it. What do we really mean? When you think about it, it is a completely self-righteous and arrogant question to ask. Do we really believe that out of all the negative action and energy in the earth, out of all the random acts of chaos that still occur throughout the universe, that we should somehow be exempt from problems? Do we really believe that we have done nothing so grievous that we should have a free pass from trouble? (The true irony is that everyone asks that question to some invisible force who we try to hold accountable when things go wrong, but how many of us say thank you when things go well? Just something to think about). Job never actually puts these two words together in all of his eloquent poetry, but they are certainly the running theme throughout everything he says. While most of us don’t have the right to utter such words, if anyone in the world could ask “Why me?” with confidence, it was Job. We know why Job was experiencing such trouble; we know about the wager between the Lord and Satan, but Job didn’t. If Job’s actions had anything to do with his trials, it was that he was too good, and he made himself a target for Satan. When his world fell apart, Job really couldn’t fathom why God would allow such a thing. It is clear from the text that Job really was the best man of his time, but as mentioned in an earlier post, a closer reading of the text reveals that God may have had something more in mind than winning a bet when he allowed Satan to attack Job. Job was the most righteous man alive, but he was not perfect, and he may have still been lacking what is most important to God, an intimate relationship.

However, let’s first take a look at Job’s integrity. When he lost everything, including his children, Job states the famous lines: “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,” and the text goes on to say, “Throughout all this Job did not sin, nor did he ascribe any fault to God.” The Book of Job 1:21-22. Next, after Job became “afflicted with running sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head, and Job took a piece of a broken pot to scratch himself as he sat among the ashes,” his wife said to him, “Why do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God, and die!” The Book of Job 2:7-9. Not a very nice thing for a spouse to say! But we should put ourselves in her shoes, she did, after all, lose everything that Job lost, including her children, and now she couldn’t even touch her man. She must have been a good woman for Job to choose her, but she was simply not as righteous as her husband. She was broken, and she couldn’t take anymore. Job responds to her with, “You talk as any impious woman might talk. If we accept good from God, shall we not accept evil?” and the text goes on to say, “Throughout all this, Job did not utter one sinful word.” The Book of Job 2:10.

It wasn’t until his friends showed up that Job’s speech became increasingly aggravated and in his frustration Job has some pretty shocking things to say towards God. The text makes it clear that Job did not cross any lines, he remained faithful to God and he kept his integrity, but he sure did walk right up to the line at times.* For the most part, however, despite struggling with depression, Job’s strong faith and patience shines through. Chapter 13 is a good example of Job’s typical attitude during his suffering. In verses 1-12, Job is once again imploring to his friends to believe that he does not deserve the kind trouble he is experiencing as a punishment for something he did. At this point, I would have been worn out. Even if I was as sure as Job was in my innocence, I would have given in and agreed with my friends just to get them to shut up and leave me alone. “Yeah, yeah, you know, I think there was that one time that…. and of course, I always wanted to… so, now that we have that straight, I’ll see you guys off, and I’ll take care of repenting on my own, thank you very much!” Job consistently resists their accusations of sin; if he were to give in to them, he would be lying, and Job has too much integrity to lie. He is so confident in his innocence, he even gives his friends a warning: “Must you take God’s part, putting his case for him? Will all go well when he examines you? Can you deceive him as you could a human being? He will most surely expose you if you take his part by accusing me.” The Book of Job 13:8-10. We all know how that turned out for his friends. The next section of this speech, verses 13-19, really reveals Job’s integrity despite the conflict he is experiencing. He is unaware that Satan is behind what is happening, and Job has already testified to God’s sovereignty over the universe, so according to his limited perception, he believes his God to be his tormentor, “Why do I expose myself to danger and take my life in my hands? If he wishes to slay me, I have nothing to lose; I shall still defend my conduct to his face.” But in the same breath, he believes that his God will be his deliverer! “This at least assures my deliverance: that no godless person may appear before him…Be sure of this: once I have stated my case I know that I shall be acquitted.” The Book of Job 13:14-18. Many of us stub our toes and curse God for it; after losing everything, Job still believes his God is just and will come through for him in the end. In the last section of the chapter, verses 20-28, Job asks God for an audience so he can find out why God is so mad at him. It is important to note that Job does not claim to be without sin, but he has done everything he can think of to do right in the situation, and he is still coming up short. He assumes he must be missing something, and he wants to speak to God so he can fix the problem and move on with his life. He asks, “How many crimes and sins are laid to my charge? Let me know my offense and my sin. Why do you hide your face and treat me as your enemy?” The Book of Job 13:23-24. Though at this point, Job blames God for his problems, he does not curse him; he does not give up on his faith, and he still even has hope for salvation from God.

At the end of what must have seemed like to a sick man an endless debate with his friends, Job presents a final summary of his defense with a list of all the good things he’s done in his life and all the bad things that he has avoided. It’s Chapter 31, and it’s worth the read. This guy did everything he could to guard himself from lust; he treated slaves as respectfully as he did his rich colleagues; not only was he generous with the poor and outcast, but he was willing to mingle with them and share his table with them. He always told the truth; he never worshiped idols; he was an honest businessman and was merciful and forgiving when someone owed him something. He never gossiped, and he always rejoiced over others’ successes. Let me just say that on my best days, when I’m at my most victorious over sin and temptation, and when I’m my most selfless and serving others with a joyful heart, Job puts me to shame. This guy really was righteous. He really did do everything he was supposed to do, and he really avoided doing any evil at all. The text states here and in other places, that if Job did slip up and sin in any way, he was quick to repent and to offer God the proper sacrifices. This gives Job the confidence to direct the end of his speeches to God: “Let the Almighty state his case against me! If my accuser had written out his indictment, I should not keep silence and remain indoors. No! I should flaunt it on my shoulder and wear it like a crown on my head; I should plead the whole record of my life and present that in court as my defense… Job’s speeches are finished.” The Book of Job 31:34-38, 40.

Job is pretty confident in his righteousness, but there is also evidence that he may have been a bit too confident, and as a result, he may have put too much faith in his works. He was, no doubt, God’s best man, but Job’s desire to be perfect before his Creator may have actually caused him to lack a strong and solid relationship with Him. In the next post we’ll take a detailed look at possible weaknesses Job may have possessed.

*Since God did not fault Job for this, I believe that God wants us to be open and honest with him when we are struggling with any negative emotions towards him. There is an attitude of honor and respect we should hold when we converse with the Lord; however, I have always thought that people who were obviously upset with their circumstances, but they were in denial out of some show of perceived righteousness, are foolish. God knows our thoughts; he knows how we are really feeling, and you might as well get it out there, so he can begin to heal you.
 
  • All scripture references are from The Oxford Study Bible: Revised English Bible with the Apocrypha

Peter L Richardson

 

 

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One Response to “Lessons From Job: The Man, the Myth, the Legend.”

  1. Steph Says:

    AWESOME! Pete you rock!


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