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

October 26, 2009

Part II: Job’s Weakness

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“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

We have talked a lot about how righteous Job was. He was so good, that many believe that he was an Old Testament symbol of the Messiah to come, as Jesus, who innocently suffered for the sins others. I don’t believe this to be the case. As good as Job was, he simply was not good enough. While Jesus expressed great sorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane, and even prayed “if possible let this cup pass me by” Matthew 26:39, Jesus never expressed doubt in God, the Father, and he knew exactly what the purpose and need for his suffering was; he freely accepted it and even embraced it after his prayer.

As I mentioned before, Job did not cross any lines, but, in my opinion, he did come close. Let us now take a look at some of the weaknesses Job may have had. First of all, even though Job is placing expectant hope on God as his savior during his suffering, there is evidence that deep down he lacked trust in God when he still had everything to lose. In his first speech when he breaks the silence with his friends, Job states, “Every terror that haunted me has caught up with me; what I dreaded has overtaken me.” The Book of Job 3:25. Perhaps Job was just a tad bit too attached to his riches. He uses the words, “haunted” and “dreaded” as if he spent significant time worrying that some day it was all going to come crumbling down, that maybe God would take everything away from him. Could it be that Job was unknowingly becoming more attached to his riches than he was to God? Weak argument, you say? Well, this is not the only evidence of weakness in Job.

Later on in Chapter 29, during Job’s final defense of his case, we hear from a man that could be considered just a tad bit self-righteous. Granted, he is defending his righteousness to his friends and to God, but his self description becomes more and more grandiose as the chapter moves on. He begins by contributing all of his blessing and prestige to God, but quickly moves into lamenting over the loss of the good ol’ days when he was on top of the world! He speaks of how everywhere he went, people would step aside to let him pass; they would cheer his name in the streets, “Here comes Job! Look, it’s Job; he’s the man; if he can‘t do it, no one can!” He may have been the world’s first celebrity! Job had the final word on everything in his town. When he spoke up, everyone else shut up. There was nothing more to say; Job’s word was all that was needed. He even describes himself with language that is used to describe God in other books of scripture: “I put on righteousness like a garment and it clothed me; justice, like a cloak and turban, adorned me. I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame; I was a father to the needy…” The Book of Job 29:14-16. Now, to be fair to Job, God uses scripture to describe his good character to us and then calls us to be like him and go about doing good. However, Job seems to be enjoying the benefits of his blessings a little too much and could be seen as sharing some of God’s glory with himself. It would be hard to live in the midst of all that adoration and not be affected a little bit. This chapter ends with Job‘s comments, “I thought, ‘I shall die with my powers unimpaired…with the bow always new in my grasp and the arrow ever ready to my hand.’” The Book of Job 29: 18,20 (italics mine).

In Chapter 30, Job explicitly describes his current state of affairs and we see how far he really has fallen. He truly has gone from the top of his society to the bottom. This is where we get a good, and pretty gross, description of how bad things got for Job, so it’s understandable how Job would get emotional here, and let his anger get the best of him. Job’s problem with God is not so much that he is suffering, but that God won’t tell him why. He has been constantly crying out his “Why me?” prayer, yet God has remained silent. He tells his friends that God will prove his innocence in the end, yet God remains silent. If there were ever time for Job to curse God, it would be now, but he does not cross that line. He might stand right on it, but he does not cross it. After vivid descriptions of his plight, Job shouts out: “I call out to you, God, but you do not answer, I stand up to plead, but you keep aloof. You have turned cruelly against me; with your strong hand you persecute me…Yet no beggar held out his hand to me in vain for relief in his distress. Did I not weep for the unfortunate? Did not my heart grieve for the destitute? Yet evil has come, though I expected good, and when I looked for light, darkness came.” The Book of Job 30:20-21,24-26. It’s subtle, but look at what Job is really saying here, “God, when I ask for help, you’re not there for me, but when people asked me for help, I was always there for them.” Job strongly implies here that he is better than God. Not stronger, not smarter, but Job is accusing God of not taking care of him, and he implies that he would do a better job of running things if he had the power. This is dangerous ground for Job. He does not curse God, but he does border on blasphemy, and he pretty much commits the very same sin that Satan originally committed: Pride. Job does not outright rebel and try to take God off his throne; he understands he has no power over God, but he is treading on thin ice. If you are interested in a humorous take on this delicate concept, check out the movie, Bruce Almighty. The plot is basically a lighter version of the story of Job, but with God taking Bruce (Job) up on this particular idea that he can do things better. Watch the movie and see how things might turn out if a human receives all of God’s power and tried to run things for a while. Not pretty; funny, but not pretty. In the end Bruce, played by Jim Carry, is humbled and he grows spiritually. We shall see the same happy ending for Job, but it is important to note that God does deal directly with this comment when he finally does answer Job.

It must also be noted, again, that Job is not being punished for any of his self-righteous and prideful tendencies, nor is he being rebuked for any lack of trust he may have had. The text is clear that Job is not being punished. Be honest with yourself, Job puts us all to shame, even with his slight problems. I don’t think Job was the slightest bit aware of these issues, and had he not been pressed so hard, they probably would never have come up, but God looks deep into the heart of every man and woman, and nothing there remains hidden from him. It is possible that God saw, however small, the potential for Job to slowly fall into pride and self-righteousness, and he used Satan’s little game to expose Job’s potential for sin, so Job would be able to be humbled and be able to stay aware of the problem and work to remain humble.

Some people believe that anything we perceive to be evil cannot come from God. I agree that God does not create evil in our lives; God is love; he is pure and morally perfect, but I do not think everything that causes us pain is necessarily evil. The problem is in the perception. First of all, our own sin often causes us to experience the pain we attribute to the devil. There are clear consequences laid out in the scriptures for making bad choices. Additionally, God would not be a good Father if he did not discipline us. The author of Hebrews even states in his letter to the church: “My son, do not think lightly of the Lord‘s discipline, or be discouraged when he corrects you; for whom the Lord loves he disciplines; he chastises every son whom he acknowledges” Hebrews 12:5-6. Sometimes when we feel pain, God is disciplining us. But this is not the case for Job, so what was God doing? He was training Job. As good as Job was, God did not want any potential to lose him, so he wanted to train Job to be better. Think of it this way, consider the coach of a professional sports team. The sport doesn’t matter. Let’s say, for whatever reason, a practice before a championship game becomes significantly difficult, maybe it is too hot, or too cold. What if the coach said to his athletes, “Aw, are you guys getting tired? Do your muscles hurt a little more than usual? Let’s just call it a day and go get a beer so you can feel better. We don’t really need to practice our drills, we don’t really need to stay in shape for the game…” Would you expect that team to win? Now consider this, if the God of the Bible is real, he testifies that Satan is real; therefore, we do have an enemy that is really trying to harm us. If we choose to follow God, we are in a war whether we want to be or not. Now think about all the pain soldiers experience at boot camp, and even during training as they advance up the ranks. If they are to survive, they must allow temporary pain to their physical bodies, so they can have the strength and agility and skill and strategy needed to win the war. Just the same way, God trains us to be better servants, and if we are willing, to even be spiritual warriors. The pain we experience is usually spiritual and emotional, but in the end we become stronger and more equipped to do battle when Satan and his servants, our enemy, set their sights on us. I believe that God has no problem using evil to accomplish good; either for the world in general or for the individuals experiencing the pain. Think about the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-45. After Joe’s brothers sell him into slavery out of jealously when he was a child, he later ends up being their king and their savior from drought. When he confronts them he says, “What you meant for evil, God meant for good.” God used the trials of being a prisoner and a slave to train Joseph and prepare him to lead and save the nation of Egypt, as well as preserve his family who would become the nation of Israel. Something else we need to consider is that we simply live in a fallen world; sometimes the sin and rebellion of others will cause us pain as well. For instance, if a drunk driver loses control and crashes into a car with a mother and children and the accident kills or cripples them, that mom and her children are obviously the victims of someone else’s bad choices. There is no discipline nor training going on here, just a random tragedy as the result of living in a world of people who make bad choices; this is the unfortunate result of God giving us free will. However, I believe that God can and does work these things out for good for those who are willing to seek him, and receive his comfort and guidance. God does not wish evil upon us, but since it is in the world, and since most humans don’t hesitate to commit evil deeds, I don’t think God really has any problem with manipulating evil and using it to bring good into the world in some way. Whether by advancing his kingdom, as Tertullian, an early church father states: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church” (Apologeticus, Ch. 50), or by giving one person a wake up call so they can discover the truth and be saved. The Apostle Paul declares that, “in everything, as we know, he cooperates for good with those who love God and are called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28. Many people are offended at the idea of God using evil for anything. I don’t understand that. We have to trust that God knows what he is doing. If he allows evil into my life to make me stronger, or to eventually bless me, or even to bless someone else, I have to trust that it was the best way according to what my free will allowed him to do. I take comfort in the fact that God will use everything that Satan throws at me to bring about good in my life. It does not give me the right to commit evil, but it does give me confidence that all my failures and mistakes are not entirely without purpose.

The Book of Job also has evidence that even though Job was God’s best servant, he still lacked a strong relationship with God; however, we will save those details for another time.

 

  • 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:

    Awe inspiring!


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