Job’s redemption and restoration

PLR 1999

Naked Came I... So Will I Return

“I knew of you then only by report, but now I see you with my own eyes. Therefore I yield, repenting in dust and ashes.” The Book of Job 42:5-6

Is it possible to love someone you don’t know? When I was in high school, I tried to play the tough guy, but the truth is I was extremely shy when it came to the opposite sex. I remember being switched into a new study hall, and there was this girl I had not seen before. She was amazing. Soft skin with a deep natural tan, long black wavy hair, she was stylish and sexy; she seemed very sophisticated. I was in love. This was in the days when a study hall was expected to actually be a study hall, and the teacher was very strict, so I had no way of casually getting to know her. If I wanted a chance with this beauty, I would have to actually approach her before or after class in the hallway. It took me months to finally step up and make my move. When I did, I was in for a quite a shock. In my first conversation with her, out of her mouth came the most foul, ignorant and rude words I had ever heard come from a woman. She was petty; she was racist; she was crude, and she did nothing but complain. I wasted months of my life pining after a girl who turned out to be someone who turned my stomach. I thought I was in love, but I only loved the idea I had created in my mind. True love requires intimacy, and true intimacy requires genuine communication. Both parties in the relationship need to be open and vulnerable, and both need to be willing to share and to listen. Too many people live life among those they call family and friends, but they don’t really know each other. They never allow themselves to know and to be known; therefore, there really isn’t any relationship. I believe this was the situation between Job and the Lord. The text makes it clear that Job really was the most righteous person on earth. He did everything he was supposed to do in the eyes of God, but he didn’t really know God. He lacked a strong relationship with the God that he served so faithfully, so at the end of the day, he was just God’s best servant. God wants more from us; he does not want peons constantly bowed down before him saying, “Yes, Master. Coming, Master! What is thy bidding, my Master?” He created us to have relationship with us, and he did not want Job’s dedication to go to waste. When Satan bet the Lord that Job would curse him if he lost everything, I think it was a legitimate gamble for both of them. At stake was whether or not God was worthy to be worshiped for who he is and not for just handing out rewards and punishment. Satan was aware that Job was God’s best servant, and God was well aware of Job’s pride and trust issues and his lack of relationship. Job really could have gone either way, but God saw his opportunity to make his best servant one of his best friends. After God’s long barrage of questions putting Job in his place, Job responds with genuine humility and repentance, and we can see by the way the Lord treats him in the epilogue that Job has received a greater reward than the riches everyone celebrates. In fact, I believe that Job had to pass one more test of friendship before he was able to get those riches restored back to him.

The first thing Job does in his reply to the Lord is acknowledge his lack of understanding. He states, “I know that you can do all things and that no purpose is beyond you. You ask: Who is this obscuring counsel yet lacking knowledge? But I have spoken of things which I have not understood, things too wonderful for me to know” The Book of Job 42:2-3. Job’s reply shows he understood God’s point loud and clear, he is saying to the Lord, “Yep. I’ve got nothing on you. You are the creator, you are my sustainer, my protector, and you have never let me down before. Even though I did not understand what was going on, I should have trusted you had a purpose for it all.” The second part of Job’s reply reveals that Job learns what his biggest problem was, “Listen, and let me speak. You said: I shall put questions to you, and you must answer. I knew of you then only by report, but now I see you with my own eyes. Therefore I yield, repenting in dust and ashes” The Book of Job 42:4-6. Job acknowledges that he lacked a relationship with the Lord. He is saying, “Before, I could only speak about what I heard about you, but now that I know you, I understand who you are and what you are about, and I’m so sorry for every foolish boast that came out of my mouth!” Job learned first hand the reason we are to be obedient to God; it is not for receiving blessing or fearing punishment, it is about serving him out of our love for him. Job did everything right, but he did not really have the right motives. Therefore, in his love for Job, God allowed him to suffer so Job could realize the need he had for a relationship with God. When you think about it, this lack of relationship is the root of Job’s other issues. Had Job had a strong relationship with God, he would have trusted in God’s motives from the beginning. Had Job trusted God more, he would not have begun to rely on his own good works and wisdom more than God’s grace and mercy, which led to his pride. What God does next shows that he now views Job as a friend, and he honors Job by giving him the responsibility of someone who has a maturity and wisdom that can be trusted.

Job’s reply to the Lord is the last of the poetry written in The Book of Job; however, the action is far from over in the Epilogue written in prose. The Lord now turns to Job’s friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. He states: “My anger is aroused against you…unlike my servant Job, you have not spoken as you aught about me. Now…go to my servant Job and offer a whole-offering [sacrifice] for yourselves and he will intercede for you. I shall surely show him favour by not being harsh with you because you have not spoken as you aught about me, as he has done” The Book of Job 42:7-8. Can you imagine being in their shoes at this point? God himself manifests before them, and after dealing with Job, he turns to them and essentially says, “And you! I’m really pissed at you! You think I’m only about judgment and punishment? You think Job deserved all the pain and suffering he’s been through? Instead of helping and encouraging him through these trials, you only made it worse! Do you really want to see my punishment? You better make your sacrifices and go get your buddy Job to pray for you, because the only way I’m going spare you is if he intercedes and prays on your behalf!” This is the evidence that Job has moved from only being a servant to being a friend of God. All through the text, Job longed for someone who could speak to God on his behalf, he wanted a mediator between him and the Lord. God honors Job by giving him that position with his friends. He becomes the very defender he longed to have: Someone who could talk to God freely without fear of death. God is about to come down hard on Job’s friends for slandering his character and he simply puts the matter in Job’s hands, “Job, I know these guys are your boys, and since you and I are buds now, if you want me to spare them just say the word; otherwise, get out of the way…” Do you see the trust God has for Job? How he puts his end of the relationship into practice right away? Job has a choice to make. He could pray for his friends or step aside and let them get a taste of what he’s experienced. In order for Job to genuinely stand before God and intercede on their behalf, he needs to forgive them. Could you forgive them if you were in Job‘s place? After the harsh treatment they gave Job, do they deserve his forgiveness? But that is the beauty of forgiveness, we never deserve it.

This is Job’s final test. I think it is amazing that God says that Job spoke rightly about him. This shows us the amount of freedom he gives us to express our thoughts and emotions to him. If you are angry at God, go ahead and let it out. If you are doubting anything, even his very existence, go ahead and question him. He is man enough for the challenge, and just like Job, he will lovingly put you in your place if you humbly submit to the truth. The difference between Job and his friends was that they thought they could speak for God; they judged Job, and they considered that judgment to be God’s. How many of us do this very same thing today? We see others in trouble and we write them off and assume they must of have deserved it. Praise God we rarely get what we really deserve. Where Job got it right was that he acknowledged his lack of knowledge and understanding. He didn’t always express himself with the respect and honor that the Lord of the Universe deserves, and God dealt with that, but when Job became distressed, he sought out God and asked for his help. He didn’t get the answer he expected from God, but through God’s answer he discovered greater revelation about himself and about God, revelation which resulted in a new and deeper relationship with God. This could be the end of the story. God could punish Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar for their slander of Job and of God himself. Then we could all feel a sense of superiority over them, as they get what they deserve, and smugly think we would never treat a friend of ours in need like that, and we could close the book and move on with life. But God is not finished teaching Job and, therefore, teaching us. This paragraph ends with, “and the Lord showed favour to Job when he had interceded for his friends.” Look at the wording of the sentence; “when” is past tense. God did not show Job favor until after he prayed for his friends. The very next paragraph begins with “The Lord restored Job’s fortunes, and gave him twice the possessions he had before” The Book of Job 42:9-10. I am confident that Job has at this point found relief from his physical sufferings, but I believe that Job had to pass this final test to receive a full restoration from the Lord. Job and his friends got pretty nasty with each other, and it turns out that Job was right. Before he could genuinely intercede for them, he needed to forgive them. In other words, Job needed to forgive his friends to get his restoration. I don’t think God really had a strong desire to smack down Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. God is proving that he is all about relationship. Job could have held a quiet grudge against them for the rest of his life, but when God puts him on the spot like that, he forces Job to deal with his emotions and find the forgiveness in his heart that God generously hands out to us. God was teaching Job and his friends that while doing good does lead to blessing (of course there are many forms of blessing besides monetary gain), sin does not always bring judgment. Often an act of mercy and forgiveness will bring more positive change than punishment. That does not mean there won’t be consequences, but God wants to show Job, his friends, and us that just as he forgives us, he expects us to do the same for others. Job’s forgiveness of Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar is the first step needed for their friendship to be restored.

The Lord brings the lesson of relationship home for us in this ancient book in the way he restores Job’s fortunes. He just finished declaring how powerful he is and how nothing is beyond his means; God could have just said the word and dropped riches into Job’s lap, but he chose to restore Job a different way, and it is the same way he has continued to prefer to use throughout the ages up until today. After the author states that the Lord gave twice as much as Job had before, he continues with “All Job’s brothers and sisters and his acquaintance of former days came and feasted with him in his home. They consoled and comforted him for all the misfortune which the Lord had inflicted on him, and each of them gave him a sheep and a gold ring” The Book of Job 42:11. God used people to restore Job’s fortunes. This teaches us a few lessons. First of all, God is not only concerned with us having a good relationship with him, but he wants us to have a good relationship with our fellow man. Many people will pray to God for miracles, but they end up rejecting his help, because it comes in the form of other human beings. God often does answer prayer through miraculous means, but more often he chooses to work through other people. He wants us to be willing to deal with the messiness of learning to trust and depend on each other in addition to trusting him. Secondly, if God uses people to bestow his blessings, the question must be raised, “How does he want to use me?” How many people have gone without because God called you to bless them, but you were too busy to hear, or too selfish to respond? We often question God’s existence, or at least his righteousness when evil seems to prevail on the earth, but before we question God, maybe we should look at what we should be doing. Are we doing anything to stand against evil? Are we contributing to the evil in some small selfish way? God wants to use you to bring his good purpose to the world. Are you listening for his call? Lastly, look at what Job’s friends and family gave him. They each gave him one sheep and one gold ring. Before this experience, Job was considered to be “the greatest man in all the east,” and the text states that the Lord “gave him twice the possessions he had before.” Think about that. My guess is that the majority of the sheep and rings came from his acquaintances. Who were his acquaintances? They were all the people that Job had helped earlier in his life. In his effort to serve God righteously, Job was generous with his wealth; now that Job’s time of trial had ended and he was in need, these people stepped up and gave back, and Job ended up with twice the fortune he had before. The Bible states elsewhere that “everyone reaps what he sows” Galatians 6:7. Job sowed a lot seed into his fellow man, and he was able to reap the harvest of return. He must have helped a lot of people! This again supports God’s principle of relationship. When we are generous with others, whether it be money or time, they will be generous with us. Maybe not everybody, but the majority of humankind will come through for those who have shown them kindness in their time of need. So we see that God does not only want us to have a strong relationship with him, but he also teaches us to take care of each other and learn to get along.

This getting along does not mean that we should incorporate a truth-is-relative-philosophy and we should just live and let live. On the contrary, God calls us to be righteous and to follow his example out of love for him. We know his standards through the Word of God, and we must seek to live up to them and encourage and even admonish our fellow man to do the same. However, when we fail to live up to the standards, we go to our merciful God through the path Jesus has created for us, and we seek forgiveness in true humility, and he will not fail to give it out. Likewise, when our brothers and sisters sin against God or against us, we need to be willing to confront them in love and then we continue to love them and forgive them despite their response. Forgiveness does not always require that we must continue to spend time those who hurt us, but it does mean that we need to let go of the desire for revenge and the desire to be paid back in some form. That is why getting along is so difficult for us. We are all selfish. Since Adam and Eve chose their way instead of God’s, the desire to be “god” has carried through all our genes and we just want to do what’s best for “me” despite the consequences. We hurt each other, but God wants us to forgive each other. He wants us to continually seek to live our best and to treat others the same way we want to be treated (Luke 6:31). This is the crux of all of God’s teachings in his Word: “Love God. Love others” (Matthew 22:36-40).

There are many themes and many lessons that you can take from The Book of Job, but in my opinion the fact that relationship is more important that righteousness is the strongest lesson. Job had what the church today calls a works-mentality. He depended more on his works, his own personal righteousness, than on God’s grace. However, the Bible states that “all our righteous deeds were like a filthy rag” Isaiah 46:6, and later the Apostle Paul states “for all alike have sinned, and are deprived of the divine glory; and all are justified by God’s free grace alone, through his act of liberation in the person of Christ Jesus” Romans 3:23-24. You can see this truth in the life of Abraham. If Job is a historical figure, he would have been Abraham‘s contemporary. As we read about Abraham, we find he was far from perfect, but he put his faith in God, and sought to obey and please God because of the relationship he had with his Creator. The Apostle James says of him, “Here was the fulfillment of the words of scripture: ‘Abraham put his faith in God, and that faith was counted to him as righteousness,’ and he was called ‘God’s friend’” James 2:23 (see also: 2 Chronicles 20:7, and Isaiah 41:8). Like Abraham, our righteousness can only come through faith. Before his experience, Job was not that different from the Pharisee’s of Jesus’ time. They followed God’s written law in the Torah to the letter. They were as perfect as human beings could be, and they longed for their Messiah to come and end the suffering of their people; however, when the Messiah arrived in the person of Jesus, they did not recognize him because they were more concerned about following rules than they were about having a relationship with their God. When he showed up in the person of Jesus, they couldn’t even recognize him.

In our age, Jesus is our mediator who allows us to freely speak with God. After discussing how Jesus is both our high priest and our sacrifice, the author of Hebrews states, “Let us therefore boldly approach the throne of grace, in order that we may receive mercy and find grace to give us timely help” Hebrews 4:16. Before the time of Jesus, very few humans were recorded as holding the honor of being friends with God, but Jesus came to restore God’s relationship with all of humanity. Because of Jesus, we all can be God’s friends. According to the Apostle John, during the Last Supper (before Jesus was crucified) Jesus was giving his instructions to his disciples and explaining what they were up against in the days ahead. He was instructing them to love each other and to love God despite the coming pain and confusion they were about to experience. During this speech he tells them, “There is no greater love than this, that a someone should lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is about. I have called you friends, because I have disclosed to you everything that I heard from my father” The Gospel of John 15:13-15. This was after he told them that they were all about to deny that they even knew him, but he would be waiting for them with open arms when they were ready to come back. God desires us to live righteously; he wants us to follow the rules he’s established (which were established for our good and protection), but he is much more interested in having a relationship with us. The desire to be good should not come from a fear of punishment or from the expectation of reward; we should want to be good in a desire to please God; we should be good because it makes him happy. The ultimate reward for us is simply to know, and to be known by, our Father in heaven.

 

This is the final conclusion… Job was the most righteous man on all the earth, but he was only God’s best servant. God initiates the conversation with Satan, the Adversary, which led to Satan’s challenge. God must have known what the result of that conversation would be, and Job loses everything including his health. His three friends show up to comfort him, but they only provoke him into deeper despair claiming Job must have sinned horribly to get all that misfortune; however, through his speeches defending his innocence, a lack of trust and a bit of self-righteousness is revealed, or what we consider a “works” mentality. By the end Job states that before he only “heard about” God, but now he “knows” God. We learn that God wanted more for Job than just servant-hood. That teaches us that it is more important to God that we seek out a relationship with him, than just try to serve him through good works. Our righteousness comes from faith in God, our good deeds should come from a desire to please him out of love rather than from a fear of getting struck by lightning.

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

Peter L Richardson
2010

When God shows up…

PLR 1999

Naked Came I... So Will I Return

“Who is this who darkens counsel with words devoid of knowledge? Brace yourself and stand up like a man; I shall put questions to you, and you must answer.” The Book of Job 38:2-3.

When I was a kid my friends and I would often wander to the edge of our neighborhood park and into the woods and play by the creek that ran close by. Having no decent game systems, and having parents that knew the value of fresh air and exercise, we were pretty much forced to use our imagination to come up with things to do. As long as our parents knew where we were, who we were with, and that at least one of us had a watch to get back in time for dinner, we were pretty free. When we tired of games, we would often sit by the creek and just talk about silly things that kids talk about. Sitting in the midst of nature, one question that often came up for discussion was, “If you could ask God one question, what would it be?” Most of us came up with typical questions like, “Why is the sky blue?” Some of the more creative would want to find out who would win if Spiderman fought Batman, or if the water in the toilet really swirled the other way in Australia, and what is up with koala bears and kangaroos anyway? Where did they come from? The more brave among us would want to know why his parents split up, or if his big brother was in heaven or not. We never really expected to find out the answers to these questions. We all had a childlike faith that God was real, but we understood that he was busy up in heaven running the universe, and we would just have to try to be good and wait until we died so we could ask him in heaven. Throughout The Book of Job, Job continually asked God the question, “Why me?” He wanted to know why he was suffering, he wanted to know who God thought he was to allow such disaster to fall on him when as far he knew, he did everything that God required of him to be blessed. Job also made long poetic speeches about his desire to die and get relief from his suffering. He wanted answers, but I think he expected to get those answers when he was dead and in heaven. I think Job was just as shocked and surprised as everyone else when God actually showed up.

I also think he was equally as surprised by God’s answer. He was certainly humbled by the experience. Anyone who thinks that God doesn’t have a sense of humor and a sense of irony and sarcasm has not read The Book of Job. The first thing God says to Job and his friends is pretty much, “Who do you think you are to try to describe me? Not one of you knows what you’re talking about!” Then he tells them to man up and try to answer his questions. I think it is ironic that God doesn’t just come down and sit with Job, and say something like, “Well, Job, running the universe requires a lot of knowledge and understanding about everything that is going on right now and how it all relates to everything else, and how all that relates to both the past and that relationship of elements and events will determine what happens in the future, so you see it’s all very complicated and hard for you to understand, but just trust me, I’ve got my reasons for allowing the things I do.” No, God shows up and blasts Job with question after question putting Job in his place. Earlier in the text, Job questions God, “Have you the eyes of flesh? Do you see as a mortal sees? Are your days as those of a mortal or your years as his lifespan?” The Book of Job 10:4-5. He’s basically fed up with God, and he asks him, “Do you know what it’s like to be human? To feel pain? To feel the fear of death?” His tone implies he wants to end the questions with, “You big meany!” Now God responds to Job with his own set of questions in which he is really countering Job’s inquiry with, “Well, do you know what it’s like to be God?” God is not looking for Job’s pity, but he wants Job to realize that there are things about life that he simply is not able to understand. God is basically telling Job that he will answer Job’s questions if Job can first answer his. He asks Job a sequence of questions that can be divided into four sets, each revealing a deeper understanding of God’s character, and the Lord does not hide from his own sarcasm when he deals with Job.

The Lord’s first questions to Job are, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? Tell me if you know and understand. Who fixed it’s dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line over it? On what do its supporting pillars rest? Who set its cornerstone in place, while the morning stars sang in chorus and the sons of God all shouted for joy? Who supported the sea at its birth, when it burst in flood from the womb– when I wrapped it in a blanket of cloud and swaddled it in dense fog, when I established bounds, set its barred doors in place, and said, ’Thus far may you come but no farther; here your surging waves must halt’” The Book of Job 38:4-11. God is essentially saying, “Dude, I don’t remember seeing you around when I made this place. I don’t remember asking you for help or advice, so maybe you should be a little more careful about how you question me.” In this first set of questions God deals with the creation of the universe, including the vastness of stars that he keeps track of, and the cycles of nature on the earth, “Which is the way to the home of the light, and where does darkness dwell? Can you then take each to its appointed boundary and escort it on its homeward path? Doubtless you know, for you were already born. So long is the span of your life!” The Book Job 38:19-21. God is establishing himself as the Creator. He is the author and designer of life, and it was his Word that spoke it into being, his hands that brought the materials of chaos together and built them into something structured and ordered: A system in which everything works together to sustain life on this tiny little planet in the universe he designed. Modern scientists have discovered that even the very cells and molecules that we are made up of have little-engine-like parts that work together to keep us moving and growing. There is a Designer to the life that we are a part of, and the Lord is simply making it clear to Job, “I made this place; therefore, I make the rules.”

The next set of questions the Lord asks Job are about various kinds of animals. He begins with the most wild and free, the lions, the mountain goats, the wild asses, the wild oxen, the ostrich, and he asks Job if he is the one who is able to take care of all these animals and if they even need humans to tame them to survive. The Lord then speaks of who made the horse and gave it purpose, “Do you give the horse his strength? Have you clothed his neck with a mane? Do you make him quiver like a locust’s wings, when his shrill neighing strikes terror? He shows his mettle as he paws and prances; in his might he charges the armored line. He scorns alarms and knows no dismay; he does not shy away before the sword. The quiver rattles at his side, the spear and sabre flash. Trembling with eagerness he devours the ground and when the trumpet sounds there is no holding him; at the trumpet-call he cries ‘Aha!’ and from afar he scents the battle, the shouting of the captains, and the war cries.” The Book of Job 39:20-25. The Lord ends this set of questions with discussing the freedom of the hawk and the eagle. God is now establishing himself as our Sustainer. Not only did he make this place, but he is the one who keeps it going. He is the one who takes care of the wild animals, and it was he who created some to serve man, even to serve him in battle. God is telling Job, if I take care of the wild animals, I will certainly take care of you. This is much like Jesus’ statement thousands of years later, “I tell you not to be anxious…look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow and reap and store in barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than the birds?” The Gospel of Matthew 6:25-26. This promise, however, is for those who faithfully serve God and put their trust in him. As discussed in an earlier post, those who reject God and follow their own wisdom cause trouble for themselves and eventually for others. Why shouldn’t we follow God’s rules? It is not as if he made them only to be cruel and to test our obedience. The Lord gave us rules to follow for our benefit. Let’s say you receive a gift of a brand new car from the person who designed and built it. He has left instructions for you on the best way to take care of it; how often the oil needs changed, how often you should wash and wax it, and the limits you should put on yourself when driving it. However, when it comes time to take care of the vehicle a buddy tells you not waste your time with it. “Come on,” he says, “I never change the oil in my car, and it runs fine! Let’s just ride these babies as fast as they can go! The guy who designed these things just wants to keep all the fun to himself.” Who would you trust? Your buddy, or the designer of the car?

At this point, God takes a break questioning Job about his credentials, and he deals directly with Job‘s attitude. The Lord pauses and says to Job, “Is right for a man who disputes with the Almighty to be stubborn? Should he who argues with God answer back?” The Book of Job 40:2. Earlier, Job did a lot of boasting; he said things like, “If only I could see God, I would tell him to his face how unjust this whole thing is!” God is saying, “Well, here I am. What did you want to say?” Job knows he cannot answer any of the Lord’s questions; he understands the point the Lord is making, he replies, “I put my finger to my lips. I have spoken…I shall do so no more.” The Book of Job 40:4-5. Once again, God tells Job to man up, because he has a few more questions for him. The next question God has for Job is the most dangerous of them all; “Would you dare deny that I am just, or put me in the wrong to prove yourself right? Have you an arm like God’s arm; can you thunder with a voice like his?” The Book of Job 40:8-9. Earlier we talked about Job’s weakness of character and we discussed how Job implied that he could do a better job than the Lord. While he acknowledged that he lacked God’s power, he felt that he was more just than God when he said, “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. I believe that the Lord is taking direct issue with these remarks. These verses imply that Job had a problem with pride, and God is putting Job in his place. He is saying, “Do you really want to go there Job? Don’t talk trash that you can’t back up.” The Lord goes on to almost mock Job and tells him to put on all his glory and righteousness and begin to judge the wicked and proud himself and bring them to humility. “If you can do that,” God says, “then I’ll step back and let you save yourself.” When we are put in stressful situations, we often do or say things we regret, and we use the stress to excuse ourselves. I’m not really like that, we think to ourselves, I was just under pressure! The truth is, when we are under pressure, our real selves get squeezed out. All the ugly parts of our personality and soul, that we masterfully learn to hide from the world so well that we deceive even our own hearts, gets exposed. I think that God allows us to go through trials and hard situations so that we can own up to the truth of our weaknesses, so that we can repent and try to change, and so that we can live honestly with ourselves, with our fellow man, and most importantly before God. This is what God is doing with Job here; Job was so righteous, and so well-liked by his community, he was unable to see the pride hidden deep in his heart. God allowed Satan to play this little game, so that Job could discover his sin and deal with it. In this set of questions God reveals himself as our Teacher and Disciplinarian, in other words, a Parent. Not only does he have the right to make the rules because he is Creator, not only does he continue to take care of us as the Sustainer of all life, but he further expresses his love to us by teaching us the best way to live and then disciplining us when we go astray, even when (perhaps especially when) we are unaware of the problem.

While he is on the subject of pride, the Lord goes on to describe two beasts whose identity has been debated by many educated men who, like Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, need to put God’s Word into their own preconceived ideas of the world. However, with a close attention to the details of the description, any child could easily identify both of these creatures. The Lord calls the two beasts he describes the Behemoth and the Leviathan. Considering that every other natural description in the text conforms to our modern understanding of the scientific world, commentators of Job have tried to describe these beasts with animals we are familiar with today. Among the many identities they try to conform them to are the hippopotamus, the elephant, the whale, and the crocodile. The only one that comes close is the crocodile, but the Lord describes these beasts as being nearly impossible for man to overpower, and they certainly cannot be captured. As fierce as crocodiles are, men who live among them are able to get the upper hand when necessary.

Read the description with an open mind: the Behemoth is clearly a dinosaur. Look at how the Lord describes him: “His tail is rigid as a cedar, the sinews of his flanks are tightly knit; his bones are like tubes of bronze, his limbs like iron bars. He is the chief of God’s works, made to be a tyrant over his fellow-creatures; for he takes the cattle of the hills for his prey and in his jaws he crunches all the beasts of the wild” The Book of Job 40:17-20. Now, you might have your Bible open right now and thinking, No way, Pete, that’s just a really big crocodile. Well, what is a really big crocodile, but some kind of a dinosaur? And since when do crocodiles wander all the way out of their swamps and rivers to devour the cattle in the hills? The reason modern scholars cannot accept these beasts as dinosaurs is because the Lord describes humans interacting with them, and according to man’s wisdom and understanding of the natural world, dinosaurs were clearly extinct millions of years before humans evolved, so these must not be dinosaurs. You can call me as crazy as Sarah Palin, but I believe that man and dinosaurs existed together. I have come to this understanding more from my literary and history background than from my religious studies. Every ancient culture from every part of the world has dragons as a part of their myth, religion and history. Every one of them. The dragon was worshiped in the ancient Orient; he was a part of creation myths for the Aborigines in Australia. In Europe he was feared and fought; the Grendal Creature that the Epic Hero Beowulf fights is clearly reptilian, and Beowulf later loses his life in a fight against a fire-breathing dragon. The legends of sacrificing virgins to dragons to appease their wrath come from Africa. Dragons were an important part of both the Mayan and the Aztec culture and religion, and a North American tribe, the Illini, tell a legend of a dragon-type creature called the Piasa who ravaged their land near the Mississippi, until the Great Spirit taught one of their warriors how to defeat it. A lot of myths and epics have their origins in real and true events, but with ancient man’s lack of understanding about the natural world, and as the “fish” gets bigger every time the tale is told, the myths and legends of the dragon became more fantastic and dragons became symbolic of powers man could not understand. However, the fact that there are dragon legends in such a variety of people groups and cultures that had no contact with each other tells me that at some point a long time ago, and probably during Job’s time, there were large reptilian creatures walking around that scared the crap out of human beings. The Lord’s description of the Leviathan is evidence of the dragon legend in Middle Eastern culture.

If the Behemoth is a dinosaur, the Leviathan is clearly a real-live-fire-breathing dragon. Look at the Lord’s description of this beast: “How fierce he is when roused! Who is able to stand up to him? Who has ever attacked him and come out of it safely? No one under the wide heaven. I shall not pass over in silence his limbs, his prowess and the grace of his proportions…Who has ever prised open the portals of his face where terror lies in the circuits of his teeth? His back is row upon row of shields, enclosed in a wall of flints…His sneezing sends out sprays of light, and his eyes gleam like the shimmer of dawn. Firebrands shoot from his mouth, and sparks come flying out; his nostrils gush forth steam like a cauldron on a fire fanned to full heat. His breath sets coals ablaze, and flames issue from his mouth. Strength resides in his neck, and dismay dances ahead of him. Close-knit is his underbelly, no pressure will make it yield. His heart is firm as a rock, firm as the nether millstone” The Book of Job 41:10-24. Have you ever seen a whale or a crocodile breath fire? You might be thinking, Dinosaurs, maybe there is some truth to that explanation, but Dragons? No way, that’s just nuts! Well, it’s not as crazy as it seems. There are many theories by credible scientists about the possibility of a fire breathing dinosaur. Let me give you a modern example of how it might have worked. Have you ever been at a party and your best friend gets really drunk and decides he wants to show everyone a cool trick? (Maybe it was you who wanted to be the center of attention!) So, he drops his drawers, bends over and sticks a lighter in front of his butt-crack while he lets one out. As a result, all of your other friends are disgusted and don‘t invite you over anymore, and your best friend has singed the hair on his butt and can’t sit comfortably for a few days. Our bodies produce methane gas, and methane gas is flammable. Some paleontologists theorize that some dinosaurs may have expelled their methane gas from their mouth, and either from clicking flint-like bones on their jaws together to make a spark, or by producing an electrical current similar to an electric eel, or even by producing other chemicals and that produce a flammable reaction when mixed, the dinosaur produces a flame coming out of his mouth. No one knows for sure how it worked if it did, but it is scientifically possible for an animal to breath fire.

No matter what the identity really is for the Behemoth and the Leviathan, the Lord wants to make it clear that no matter how fierce these creatures are, he is in control of them. He ends the description of the Leviathan with, “He has no equal on earth, a creature utterly fearless. He looks down on all, even the highest; over all proud beasts he is king” The Book of Job 41:33-34. Whether these beasts were real or not, I believe that they are symbolic of Satan himself. It is curious that Satan plays such an important role in the beginning of Job, but he is never specifically mentioned again. After the Lord proclaims himself as Creator and Sustainer of the earth and all living creatures on it, and after he shows Job he is man’s Teacher and Disciplinarian, the last point he makes is that he is even in charge of the most fearsome creature on earth. He calls that creature “the king of all proud beasts.” Certainly, that is a fitting description of Satan. It was pride that got him in trouble in the first place as he rebelled against God and tried to take the throne of heaven believing he could overpower his Creator. Since he could not defeat the Almighty, he set his sights on everything that God loves. Since God gave us free will, Satan knew that we would be vulnerable to manipulation, and he first appears in man’s narrative disguised as a snake in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve chose to believe Satan over God, they put themselves under Satan’s authority, and we’ve been subject to temptation and prone to evil ever since. Throughout scripture Satan is often symbolized with the image of a dragon. In the last book of the Bible, the Apostle John states, “The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent who led the whole world astray, whose name is the Devil, or Satan; he was thrown down to earth, and his angels with him” The Revelation of John 12:9. The last revelation of the Lord’s character to Job is that he is man’s Protector. Whether he is protecting us from physical harm or from spiritual rebellion and death, God watches over us and seeks to protect us from our ultimate enemy, Satan. Recall that while Satan was the one who destroyed Job’s life, it was the Lord who gave him permission to do it. I believe that Satan needed permission from God for Job because Job was such a righteous person. God gave him permission because, as we will see, it ultimately worked out for Job’s good. However, I don’t think Satan always needs permission from God to mess with all humans. Satan often gets his permission straight from us. Through scripture, God revealed the best way man should live to receive blessing, but we often rebel against God and choose our own way. Satan’s tactics have not changed since Eden. He disguises himself as something good or innocent, and the manipulation begins. If we have a close relationship with God, he will give us the wisdom we need to avoid the temptation, but if we submit to Satan’s lies, we give him permission to wreck havoc in our lives. The Apostle Paul states, “Put on the full [spiritual] armour provided by God, so that you may be able to stand firm against the stratagems of the devil. For our struggle is not against human foes, but against the authorities and potentates of this dark age, against the superhuman forces of evil in the heavenly realms” Ephesians 6:12.

When he gave us free will, God gave us the ability to choose our masters. Since we are so prone to sin, the only way we can truly be free from Satan is through Jesus Christ, but even this does not guarantee our physical protection, Jesus himself said, “In this world you will have suffering” The Gospel of John 16:33, and he tells us that in the same way that he and all the prophets before him were persecuted, we will be also (The Gospel of John 15:20, The Gospel of Matthew 5:11-12). God often calls us to make sacrifices in this present life to achieve a higher spiritual purpose that we may not understand, but we must trust that he has an ultimate good in mind, even if it is not for us personally. For instance, he may bring someone else to a new relationship with him and eternal salvation through the witness of our suffering with dignity. This is the case with Job and with so many martyrs since. Earlier in the text, Job rebukes his friends for not trusting in his reputation of being a good man; “I beg you, turn and look at me: am I likely to lie to your faces? Think again,…for my integrity is in question. Do I ever give voice to injustice?” The Book of Job 6:28-29. But Job could not convince his friends to trust him. He was saying to them, “You guys know me; you know I’ve never done anything so bad to deserve this kind of punishment before, what makes you think I’d fail in my righteousness out of the blue like this?” God is essentially saying the same thing to Job through this series of revelations about his character. He is telling Job, “You know from your teachings and your experience that I am good; you know I don’t do anything without a reason; what makes you think I would leave you hanging now?” There are a number of reasons why God may choose to remain silent when we are struggling and experiencing trials of our own. Sometimes, like Job, he is trying to teach us a lesson, or strengthen us in some way. Often, whatever God is up to simply can’t be comprehended by human intelligence. The knowledge of the situation and the reasons behind God’s actions (or seemingly lack of action) is beyond our understanding. The Lord often says in scripture, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways…But as the heavens are high above the earth, so are my ways high above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts” Isaiah 55:8-9. In the same way, sometimes we are just not spiritually mature enough to be able handle the whole truth. Even the most mature Christian on Earth is still like a child to God. Anyone who has children knows that there are some realities about life that young children are better off being protected from, and some kids mature faster than others. God may choose to withhold certain revelation from some until they are responsible enough to handle it. The author of Hebrews says, “It comes to this: you need milk instead of solid food. Anyone who lives on milk is still an infant, with no experience of what is right. Solid food is for adults, whose perceptions have been trained by long use to discriminate between good and evil” 5:12-14. However, I think that more often God does reveal to us what is going on, and we are either too busy to listen or we simply don’t trust him, so we choose to ignore all the warning signs he places in our path. Then we cry out, “Why me, God?!?” God’s main point to Job is simply this: “Trust me. I’m God; you’re not.” He establishes himself as the Creator and states: “I made this place; I know the best way to run it.” He establishes himself as the Sustainer of Life and states: “I continue to make the universe work together in harmony for your provision.” He establishes himself as our Teacher and Disciplinarian, basically our Parent, and states: “If you humble yourself and listen for my wisdom, I will give it to you, but if you don’t follow my guidance, there will be consequences.” And lastly, he establishes himself as our Protector and states, “If you acknowledge me and seek obedience to my ways, I will place you under my protection which ultimately leads to salvation from sin and rebellion.” God is saying, “When times are hard for you, no matter how bad it gets, you need to trust in my proven character and rest in peace that I have an ultimate good that I am bringing about.” Later, the Apostle Paul states that “in everything, as we know, he co-operates for good with those who love God and are called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28. God never actually directly answered Job’s “Why me?” question, he just leaves it at the revelation that there are some things Job doesn’t understand, but he needs to trust that God is good and that he’s got a plan. We will soon see the good that God brings into Job’s life; in the next and last section of Lessons from The Book of Job we will look at Job’s redemption and restoration, and see that he gained much more than riches from his ordeal.

 

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

 

 

Old Testament prophecy of the Messiah

Nake came I... PLR '99

“But I know that my vindicator lives and that he will rise last to speak in court; I shall discern my witness standing at my side and see my defending counsel, even God himself, whom I shall see with my own eyes, I myself and no other.” The Book of Job 19:25-27

“Do not suppose that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to complete” Matthew 5:17. According to Christian Theology, Jesus is the fulfillment of all the law and the prophets in the Old Testament. The prophetic books of the Jewish scriptures speak of a Messiah that will come and bring fulfillment to the promise God gave to Abraham, the father of Jews, that all nations on earth will be blessed through his seed, the promise that God gave to the Moses, the giver of the God’s Law, that a great prophet will rise up from among them, and the promise God gave to King David that one of his own descendants will rise up on the throne and establish a kingdom that will last forever. Some prophetic books are focused mostly on the fate of the nation of Israel and the nations around them during the time that the prophet lived, but many speak of the Messiah coming in a future age who will bring salvation to both the Jews and the Gentiles (anyone who is not a Jew) through restoring the broken connection between God and man, judging those rebellious toward the Lord, and establishing a kingdom of peace and righteousness that will last forever. While many expect this Messiah to come as a powerful warrior, Christians believe that he has already come in the person of Jesus, and that he will return again to establish his kingdom and begin a new age for mankind.

The life of Jesus has very specifically fulfilled many prophetic scriptures, the most famous of them are found in Isaiah Chapters 42-55. Jesus also said that he came to fulfill the law as well. The first five books of The Bible are considered to be “the Law.” These books record the origins of mankind and then narrow it down to the origins of the nation of Israel, and they include the recording of the Law that was given to Moses on Mt. Horeb. According to the Law, each person was supposed to travel to the temple in Jerusalem at least once a year and make elaborate sacrifices to atone for the sins they had committed. This was obviously burdensome and impractical, and many Israelites disregarded the Law completely or attempted to make up their own compromises which led them to follow other gods. Eventually, God’s judgment, which he made clear in the Law, caused the nation of Israel to be destroyed by the Babylonians. When the Persians became the next world conquerors, they allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple, and we finally meet Jesus during the rule of the Roman Empire.

Jews expected their Messiah to come in power and restore Israel to it’s former glory and then some, but Jesus came as a carpenter with no religious training to speak of. He is considered by Christians to be the fulfillment of the Law through his dieing on the cross as an innocent man. Many prophetic books indicate that the Messiah will be the son of God, and he will live a pure and perfect life. The death of Jesus on the cross as a sinless man is said to be the last sacrifice that God requires of mankind. Because Jesus was innocent and sinless, he was able to take the punishment of death in our place, and his sacrifice gives us access to God. Those who choose to believe in Jesus as the Messiah and choose to follow his teachings are restored to the Father in what is called a “new birth.” They receive the Holy Spirit into their being, and through the Holy Spirit’s guidance, they are able to have a free and open relationship with God without the burden of the guilt of sin. It is believed, as many of that time testified, that Jesus also rose from the dead three days after his ordeal on the cross, thus proving his power over death and giving credence to his claim to be the Son of God. Christians believe that Jesus is very active in the earth today for those who are willing to serve him and that this is the time of witness and testimony in order that all mankind will have the opportunity to hear “the gospel,” the good news about our forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with the Father. It is in the next age that Jesus will return as a warrior-king and establish his kingdom of peace and righteousness. Those who have chosen to reject Jesus and his teachings will be left to fend for themselves without the benefit of God’s grace, and will be lumped together with Satan and the other fallen angels who rebelled against God in a place that is popularly called Hell where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” Matthew 8:12.*

So what does all this have to do with Job? Well, I believe that there is evidence of Jesus’ existence in The Book of Job, and there are a few scriptures that point to him and the purpose he would fulfill nearly two thousand years later. What I find the most fascinating about this is that The Book of Job is considered to be the oldest book in The Bible by many scholars. It is very possible that Job was written during Abraham’s time. If this is the case, then we have evidence of prophesy of the Messiah before Israel even existed. This is more evidence that the Messiah is for all people, and that Jesus is not just a new idea from religious zealots needing a pie in the sky fantasy to justify their pitiful existence, but that Jesus has truly been around since the beginning, and he has been a part of the plan all along. I’m sure there is more evidence than what I have observed, but I am going to focus on four sets of verses in The Book of Job that stand out to me.

The first set of verses are not so much an expression of a Messiah’s existence, but rather an expression of the need for one. Ironically, as Job becomes more desperate and passionate in crying out to God, his revelation of God’s plan seems to increase, although it seems that Job doesn’t always understand the depth of what he is saying. During Job’s first defense to Bildad, he states, “God is not as I am, not someone I can challenge, and say, ‘Let us confront one another in court.’ if only there were one to arbitrate between us and impose his authority on us both, so that God might take his rod from my back, and terror of him might not come on me suddenly, I should then speak out without fear of him, for I know I am not what I am thought to be” The Book of Job 9:32-35 (italics mine). In this speech Job is again expressing that he is being punished unfairly, and he wants to be able to stand before God and state his case, but he knows he is too sinful of a creature to stand before God and live. He is wishing for someone who can stand before God and speak on his behalf, someone who can both relate to him and to God; in other words, someone who is both God and man. Is this not Jesus? Job states that if he stands before God, terror and fear will seize him; in our time, we have Jesus as our arbitrator who gives us access to God without fear and condemnation. In the New Testament, the author of The Letter to the Hebrews echoes Job’s cry when he speaks of Jesus in the following passage: “Ours is not a high priest unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tested in every way as we are, only without sinning. Let us therefore boldly approach the throne of grace, in order that we may receive mercy and find grace to give us timely help” Hebrews 4:15-16.

Later, during his first defense to Zophar, Job proclaims, “If he wishes to slay me, I have nothing to lose; I shall still defend my conduct to his face. This at least assures my deliverance: that no godless person may appear before him” The Book of Job 13:15-16 (italics mine). We already talked about this verse in a different context in an earlier post; but to get at a possible layered meaning we need to look deeper into the original language of the text. Many things are lost in interpretation when we do not know both languages very well; nowhere else is getting the right interpretation correct than in the scriptures. Wars have been waged, and many blasphemies have been committed as a result of a misunderstood or misled meaning of scripture. I don‘t think misunderstanding these verses will have those kind of consequences, but digging deep reveals some very interesting ideas. First of all, according to the footnotes in the Oxford Study Bible (c.1992), verse 15 can also be translated as, “Though God slay me, I shall wait for the deity.” Just a subtle difference in wording, but what a difference in meaning! In the first version, Job almost sounds like a rebellious teenager giving attitude to a parent: “Whatever, God, I don’t care what you do to me, I’m gonna say it to your face!” The second version shows a very different Job who expresses absolute faith in his God, that even though things are bad now, he knows if he waits long enough God will deliver him. Deliverance. That is another word we need to take a close look at. All poetry has a lot of wordplay in it. A good poet will often use a word that has multiple meanings and the poet may very well intend for more than one meaning of the word to be applicable and true. For a good example, check out Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 135” (see below). In this sonnet, Shakespeare makes a play on the word “will.” As he repeats it throughout the sonnet, depending on the context, it is used as a verb, a noun, and his name; sometimes it expresses all three uses at the same time. I believe this is the case for the word deliverance in verse 16. I don’t think the poet knew the depth of what he was saying, but as all scripture is God-breathed, or inspired by God (Second Timothy 3:16-17), I believe that God directed the author of The Book of Job to choose this particular word. It is too much of a coincidence. Deliverance could also be translated as salvation. This particular Hebrew word for salvation is literally translated as Jehovah saves. That Hebrew word is yeshua, and Yeshua is the Hebrew name for Jesus. So ultimately, what, or rather who, assures Job’s deliverance? It is Jesus. Job next states that “no godless person may appear before him.” It is Jesus’ sacrifice in conjunction with our repentance that allows us to be forgiven and appear righteous before God.

The next set of verses appears in Job’s response to Eliphaz’s second accusation and with this statement Job proclaims outright in the existence of a figure in heaven that is a legitimate description of Jesus. Job cries out, “Let not the earth cover my blood, and let my cry for justice find no rest! For now my witness is in heaven; there is One on high ready to answer for me. My appeal will come before God, while my eyes turn anxiously to him. If only there were one to arbitrate between man and God, as between a man and his neighbor” The Book of Job 16:18-21 (italics mine). Job again pleads for an arbitrator between God and man, someone who can plead Job’s case before God without being destroyed by God’s glory and holiness. In other words, someone who is pure and righteous before God. However, in the previous verse, Job makes a statement of faith that his Witness is already standing before God, and Job identifies this Witness as God when he calls him, “One on high.” How can God plead Job’s case against God to God? Logically, this makes no sense, but paradoxically it becomes true in the person of Jesus. As stated before, he is our arbitrator before God, and being the Son of God, he is God as One of the Trinity: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit, in fact, who inspires Job to make this statement of faith, and who is the author of all scripture, and who continues to dwell in and among man to this day in order to inspire us, and lead us into wisdom and understanding of God’s ways.** Just as Satan stood before God and accused Job of not having enough integrity to stay faithful to God, he accuses all of us before God, and challenges him to the truth, that even though God loves us, we are all rebellious and unworthy of eternal life and the peace that comes with it; therefore, we deserve death. The Apostle John testifies through his vision of heaven that Satan is “the accuser of our brothers, [and] he…day and night accused them before our God” Revelation 12:10. This why we need Jesus to be our Witness to stand before God, the Father, day and night. Jesus testifies that he has justified us through his blood. God, the Father, knew that offering free will to his creation would bring about rebellion, so in his love for us, he offered himself up, in the person of God, the Son, to take the punishment we deserve so that those who choose to serve him could be justified in his eyes. The author of Hebrews states, “Jesus holds a perpetual priesthood, because he remains forever. That is why he is able to save completely those who approach God through him, since he is always alive to plead on their behalf. Such a high priest is indeed suited to our need: He is holy, innocent, undefiled, set apart from sinners, and raised high above the heavens. He has no need to offer sacrifices daily,…he did this once for all when he offered up himself” Hebrews 7:24-27.

What more can I say? Job makes at least one more statement of faith concerning a figure in heaven who will testify to God and save Job from his plight. Job states, “But I know that my vindicator lives and that he will rise last to speak in court; I shall discern my witness standing at my side and see my defending counsel, even God himself, whom I shall see with my own eyes, I myself and no other” The Book of Job 19:25-27(italics mine). This is probably Job’s strongest statement of faith in a Savior who can stand before both God and man; this is such a strong, statement, in fact, that many worship songs directed at Jesus are based on this scripture. Those of us who become aware of our sin and our need for redemption are able to deeply connect with these verses, and when they are put to song we are able to make Job’s passionate plea the cry of our own hearts as we gratefully bow before our Savoir, our hope for righteousness. In most translations of The Bible the word “vindicator” is translated as “redeemer.” Whatever language you use, it is Jesus who redeems us from the price we should have paid for our sin, it Jesus who vindicates us and sets us free from eternal suffering, it is Jesus who died for us and saved us from our sin-nature, from our very selves. The Apostle John testifies in his vision of heaven, “the accuser of our brothers…is overthrown. By the sacrifice of the Lamb, [Jesus], and by the witness they, [our brothers], bore, they have conquered him; faced with death, they did not cling to life. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you that dwell in them!” Revelation 12:10-12. It is in John’s Revelation that Jesus, the Messiah, is prophesied to come again in power as a warrior king. He will wage a final battle against Satan, who began the war in the beginning of our created time by trying to usurp the throne of God. When Jesus has Satan completely under his foot, he will sit in judgment on all peoples of the earth from all the ages. Those who sought after him and who chose to serve him will receive mercy, grace and freedom from their sins once and for all. Those who chose to live in rebellion and follow their own selfish desires will be judged and be banished from the presence of the Lord. The choice is yours.

*It is popular to believe that Hell is a place of torture from God, but I don’t believe this to be true. It is my opinion that in Hell, God is just giving both fallen angels and unbelieving people what they wanted in the first place, which is to be free from Him; to not have to follow his way, so they can go their own way. However, God is the source of all goodness on earth, so if they become separated from God, they will all lose his grace. There will certainly be torment in Hell, but it won’t be at the hands of God; people are just mean. Think of the atrocities mankind commits when we still have God calling out to us and offering us grace and mercy. Now imagine a place where there really is no God, and all beings follow their own selfish impulses without restraint. That, in my opinion, is Hell.

**The Trinity is a name given to the paradox that we serve one God who exists in Three Persons. It is debated by many theologians whether there are three distinct persons acting and thinking in complete unity, and therefore One Being, or if there is simply One God who expresses himself in three distinct ways. For me, I am content to rest in the fact that his ways are higher than my ways, and that I may never understand this mystery, even when I get to heaven. I have had enough experience with all three expressions of God to know they are real, and God testifies to me through my spirit and through his Word that “the Lord is One.” Some aspects of our Faith require faith and simply can’t be understood with our human brains.

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

 

Peter L Richardson

“Sonnet 135”
-William Shakespeare

Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy will,
And will to boot, and will to over-plus;
More than enough am I that vex thee still,
To thy sweet will making addition thus.
Wilt thou, whose will is large and spacious,
Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine?
Shall will in others seem right gracious,
And in my will no fair acceptance shine?
The sea, all water, yet receives rain still,
And in abundance addeth to his store;
So thou, being rich in will, add to thy will
One will of mine, to make thy large will more.
     Let no unkind, no fair beseechers kill;
     Think all but one, and me in that one Will.

Part II: God’s Unfathomable Wisdom

Naked came I... PLR '99

“And he said to mankind: ‘The fear of the Lord is wisdom, and to turn from evil, that is understanding!’” The Book of Job 28:28

Chapter 14, Job’s elegy on death which closed the first cycle of speeches, was closely aligned with Ecclesiastes. Likewise, Chapter 28, closes the last cycle of speeches, and it ends with the same conclusion as both Ecclesiastes and Proverbs: Wisdom can only come from seeking God. This speech is Job’s last words to his friends before he makes his final plea to God to hear him and either explain his punishment or give him justice and let up. It is no coincidence that Job ends his debate with his friends with a little sermon on finding wisdom. For more than twenty chapters worth of words, he and his friends could not come to any real understanding over why Job’s life had become such a disaster. Job’s friends couldn’t open their minds to the possibility that not all suffering was the direct result of personal sin, and Job knows he’s missing something, but he just doesn’t know what it is yet. This is a turning point for Job. He realizes that most of man’s pursuits in life are meaningless, and he understands that we achieve understanding by following God’s laws, but wisdom is something that most humans never truly acquire. Job knows wisdom only comes from God, but he does not yet understand the depth of relationship he is able to have with his creator. He begins this speech with observing man’s superior intelligence on the earth and our ability to do almost anything we desire.

1There are mines for silver
and places where gold is refined.
2Iron is won from the earth
and copper smelted from the ore.
3Men master the darkness;
to the farthest recess they seek
ore and gloom in deep darkness.
4Foreigners cut the shafts;
forgotten, suspended without foothold,
they swing to and fro, far away from anyone.
5While grain is swinging from the earth above,
what lies beneath is turned over like a fire,
6and out of it’s rocks comes lapis lazuli,
dusted with flecks of gold.
7No bird of prey knows the path there;
the falcon’s keen eye cannot descry it;
8proud beasts do not set foot on it,
and no lion passes there.
9Man sets his hand to the granite rock
and lays bare the roots of the mountains;
10he cuts galleries in the rocks,
and gems of every kind meets his eye;
11he dams up the sources of the streams
and brings the hidden riches of the earth to light.

Mankind was created in God’s image. We are intelligent beings; we are superior to all other beasts on the earth; we can reason and think for ourselves; we are not slaves to instinct; we can make judgments about what the best course of action is for not only ourselves, but for those around us. We have the amazing ability of free choice, and what do we usually choose to spend our time doing? It is all about the almighty dollar. This passage is so revealing about mankind and our lust for power and riches. It makes me think of Tolkien’s dwarves in The Lord of the Rings. Obsessed with gems, they dig deeper and deeper into the mountains, cutting themselves off from the sunlight, from nature, and all other intelligent creatures of Middle Earth. What is peculiar about man is that we are willing to spend most of our time in dark, dangerous, inhumane places in order to gather pretty things that we will barely have the time to enjoy for the sake of gathering more and more and more of them. Have we changed at all in the last 4,000 years? Not much. Think about the banker who spends all of his time in pursuit of being a VP or CEO and never gets to see the wife and kids. At first it is all for them, but later it is about the ego and the acquirement of wealth. His kids may have the best toys and the best education, but did they have a father? Or what about the politician who spends all his time trying to save the world with his faithful and understanding family supporting his noble pursuits; his good deeds give him a sense of entitlement, and in his arrogance he only embarrass himself and his wife when he is busted with his mistress. What about the kid on the streets who presumes he has no future? He finds his power through a gun and dealing death to his younger peers. Should I go on to describe our celebrities? You don’t even have to have any talent to be one anymore! Those of us who never got past a simple life can smugly feel we are not like those crazy rich people, but we all worship them in one form or another. Consider why American Idol is so popular. Our idols are not wood and stone, we worship by the light of television sets and on the screen of the internet. With all of our intelligence and our God-given talents, do we use them to make the world a better place; do we use them to serve God and others, to build better relationships with our wives, husbands, kids, parents, neighbors and enemies? Or, like the men of Job’s age, do we spend all of our time and energy gathering up riches when we should be seeking after wisdom? Job continues:

12But where can wisdom be found,
and where is the source of understanding?
13No one knows the way to it,
nor is it to be found in the land of the living.
14‘It is not in us,’ declare the ocean depths;
the sea declares, ‘It is not with me.’
15Red gold cannot buy it,
nor can its price be weighed out in silver;
16gold of Ophir cannot be set in the scales against it,
nor precious cornelian nor sapphire;
17gold and crystal are not to be matched with it,
no work in fine gold can be bartered for it;
18black coral and alabaster are not worth mention,
and a parcel of wisdom fetches more than red choral;
19chrysolite from Ethiopia is not to be matched with it,
pure gold cannot be set in the scales against it.
20Where, then, does wisdom come from?
Where is the source of understanding?
21No creature on earth can set eyes on it;
even from birds of the air it is concealed.
22Destruction and Death declare,
‘We know of it only by hearsay.’

I think this part of Job’s little sermon on wisdom is for those who actually wish to acquire wisdom, but they are just looking for it in all the wrong places. Though Job was speaking to an ancient audience, we can make parallels with his words to modern man. He begins with the fact that wisdom cannot be found in the ocean, in the depths of the earth. Today, most of “enlightened” society basis all their wisdom on science. The study and pursuit of science is noble, and even godly, (the Lord calls us to take dominion over the earth, Genesis 1:26-29); however, the material world cannot teach us the meaning of life, it can only teach us how to understand the material world and thereby, make life a bit easier. Of course, wisdom can be drawn from analogies of the scientific world, just look at the parables of Jesus, but Jesus was only using something we understand to explain deeper spiritual truths. Wisdom cannot be found in science.

Job then goes on to compare the search for wisdom with the search for riches again. Is he being redundant here? Perhaps, but we can again draw a modern analogy with this section. How much money, time, and effort is spent for the average American to get to and finish higher education? Of course the pursuit of knowledge is an honorable goal, but is knowledge the same thing as wisdom? Many people don’t understand the difference between the two, including, unfortunately, many college professors. Knowledge is all about gaining facts and learning how to do things. The next step is understanding. Understanding is about finding out “why” the facts are important and “why” we should or shouldn’t do those things. Wisdom is the “reason” those things are worth knowing and doing in the first place. Most university students never get past the stage of knowledge because the truth is, most university professors have an agenda they want to indoctrinate their students with; they don’t really want their students to learn to think for themselves, they want their students to learn to think the way they do. Therefore, only the brilliant discover understanding. Understanding comes with looking past the facts and thinking about all the possible consequences, good or bad, and making the right decisions based on the knowledge you have gained. Understanding requires you to think for yourself. Wisdom, however, is available for everyone; it has nothing to do with education. Wisdom requires you to use your innate sense of right and wrong, and to know what is truly important in life so that you do make the right decisions. I have friends who never graduated from high school that have more wisdom than some of my colleagues who like remind everyone of the title “Dr.” in front of their names. Wisdom cannot be found in riches, status or knowledge.

In verse 21, Job tell us that nothing on earth has seen the source of wisdom, and not even the birds who are up in the sky can see it. This could be a reference for those who are seeking wisdom through false religions; all those who look to the “sky” to find the answers in life. Many ancient religions are based on astronomical events and calendars. Even today, people try to find truth and a good fortune that depends on what month they were born in, or the next time Saturn will line up with Jupiter. There are people who think wisdom will come through meditation or through a certain amount of self-imposed trials and works. They will climb the proverbial mountain to talk to a hermit who has separated himself from humanity for the sake of illumination and enlightenment. But how can an old man who fled the idea of dealing with the world’s problems a long time ago help you understand what your calling in life is? Solomon, in The Book of Proverbs, actually personifies wisdom as a female child that plays before the Lord as he creates the world; this suggests that there is more wisdom in the innocence of a child than in all the learnings of an old man. As I’ve stated in an earlier post, Christians are not immune to this works mentality. We can lose the understanding of and the reasons why we serve Jesus in the first place. Wisdom is not found in religion.

The last part of this section refers to those people who have faced many trials, even death, and come back from the experience “wiser” and with a deeper understanding of the world and the purpose of their lives. You can see it on the faces of those who have served in battle, and knew they were fighting for a worthy cause. It is deep in the eyes of those who have been oppressed and abused in life, but they have managed to keep their integrity and even overcome the oppressor, if only in their spirit. It is in the memory of those who have sacrificed their lives in any way for someone else or for some noble cause. But as close to wisdom that Destruction and Death can bring us; they still cannot offer humanity the full picture, the full understanding of what wisdom truly is. And the answer turns out to be surprisingly simple. Job goes on:

23God alone understands the way to it,
he alone knows its source;
24for he can see to the ends of the earth
and observe every place under heaven.
25When he regulated the force of the wind
and measured out the waters in proportion,
26when he laid down a limit for the rain
and cleared a path for the thunderbolt,
27it was then he saw wisdom and took stock of it,
he considered it and fathomed its very depths.
28And he said to mankind:
‘The fear of the Lord is wisdom,
and to turn from evil, that is understanding!’

If you want to acquire wisdom, there is only one place you can go: to God, our Creator, our Heavenly Father. He is the source of everything; therefore, he is the fountain of wisdom. First we need to deal with what it means to “fear” the Lord. Contrary to many critics of our God, he does not want us to cower in fear of him like a helpless child cowers in fear of an abusive parent. God is love. The word “fear” here means to stand in awe of, or to have a deep abiding respect for. We often stand in awe of God’s creations, the grand mountain ranges, the natural waterfalls that flow down into lush valleys of rich vegetation, the colorful flow of the clouds at dusk with the deep orange circle in the sky that just an hour ago was too bright to look at, the power of thunder and lightning and the wind and the rain, the depth of the sea, and the beauty of the milky way from a distance… We often have a deep abiding respect for people who sacrifice themselves for others, or who push their skills and talents to a level never before seen in our time, or who are just all around good people who make us smile whenever we see them. This is what God expects from us, because this is what he deserves. He is the source of all talent and skill, and he is the source of all goodness. But I believe that fearing God requires us to go one step further than knowing this to be true about God’s character; I think that what God wants us to do is to actually know for ourselves that he deserves our awe, respect and adoration. In order to truly know wisdom, we need to seek out a relationship with God. Knowing that God exists, and that he’s a nice god, and that he must be pretty smart to have made all this cool stuff for us, just isn’t enough. We must communicate with him. When we are lost and confused, we need to seek his guidance; when we are tempted to act selfishly in a way that will harm ourselves and those we love, we need to ask for his help; when we know we need to do something that scares us, or we simply can’t do it without a miracle, we need to call on him. The second part is simply learning what God considers to be evil, and then doing our best to not do it. Turns out, even though it often feels good in the moment, evil is only the choices and actions we make that are harmful to ourselves and to others around us. God doesn’t just doesn’t make up rules for us in order to see if we’ll follow them or not, and then keep a tally of who is the biggest sinner in the universe. The idea here is that he created the world; therefore, he knows how things work around here. He knows which choices are going to be the most beneficial for humanity and those which are going to be the most harmful. He loves us, so he wants us to make the best choices. Wisdom is simply knowing God, and knowing him will give us the understanding of how to best live our lives, both in general and on a deeply personal level. The choice is up to us on how deep of a level of relationship we seek.

The skeptic will say, “Where is he? If he wants us to have wisdom, why does he hide himself?” The primitive mind will declare, “You can’t see God and live, all sinful creatures will die before him!” Yet, God is not so hard to find, and while we cannot stand before him in our fallen state; he does make a way for us to know him and communicate with him. The way is Jesus. In the same personification mentioned earlier by Solomon from Proverbs, Wisdom is said to call out to mankind, but we either choose to ignore her, or we are too wrapped up in ourselves to even notice her. The Father is constantly sending us messages, constantly trying to communicate with each one of us individually. Don’t worry that there are so many people in the world and there is just one God. He’s big enough to know each and every one of us intimately. The problem is, will you choose to know him? Will you seek for the signs and “have ears to hear”? The Apostle Paul, in his Letter to the Romans, states that the creation itself testifies to God’s existence (1:19-20), and that a wise and righteous man will seek to know him and do right, while the depraved man will go his own way (2:14-15). We have the very scriptures themselves. Have you read both the Old and New Testaments? In almost every age up to Jesus and the Apostles, God has spoken through his prophets, and this “Word of God” testifies to who God is and it makes clear the way he desires his children to live and to act. Do you hear what the Holy Spirit is whispering to you today? The sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross gives us direct access to the Father through the Holy Spirit. Each of us who choose to know God, and follow Jesus, have a deposit of the Holy Spirit within us. Through the Holy Spirit, God chooses to live with us, among us, and in us in the now. We do not have to wait for death and heaven to speak with him and to hear back from him! I don’t understand Christians who don’t believe that God speaks to us today. How can you have a relationship with someone who never talks to you? God is all powerful, why wouldn’t he make a way to speak with us? Of course, we must learn to hear his voice, and our hearts will often deceive us, but we have the scriptures as our guidance and our check to help us learn the voice of our Creator and help us to make wise choices that lead to good on the earth. If anything leads you to contradict the scriptures, it is your flesh and not from God.

What about all the people who have never had a chance to meet Jesus? Many Christians will disagree with me, but this is what I believe: Jesus says “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man comes to the Father but except by me” The Gospel of John 14:6. The scripture is clear that all religions don’t lead to the same place. Jesus just formally separated himself from all other religions with this statement. However, the scripture states elsewhere that “when you seek me, you will find me; if you search wholeheartedly, I shall let you find me, says the Lord” Jeremiah 29:13-14. I believe that all individuals who are genuinely seeking for Truth, who genuinely want to know who God is, and who want to have the wisdom and understanding to live a righteous Life before their Creator, even if they die before discovering Jesus is the Way, they were already on the path to Jesus, and the path to Jesus is eventually the way to the Father. I believe these individuals, no matter what generation or culture they come from, are saved. I have come to this conclusion, mostly because of the sins of the church, or at least those who claim to be in the church. Consider the man who lives his life righteously before his Creator and submits himself to an understanding of right and wrong and makes personal sacrifices for others. When this man meets a conquistador who makes him a slave and puts a sword to his neck and tells him to submit to his superior religion, and does all this in the name of Jesus, I have a hard time believing that this man will go to hell because he chose to die instead of submit to what a wicked man claimed was his religion. There are endless scenarios both modern and ancient, and only God himself really knows the true intentions of our hearts, so I say to you, don’t risk it. Seek after Wisdom, listen for her call in the streets. Submit to the truth that there is a Creator, even many nonreligious scientists are claiming that the theory of evolution is flawed and there is evidence of an Intelligent Designer (see the documentary, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed). If this God is real, talk to him. Ask him to give you signs that lead you to the Truth, ask him to give you “ears that can hear.” I can tell you from my experience: he is longing for you to hear him. He even crossed the divide, became flesh, died for the punishment you deserved, and then came back to life in the flesh just to get your attention. It’s worth looking into.

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

Peter L Richardson

Part I: Job’s Elegy on Death

Job Charcoal 1

Naked came I... PLR '99

“Every being born of a women is short-lived and full of trouble. He blossoms like a flower and withers away, fleeting as a shadow, he does not endure.” The Book of Job 14:1-2

We all know the clichés, we’ve all seen the bumper stickers: Life’s a Bitch and then You Die, You Can’t Take it With You When You Die, Two Things are Certain: Death and Taxes. Had cars existed in Job’s time, he may well have made his fortune coining cute phrases that speak a deeper, even if unpleasant, truth. Fortunately for us, Job speaks his truth considerably more eloquently than a bumper sticker; however, often his truth is just as unpleasant to hear. All the chapters of The Book of Job possess stunning imagery; each speaker uses poignant similes and metaphors to convey his ideas, but two chapters can be pulled out from the text and each stand alone as a complete poem. The first is Chapter 14. This is a speech Job gives at the end of the first cycle of debates with his friends. Fair warning: it is pretty depressing. It is not something you would expect to hear from a deacon at your church, or a man who has been a strong tower of security for many others, certainly not from someone considered to be the most righteous man on earth. Everything Job proclaims has truth to it, but we must consider Job’s state of mind when he makes this speech. He had lost every material possession and all of his kids in disaster; his wife has given up on him; his body is wracked with feverish pain; his skin is so bad it is constantly running with sores, so it is peeling off, and what is left is blackened with disease; he is coughing up blood and phlegm on a regular basis; he has chronic diarrhea, and now his friends who had come to comfort him have taken a round of verbal punches against his integrity. Job is depressed; so while we can accept everything he says in this portion of scripture as true, standing alone, it lacks the fullness of truth.
The Book of Job Chapter 14 can almost be considered the abridged version of Ecclesiastes. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon makes the argument that without faith in God, life is completely pointless and meaningless. Job comes to the same conclusion in this speech, yet his statement of hope is very short and easy to miss in the midst of Job‘s despair; however, it is very clear, and it speaks volumes about his faith in God. Let’s begin by examining the first six verses:

1Every being born of a women is short-lived and full of trouble.
2He blossoms like a flower and withers away;
fleeting as a shadow, he does not endure;
he is like a wineskin that perishes,
or a garment that moths have eaten.
3It is on such a creature you fix your eyes,
and bring him into court before you!
4Who can produce pure out of unclean? No one.
5Truly the days of such a one’s life are determined,
and the number of his months is known to you;
you have laid down a limit which cannot be exceeded.
6Look away from him therefore and leave him
to count off the hours like a hired labourer.

Job’s statement is very poetic, but what he’s really saying in verses 1-2 is literally, life’s a bitch and then you die! Job knows he has done everything humanly possible to please God, but he now, in verses 3-4, realizes that it can never be enough. If God was really to call us to account for our actions, humans, in our fallen state, would never be able to measure up to God’s standard of righteousness. Job recognizes in verse 5 that God possesses knowledge of every choice we make, good and bad, and he knows the time we are going to die. He concludes this thought in verse 6 with an excellent simile; we’ve all watched the clock at work, observing the minutes stretching into hours as time seems to move in slow motion, until we can finally go home and rest; Job now views his life as nothing but hard labor and he just wants to die. In the next section, Job focuses on the meaninglessness of life:

7If a tree is cut down,
there is hope that it will sprout again
and fresh shoots will not fail.
8Though its root becomes old in the earth,
its stump dieing in the ground,
9yet when it scents water it may break into bud
and make new growth like a young plant.
10But when a human being dies and all his power vanishes;
he expires, and where is he then?
11As the waters of a lake dwindle,
or as a river shrinks and runs dry,
12so mortal man lies down, never to rise
until the very sky splits open.

In verses 7-9, Job explains how vegetation is able to regenerate itself through seed, and often becomes renewed through trimming and exposure to water and the elements. Even a stump that looks dead may spring back to life, but that is not the case for humans. In verses 10-11, Job states that as we turn the corner of middle age, we have nothing to look forward to but our diminishing strength and eventual demise. However, we get our first glimpse of hope from Job in verse 12; man cannot come back to life as tree might, but Job recognizes a distant time when this age will end, and perhaps a new age will begin. As we see in the next section, Job understands that while our bodies are mortal, our spirits last much longer, perhaps even forever, in the next life:

13If only you would hide me in Sheol,
conceal me until your anger is past,
and only then fix a time to recall me to mind!
14If a man dies, can he live again?
He can never be roused from this sleep.
I would not lose hope, however long my service,
waiting for my relief to come.
15You would summon me, and I would answer;
You would long to see the creature you have made…

Sheol is the name the ancient Mesopotamians called the afterlife. In most of the Old Testament whenever the after life is mentioned as Sheol, the understanding of the place is that humans will exist in a dreamlike, sleep state whether they were good or bad. With all the pain Job is experiencing, he longs for this rest in the afterlife, but, in verses 13-15, he also adds a new revelation to the understanding of Sheol. Job believes that while his current life may be full of trouble and pain, he will receive deliverance in the afterlife. He believes that God is angry at him, but he takes hope in the fact that God, as his creator, will come to show love and affection to him. Just as a parent who may be angry at their child for a time will never lose affection for that child and will seek reconciliation, so Job will find relief and be able to spend eternity with his God in communion and in peace. Yet for now, he is still in the midst of pain and confusion, and he turns again to the meaninglessness of life:

16…whereas now you count my every step,
watching all my errant course.
17Every offense of mine is stored in your bag,
where you keep my iniquity under your seal.
18Yet as a falling mountainside is swept away,
and a rock is dislodged from its place,
19as water wears away stone,
and a cloudburst scours the soil from the land,
so you have wiped the hope of frail man;
20finally you overpower him, and he is gone;
with changed appearance he is banished from your sight.
21His sons may rise to honor, but he is unaware of it;
they may sink into obscurity, but he knows it not.
22His kinsfolk are grieved for him
and his slaves morn his loss.

Job laments in these last verses, 16-22, that this life is pointless. Whatever good you do is still overshadowed by your sin. God sees it all, it cannot be hidden from him, and no matter what we do in this life, it will all be forgotten anyway. No matter what accomplishments you make: you, your work, your descendants, and all memory of anything will be wiped away into obscurity. Pretty dismal, but even though these statements can be considered true, and even though Job catches on to a deeper understanding of eternity than most in his time had, in his despair, he is still lacking revelation. Let’s look at the life you are living right now. True, unless you are George Washington or The Beatles, no one in 100 years will probably remember that you existed. But consider the consequences of your choices on this earth. If you were all about selfishness and made choices that only helped yourself, and in the fallout caused harm to others, you have left a negative legacy on this earth, you made it a bit more shitty than it would have been otherwise. On the flip side, if you were all about giving and serving, and you made choices that benefit others as much as they would you, then you have left a positive legacy on this earth, and you made it a bit more enjoyable than it would have been otherwise. Imagine if we humans were more selfless than we are selfish; imagine the kind of world we have the potential to possess if it wasn’t always about me, me, and me. So even if we leave the idea of rewards and punishments in the afterlife out of it, we see that our choices we make in life leave consequences that span the ages, and even have the potential to last into eternity. Additionally, even though Job wasn’t being punished for his sin, he did have it right when he laments that no human is righteous enough for God. However, God, in his love for us and his desire to be with us, did provide a way for us to be redeemed, and even though Job probably was not aware of the fullness of his own words, we can see the foreshadowing of God’s plan to bring a Savoir to the world, part of this foreshadowing is Job‘s statement of faith from this speech that he will have deliverance in the afterlife, but there is stronger evidence of prophecy in The Book of Job in other places. In a later Post we will look at the evidence of Jesus in The Book of Job.

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

Peter L Richardson

Part II: Job’s Weakness

Job Charcoal 1

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

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

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