So, it would be impossible to do a tour of Biblical characters who suffered and not bring up Job, which we know is everyone’s favorite book of the Bible. I mean, it’s the book we all go to when we need a pick me up, right? As much as I’ve been looking forward to talking about Job this week, I have to say, with all honesty, I’m actually lying right now. I have not been looking forward to it.
So, that’s all I have for you today, see you back here tomorrow when we’re going to take a look at John the Baptist. Just kidding.
Fortunately or unfortunately, we simply won’t have time to cover all the intricacies of Job in one 10 minute episode of the podcast. What I want to do is highlight a few parts of the story and draw a few, very practical applications for us in our lives today.
The story starts with the description of a man who, by our standards would be one of the most elite people around. Not only was he ridiculously wealthy, he was considered to be THE greatest man among all the people of the East. He was blameless and upright. Sorry Muhammad Ali, you weren’t really the greatest after all.
But, I mean this guy is like if there was someone who had the wealth of Bill Gates and the reputation of the pope. Well, probably better than the pope. You can tell how wealthy he was by the way his kids acted. His sons would throw such crazy parties that Job had to arrange for them to be purified afterwards. From what I’ve seen in the movies, it’s always the rich kids who throw the biggest, baddest parties. I wouldn’t know having never been invited to attend one.
The setting of the story immediately shifts to heaven where the angels are presenting themselves and Satan appears to be trying to sneak in with them, probably masquerading as an angel of light. But, nothing gets past God. He asks Satan, where did you come from? In other words, nice try buddy, you’re not going to pull the wool over my eyes.
The word Satan means accuser here. It’s as though he’s been roaming the earth looking for someone to accuse before God. And then God does something crazy, he suggests Job to Satan. “Have you considered my servant Job?” Based on what happens in the story, I think I’m fine if God never recommends me that way.
Satan basically says that the only reason Job is righteous is because God has given him everything and protected him from suffering and struggle and the surely, if Job didn’t have all that stuff, he would definitely turn on God. To which God, the righteous judge says something to the effect of, “I’ll allow it. You can take everything from him, you just can’t harm him.”
Then, in one conversation, everything Job has to his name is taken from him. One guy tells him the servants and oxen were killed and while he was still speaking, another guy comes and says, fire from heaven burned up the sheep and servants, and while he was speaking another guy came and said someone came and stole your camels. Then another guy tells him that his sons and daughters were killed when the big bad wolf huffed and puffed and blew his house down with them inside.
I mean, talk about sucky conversations. Dang Job, that sucks. But it gets worse.
Remember God saying not to lay a finger on job. Well Satan comes back to accuse God or Job, I’m not quite sure and he says “Well, of course he hasn’t turned his back on you, all he cares about is himself. As long as he’s healthy he won’t.” So God gives Satan permission. It’s so bad that Job takes a piece of pottery an scrapes himself with it while he sits among the ashes of his life.
Then here comes his wife, the great encourager: “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” But Job replies, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?”
Then the next whole bunch of chapters are the round table of Job and his friends. Job goes all George Bailey and wishes he had never been born then argues his case to his friends and then they argue back with what they think is happening. Job argues for his innocence and says that his suffering has nothing to do with God’s justice. But then he starts wrestling between whether God uses justice in his running and ruling of the world or if God is unjust.
Not long into this section, we get this amazing few verses of poetry: “[God] is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court. If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that this terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot.” Wow.
Then the friends come in, another great support group, and start accusing Job of doing something to deserve being treated this way by God. “I mean come on Job, this is because you never really comforted those people, or you committed this great evil offense or that your kids actually brought their deaths on themselves. I mean, you know what they were doing.”
Job eventually gets fed up with his friend and starts calling them names, saying “You smear me with lies; you are worthless physicians, all of you. If only you would shut up. For you, that would be the wisest thing you could do. Can you really speak on God’s behalf, will you lie for God?” I mean, things are getting real here. This is the kind of stuff that makes you cringe when you’re watching the first couple of seasons of the office.
As Job reaches his limit he cries out and demands that he speak with God himself and get answers for what’s going on. That’s when another buddy shows up, Elihu who has a little bit different perspective on Job’s situation and says that suffering might be to keep you from sinning in the future or to build up your character. And he says that Job is wrong to accuse God. To which Job remains silent.
Finally, God shows up in a storm, literally tells Job to man up for the questioning he’s about to get. And he asks: “Where were you when I land the earth’s foundation? Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!” God does not pull any punches with Job. Well, he probably does. But still, God is tough. God continues: “Who restricted the seas to their place? Have you ever commanded the morning to appear, walked in the recesses of the deep, seen the gates of death and deepest darkness?”
On and on this goes until God says: “Let him who accuses God answer him!” And, like we all would do in this situation, Job recognized his finitude in the face of infinity. “I am unworthy, how can I reply to you? I have no answer.” But God doesn’t stop. “Brace yourself like a man, here come some more questions and you will answer me.”
God’s line of questioning changes. “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?” But then God starts asking questions about Behemoth and Leviathan. What? His basic argument is, you can’t control these massive creatures. And God says, “If you lay a hand on it, [leviathan, basically a dragon], you will remember the struggle and never do it again! No one is fierce enough to rouse it. Who then is able to stand against me? Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.”
Finally, Job recognizes his position with God. He recognizes that it is God who can do all things, that Job himself was speaking of things he didn’t understand and finally ends by saying “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.”
And God goes after Job’s Darwin-award recipient friends, makes them bring an offering to Job and tells them: “My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” And the story ends with Job getting back twice as much as he had before. He lives 140 more years, sees his children, grand, great and great-great grandchildren and dies full of years.
It really is an incredible story. I didn’t say fun, but it is incredible. But, what can we learn about suffering from Job? More than we can cover in this already too long, devotional, but here are four things to point out.
1.) It is Satan who does all this stuff to Job, God allows it.
All this evil that happens to Job is at the hands of Satan. And it’s all being done out of malice and spite. Does God allow it? Yes. Why? I don’t know. And that’s where we need to go next. Job accepts the trouble as though it’s from God, even though the story makes it clear that God allows Satan to bring the trouble. If we’re asking why God allows the struggle, I also think it’s worth asking why God doesn’t correct Job when Job accuses God of doing this to Him.
2.) It’s Satan who is the first to question God and His justice.
It starts in chapter 1 with Satan accusing God of giving Job an easy life and that being the reason for Job’s uprightness. Then in chapter 2 he says that the only reason Job hasn’t turned his back on God is because he still has his health. It’s Satan who accuses God of mistreating Job. Satan is saying that God hasn’t been fair to Job because of his health and wealth.
3.) Job’s friends suck. Don’t be like Job’s friends.
There have been many believers who have done a lot of damage that has been done to believers and non-believers alike, saying and acting in the same way as Job’s friends. Job was right to call them good for nothings. At least it seems like God is okay with it at the end of the book. Seriously, don’t be that guy. Don’t be the one asking what sin the person must have committed. Don’t assume that the reason someone lost their child was because of their bad decisions. Don’t say the reason the person is suffering is because they weren’t there for someone else who needed them. I mean you’re free to be that kind of a person if you want. Just don’t do it in the name of Jesus and please never be my friend.
4.) God is the reward.
Perhaps the greatest point in all this is that at the end of the story Job takes his problems directly to God himself. And yes, it’s a brutal exchange. But, when you go to the source (like Eve should have done in the garden), the only God of the universe knows exactly what you need to hear to get you through the struggle. Sure, in Job’s case it was tough love, but God knew Job from beforehand. God knew how Job’s story played into the bigger story He has been unfolding from before the foundations of the earth. God is big enough to handle our frustration, anger, rage and pain.
Just like at the beginning of the story Job didn’t have what he had as a reward for his uprightness, in the end his stuff isn’t restored because of his response to God. It’s a gift. It’s a blessing. The reward is God.
One final thought, those verses in chapter 9 where Job is longing for a mediator, someone to bring Job and God together, someone to remove God’s rod from me, then I would speak up without fear of him…do you remember that part?
Good news. We have such a mediator. We have someone who went between us and God, someone who brings humans and God back together, someone who took the full brunt of God’s rod in our place, someone who deals with the justice of God in himself so that we can now come to God without fear of retribution. We have that man and His name is Jesus. And, he was sent by God himself to walk with us in our pain and deal with the requirements of God’s justice.
God loves you, Jesus died for you. That is the reward and that is the point in it all.