Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Book of Job

Bad things happen to good people. This question has perplexed humanity and perhaps has been a stumbling stone for some of God's people.

I turned my attention to the Book of Job for answers. Job was a wonderful man, with a wonderful life. He was a great family man. A man of God. A man of principal and the spiritual covering for his family. However he suffered unspeakable personal losses, calamities and devasting illness.

During my younger years as a Christian, I purposefully avoided the Book of Job when reading through the Bible. I was poor. I worked much too hard. My wife has been stricken by several horrendous illnesses and I just did not want to read about another man's problems. I had enough of my own. What I had forgotten was the Bible is one of God's ways to speak to us and teach us.

With the recent deaths of some people that were important in my upbringing, I decided to take a look at The Book and draw some comfort from it.

Aside from the valuable lessons in Job, this book is perhaps one of the best written of all the books of the Bible. I am sure that the Book of Job was passed on and on by oral tradition before scribes set it to parchment. It's words and thoughts expressed are so eloquently set forth.

In the first verses we learn of Job's wealth and learn about Job's family. Job is the family patriarch and he is also the spiritual patriarch of his family. Job is depicted as a man of simple faith, integrity and dedication to God. He loves and trusts God in all things and he loves his family.

Ironically, Job's sons and daughters were not concerned about their spiritual life or relationship with God as much as they were concerned with living the good life. At least as much of the good life that Ur had to offer in 1000 B.C. Job's sons were party animals and they invited their 3 sisters with them. Job was concerned about their carnality and their souls. So "after the feast had run it's course..." Job would offer burnt sacrifices to God because he was concerned that his children may have sinned and cursed God within their hearts.

In the next verse we then get a glimpse of the high places in Heaven as the sons of God come to present themselves before Him. Satan answers God's question. "Where have you been?" Satan states that he has been going to and fro across the earth. God then asks him if he has considered His servant Job? Job is blameless and upright. Job fears God and turns away from evil. Satan rebuts God and accuses Him of putting a hedge around Job, his house and all that he owns. He then tells God "to touch him with Your hand and he will curse your face." God will not be told what to do. But says to Satan, take away all the he has, but do not touch him.

Are we pawns in a cosmic game of chess? No. God is simply showing that his servant Job had authentic faith. Job trusted God, his savior, in all things and all circumstances.

Satan then causes the deaths of all of Job's servants by using evil men to kill them. Jobs animals were slaughtered by a fire and those beasts that escaped the fire were stolen by two different tribes of maurading invaders. Finally a natural disaster comes along and destroys the home where his children were feasting. They were all killed.

When Job learns of these awful maladies, he shaves his beard and head, tears his clothing and morns. He falls to the ground in his grief and prays to the Lord and blesses God saying "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."

Satan's boast is disproven. Though Job is grief stricken and desolate, he accepts his plight as coming from the world and blesses God's name.

Once again we glimpse the realm of God. The sons of God come before Him and once again God says, "Have you considered my servant Job. There is none like him." God is proud of Job. In the face of all disaster Job is steadfast in his faith and integrity, even though "you have moved against me to destroy him without cause." Satan is very upset at this point and yells "Skin for skin. All that a man has, he will give his life for. But touch his bone and face (cause illness) and he will curse Your Face." God gives Satan power of Job with the condition he spare his life.

Job is stricken with sores from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet. He is in pain and tries to scrape off the scabs with potsherd and put ashes on his body for relief.

The words of Job's wife reflect the thoughts of the world. "Do you still hold fast to your faith, to your integrity? Why don't you just curse God and die?" In other words face the facts God is to blame for our poverty, God is to blame because our children are gone, God is to blame for your illness so you might as well take matters into your own hands. Curse God, kill yourself and end the misery.

Job does feel devastated about his condition. But he does not curse God. Instead he curses himself for ever being born. How many of us have said the same thing? Job is miserable. His health is wrecked, his family killed and all his pocessions are gone. If you have ever suffered from any form of skin malady you may relate to the torment that you go through. You skin is surrounded in nerve endings. The itching and pain can not be relieved. It is no small wonder Job tried to cut off the sores with sharp pieces of broken pottery. However Job does not place blame on God.

At this point his three friends come to console him by offering words of wisdom. This is where my ears perked up. I have heard some of these same words before.

Job's friend Eliphiz speaks. To summarize, Eliphiz says to Job, God is angry at you. God gets angry from time to time. Beg for His wisdom. Ask Him. God is testing you and you will come out the wiser from these tests.

Bildad, Job's other friend offers advice. He critizes Job's words of faith as being full of wind. He states the cause of Job's plight to be due to his lack of knowledge and transgressions against God. Job needs to repent, beg forgiveness and seek wisdom. He compares Job to papyrus that cannot grow without marsh water.

Job's next friend Zophar then speaks and accuses him of hidden sin and lack of understanding of God.

The conversation goes on and Job is accused of not having enough faith. His lack of faith is the cause of his woes. His friends go on and on pointing out Job's faults and explaining their oppinion of God's ways. After all, they are experts. After all, they have come to comfort their friend.

Then in chapter 32 when all finally stop speaking, the voice of youth speaks out in the form of Eli-hu, hu rambles on and on giving us his knowledge of the mind of God.

To summarize Job's friends accuse him of:
1. Not having enough faith
2. Having hidden sin
3. Not having sufficient wisdom
4. Not praying fervantly enough
5. You are being tested and have failed

There are plenty of great studies on this book. Bottom line is that all Job's friends are speaking the same words I hear today. Sadly some of these words come from the pulpit. I have heard them from Evangelists and read them in Christian books. 3008 years later nothing has changed. We still argue about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Men are still expounding their great knowledge of the Almighty. Christians are still preaching the words of "Yoda". "Try? There is no try. You do or do not" Or Yoda's respons to the words of Luke (and by Luke I do not mean the 4th Gospel), Luke "I can't believe it." Yoda, "That is why you fail". The Word of God is not Star Wars.

What made God proud of Job was Job's fear of God and his respect of God. Job was blameless and upright. He trusted and accepted God in all things and turned away from evil.

Finally God appears in a whirlwind and the whole group become quiet.

God rebukes all the men for their lack of knowledge and feeble attempt at explaining God Way. God asks where they were when He created the earth and created all the beasts. It is here that God has a wonderul soliloquy about the creation of the earth and the animals that inhabit the earth. This is worth reading.

Throughout the book Job speaks his mind as to what he would say if he had an audience with God. He would like to defend himself before the Lord. Now God gives him the chance and Job can only say "Behold, I am of small account. I hold my hand over my mouth (a sign of respect for nobility) I have spoken once but can say no more."

God asks him if he would condemn God that you may be justified?

When God finishes speaking. Job understands and says, ""I know that thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of thine can be thwarted. 'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?' Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 'Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.' I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes."

In other words, yes I said those things, but now that I behold you I know that I am nothing please forgive me.

After God finishes speaking with Job, He accuses Job's 3 friends of speaking falsely about the things of God. He then gives Job the responsibility of making a sacrifice for the sin of his friends. His friends were required to provide the animals for the sacrifice. Remember, Job does not have any animals as his pocessions were destroyed. I find it very interesting the God does not accuse the youth of his indiscretions or ask for a sacrifice for his sin.

We see in the last part of the bookd the LORD restores the fortunes of Job after he obeyed God, prayed and sacrificed for his friends. The LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house; and they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold. To me this is wonderful that his own family recognized Job and loved their brother. I am certain that before these tragic events occurred Job had shared with them. They now were returning Job's example.

And the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she-asses. He had also seven sons and three daughters.

God doubles the amount of pocession that Job had originally had after Job had performed God's Will. He gave him seven more sons and three more daughters. He did not double the children that he lost, because children are not pocessions and souls cannot be replaced. There is no mention of the party life for his new sons and daughters. Perhaps because Job is a changed man, he has become a new role model for his new family.

It is also very interesting that Job's daughter's names are mentioned, but not the names of his sons. Job also gives his daughter's equal share in his inheritance, which is unheard of. We learn that God allowed Job to live 140 years and see four generations of his children.

Job is a man of simple faith, integrity and trust in God. What I have learned from this book is to hold on to that simple trust. Believe that God is in control. Shy away from the teachings du jour. Put your hope in God, I will praise Him yet, my Savior, My God.

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