The Mystery of Job
"There was a man in the land
of Uz, whose name was Job,
and that man was blameless and upright, fearing God,
and turning away from evil."
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God has a Hall of Fame
for those who endure suffering.
He proudly pointed to Job as His prize example.
James tells us that the prophets are a good example in suffering affliction. He encouraged Christians to count those happy—blessed—who endured their affliction until the end. Job is God's prize example."Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job . . . " (James 5:10-11).The first thing God tells us about Job is that he was perfect and upright, a man who feared God and turned away from evil (Job 1:1). In verse eight, God added to Job's resume' that there was no one like him in all the earth. He was, according to Job 1:3, also the greatest of all the men of the east, an exceedingly prosperous man. He and his family were blessed of the Lord. James also gives us often overlooked information about Job. He was a prophet of God.
Job is the classic example of someone we assume would not "deserve" tribulation or need discipline. At first glance it appears he had attained the mark of the prize of the high calling of God. He had arrived no less. At least it seemed that way before his trials began. Such an observation would be one of complete ignorance of the ways of God. There is no arrival as long as we live in our flesh and blood bodies."For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways" (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Job is the classic example of someone
we assume would not
"deserve" tribulation or need discipline.
When God brought Job's name to the attention of Satan, what do you suppose were His higher purposes for Job (Job 1:8,12)? There has been much study on this subject. I can only offer my insights for consideration. The scriptures are very clear about God's high calling upon all of His children. It was the same in the Old Testament as it is for us today. My favorite passage of scripture comes to mind."But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead" (Philippians 3:7-11).Paul willingly suffered the loss of all things that he might not walk in a righteousness of his own will, strength, and achievements. He understood true righteousness comes only through grace and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Even these are gifts of God. We cannot earn them nor can we work up faith."For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:9-10).
Paul willingly suffered the loss of all things
that he might not walk in a righteousness
of his own will, strength, and achievements.
Job was the most righteous man in all the earth. He probably prayed a similar prayer to Paul's somewhere along the way. He was about to suffer the loss of all things for the same purpose.
Abraham—Another Example of Enduring Suffering with Powerful Results
If we look first at the life of Abraham we may be able to see more clearly what God was doing in the life of Job.
Unlike Job, Abraham fumbled and stumbled his way through the faith walk for years. God had promised him a son. After many years of waiting for God to deliver on His promise, Abraham and Sarai gave up on God. They opted for Plan B. A surrogate mother. Hagar. And Ishmael was born. No. This is not faith. This is man's will at work to "help" God along with His plans and promises. Sarah and Abraham had a son in God's time and in God's way. Not theirs.
Often law wins over grace and flesh wins over spirit,
with grave enduring consequences—an Ishamel.
Yet God unswervingly remains on course.
Paul later used Sarah and Hagar, Old Testament folks, as an allegory to illustrate law and grace to New Testament folks (Gal. 4). Ishmael was born by the efforts of Abraham and Sarah's own flesh. Hagar and Ishmael represent Old Covenant man walking under the law. Sarah gave birth to a son in her old age by the power of God just as He promised and in spite of their unbelief. Isaac. Sarah and Isaac represent New Covenant man walking in faith. The battle of law and grace within us is always raging. The flesh is always lusting after the spirit and the spirit is always lusting after the flesh. Often law wins over grace and flesh wins over spirit, with grave enduring consequences—an Ishamel. Yet God unswervingly remains on His course.
Abraham's Big Finale
In spite of their imperfect faith, God fulfilled His promise to Abraham and Sarah through the birth of Isaac. He wasn't through with them though. Over the years God matured Abraham's faith.
There came a day when he faced a monumental test of that faith."Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, ‘Abraham!' And he said ‘Here I am.' And He said, ‘Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you'" (Genesis 22:1-2).Isaac was no ordinary son. This was the son through whom God promised to bless the entire world. This was the son through whom the Messiah, Jesus Christ, would come. And Abraham passed the test! His faith had grown to such enormous proportions that he could actually obey God by offering His son as a sacrifice to Him. That was what God wanted to know. This is how Abraham became the father of us all (Galatians 3:29).
Abraham placed his son and all of his hopes and dreams, upon the altar. As he raised the knife to slay his beloved son, God called the offering to a halt. "Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me" (Genesis 22:12). He then provided a ram in Isaac's place, just as He provided Jesus, the Lamb of God, in our place."And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son" (Genesis 22:10-13).
Abraham placed his son
and all of his hopes and dreams
upon the altar.
Hebrews 11:17 says, "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac; and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son; Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him [Isaac] in a figure [of Christ]."
James brings powerful revelation to the personal journey of Abraham."Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God" (James 2:21-23).
The man of weak faith
became a man of perfected faith.
Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness in Genesis 15:6. After God tested him many years later (Genesis 22), James says Genesis 15:6 was fulfilled. The man of weak faith became a man of perfected faith (James 2:22), not by the works of the law but by the works of faith in the true and living God with whom he had become intimately acquainted. The righteousness of Abraham's faith became the reality of his faith. Righteousness was no longer merely imputed. It was forged in the depths of Abraham's soul as fine gold. The image and glory of the Lord were formed within him by the gracious testing fires of his God.
In spite of all Abraham's fumbling and stumbling, in spite of the fact that he and Sarah both laughed when God told them once again they were going to have a son, Romans 4:20 says, " . . . with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God". This statement proves that God truly does not remember our sins or iniquities (Hebrews 10:17).
Relating Abraham Life to Job's Life
This account of Abraham's life is important for understanding what God was doing in Job's life. In spite of Job's external righteousness and the righteousness imputed unto him by faith, in reality his faith had not been perfected. God was about to work on that.
The cross is a crucible, a fire of unbearable heat. It is the only thing that enables us to walk in real faith. It burns all of our props out from under us. Laying down every right and thing we hold dear at the foot of the cross allows God to give back according to His promise, not according to our will.
What you say? Job lived before the cross? No, Jesus was slain before the foundations of the world (Revelation 13:8). Though Jesus died on the cross on the earth 2,000 years ago, the work of the cross actually took place before the world was formed. It casts a long shadow over all of time.
What, you say? Job lived before the cross?
No. Jesus was slain
before the foundation of the world .
Faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ on our behalf is the key that opens the door to the kingdom of God. Real faith will always draw us deeper and deeper into the arms of the Lord.
The writer of the book of Hebrews says that our God is a consuming fire. His presence will burn up everything that is not of Him with unquenchable fire. As the dross is purged from silver and gold, so the things that are not of surrendered faith are burned up in His Presence. The righteousness we receive by faith becomes more and more a reality in our being and our faith is perfected. No one remains the same in the Presence of God. We will be changed into His image by His very Presence."But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Job was God's example throughout the ages
of how righteous a man can be before Him and still not be righteous enough through his own fine efforts.
Job suffered the loss of all things. Like James, Paul probably gained much of his understanding of great faith through the study of Job's life.
Job was the most righteous man on earth. There was never anyone like him before, nor has there ever been anyone like him since. Job is God's example for all ages of how righteous a man can be and still not be righteous enough through his own efforts. He was perfect and upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. Though he loved God, his righteousness was derived from sacrifice—from the works of law."And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually" (Job 1:4-5).Job was a loving father. He wanted to protect his children. His first mistake was believing he could and should protect his children from all suffering. We cannot. Doesn't it say in Proverbs, "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him" (Proverbs 22:15)? We are God's children. Sometimes we need the rod of correction to drive the foolishness from our hearts.
Job's second mistake was believing that burnt offerings would satisfy God. He presumed that doing the religious, legal things, would protect him and his family from God's displeasure. But God isn't looking for a bull or a lamb on that fire. Jesus, the Lamb of God was slain before the foundations of the world for our sins (Revelation 13:8). Abraham understood this. David understood this, but Job did not yet understand this.
The Lord wants to know if we will offer ourselves, our children and everything else we hold dear on the altar as a burnt offering. This is what real faith is all about. Unlike Abraham, Job was unable to do this."I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship" (Romans 12:1-2).
"For Thou dost not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; Thou art not pleased with burn offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite spirit, O God, Thou wilt not despise" (Psalm 51:16-17).
Job's mistake was believing
that burnt offerings would please God.
Presenting ourselves a burnt offering, a living sacrifice in the consuming fire of God burns up the wood, hay and stubble from our lives. These are temporal things, visible things like image, outward behavior, the dead works of human hands. And invisible things like lust and greed. Temporal things are hindrances to real faith. That which survives the fires of God, the gold, silver and precious stones, is eternal. These are invisible things, changes in the heart like love, mercy and compassion, not made with hands but by God's grace and power.
At some level, Job understood these truths. It is very difficult, however, to hold onto them in the midst of painful, confusing, sorrowful times."Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold" (Job 23:10).Jesus paid for everything on the cross. By faith in Him the promises are ours in His time and His way. By embracing our cross we are trusting God for the biggest promise of all. We are embracing that which will cleanse, purify, mature and transform us into the image of the resurrected Lamb. We are embracing God.
This is God's highest purpose for us."And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:28-29).
The way up is down.
The Upward Call of God
The walk of faith is not the same day in and day out. Neither does God intend for us to remain the way we are. Faith leads us to higher and higher ground. The path to higher ground is always down."Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations. I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.The word "humble" means among other things, depressed, pressed down. The way up is down.
Hear the word of the LORD, ye that tremble at his word; Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name's sake, said, Let the LORD be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed" (Isaiah 66:1-5)."Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up" (James 4:10).Job was no different than the rest of us. No one wants to throw himself onto the fire. Few of us can or will. It is unnatural for the flesh to want to suffer. No one wants their loved ones to suffer. This is even worse. So we say to ourselves, "Let's take out fire insurance. If we just do everything 'right' this will please God. Let's get those bulls and goats and throw ‘em on the fire. Get that burnt offering going! That way we won't have to go through the fires ourselves!"
This kind of thinking reflects an incorrect understanding of the ways of God. It is also typical of people who love God. Job's propriety, the attitude that we can live right enough to please God, is exactly what God was working on. Sin is not so much about morality and immorality as it is about our claim to our right to ourselves, but self is what must be thrown into the flames.
Sacrifice and burnt offering were the order of Job's day. The Lord says over and over through His Word, however, that sacrifice and burnt offering are not what He desires. Let's look at what He does desire of us."For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise" (Psalm 5l:16-l7).
"Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened; burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart" (Psalm 40:6-8).
"By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name" (Hebrews 13:15).
"I will praise the name of God with song, And shall magnify Him with thanksgiving. And it will please the Lord better than an ox or a young bull with horns and hoofs. The humble have seen it and are glad; You who seek God, let your heart revive" (Psalm 69:30-31).
I urge you therefore, brethren,
by the mercies of God, present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship
"To do righteousness and justice is desired by the Lord rather than sacrifice" (Proverbs 21:3).
"For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings" (Hosea 6:6).
"He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness/mercy, And to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:6-8).
"But go and learn what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,' for I did not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners'" (Matthew 9:13, 12:7).
" . . . to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices" (Mark l2:33).
"For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law" (Romans 13:9-10).
" . . . Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying/ hearing the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey/hear is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" (1 Samuel l5:22).
" . . . present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship" (Romans 12:1).
God loves us just the way we are,
but He loves us too much
to leave us that way.
Job was perfect and upright, fearing God and turning away from evil, but he had not "seen the end of the Lord" (James 5: 11).
The living sacrifice of a broken heart, and a contrite spirit is the sacrifice of God (Psalm 51: 17). Praise to God, righteousness, justice, mercy, the knowledge of God, compassion and loving of God and neighbor are a natural outflow of hearing and obeying the voice of God by faith, all of which scriptures say are better than sacrifice.
" . . . faith cometh by hearing
and hearing by the word of God."
The Living Word will speak to us from the law. "Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?" (Galatians 4:21). As we listen, attuned to God's voice in our spirit, not listening for what we want to hear but listening to hear what He is saying to us, He will lead us into all truth. He will work the reality of faith and righteousness in our hearts.
Through a series of gut-wrenching tragedies Job lost his children and everything he owned. When the final tribulation hit his physical body, his first response was one of surrender. In the midst of enormous suffering, He still trusted God. " . . . shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips" (Job 2:10).
I find it interesting that it was not considered sin for Job to confess that he had received evil (which means harm) from the hand of God. It is not politically or spiritually correct in many churches today to say such things. According to the holy scriptures, however, Job's initial response to these losses was perfect. He still, however, had much to learn about the ways of God.
Job's friends could not wait to pounce.
All they had been thinking began to spew
forth from their self-righteous hearts.
Soon Job's three friends arrived upon the scene to mourn with him and to comfort him (2:11). These were all appropriate responses to Job's tragedies.
The first seven days went well. They were days of weeping and mourning. Then denial lifted. Job could maintain a stiff upper lip no longer. His grief was more than he could bear.
Most of us would never have come close to doing as well as Job if we lost our children, health and everything we own! He finally came to the end of his wits, strength and propriety. He opened his mouth and began to curse the day of his birth (3:1-23).
Job's friends could not wait to pounce. All of the things they had been thinking began to spew from their self-righteous hearts. Surely Job had done something to bring these dire troubles upon himself! The next twenty-eight chapters of Job contain the longest, most incredible, mostly self-righteous diatribes in the Bible. Job's friends became his accusers, endlessly condemning him. This is what the law does to us. John 5:45 says Moses (the law) accuses us.
The next twenty-eight chapters of Job
contain the longest, most incredible,
mostly self-righteous diatribes in the Bible.
Job sometimes responded appropriately to the accusations of his friends. Sometimes he did not. I for one would not have hung around friends like these for long. Most of the time Job justified himself, not only to his accusers but to His heavenly Father as well. I've been in all their shoes. Job's shoes and his accusers shoes. How like me. How like most of us.
It is exactly this self-righteous, self-justification of our own "rightness" and "goodness" or self-abnegation and self-flagellation for our "wrongness" and "badness" that God exposes through trials. Above all, He is exposing our own efforts and will power directed toward protecting ourselves from the fires of His Presence that He is working on. They are in all of us who have not been fully tested.
It is the goodness of God that will not let up on us until He exposes to us every unrighteous, self-righteous thing buried in the crevices of our souls. He is relentless until we are broken. Then and only then can we begin to be transformed into the image of our Lord. Then and only then can we see our flesh for what it is. Then and only then can we really understand and know why we need a Savior. Job 31:40 says the words of Job were ended. Thank God! In the next verse, Job 32:1, his friends stopped speaking. Double thank God! At this point, the book of Job begins to take a huge shift.
The truth is out.
Job's heart is exposed.
Job had contended with the Almighty.
And attempted to instruct God!
He reproved God!
It is not clear when it happened, but somewhere along the way, a man named Elihu entered the scene. He is not mentioned as being among Job's friends in the beginning of the book of Job (2:11). Neither is he mentioned among those whom God declared had "not spoken of me the thing which is right" at the end of the book. The identity of Elihu is somewhat of a mystery, but he was no "friend" of Job. He appeared out of the blue and disappeared the same way. I believe he might have been a friend of God and a true friend of Job's. The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary says Elihu means "God is Yahweh". "In his name and character, as messenger between God and Job, he shadows forth Jesus Christ."
Elihu began to confront Job with the truth. Job did not know or understand Who God Is. Seven chapters later, when Elihu finished speaking, the voice of God began to thunder from His throne. The first three verses nailed Job. Thus saith the Lord!"Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, And I will ask you, and you instruct me!" (Job 38:1-3 NAS).Whoa! God said Job darkened counsel by words without knowledge! Gird up your loins, boy. See if you can give God a little instruction!
Later in Job 40:1-2, the Lord asked Job another question,"Moreover the Lord answered Job, and said, Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? he that reproveth God, let him answer."Whoa again! The truth is out. Job's heart is exposed. Job had contended with the Almighty. He attempted to instruct and reprove God!
Just when we think it can't get worse, the Lord fired another arrow from His arsenal."Will you really annul My judgment? Will you condemn Me that you may be justified?" (Job. 40:8).Gulp! Job must have wanted to crawl into a hole. "Uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh. No sir."
Job must have wanted to crawl into a hole.
"Uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh. No sir."
Job's heart is laid bear. Will Job annul the judgment of God? Will he condemn God that he may be justified? These thoughts and attitudes were hidden in the recesses of Job's heart. They are hidden in our hearts too, hidden so deeply that often even we don't know they are there until the pressure cooker builds up too much steam. Then blooey!!! It explodes everywhere. This is God's entire purpose in testing us. To expose, cleanse and heal us of all stealth activity going on below radar in the depths of our souls.
For four chapters, God grills Job. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Who enclosed the sea with doors? Have you ever commanded the morning and caused the dawn to know its place? Have you entered into the springs of the sea? Have you walked in the recesses of the deep? God continued on and on. The lights were coming on in Job's head. He began to respond to the Almighty." . . . Job answered the Lord, and said, I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee" (Job 42:1-2).Good start, Job. Don't stop now.
Good start, Job. Don't stop now.
Job had attempted to withhold thoughts from God. Isn't it amazing? I think all sincere believers in some way try do this, not with any malice to deceive but because we want so much to please God. We attempt to cloak the secrets of our hearts by saying the right things, by doing the right things. Sometimes we even succeed in hiding them from ourselves.
"If I don't say it out loud, no one will know what's really going on in my mind. Not even God. If I try real hard not to think it, maybe it will go away. It's probably just the devil anyway."
Almost as if talking to himself, Job next repeats back to the Lord the same question God asked him when He spoke to him in 38:2. "Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge?" Job was beginning to get it. Hmm. Let's see. I must be the culprit! I'm the one who darkened counsel without knowledge! O my God, my God! Have mercy on me.
It is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance because it sets us free from so much garbage, especially religious garbage. Repentance smote Job's heart."Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know" (Job 42:3 NAS).
Job had attempted to
withhold thoughts from God.
It was Job who had hidden counsel without knowledge. It was he who had declared things he did not understand, things too wonderful for him, things he did not know. These are things typical of every legalistic believer, and we are all legalistic, at least for a season. Sometimes a long season. Very long. We try to do and say all the "right" things, but we do not understand or know the Real Lord or His ways.
Hat in hand Job answered God's second admonition. ("I will ask you, and you instruct me!" Job 38:3, 40:2 NAS). Here is Job's repentant response."Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask Thee, and do Thou instruct me. I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees Thee; therefore I retract and I repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:3-6 NAS).Job is ready to give up instructing God. "Do Thou instruct me", he pleads with God. What Job did not say is more important than what he did say in the above verse. He did not say that he had HEARD God. He said he had heard OF God. There is a vast difference between the two. But Job made an even greater distinction. There is a realm of relationship with God beyond hearing OF God or even of hearing God's voice. It is the dimension of seeing Him. Not literally seeing Him, because He is Spirit, but seeing Him as in possessing Him. In Hebrew thought, to see something is to possess it, to enjoy it. Job saw God, possessed Him for his own and began the journey of enjoying Him.
Was Job a bad man?
Not according to God.
Was he a good man, even a great man?
According to God he was.
A love song surely coursed through every fiber of Job's being, its rhythm pulsating in his throbbing heart. It may have gone something like this.
"I am my beloved's, And his desire is for me. . . . love is strong as death, Jealousy is as severe as Sheol; Its flashes are flashes of fire, The very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, Nor will rivers overflow it; If a man were to give all the riches of his house for love, It would be utterly despised" (Song of Solomon 7:10, 8:6-7).
God restored everything Job lost two-fold as he repented and prayed for his friends. The most important thing Job gained from his trials, however, was a living, thriving, abiding relationship with his Lord.
How many times have I heard God's still small voice and failed to understand His intentions? The heart of God is to enter into a realm of deep intimacy with each one of His children. Legalism and sacrifice preclude and exclude this kind of relationship with God or anyone else.
Job developed an eternal perspective in his brokenness. He learned that God was only interested in captivating his heart and setting him free.
We may as well surrender to God. If we don't, if we are His, He will wrestle with us until we cry uncle. This is for our own good. It will be easier for us in the long run to surrender than to run. We cannot avoid suffering, whether we offer sacrifices or not. In our surrender He will cleanse us of those things which cause us incredible misery and hinder our relationship with Him and those we love. It is His kindness that brings us to repentance. He is full of compassion and mercy.
When we surrender to God's loving hand
we will be happy and blessed by the results. Exceedingly happy and blessed.
Was Job a bad man? Not according to God. Was he a good man, even a great man? According to God, yes. He was and still is an example of the most perfect and upright a man can be under the letter of the law, fearing God and turning away from evil. It was not enough. Still, God says Job is an example of something even greater—an example of someone who has seen God and lived."As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold we count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome [end] of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful" (James 5:10-11).The above verses say we count those blessed who endure suffering. But do we? Today we look at someone like Job and wonder why they just don't get their act together. We assume something is wrong with their faith.
How can those who endure suffering be happy, we ask ourselves. It's all perspective. Trials come to all of us. Suffering, great or small, is not easy to endure. When we surrender to God's loving hand we will be happy and blessed with the results. Exceedingly happy and blessed. Job 42:10,12 say God blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning.
After his trials, Job saw the outcome of the Lord's dealings in the fiery furnace. What he had was a greater knowledge of the character of the Lord – that He was not a mean ogre waiting for any opportunity to punish him but was "full of compassion and merciful".
Job also learned that God's intervention in his life was not chastening for the sake of chastening. It was for the purpose of shaking everything that can be shaken so that what remained would be eternal (Hebrews 13:27-29). It was God's purpose that Job yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11). God used the rod to drive foolishness from Job's heart (Proverbs 22:15).
Once we learn what Job learned, we will look back upon our trials and tribulations and say," . . . I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ" (Philippians 3:8 NAS).
The primary loss we all must suffer
is our rigid adherence to sacrifice
—to rules, laws and doctrine.
The Letter of the Law and The Loss of All Things
The message of the book of Job for me is two-fold. First, it is the prime example in the Bible of the struggle we all face in our journey between sacrifice (legalism) and understanding and knowing God (grace)."Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD" (Jeremiah 9:23-24).Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, the prophets, apostles and, of course, Jesus, all suffered the loss of all things. And God gave back abundantly to them all that was in His eternal plan for them.
Second is the message of the cross, evident even in the Old Testament in type and shadow. In the words of Paul, "the loss of all things" is the price we pay for knowing Christ Jesus our Lord. Through the loss of all things, we gain the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings, are conformed to His death and attain to the resurrection of the dead. All are part and parcel of knowing Him.
God will always test us to the level of our faith. Like Abraham when he offered up Isaac, mature faith surrenders to the tests and the loss of all things, and trusts that God is able to raise our losses from the dead. And if He does not, we trust Him for our future. We all experience heartaches, disappointments and broken dreams. Sacrifice, or legalism—our rigid adherence to rules, laws and doctrine, is the primary loss we all must suffer.
There comes a time
when the Lord says to Himself,
"It's time for this child
of mine to enter the marathon".
When Paul wrote, "forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before" (Philippians 3:13), he was speaking of putting his old religious ways of thinking and operating behind him.
The law has its place in our lives. Just as discipline is necessary for young children, Galatians 4:1-7 says God's law is our governor or tutor until we are mature. It is our training wheels until we learn to ride the big two-wheeler.
Trials and tribulations are designed to mature us and develop character in us, the character of Christ (Romans 5:3-5). Like a relay runner handing off the baton, the letter of the law hands us off to the spirit of the Law. The letter of the law is not designed for running marathons, and the Christian life is one long marathon."Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1).
Can we think it pleases His loving heart
to cause us a moment's pain?
but He sees through the present cross
the bliss of eternal gain.
Lest we think we are avoiding sin by rigid adherence to the letter of the law, Galatians 3:12 says, "the law is not of faith", and Romans 14:23 tells us "what is not of faith is sin". It is to those Paul says, "Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements (elementary principles of the law), whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?" (Galatians 4:8-9).
There comes a time when the Lord says to Himself, "It's time for this child of mine to enter the marathon".
The law nailed Jesus to the cross, but that wasn't the end of it. Jesus overcame its death. And in turn He nailed the law to the cross (Colossians 2:14), and it was finished.
Jesus Christ was the end of the law for righteousness (Romans 10:4). The trials and tribuations that come our way are there, in some part, to loosen our grip on legalism, or rather to loosen its grip on us. Certainly legalism can only make our journey through them longer and more of a struggle. And it is our greatest hindrance to relationship with the Lord." . . . despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" (Romans 2:4).
It was no longer a sacrifice.
It was a pleasure.
When all was said and done, Job was still a perfect and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil but it was no longer a sacrifice. It was a pleasure.
Lord, Thank you for planting the Book of Job squarely in the middle of your Word. Thank you for giving us the precious righteous soul of Job as an example of suffering. Suffering is such a scary subject, Lord. I want to be all you want me to be.
Jesus, Your Word says we are to submit to God and resist the devil and he will flee from us. Lord, I fully submit my will to you. By your mercies I present myself a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto You, which is my spiritual service of worship. I surrender to whatever you choose for my life. I want only your perfect will. I trust in your promise to your faithful servant, Paul. Your grace is sufficient for any circumstance I find myself in. Your power is perfected in my weakness. Therefore I boast as Paul did in my weakness that your power may dwell in me. I will be well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, and with difficulties for Your sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. I want to know you, the power of your resurrection and the fellowship of your sufferings. I long to be conformed to your death, that I may attain to the exanastasis (your resurrection from death in this life as well as in the world to come).
Your word says if I submit to You, Lord, and resist the devil, he will flee. Right now in Your Name I pray, Jesus. I resist the devil in Your all powerful name and he must flee. He is not allowed to go where you do not allow him to go. Amen.
The Mystery of Job (c) 1997
Not for commercial use.
Please feel free to copy for personal use.
Please credit the author.
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The Refiner's Fire
He sits by a furnace of sevenfold heat
As He watches by the precious ore.
Closer He bends with a searching gaze
As He heats it more and more.
For He knows He has ore
that can stand the test
And He wants the finest gold,
To mold as a crown, for the king to wear,
Set with gems of price untold.
So He lays our gold in the burning fire,
Tho' we fain would say to Him, "Nay".
And He watches the dross
that we could not see,
As it melts and passes away.
As the gold grows brighter and
brighter it grows,
As our eyes grow dim with tears.
We see but the fire—
not the Master's hand,
And question with anxious fears.
Yet our gold shines out
with a richer glow
As it mirrors a form from above
That bends o'er the fire,
tho' unseen by us,
With a look of ineffable love.
Can we think it pleases His loving heart
To cause us a moment's pain?
Ah, no! but He sees through
the present cross
The bliss of eternal gain.
So He waits there with a watchful eye,
With a love that is strong and sure,
And His gold did not suffer
a bit more heat
Than was needed to make it pure.
The Mystery of Job (c) by Anne Murchison 1997
Not for commercial use.
Please feel free to copy for for personal use.
Please credit the author.