Archive for November, 2010

You may have heard the expression, “Poor as Job’s turkey.” I’m guessing that’s an old, quaint, country comment about how little Job had to be thankful for in his time of suffering. Job even felt like God had turned against him. We are not as poor as Job’s turkey. We have much to be thankful for, though we’re not financially successful. If my wife and I had postponed marriage until our finances were in order, our marriage would never have taken place.

I realize that Job’s “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2) would be critical of that statement. Some of them would say,”You don’t know that because you didn’t wait on the Lord.” Others would say, “You didn’t claim victory over your finances, or you didn’t give enough, otherwise, you would prosper, and be in good health.” Most of the remainder would say, “God wants you to be poor, so stop complaining, and accept God’s will. I don’t believe either of those statements are completely true.

No one except the Lord knows our exact circumstances, so I won’t accept any criticism except from the Lord personally. We prayed and sought to wait on the Lord. We believed that in time, we would get straightened out. We believed God would make that happen. One way or another, God has kept us afloat, but we continue to slowly drift backward.

It’s become clear that I’m not going to be able to do what I always wanted to do for my wife and family. In all of this, her love has become much more precious to me. I didn’t mean for our lives to be a financial trial, but we believe in God, and we believe in each other. As to the idea of God wanting us to be poor, it is clear from the Bible that there’s a difference between what God desires, and what must be.

“God wants everyone to have everlasting life (2nd Peter 3:9), but many will not come to him to receive life (John 5:40). Those two verses don’t contradict each other. Contradictions are created within our minds when we’re not willing to accept an interpretation that fits all the facts.

Some are unwilling to accept the fact that God doesn’t always get what he wants. Certainly, God could force his will upon mankind, but that is not what he wants. The Lord’s will is accomplished only when we voluntarily move as he moves, desiring the same thing as he. His “sovereign will” is not always the thing that he wants, (Matthew 23:37) but rather the thing that “must needs be” (Matthew 18:6,7). At the end of the day, Job was still Job. He was still the Lord’s servant (Job 42:8).

I have never wanted my wife’s love to be tested. I’ve never wanted her to have to endure anything, but there have been times when I’ve needed her to (1st. Corinthians 13:4-7). God needs us to stand with him, and to try to reach people wherever they are. Some of us will live among the rich, but many of us will be needed to work alongside the poor. The Bible says that God won’t allow us to be tested beyond our ability, so not many of us will be called upon to withstand as much as God’s servant Job.

Life will test us all though, in one way or another. Satan’s argument is that “Every man has his price.” He deceives the world with cheap trinkets, and empty promises. He accuses God of the same thing. He said that Job served God because of all God did for him, but there was more to it than that. If we can grasp how much God loves us, and what a terrible price he has paid for us, we’ll be more likely to love him in return. He hasn’t bought us with cheap trinkets, but with his own blood. He has paid for us with his own life.

I am humbled by these things. I am unworthy, and I can feel it. A certain kind of reverence should be shown toward someone like Job, who has gone through intense suffering. Job held a deep reverence for God. The Hebrew word that is translated “fear” in Job 1:9 can also mean reverence. If Job did not consciously know that God would one day become a man, and die on a cross, I believe that he sensed it. I believe that was the source of the reverence that Job had for God.

In the end of the book of Job, his friends and relatives bring gifts to him. They finally show him the reverence that he was due all along. They do this because, God has spoken for Job, and he has been vindicated.

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Why does suffering exist? If we say that it’s because of Satan, why doesn’t God immediately destroy the devil? Is it surprising that someone would suggest that God should destroy, or confine one of his creatures? Where should God draw the line though? Other intelligent creatures possess freewill. Do they have the potential to cause suffering? Must they also be confined before the world could become a utopia?

Would we entrust God with the authority to make all the choices, or would we be suspicious of him? If the evil in someone’s heart hasn’t led to an action, would we trust God’s judgment? Would we blame God for not keeping us from doing wrong? Would Cain have believed he was capable of killing his brother? God had warned him that, “…sin lieth at the door…”

The truth of the matter is, I wouldn’t have believed the evil that man is capable of, if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. I don’t think anyone else would have believed it either. Realizing that the potential to do wrong exists within my own being, leads me to seek God’s mercy. The Bible teaches that all of us have this potential, and that it manifests itself in our lives.

Job realized this (Job 9:20), and he knew that only God can justify us. He said, “I know that my redeemer lives.” Job believed in the concept of sacrifice, and he believed in a resurrection (Job 19:25,26). He believed in admitting that our wrongs cost creation something, and that our wrongs cost God something.

One of the themes of the book of Job, is the question of how to reconcile the freewill of God’s creatures with the concept of God’s will. In the conversation between Job and his friends, all of them including Job, attribute everything to God. Satan is not mentioned in their conversation. Whoever wrote the book of Job, however, had some inside information and tells us about the role Satan played in this. We can deduce from the first two chapters, that Satan has a will of his own, and that his will concerning us is to “kill, steal, and destroy.”

I think we each desire freewill for ourselves, but we have a problem with other people having a mind of their own. I wish that nothing was controversial, and that we could all agree on everything, but life is not that way. God created intelligent creatures, and creatures with a high degree of intelligence would inherently possess the ability to learn. They could either learn from God, or they could learn by experimentation (the Scientific Method).

Intelligent creatures would automatically possess “freewill.” Our cat has freewill. He has learned that a pet carrier means a trip to the vet, and at the sight of one, we are in for a fight. He realizes that a box can serve the same purpose, and he reacts the same way. A “Tree of Knowledge” would automatically exist when creatures possess a high degree of intelligence. If intelligent creatures rejected their creator, and began to trust their own ability to interpret knowledge, it would lead to a world like ours.

The book of Job doesn’t use this sentence, but the exercise of freewill in defiance of God has led to all suffering. That can be deduced from Job 1:8-11, and the third chapter of Genesis. Denying the existence of freewill may temporarily feel like the safest thing to some people. You can feel like you’re in the perfect will of God, and that “bad things” only happen to other people. It is inevitable, though, that things will happen. That is when people begin to blame God. “Why God?” “Why did you do this?”

In the book of Job, the main area of disagreement between God and Satan, is about integrity. Integrity is remaining true to your convictions in spite of circumstances. Are there things that are true, and should be true, regardless of circumstances? Will we continue to love God when the evil days come? I’ll have to make one more post on Job, to try to answer those question.

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Can a man “move” God? Can God be persuaded, or provoked, by any created being? Can he be influenced by petitions, protests, or prayers? Are his actions sometimes affected by ours? A “yes” answer would mean that God is not a dictator who decides our every move. Those are questions that you might want to answer “Yes, but…” Sometimes, yes or no will only serve as partial answers that can easily be misunderstood.

We have freewill, but that doesn’t annul God’s sovereignty. Things are not beyond his control. To say “no” to those questions though, is to directly disagree with many Bible verses. In Job 2:3, God says to Satan, “…you moved me against him, to destroy him without cause.”

I think it’s always helpful when dealing with a difficult Bible verse, to study it from all angles, and look for a commonsense answer. It would make sense to say, if God decides not to move, then nothing could budge him. God made a choice to step aside, yet restraining Satan to keep him from taking Jobs life. It would also make sense to say, there must have been some reason for God to step aside that outweighed his desire to protect Job.

We know from God’s words, “…without a cause,” that Job was not to blame. The fact that God could protect Job’s life from Satan, tells us that God is sovereign. The fact that God said, “…you moved me,” or in some versions, “…you incited me,” shows that the freewill of God’s creatures influences the things that happen in this world. God is saying that Satan is the cause of Job’s troubles.

In 2nd. Corinthians 4:4 Satan is called, “the god of this world.” He told God (Job 1:7) that he had been going to and fro in the earth. He had been all around Job, stalking him, trying to find a way to get to him. The name Job means “hated,” or “persecuted.” Some say his actual name was Jobab, which means “howler.” I can see how a noisy baby could be called “Howler,” so that could be how he got his name. The name could also have originated in his time of troubles. If he ever let out what he felt inside, the neighbors may have heard him howling.

Satan hated Job worse than he hates most of us. Why did God step aside and allow Job to be tested? God wouldn’t have said, “…you moved me…” to Satan, if he wanted to test Job. I think Job’s “test” provides answers for other people, rather than for Job. We can learn much from the Book of Job, without having to experience it for ourselves.

Paradise doesn’t last in this world, and this wouldn’t be a good place to stay forever. Suffering and death will come to all people, except for the believers who are alive when Jesus returns. Even they will suffer in this world before they’re transformed. We can learn something from Job about holding on. He didn’t wait very patiently, but he waited. Other believers doubted him, but he proved something to them. They were “miserable comforters,” trying to help but only made things worse. In the end, they had to ask him to pray for them. Job’s salvation didn’t look too sure, but it was.

The list of things we could learn from Job could go on and on. I think that the main reason for Job’s suffering, and all suffering, is given to us in the first chapter of Job. I hope to focus on that in my next post. There must be something out there that outweighs what we have to go through in this life. God must think something outweighs the pain of crucifixion. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have made us, and he wouldn’t have become a man and died for us. I’m not trying to drag this out. It’s just more than I can write about in a few minutes here and there, during the week.

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God can’t tell us everything right now; we don’t have the time. To tell us everything would require an eternity, and we only have a lifetime. He has told us much more than we “know,” and in many cases a lot more than we want to know. If we’ll trust him, he will give us eternity, and in eternity, he promises he’ll explain everything. It is absolutely necessary to have trust as we go along. We can’t wait until the end of the journey to decide if we’re going to trust someone. That is true of marriage or any relationship. You can’t reach the desired destination without it.

There is something in the Bible about everything, but the scope of knowledge forces much of it to be condensed. That means that we’ll have to study and pray, if we are to understand a particular subject. Even then, our understanding will be limited. When we have a partial understanding of something, there’s always the danger that our knowledge will be misapplied. Sometimes a misapplied truth can be worse than a lie. In some cases, Job’s “friends” misapplied some general truths. At other times they tried to turn special cases into general truths. Sometimes, they just lied.

Job has some sort of terrible skin disease, and is sitting in a mound of ashes. He probably covered himself in the ashes in an attempt to get some relief from the flies. People avoid him. He has lost his health and his wealth. His children have all been killed when winds destroyed their house. Job believes that God has turned against him. Then Job’s friends come along and add to his misery, by insisting that his suffering is because of some wrong that he’s done. Any truth in anything they say, is terribly misapplied.

As Job tries to defend himself, the things they say get worse and worse. I’m going to paraphrase a few of their “hints,” and insinuations, so that we can hear it as Job did. Eliphaz says: a. Job is spiritually weak (Job 4:3-5). b. These things don’t happen to the innocent (4:7). c. Your children have been crushed because of your foolishness (5:4,5). d. You are unrepentant (5:17). Bildad says: a. Your children have sinned, and been cast away (8:4), and you haven’t sought God. b. You are a hypocrite (8:13). Zophar says: a. You are a big-mouthed liar (11:2,3). b. You deserve worse than you’re getting (11:6).

Maybe Job became more defensive than he should have been, but no wonder. In the end of the book, God had a few things to say to Job; but he was angry with Job’s friends (Job 42:7). He instructed them to ask Job to pray for them. When we look at their accusations from Job’s point of view, it becomes very clear why God was angry. There is such a thing as cause and effect, but sometimes the cause is so remote that it can’t be determined.

The book of Job teaches us that we’re not as smart as we think. Genesis 3:24 speaks of a “flaming sword that turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” God’s word is like that. If we begin to think we’ve got it all down, there’s something in there somewhere, to show us that we don’t. Knowledge, when it falls into the wrong hands (or brain), can be a very dangerous thing.

In a disagreement with Satan early in the book, God tells us some very important things. He makes it clear that Satan is to blame for Job’s troubles; but he lets us know that all the while, Satan is being restrained. He also stresses that Job is not to be blamed. The verse these things are in, is one of the most mysterious in the Bible. I hope to devote the next post mainly to this verse.

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