Have you considered my servant Job?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I started listening to Mark Dever's sermons on the book of Job beginning with the first one on Job's Trials (Job 1-2). It was good - it gave me a good introduction to the book of Job, a book I am really grappling with.

I was trying to figure out the obvious - God's involvement in the suffering of Job.

From Mark Dever's sermon, I began to look more closely at what God said to Satan from 1:6-12.

Job 1:6-12
One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it." Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil." "Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face." The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

When we read this section of Scripture, we are automatically drawn to the acute sufferings of Job -- he not only lost all his wealth, he lost all his children, and along with it, his health, he became an outcast. We begin to ask, "How can this be?" "How can God do this to him?"

It all has to do with this question God asked Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job?"

In the assembly of the heavenlies, Satan was also there and when he told God that he was roaming here and there on earth, God asked Satan if he had considered Job. It is as if Satan is round and about observing the creation of God, and as a result God wanted to show him the goodness of His creation. He proudly presented Job to Satan as a witness to that: "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil".

Satan's response was sheer insolence. The Message captured it pretty well: "So do you think Job does all that out of the sheer goodness of his heart? Why, no one ever had it so good! You pamper him like a pet, make sure nothing bad ever happens to him or his family or his possessions, bless everything he does—he can't lose! But what do you think would happen if you reached down and took away everything that is his? He'd curse you right to your face, that's what." (emphasis mine)

Satan did not want to believe the goodness of God and his creation. He insisted that God had failed in his creation of the world and of mankind -- to Satan, there is nothing good in what God had created, and he challenged God: He'd curse you right to your face if you just let him suffer.

And God's reply was: go ahead. He was confident in Job to be a good witness for Him. And God was right. Job passed the test - he proved that God is indeed good in his creation work by demonstrating that his allegiance is to God alone and not his family, wealth or health. Though they are important, God alone is his reason for everything.

So, coming back to my grappling with "God's involvement in Job's sufferings", I can see now that I have viewed it from the wrong angle. I should not be asking about God causing Job to suffer but instead I should be asking about Job's contribution to the ultimate will of God. God has shown not only to Satan, but to the whole universe that He has done good in the creation of the world and the people in it, that He is real in the lives of His creation. Through Job, it is clear that there is a relationship, and there is a binding between God and man.

Therefore, when we suffer, we must ask ourselves of our witness for God -- how are we to show to the world who God is through our suffering. In a sense, we are being considered by God to be a witness to the world that He is indeed God, who cares and who loves.

I am still grappling with this, but I am beginning to see glimpses of the truth. In that, this is a fallen world. We live in a broken society, suffering is everywhere -- there is no running away from it. It is how we undergo the suffering that is going to either bear good or bad witness for God. We must make others ask, "How do they do it? How can they handle it with so much grace? I can see their pain, but yet with so much peace. How can that be possible?"

We have this duty to show them Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, the Lord of love, the prince of peace and source of hope. He is the reason why we can bear the pain and suffering of this world.

It is because Jesus is the only other person who suffered a great deal more than Job, a whole lot more than us. He knows and He understands our pain, He knows because He bore it.

pearlie

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11 comment(s)

  1. you think, job story, including satan talking to God,,,has indeed taken place historically?

    or they are just literary construct to convey theology?

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  2. there is no running away from it. It is how we undergo the suffering that is going to either bear good or bad witness for God. We must make others ask, "How do they do it? How can they handle it with so much grace? I can see their pain, but yet with so much peace. How can that be possible?"

    AMEN!!! May we arise to this high calling when called upon.
    Susan

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  3. Gotta read the whole story.. consider this:
    .
    "After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth." Job 3:1

    "Surely, O God, you have worn me out; you have devastated my entire household." (Job 16:7 NIV)

    .
    IMO the point of Job's story is to give us an object lesson in loss and grieving.. not to show us a perfect man but to show us that a blameless man grieves over his losses.

    The other side of this is that Job's end was a good one.. many do not find that "good end" on this side of the grave.. but for believers the end is always an eternally good one :)

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  4. I think main theme of Job, telling us life is ultimately absord! irrespective of the good end...

    human is tiny, fragile and vulnerable,,all we could do is, accept the soverignty of God....

    it is in line with Ecclesiastes,,,

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  5. Not sure that I agree with Sceptics.. seems a bit too fatalistic for me.. the future is not predetermined.. hope is alive.. in Kansas anyways :)

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  6. davinci,
    I do not know. But I suppose I am the conservative kind and would like to believe that it is historical, unless otherwise convinced.

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  7. Indeed, Susan. And we are called to do this every day of our lives, to be a witness to our neighbour, i.e. all the people we encounter daily.

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  8. Bob,
    Gotta read the whole story

    Yeah :) of course. I did read chapter 3 and Job's lament was astounding. His pain can really be felt, and I think he was at the verge of cursing God but did not.

    IMO the point of Job's story is to give us an object lesson in loss and grieving.. not to show us a perfect man but to show us that a blameless man grieves over his losses.

    I agree - and almost innocent suffering too at that. I appreciate the book of Job for allowing us to see and learn from Job's encounter with such suffering. But I was also trying to understand God's part in it.

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  9. Sceptics,
    Yea, I agree with Bob. Whilst there may be a hint of life being absurd, it is not the main theme in Job. Job's suffering truly gives us a precursor to Jesus' suffering and death, and the difference as well, as in Jesus died and rose. Job's lament/dialogues lasted 40 chapters, Jesus' lament only a verse in John and several in the Synoptic gospels, but it was just as acute if not more. And like what Bob said, in the end there is hope, in God for Job, and in Jesus for us (and in Kansas too, for Bob :D

    Ecclesiastes focus is different from Job I think - in the sense that life is meaningless, and in conclusion (my life theme verse for now), "The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil." (Ecc 12:13-14)

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  10. Job's theme of life is absurd, seen from:

    1. God bet with sata for the response of Job when peril strikes...

    2. God provides no answer to Job , even till the end,,,

    3. although Job is given many folds in return,,but how about those children who had died...fair to them?

    conclusion: yes , bible overall theme is hope, and this is very positive...but this is slightly shallower thought compared to that of wisdom literature...

    to know that life is absurd, sufferrings is absurd, would elevate us into higher perspective of "being in the world".

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  11. I see where you are coming from Sceptics.. there is an absurdity in the story when you consider that a sovereign God would be interacting with Satan in that way. In a sense more questions are presented than answered.

    And whether Job is historical or not I think that there are lessons to be learned about the nature of suffering and what our response should be towards those in pain.

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