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Friday, June 14, 2013

Did God Abandon Job? (Part IV)

Job, considered by men and by God to be the greatest man in the eastern world, possessed not only the power that massive wealth affords, but a profound commitment to God. Whether in business or in his personal life, Job followed hard after God; Job practiced what he preached, or in the vernacular of today, Job walked the talk.

As cited earlier in the series, in Almighty God’s own opinion, Job was a blameless and upright man, who feared God and shunned evil. In the Bible, evil is defined by anything that opposes God and His laws. Job simply obeyed God

Naturally, Job held certain expectations for his life and final days, because of his relationship with the Creator God. Hadn’t he always done what God wanted him to do?

“I thought, ‘I will die in my own house, my days as numerous as the grains of sand. My roots will reach to the water, and the dew will lie all night on my branches. My glory will not fade; the bow will be ever new in my hand.’” (Job 29:18-20)

A poetic way to say life should be great until Job dies, his life full of years and at peace with God and everyone else.

Should have been, but then trouble came to Job’s camp and he lost absolutely everything he had, including his ten kids.

Then, Job’s health took a major hit with painful sores breaking out from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Next, his marriage came under some serious pressure as Mrs. Job told her husband to abandon his integrity and just curse God and die. Yikes, woman what are you thinking!

With all of this calamity and suffering suddenly upon Job, he never once turned away from God. Job had the attitude that God had given him everything. If God wanted it, well, here you are God; take it back. Once bodily suffering began, Job asked his complaining wife if they shouldn’t accept suffering from God in the same way they had received all the good things he had brought their way?

We never hear any word of Mrs. Job again, except to note that Job said, in the heat of this affliction, his breath was offensive to her. If she spoke again, her words didn’t make it on to the scroll/page.

So, how long was Job suffering like this? The Bible doesn’t give an exact timetable here, though I really would have liked to know, wouldn’t you? What we do know is that it took awhile for his friends to make their way to him, because Job told them that he had had months of long nights, with days that pass too quickly. I can relate to that thought. When I’m really sick with some tropical fever, it seems as though the nights will never end; it’s always worse at night. I even do what Job did; I remember just how wonderful things were before this suffering!

“How I long for the months gone by, for the days when God watched over me, when his lamp shone on my head and by his light I walked through darkness! Oh, for the days when I was in my prime, when God’s intimate friendship blessed my house, when the Almighty was still with me and my children were around me, when my path was drenched with cream and the rock poured out for me streams of olive oil.” (Job 29:2-6)

I’d prefer my cream chilled, from the refrigerator, and my olive oil from that familiar rectangular, glass bottle. But, I get the picture; things were a whole lot better before this present darkness came upon Job! And, the trial didn’t stop there.

Job must have just been so relieved to see some old friends show up for a bit of sympathizing and comforting. I mean, Job had absolutely no one; even his kin had deserted him. Those who had always been his friends there in the town wouldn’t come near him. His domestic workers who had survived refused his requests. Job really needed a friend in the worst way.

Things started out well; no one said a word for a whole week, so great was the suffering the three friends saw when they caught sight of Job! As is all-too-often the case when we see someone in pain, we just need to fix it. It’s not wrong to want to relieve a person’s suffering, but sometimes it’s better to just sit with them, in silence. If we don’t really know what to do, it’s better to do nothing, other than offer our sympathy and a cool drink when they need one.

However, as soon as the tormented Job began to cry out to his friends, the wheels of sympathy shifted to trying to find something that Job could do to reverse his present circumstance. Sometimes, reading the lengthy discourses, one wonders if anyone was listening to the speaker; so much of what was said is, basically, the same point being made: Bad things don’t happen to good people. So, since these really bad things have come upon you, Job, you must have really done some serious disobeying! Yet, God is just, so confess, repent, and everything will return to the good life you once enjoyed. Period, no other possibility to account for the trials and sorrows; no other solution out of his suffering.

Since this region’s people speak with their hands and undulating vocal inflections, we can picture the following: Job, sitting amongst the ashes, with sackcloth on his body and sores oozing, arms lifted and hands gesticulating with each phrase as he described his burdens, or offered his defense. Each time Job replied to one of the friends, he moved from gazing around the circle as he spoke, shifting to turn his remarks towards God.

Here, we can picture Job’s head tilted upward, elbows bent, palms facing inward and both arms bouncing in rhythm to his pleading. A paraphrased version of what Job said, “What’s happening here, God? You know I’m innocent of any wrong doing, and if I’m not, then tell me what it is that I’ve done. C’mon here, Yahweh, give me a chance to repent of something! You know the truth, help me out here!”

If we choose to believe Job is innocent, we can understand Job’s verbose, frustrated defense as he speaks, but it is also possible that we might be persuaded to side with Job’s friends. Who can figure out suffering or severe trials when they come to someone who always seemed to be above reproach? Job just had to have done something, didn’t he? God wouldn’t really punish someone who did no wrong; it doesn’t fit with a picture of a just, loving God.

Still, in the midst of his passionate discourses of unjust suffering and proclamations of his innocence, Job continued to declare his allegiance to God. Yes, his words confirm that he is totally miserable, a man in agony, without a single person left who still believes in his innocence. Sometimes it even sounds a bit borderline to us as Job rants and raves; is what Job just said something that God will hold against him? I mean, that remark sounded pretty negative about the Almighty and His right to inflict punishment on Job.

When we begin to think such things, we need to remember what the bible said about Job’s words during these crises in his life.

In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. (Job 2:10b)

One thing I’ve learned in forty-three years of following hard after the Lord is this: God totally understands! God isn’t offended by the things we say to Him when we are hurting; He understands that it may not really be what our heart feels towards Him. In fact, God knew this to be true about Job. That’s not to say that our remarks made in the depth of pain, don’t hurt God; He’s a very tender Father and I do believe that we can hurt His feelings. I believe that our actions can sometimes even break his heart. But, even so, God understands and doesn’t hold our expressions against us. God knows that, if we are committed to Him, we will repent of our harsh words and He will rush to forgive us. God understands that we are children, not always comprehending that what is happening to us may work out for our good, in the end. Or that the pain is necessary for the moment.

When we read Job’s words, we may be focused on all of the lengthy negative narrative, but sprinkled in the midst of his pain, we find Job’s real commitment expressed, too. Here are a few examples of Job’s real heart revealed between the paragraphs of pain and confusion.

“That God would be willing to crush me, to let loose his hand and cut off my life! Then I would still have this consolation—my joy in unrelenting pain—that I had not denied the words of the Holy One.” (Job 6:9-10)

“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face. Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance, for no godless person would dare come before him!” (Job 13:15-16)
“I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27)

Job’s love for God is amazing! He believed that God afflicted him for some unknown reason—even suffering nightmares all night long, as if physical pain wasn’t enough—yet, his heart yearns for God. Why? Because Job confidently puts His trust in His Creator; in good or in bad, God is still God and worthy of Job’s trust. He will put his hope in God even if God ends up killing him. Regardless of how things look, Job knows that his Redeemer lives, and ultimately, it’ll all work out. Job is thinking eternally, not just in the realm of the physical world that he has known. That’s what makes the difference.

Next, God turned his attention to Job’s three friends. Here again, we notice the absence of Elihu in the words addressed to the visitors. Since his words were the same as Job’s three friends, one must deduce that Elihu had also fallen into the category of not saying what is right about God. Therefore, one would have expected God would include him in the order for sacrifice and submitting to letting Job pray for him.

Why didn’t God do that? One thought to ponder is that, perhaps, Elihu was not committed to God at all, but only echoing what he knew others believed as far as man’s position with God and his laws. This is important to consider, because God does not offer forgiveness and restitution to Elihu, just as it is not available to those who are not His children by their own choices. God is only Father to His children, not all of the people created in this world. As in the natural world, fathers are responsible only for the children in their home. Since God was dealing with errant children when He spoke, it is possible that Ellihu’s name was omitted simply because he wasn’t one. Perhaps, Elihu had just come along for the ride, so to speak.

Though God clearly addressed all three of Job’s friends, He mentioned only Eliphaz by name. He had been the first man to reply to Job, and may have been the one to organize the travel to visit Job. (This will be discussed in the next post.)

After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. 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.” So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the LORD told them; and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer. (Job 42:7-9)

Time for restoration of God’s faithful servant, Job. He’d passed the test with flying colors; his life was about to change drastically.

After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the LORD had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters. The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.

After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. And so Job died, an old man and full of years. (Job 42:10-17)

Marvelous ending to an incredibly gruesome account in the life of Job. No doubt God had blessed Job with a new wife, since no mention is made of the old Mrs. Job having a second set of ten children. Things like that tend to get recorded somewhere, right? Twenty kids from one wife would be a kind of record, I would think. So, I am assuming she wasn’t in the picture. (Please let me know if you have evidence to the contrary; I do want to know.)

Okay, Sojourner, so they all lived happily ever-after, but you promised some things you’ve yet to deliver, haven’t you?

Yes, and I haven’t forgotten. The main question has only partly been answered: Did God abandon Job? We know that God didn’t, technically, abandon Job, because He saw everything that happened to him, as well as heard every word spoken during the trial and tribulations Job endured. God was watching from afar.

So, the real questions that remain are these: Why didn’t God rescue Job? Why is it a matter of not going against His word? If God was watching Job, then why did God let this all happen to Job in the first place? Shouldn’t God have intervened to prevent all of the suffering?

The next post will address these questions. Get ready to come with an open mind, and perhaps a slightly different view than you might have had when reading the Book of Job.

****Spiritual Warfare at the Highest Level…Next Post

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