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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Did God Abandon Job?

The question of abandonment and God has been the focus of the current series. Earlier blog posts focused on the lives of John the Baptist and Jesus. The third, and final, person under study is Job. Did God abandon Job?

Unlike the stories we’ve heard about Jesus and his cousin, John, most of us are less familiar with the names of people-groups and cities mentioned in the Book of Job. While Jerusalem, the Jordan River and the Galilee are familiar locations today, hearing that Job lived in the Land of Uz doesn’t, for most of us, immediately trigger a specific location on the world map.

Yes, I see that hand way in the back. Uh, no. the Land of Uz is not where Dorothy and Toto found themselves transported to when the tornado lifted them from Kansas. However, there are folks who think there may be a connection to that fictional literary place in The Wizard of Oz and Job’s Uz.

It is generally accepted that the real-life Land of Uz is located in the southwestern half of the country we know as Jordan and the Southeastern half of today’s Israel. It is believed to be the land that was given to Uz (a great-grand son of Noah), for those interested in ancestry. The Jordan is mentioned in the chapters that record God’s discourse at the end of the Book of Job, so that is a bit more familiar.

And, how about the people-group names connected to Job’s visitors? Temanite, Buzite, Naamathite and Shuhite? Run into any of those folks this century or last? Well, don’t get tangled up in the unfamiliar nomenclature. For the most part, they are connected to cities in one of the regions of the abovementioned geography. Spread out a bit, but close enough that the men could travel to a common point before heading on over to comfort their friend Job.

Who was Job? The Bible records a lot more about Job than his friends, so we have a more complete picture of the man from the land of Uz. The following description is found in the first three verses of the opening chapter of the Book of Job, but I have mixed it up just a bit to show how the question might have been answered by a reporter today.

He was the greatest man among all the people of the East. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants.

Pretty impressive bio, don’t you think? In addition, throughout the discourses in this book, we read of Job’s importance in terms of leadership in the region. Job was one very important dude, to put it mildly. Everyone knew and respected Job.

Nevertheless, God did not have the oldest book in the Bible begin with what other people thought of Job, or the list of Job’s acquisitions and possessions. They were important to the story, but they began at verse two. Verse one begins the Bible account with what God considered to be the most important attribute of Job’s character and practice.

In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.

In today’s world, if a successful businessman held such a profound commitment to God, it would not gain FrontPage copy, unless he was being introduced as the speaker of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship! Our world wants to hide any such affiliations, preferring to laud the cleverness of a shrewd chief executive. No attention is given to any reliance on integrity and association with God’s Word or laws. Society much prefers to believe that the man or woman made it all on getting the best of the competitors and sticking to rock-hard business practices. Divine guidance and submission to God is often the fodder of whispered jokes, not heralded as the best way to do business.

Job’s success on every level of his society can be confirmed in local and regional history books; it’s never been in question. Job’s compassion for the poor and care of widows was also well-known, as was his wisdom and discernment. His advice was a sought-after commodity by young and old alike.

What’s more, Job never took the credit for his own successes, preferring to give God the glory. In human terms, Job had a lot to brag about and should have been so puffed up that recognizing God’s authority was the last thing on his mind. Not so with Job, however, which is exactly why he became the battlefield for a spiritual war fought at the highest level.

Had I been the one to record the Book of Job, I probably would have repeated the “God’s meeting with the angels” part of Chapters One and Two at the end of the book. I think it would help us to understand better just the “why” of what happened to Job.

However, that’s not the way God inspired the scribe who did record the events. God wanted us to know, right up front, what was about to happen had nothing to do with Job sinning against God or disobeying God’s Word. Job hadn’t acquired his wealth by unscrupulous dealings; he hadn’t used his power or wealth to hurt people; and Job hadn’t had an affair so that he violated his marriage vows to his cantankerous wife. Job was, indeed, the upright man everyone thought him to be!

The truth is that what happened to Job was precisely because Job was faithful to obey God and resist all evil in his business practices, as well as in his personal life. But, this makes no sense at all to us, so we look for any other possible reason to account for the multiple calamities.

One can read many accounts of this story with various interpretations of the reasoning behind the incredible tragedies, though most will just conclude that there is no explanation found. There is one, but it is a bit hard to swallow, unless we are willing to set aside our preconceived notions and seriously look for the truth.

Next, we’ll look at what happened to Job, his trials and his comforters. Lastly, the reason will be examined, including application for us in light of today’s world.

If you’re interested in the issue of God’s abandonment of John the Baptist and Jesus mentioned above, check under May 2013 posts:

Did God abandon John the Baptist?

Did God abandon Jesus?

****Did God Abandon Job? (Part II)…Next Post

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