January 22, 2015.
Daily Reading: Job 6-7.
Background: Job 3-5.
Before these two chapters, Job has lost everything, his three friends have come to visit him, they have sat in silence for seven days before Job began to talk and lament his life. After his first lament, Job’s friend Eliphaz speaks up in rebuttal, trying to convince Job that he must have done something wrong to bring about this terrible situation that he was in. This is Job’s response.
Concepts and Connections.
1. Reconciling our trials and our righteousness: Job was in a loathsome state. He was burdened with loss and physical pain. He had had everything violently taken from him without explanation. Job was depressed to the point where he wanted the Lord to take his own life. This is because nothing made sense. Job was one of, if not the most righteous man on earth during his time, as is pointed out by God in both chapter’s one and two. Job continually offered sacrifices and prayer to God, even for what his children might have done. Job was very spiritual, refusing to curse God and die even when everything was taken from him. But this does not mean Job had an easy time reconciling what was happening with his spirituality. It is evident that the going philosophy in the day was that evil came upon people because they did unrighteous things. This is why Job’s friends would continue to tell Job that he must have done something wrong to bring this calamity upon himself. After all, God didn’t punish the upright, but only the unrighteous. The only problem was, Job knew that he had not done something to deserve this punishment.
Job had been righteous before the Lord (or at least as righteous as a man who was living in a fallen world could be, see the next point) and he refused to believe that he had done something wrong unless someone could show him his fault. He even asks God at the end of this chapter what his fault was. It would seem that though Job disagreed with his friends that he had done something wrong, this did not mean that he didn’t believe the same things that they did, at least to some extent. And this belief led him into inner conflict. If calamity only came upon the one who worked iniquity, and Job had not worked iniquity, then what was going on? It didn’t make sense to him, and thus Job starts to question his situation in effort to reconcile what was going on. However, Job would not be able to fully reconcile his situation because he had the wrong paradigm. Job wasn’t suffering because he had done something wrong, but rather because he had done a great many things right. The Lord knew that he could handle the adversity, thus he suggested Job to Satan to test. With the wrong paradigm, Job and his friends would not be able to fully see the overall picture, and the argument would go on for chapters.
The lesson for us here is that we need not force our naive conclusions about life and righteousness on God. We do not understand the full wisdom of God, nor are we omniscient as He is. Without His revelation, we don’t have much to go on when we are trying to figure out a situation. It is for this reason that we should go to the word of God to understand His truth and wisdom. God has revealed His character to us. He has told us His will. We need to be careful when we start to judge God or spirituality based on our own perceptions and paradigms. We should base them off of what He has told us, and let the remaining mystery rest in faith.
2. God has never operated on a works based salvation: As we have explored somewhat, both Job and his friends seemed to believe in at least a crude form of a works based salvation. In their mind, God looked favorably on the righteous and sent punishment on the wicked. The difference between Job and his friends is that Job knew that he had not been living wickedly and was struggling to fit this concept within his own paradigm, while his friends would not even consider that their idea of a works based salvation might be incorrect. Since we have the blessing of a third person view of the situation, it is often easy to criticize the characters in the story as being naive or ignorant of God’s ways. However, when we take a critical look at what we believe today, it is evident that many still think in the same way that Job and his friends did. We think that the way to let God look favorably on us is to do good deeds. The prosperity gospel is very popular in our culture today. This is the gospel that God loves us so much and that He would not want us to be happy. Thus, if we love God, He will bless us and our life will be good. This is in no way biblical.
It is true that God blesses His children and looks after them. But this does not mean that we will live a life of ease. We are going to go through trials and tribulations, and it is through these struggles that we will build our character. They will refine us like fire and form us in to the holy beings that God created us to be. This is why James tells us to count it all joy when we fall into various trials (see James 1:2-4). Our testing is for our own good, and as we can see from the story of Job, we might very well go through difficult times because God considers us to be righteous. Trials produce character, faith and patience.
Now, this is not to say that God indeed doesn’t punish the wicked at all while they are on earth. There are many examples in the Old Testament and the New where God sends punishment on certain workers of iniquity. There are also plenty of examples where God indeed blesses those who are righteous. When the law was given, it was set before the children of Israel as a blessing and a curse (see Deuteronomy 11:26-28). But the point is, there is none that is righteous to the point where he or she could earn their salvation (see Romans 3 and Psalm 14:1-3). The children of Israel constantly fell away from God. But He always would welcome them back if they would repent.
Works never absolutely dictated one’s situation. It was a steadfast faith in God, necessarily shown through works, that determined the relationship that one held with the Almighty (see Romans 4). But even then we have all sinned. Job was justified by his actions, but his actions were a result of his faith in the Almighty. Job was righteous, but not without sin (though we are not told of any sin that he had committed). Even at this very early stage, God was showing that His righteousness and holiness is not something that we can fully understand based on a works ideology. It was (and is) higher than this. We are saved because the Lord is gracious. But we are given things to do by the Lord in order to reach this grace. Job was considered righteous, and he remained in his righteousness throughout his trial. Through this, he overcame.
Questioning God: Too often do we view the story of Job in a simplistic manner: Job is righteous, Satan sends tribulations, Job’s friends say harsh things, Job is justified in the end because he endured. Though this is a crude (and not completely accurate) outline of the story, it leaves out so many of the crucial details that are needed to fully understand the character of Job and what he was going though. Job did not have an easy time enduring his pain and suffering. Job even said some things that he probably shouldn’t have. As seen in this chapter, Job often boldly questioned God, for what was happening simply didn’t make sense to him. Job asks many questions, most of which are completely understandable. He wants to know why this is happening to him, why the Lord is looking so harshly at him and what man could even do to trouble the Lord, since the Lord is infinite and man is so little compared to Him. His current situation makes him bold enough to ask these questions, for what more could he do wrong than what he had already done to deserve what he was going through. The important lesson to take from this is that it is alright to question what God is doing at times. Job was justified in the end, whereas his friends had to be atoned for (see Job 42:7-9). But there a key point we must remember that we see at the end of Job. When we question God, we need to be prepared for His answer (see Job 38:3). In the end, God came to Job out of the whirlwind to put Job in his place (see Job 38-42). He did not give an answer to why Job was in the situation he was in, but rather to who He was. God rebukes Job for “darkening counsel without knowledge (see Job 38:2). He may indeed give us the very same answer when we ask Him why. God does not owe us an answer to all of our questions. But this does not mean that we can’t ask them. Perhaps He will give us the answer that we need, even if it is not the one that we want.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Isaiah 12-17.
Stand strong through trials.