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Suffering and Faith
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Every Bible student knows that Job was a wealthy man. The Bible says, “He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owed seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.” (Job 1:2,3) Although the Bible does not completely resolve the question of location and timing, I believe Job lived between the times of the Flood (approximately 2426 B.C.) and the Exodus (1437 B.C.) Many scholars believe Moses recorded the story of Job during his forty-year tenure as a shepherd. Regardless of when or where the story took place, or even who penned it, we do know that God regarded Job a righteous man. God told Lucifer on two separate occasions, “…There is no one on Earth like him [Job]; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” (Job 1:8; 2:3) If only God could make such a declaration about everyone who professes to know Him!

The Larger Story

Most Christians have heard about Job’s terrible sufferings. Unfortunately, many Christians have not seriously contemplated the marvelous insights found within this story of suffering. Personally, as I have pondered this story, I have discovered several insights that I would like to share with you. This is an important topic, especially since we are racing toward a destiny of significant suffering during the Great Tribulation. When we carefully review Job’s life, as certain insights surface, keep the parallel implications for the Great Tribulation in mind.

High-Level Meetings

One day God convened another high-level meeting of “administrative rulers” from around the universe. (Job 1:6) The devil was allowed to attend these high-level meetings because he represented himself as the prince or ruler of this world. (Job 1:7) Some readers may not be aware that the devil remained the prince of this world until Jesus died at Calvary and redeemed it. (John 12:31; 16:11; Revelation 12:7-9) God, in His wisdom, allowed the devil to attend these meetings as representative from Earth, so the other angels might be able to observe the vast difference between an administration of sin and an administration of righteousness.

As the agenda of the meeting progressed, the Lord asked the devil if he had noticed His servant, Job. Given this opportunity to speak, the devil began to complain. He said that he had noticed Job and all that God had given him. However, the devil quickly stated that if God took away Job’s prosperity and possessions, he would curse God to His face. Obviously, the devil said in an effort to remind the angels who were present about his ancient claim that God is unfair and arbitrary. Of course, the Lord was prepared for the devil’s remark. “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 [flying] out from the presence of the Lord.” (Job 1: 12, insertion mine)  I inserted the word “flying” because I am sure the devil left that meeting in a hurry! He was on a hasty mission to fully demonstrate to his former friends and colleagues that God’s universal government was corrupt, senseless and very inadequate.

Insight # 1

The first insight I want to draw your attention to in the book of Job is that this drama is cosmic in nature. What I mean by this is that this drama must be understood from Heaven’s point of view. The Heavenly focal point of this story is not so much about Job, as it is about the ongoing controversy between Christ and Satan. Before the world was created, Satan claimed that God was an evil dictator. He insisted that God’s children were nothing more than hand-servants who catered to God because they had no other choice. Even more, the devil declares that no one can ever be free of God’s heavy-handed dominion throughout the universe. On the other hand, Jesus claims that all of God’s children have the power of choice. He insists that each being is free to choose whether they will submit to the authority of God or not. Yet, Satan maintains that if one of God’s created beings chooses to rebel against the authority of God, He will kill them – which proves the point that if someone exercises their power of choice, God will destroy them. The devil’s conclusions can be summed up like this: “God’s hand servants do not actually have the power of choice. Instead, all they have is the choice of death.”

I maintain that the story of Job is not about suffering the common consequences of sin, disease, cancer, sickness of all types and death. Rather, the story of Job is about the power of choice. God designed the contest to prove that faith and loyalty are a matter of choice. The Lord initiated this drama by offering the devil a direct challenge. It was not the other way around. Do not forget this important point! The devil did not preconceive the idea of testing Job. The Lord offered “a blameless man” as a specimen for the test and the devil accepted the challenge. I believe God’s purpose for doing this was for the angel’s benefit that oversee various parts of the universe. God wanted them to observe and understand a very important aspect of His government.

Although the angels attending this high-level meeting had been in Heaven when the contest between Christ and Satan actually began, they did not completely understand Lucifer’s methods or issues involved. When Lucifer led his original revolt against God’s government, one of his most believable claims was that God was unfair and unjust. The devil’s presentation against God was so convincing that one-third of the angels joined him and openly rebelled against Almighty God! Think about this: In time, one third of the angels eventually grew to hate God enough that they would willingly kill Him if they could. When this rebellion reached the point of no return, God threw Lucifer and his followers out of Heaven. (Isaiah 14:12; Ezekiel 28:17; revelation 12:4; Luke 10:18)

Political Process

Try to understand the situation and the events that led up to the eviction of the devil and his followers. Lucifer was created a perfect being. For many years, he loved God and served as an anointed cherub. (Ezekiel 28: 12-17) Incredibly, over the course of time, Lucifer eventually became dissatisfied with God and ultimately, championed a great rebellion against Him. (Notice that this proves the once-saved/always-saved doctrine is not valid. Lucifer’s pure heart became a carnal heart.) The devil used a common political process to accomplish this great rebellion – he used freedom of speech. Lucifer traveled around the universe and standing on his political soapbox, presented his take on God’s faults – smearing His name in an attempt to gain followers. (Sound familiar?)  His arguments consisted of several sophisticated and passionate presentations against God’s government. Lucifer amplified the “fact” that angels were merely God’s hand-servants and that God unjustly favored some angels with authority and possessions, while others were assigned to lesser positions and possessions. Once assigned, angels were locked into their impoverished estate for eternity!

I believe that Lucifer, who was the highest ranking being at that time, pretended to be concerned about the welfare of his lesser angel friends. His goal; was to gain sympathy and then gain followers. It seems reasonable that he made a big issue over God’s distribution of power and wealth. He pointed to the obvious disparity between the angel’s positions of responsibility as proof of God’s inequity and injustice. Now remember, to understand how this looked at the time, we need to consider the angel’s perspective. Satan claimed that God predetermined the number of talents, authority and wealth each angel would receive. Therefore, to the carnal heart (or Lucifer’s sympathetic listeners), God seemed responsible for the disorder in Heaven. God’s willful and intentional disparity between angels was touted as grossly unfair. The root problem, of course, was Lucifer’s dissatisfied carnal heart. What was true then, is still true today – the self-centered heart is never at peace. Lucifer was jealous of the rights and prerogatives of Jesus, but his presentations to the angels ran deviously parallel to the real issue at hand. Notice the parallel: In Heaven, as well as on Earth, created beings’ talents, authority and possessions are not equally assigned. (Matthew 25:14-30, Mark 10:40) This is true among angels as well. (Isaiah 6:6; Genesis 3:24; Revelation 8:2)

God Deals With the Blame

 God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. Therefore, He is both purposeful and intentional in everything He does. Because of this, He also receives the blame when the spirit of accusation presents itself in any given situation. Consequently, God gets directly involved in situations from time to time, so He can present the other side of the argument. In the book of Isaiah, He says, “Come now, let us reason together,” say the Lord…” (Isaiah 1:18) When God sets up a situation, He uses the circumstances to teach valuable insights about His Kingdom. I like to search out these multidimensional aspects. I said earlier that the story of Job is primarily directed at arguments used by Lucifer against God’s government. However, as we will see, the story of Job also contains a number of intimate revelations about Job, his wife and the four men who counseled him. To a careful and thoughtful Bible student, God is always able to say volumes about His character and His Kingdom in one simple story.

In an effort to show complete fairness, the Lord offered the devil an opportunity to substantiate his case against God’s government by subjecting His servant Job to an experiment. Of course, there is a risk. It was not revealed to Job that he was going to be the object of this excruciating experiment. Further, Job could fail the test and confirm the devil’s argument by cursing God! Nevertheless, God’s confidence in Job was because Job had consistently chosen to put faith in God. The timing of this test was perfect. Job and his wealthy station among his peers were as good as it can get on Earth. As you look at this story very deeply you could say: God chose this setting to reveal whether Job loved “God’s presence or His presents.” I believe the timing of this test was perfect because the drama involving Job takes place a few centuries after the Flood.  You may never have considered this before, but the Flood “temporarily substantiated” one of the false claims Lucifer accusingly declared about God to Heaven’s host. Remember, the devil had argued that if any created being exercised their “power of choice” and chose to live contrary to God’s demands, He would destroy them without recourse. In this light, the Flood’s wholesale destruction of the human race appeared for a while, to substantiate Lucifer’s claim.

Truth Revealed in Small Steps

As we study the Bible, it is important to remember that God continues to reveal and disclose additional information about Himself and His government. The finite (and this includes the angels) never completely understands the Infinite; therefore, revelations about God and His government are constantly taking place. This issue emphasizes why faith is the essential prerequisite for salvation. A created being can enjoy living in the presence of the omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent Creator that he does not fully understand, but only if he chooses to live by faith. In other words, to be content and at peace, you must believe that God is completely righteous and generously fair in all that He does. Period! Faith in God must be nonnegotiable. Faith in God requires total submission to the will of God – even if it is not the popular thing to do. One-third of the angels chose to believe Lucifer’s lies because he was able to cause them to doubt God’s righteous character. The devil made right look wrong and wrong look right. My point is this: When Lucifer began his work of disaffection; the angels did not understand sin because they had never seen sin, its properties and consequences. If they could have known then, what they know now, the outcome could have been much different! (The same could be said about the antediluvians and the Flood. I am sure every antediluvian would have run into the ark if they had known what was coming. Nonetheless, it is it has always been since the beginning of time – a person is saved by faith or not at all.) God knew for the beginning what He knows right now and this is why faith is the all-important component for living with God. Those angels who chose to remain faithful to God did so based on faith alone. We know this because, (a) they did not know the outcome of Lucifer’s rebellion, and (b) the devil raised questions about God’s character, for which there were no answers at that time!

The reason God did not destroy the devil and the demons seem obvious. By not destroying the devil and his angel followers after they had engaged in open rebellion, a thousand questions about God’s character and government could be answered without self-exoneration or personal defense. In other words, instead of defending Himself, God simply allows sin to exist for a period of time, so everyone could see for himself or herself what sin actually was. By the time, sin’s drama is brought to a close, God will resolve a number of issues and answer everyone’s questions, so that sin will never rise again. This is no small undertaking, since the universe is populated with creatures that have the power of choice. In other words, God is using a sad chapter in the history of the universe to illuminate the minds of all creatures about the horrible outcome of rebellion. God will prove, in the end, that His ways are generous, righteous, fair, and just – not because He declares them to be so, but because they have been demonstrated to be so! One more point, God is love. This means that God is not self-seeking. He does nothing that is not in the best interests of His subjects and that includes Job!

The Devil at Work

Back to the story. The devil wasted no time after leaving that meeting in Heaven. Standing in front of all the attending angels, Lucifer boasted of a certain victory and immediately pounced on Job without mercy. Notice what the Bible says about Satan’s prowess when God permits it: “One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”  While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who escaped to tell you!” While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who escaped to tell you!” While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” (Job 1:13-22)

Insight # 2

The previous text leads us to the second insight illuminated in the book of Job. When we consider the ferocious powers of the devil, it can be a terrifying thought. Did you notice what Satan can and will do to a human being in one day if God permits it? Did you notice that once he received permission, the devil did not hesitate to destroy everything he could? I mention this because in the near future, God is going to give the devil great authority over nations and peoples. (Read Revelation 13:15)

Oops! Job Gives the Wrong answer

The devil could not believe his ears when he heard Job’s faith-filled response to those tragic events. Job lost everything, with the exception of his wife in a single day and still, Job did not curse God! Instead, he actually praised God! This was not the outcome the devil expected. (The devil does not know the future nor does he know how each person will react in a given situation. The devil is not omniscient [all knowing], but he is a very good student of human behavior.) Since Job did not curse God, the devil realized he needed another chance to break Job’s spirit. The devil knows how lingering physical pain can break a person’s emotional resolve and he sought the privilege of torturing Job’s flesh. These petitions would be requested at the next meeting. The Bible says, “On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. And 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. And he maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason. “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.” The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.” (Job 2:1-7)

This text indicates that another meeting had been called to order and all the angel rulers were present. When the agenda reached the situation of Job, the response of the Lord to Satan was embarrassingly simple. Jesus basically said, “Job still maintains his integrity…” Of course, the angels were anxious to hear the devil’s response. Careful not to admit defeat (the carnal heart cannot accept defeat and this is why Hitler killed himself), the great dragon turned red with fury as he disrespectfully snapped back, “Skin for skin…A man will give all he has for his own life. This argument offered by Satan during this second meeting reveals tow things. First, the devil was taunting God’s system of justice, which requires a life for a life or “skin for “skin.” (Genesis 9:5,6; Exodus 21:23) The devil had killed Job’s children and he knew that he was guilty of first-degree murder unless he could prove his point by making Job sin. The devil also knew that god would hold him accountable for the death’s of Job’s family and his servants. So, Satan cleverly argues for greater freedom to torture Job. Second, the devil’s comment reflects the enormous change that takes place in his heart. At one time, Lucifer’s heart was full of love for God and his angel friends. Now, it was full of love for himself. (Ezekiel 28:12) In his pre-fallen state, Lucifer would gladly given up his life for Job. Never would he have wanted to hurt Job. Yet, his comment, “A man will give all he has for his own life,” revealed the content of his own heart to the other angels at that meeting. Satan’s fallen nature was revealed and the core of his carnal heart now interpreted the privilege of life from the perspective of self-seeking. The unspoken motto of the carnal heart is this: “Self preservation and self-promotion above all else.” In our fallen world where “me first” and “me best” is the rule, preservation or promotion of self, above all else, is considered appropriate and even legally defensible. But Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) God’s love is the complete opposite of carnal love.

Insight # 3

The third insight that springs from the book of Job is this: If the carnal natural is dominant in a man, then he will give all his has to save his own skin. For example, on several occasions we have seen the President of the United States lie to save his own skin. On news broadcasts, we have reports of people killing others, only to save their own skin. It is interesting that, in this specific instance, the devil actually spoke the truth. He spoke from experience, since his was the first carnal heart! The devil was willing to destroy an entire world to save his own skin. What a contrast can be seen when we compare the love of God. He was willing to destroy his own skin to save an entire human race. (John 3:16)

The Bible says “…Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.” (Job 2:7) Now, the contest gets very interesting. The Bible says, “Then Job took a piece of pottery and scarped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. His wife said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” He replied, “you foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.” (Job 2:8-10)

Neither Job nor his wife knew about this cosmic contest between Christ and Satan. Job’s wife did not share his affection for God. From their earthy perspective, all they could see was total loss and destruction. The difference between these two people and their response to the circumstances they found themselves in is simple. Job had a born-again heart. Job sought God’s presence, not His presents. Mrs. Job, on the other hand, enjoyed God’s presents more than His presence. Mrs. Job had become comfortable with the trappings of wealth and enjoyed its many privileges, which God had generously given them. One of the toughest battles between self and wealth is the constant struggle of not becoming ensnared with the benefits that wealth brings. (Matthew 19:23,24) No, doubt Mrs. Job was highly respected in her community. Her prominence came from being married to a materially rich man. Unfortunately, she lived in spiritual poverty, while her husband enjoyed his personal communication with God. During the furnace of affliction, her spiritual poverty became fully evident and her once gracious ways and words now turned to words that cursed God. Even if an individual lives with a born-again spouse, this does not mean that both parties are born-again. As hard as you may try, one spouse cannot transform the heart of another that is exclusively the Holy Spirit’s domain. In addition, when trials come, the carnal heart cannot withstand the purifying heat of the divine furnace. When she finally spoke, Mrs. Job revealed the true condition of her heart when she said, “Curse God and die!” Fortunately for us all, the challenge between Christ and Satan did not center on her. If it had, the devil’s claim “man loved God’s presents more than he loves God’s presence” would have been validated. Do not be too hastily to judge.

Remember, Mrs. Job’s life was directly transformed by Job’s suffering too. In a single day, she fell from Mrs. Job, socialite exemplar, to Mrs. Job, wife and accomplice of a divinely condemned man.

Eliphaz, Bildad and Zorhar Show Up

 The Bible says: “when Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. The they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.” (Job 2: 11-13)

It appears that these three friends of Job were also physicians. They had heard about the sudden, tragic loss of Job’s family and wealth, and perhaps they were concerned about his infectious boils. They came with good intentions. They wanted to help Job recover and encouraged him to repent of his sins. They believed that Job had sinned against god and because they feared the living God, were convinced that God was punishing Job for some unknown wrong. Their comments and thoughts are very interesting, since they reveal what was known or believed about God at that time. I encourage the reader to study the entire book of Job. You will be blessed. I have condensed their conversations with Job to very small samples. Please note that remarks placed within bracket [] are mine. These are inserted to complete the idea set forth in selected texts:

Eliphaz speaks to Job

Job 4:8 – As I observed those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it…[therefore, you must be getting what you deserve].

Job 5:8 – But if it were I, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him [and confess my sins].

Job 5:17 – Blessed is the man God corrects; so do not despise the [current] discipline of the Almighty.

Job 5:27 – We have examined this [truth about the discipline of God], and it is true. So, hear it and apply it to yourself.

 

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