Suffering & Faith, a Cosmic Drama
Every Bible student knows that Job was a wealthy man. The Bible says,"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. 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 or timing, I believe Job lived between the time 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.
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 the 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 this 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 world "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 totally inadequate.
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 first 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 waited on God hand and foot 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 entire 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, e.g., 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 readily accepted the challenge. I believe God's purpose for doing this was for the angel's benefit who 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 the 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)
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 stumped around the universe and standing on his political soap box, 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, every angel was locked into their impoverished estate for eternity!
I believe that Lucifer, who was the highest ranking created being at the 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 and responsibilities 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 the 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 the 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," says 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. For example, 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 was 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 firm because Job had consistently chosen to put his faith in God. The timing of this test was perfect. Job and his wealthy station among his peers was as good as it can get on Earth. As Shirley, my beloved wife, would 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 an 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 or consequences. If they could have known then, what they know now, the outcome could have been so 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 as it has always been since the beginning of time – a person is saved by faith or not at all.) God knew from 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 on the basis of 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 his 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 themselves 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. 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 has 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 has 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, and 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)
The previous text leads us to the second insight illumined 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 these 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 had 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 still 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 of 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." The argument offered by Satan during this second meeting reveals two 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 deaths 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 had taken 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 have 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, the 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.
The third insight that springs from the book of Job is this: If the carnal nature is dominant in a man, then he will give all he has to save his 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 heard 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 the entire human race. (John 3:16)
The Bible says that
". . . 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 broken pottery and scraped 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 are talking like a 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 earthly 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 perks 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 communion 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 the other – that is exclusively the Holy Spirit's domain. And 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 that "man loved God's presents more than he loves God presence" would have been validated. Do not be too hasty 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 Zophar Show Up
The Bible says:"When Job's three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all 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. Then 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 also 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. Since space for this article is limited, I have condensed their conversations with Job to very small samples. Please note that remarks placed within brackets [ ] are mine. These are inserted to complete the ideas set forth in selected texts:
Eliphaz speaks to Job
Job 4:8-As I have 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 whom 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.
Job Defends His
Job 6:14 -A despairing man should have the devotion of his friends, even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.
Job 6:21 -Now you too have proved to be of no help; you see something dreadful [in my flesh and in my house] and are afraid.
Job 6:24 -Teach me [the errors of my ways], and I will be quiet; show me where I have been wrong.
Job 7:20 -[Oh my God], if I have sinned, what have I done to you, O Watcher of Men? Why have you made me Your target [of wrath]? Have I become a burden to You? Why do You not pardon my offenses and forgive my sins? [I offered many sacrifices not only for my sins, but for my children as well.] For I will soon lie down in the dust; you will search for me, but I will be no more.
Bildad Comes Down Hard
Job 8:3 -Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right? [Job, you are getting what you deserve.]
Job 8:4 -When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin, [that is why they are dead].
Job 8:5 -But if you will look to God and plead with the Almighty . . .
Job 8:6 -If you are pure and upright, even now He [the Almighty] will rouse Himself on your behalf and restore you to your rightful place.
Job 8:20 -Surely, God does not reject a blameless man or strengthen the hands of evildoers.
Job is Bewildered by Bildad
Job 9:21 -Although I am blameless [I cannot think of any sin committed against God or man], I have no concern for myself; I despise my own life [death is better than this].
Job 9:29 -Since I am already found guilty [by virtue of God's present wrath on me], why should I struggle [to prove my innocence to you] in vain?
Job 10:2 -I will say to God: Do not condemn me, but tell me what charges You have against me.
Job 10:14 -If I sinned, You would be watching me and would not let my offense go unpunished.
Job 10:15 -If I am guilty – woe to me! [Then, I deserve this.] Even if I am innocent, I cannot lift my head [against my Creator], for I am full of shame and drowned in my affliction, [even though I do not know why this is happening. What did I do wrong?]
Job 11:2 -Are all these [foolish] words [of Job] to go unanswered? Is this talker [babbler] to be vindicated?
Job 11:3 -Will your idle talk reduce men [who are not suffering as you are] to silence? Will no one rebuke you when you mock?
Job 11:4 -You say to God, "My beliefs are flawless and I am pure in Your sight."
Job 11:5 -Oh, how I wish that God would speak, that He would open His lips against you [and reveal your sinful ways.]
Job 11:14 -If you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent . . .
Job 11:15 -Then you will lift up your face without shame [before God]; you will stand firm and without fear.
Job 11:17 -[Your sufferings will pass and] life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning.
Job Has Had Enough
Job 12:2 -Doubtless, you are the people [that think you know everything about God], and wisdom will die with you!
Job 12:3 -But I have a mind as well as you; I am not inferior to you. Who does not know all these things? [You are beating me up with the wrongful use of righteous principles.]
Job 12:4 -[Look at me,] I have become a laughingstock to my friends, though [in times past] I called upon God and He answered – [I am now] a mere laughingstock, though [I am] righteous and blameless! [I say this humbly because I can think of nothing that God would hold against me.]
Job 12:5 -[Listen here,] men at ease have contempt for misfortune [you're not suffering and you pour out condemnation upon me that is torturous because you see me] as the fate of those whose feet are slipping [into sin].
Job 13:4 -You, however, smear me with lies; you are worthless physicians, all of you!
Job 13:9 -Would it turn out well if He examined you [as He has examined me]? Could you deceive Him [with your self-righteous claims] as you might deceive men?
Job 13:15 -[I personally know God.] Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him; I will surely defend my ways to His face [for I have willfully done nothing to offend Him].
Job 13:18 -Now that I have prepared my case, I know I will be vindicated.
Job 13:19 -Can anyone bring charges against me [of wrong doing]? If so, [let him speak and] I will be silent and die.
Job 13:20 -Only grant me these two things, O God, and then I will not hide from You.
Job 13:21 -Withdraw Your hand [of wrath] far from me, and stop frightening me with Your terrors.
Job 13:22 -Then summon me [to judgment] and I will answer, or let me speak, and You reply.
Job 13:23 -How many wrongs and sins have I committed? Show me my offense and my sin [and I will quickly make atonement for them.]
Job 14:16 -Surely then You will count my steps but not keep track of my sin.
Job 14:17 -My offenses will be sealed up in a bag; You will cover over my sin [and they will be discarded at the bottom of the ocean].
Elihu, A Young Man is Fired Up
Job 32:1 -So these three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. [Job would not confess to any wrong doing.]
Job 32:2 -But Elihu, son of Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became very angry with Job for justifying him rather than God.
Job 32:3 -He was also angry with the three friends, because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him.
Job 32:4 -Now Elihu had waited before speaking to Job because they were older than he.
Job 32:5 -But when he saw that the three men had nothing more to say, his anger was aroused.
Job 32:6- So Elihu, son of Barakel the Buzite said: "I am young in years, and you are old; that is why I was fearful, not daring to tell you what I know."
Job 32:12 -I gave you my full attention. But not one of you has proved Job wrong; none of you has answered his arguments.
Job 36:5 -God is mighty, but does not despise men; He is mighty, and firm in His purpose.
Job 36:6 -He does not keep the wicked alive [forever] but gives the afflicted their rights.
Job 36:7 -He does not take His eyes off the righteous; He enthrones them with kings and exalts them forever.
Job 36:8 -But if men are bound in chains, held fast by cords of [suffering and] affliction . . .
Job 36:9 -He tells them what they have done – that they have sinned arrogantly.
Job 36:10 -He makes them listen to correction [when they are subdued] and commands them to repent of their evil.
Job 36:11 -If they obey and serve Him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment.
Job 36:12 -But if they do not listen, they will perish by the sword and die without knowledge.
Job 37:23 -The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power; in His justice and great righteousness, He does not [unjustly] oppress [His creation].
Insight # 4
The Bible does not indicate when Elihu joined the meeting at Job's house. We do know that Elihu sat patiently and listened to the banter of Job and his three friends. Basically, when Elihu speaks, the arguments between Job and his friends have been exhausted. Job's friends had concluded that Job was sinful. He deserved his great suffering because God afflicts the wicked with suffering. Job, on the other hand, had silenced his oppressors by asking them to provide proof for their conclusions. He challenged them to reveal any action that could be called wicked. He was blameless of any known sin. "If I have sinned, show me where," Job said. Coming to this stalemate, everyone sat in silent confusion. Finally, Elihu broke the courteous norm of that day. (In those days, the elders were respected by the youth. The youth were to be seen and not heard.) Elihu's frustration burst into an exposition that takes five chapters! He declares that God allows nothing to occur without plan and purpose. (This is the same idea that is found in Romans 8:28.) Therefore, the question of whether Job deserved his suffering is a moot point. God has allowed this to occur and God is justified in everything He does, even if human beings do not understand why. The young man offers this profound insight: Things are the way they are because of God. Elihu concludes that human beings may never understand why God has allowed Job to suffer like this, but God is righteous and He has a purpose. (If only Elihu had known about the meeting between the angels and the original cosmic purpose for this test.)
Conclusion: God Himself /Speaks to Job
Job 38:2 -Who is this [you and your three friends] that darkens My counsel with words without knowledge?
Job 38:3 -Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you will answer Me.
Job 38:4 -Where were you when I laid the Earth's foundation? Tell Me, if you understand.
Job 38:5 -Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?
Job 38:6 -On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone.
Job 38:7 -While the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?
Job 38:8 -Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb . . .
Job 38:9 -When I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness . . .
Job 38:10 -When I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place . . .
Job 38:11 -When I said, "This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt?"
Job 39:26 -Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom and spread his wings toward the south?
Job 39:27 -Does the eagle soar at your command and build his nest on high?
Job 40:2 -Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? Let him who accuses God answer Him!
Job 40:3 -Then Job answered the Lord.
Job 40:4 -I am unworthy – how can I reply to You? I put my hand over my mouth.
Job 40:5 -I spoke once, but I have no answer – twice, but I will say no more.
God Makes a Statement
Job 40:7 -Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you will answer Me.
Job 40:8 -Would you discredit My justice? Would you condemn Me to justify yourself?
Job 40:9 -Do you have an arm like God's, and can your voice thunder like His?
Job 40:10 -Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor, and clothe yourself in honor and majesty.
Job 40:11 -Unleash the fury of your wrath, look at every proud man and bring him low . . .
Job 40:12 -Look at every proud man and humble him, crush the wicked where they stand.
Job 40:13 -Bury them all in the dust together; shroud their faces in the grave.
Job 41:11 -Who has a claim against Me that I must pay? Everything under Heaven belongs to Me.
Job Acknowledges His Unworthiness
Job 42:2 -I know that You can do all things; no plan of Yours can be thwarted.
Job 42:3 -You asked, "Who is this that obscures My counsel without knowledge?" Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.
Job 42:4 -You said, "Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you will answer Me."
Job 42:5 -My ears had heard of You, but now my eyes have seen You.
Job 42:6 -Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.
Insight # 5
To appreciate God's comments, you must first bring the cosmic dimension into focus. Remember, this is a test between Christ and Satan, to determine if a man will choose God's presence over His presents. This was a test to see if a man will choose to maintain a nonnegotiable faith in God, even when everything has been stripped away from him. Remember Satan's argument: "God's hand-servants do not actually have the power of choice. Instead, all they have is the choice of death." As I said before, the story of Job has a number of insights. Some occur in the cosmic dimension, while others can be seen as the earthly drama unfolds. From the cosmic dimension, God says things to Job which Satan and the angels can hear. He does this so Satan's arguments can be silenced. For example, Satan claimed that God's children only have the choice of death – disobey and die. God responds to Satan's claim in His discussion with Job (I am paraphrasing):
1. "Job, if you can create matter and sustain life, and if you are like me, then you have the prerogatives I exercise. If you cannot do these things, then we are not equals. I am a great King. Where can you go and be free of My dominion? This is My universe by right of creation. I formed the darkness and I created light. Apart from Me, there is no other God. Everything I do is for the benefit of My subjects."
2. "Consider what you know about Me. Am I righteous? Am I worthy of honor? Am I trustworthy? Am I forgiving? Am I generous? Am I compassionate? Am I full of wisdom and purpose? Am I a God of love? If you find Me to have these qualities, then serve Me. If not, brace yourself and prepare to deal with Me, because My house will be a house without rebellion."
On the cosmic level, God is speaking to the devil. He basically says, "Your arguments against Me appear to have merit because you have twisted and distorted the truth. You take advantage of things that have not been revealed yet. You present flawed questions and then offer evil conclusions because you have no faith in Me. You have temporarily succeeded in deceiving a great number of My creatures through doubt and suspicion. However, at an appointed time, we will meet in the presence of all My creation and I will show Myself for what I am and I will clearly strip you of every pretense and defense. I will reveal to the universe that you are nothing but a liar."
Of course, when God speaks to Job, Job interprets the words of God from the Earthly perspective. Job feels so foolish for even trying to defend himself in light of what has happened. Here is the point: Job and his friends knew that the divine law says, "Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap." Of course, their arguments swirled from that perspective. However, after God spoke to Job, he began to understand how that law is true, but only within the Earthly dimension. It is not necessarily true within the cosmic dimension. In other words, life and all that happens to us operates on two levels: The cosmic and the Earthly. Since man is not privy to God's higher plans and purposes, we cannot possibly know the lessons or objectives God is bringing about, even though we can see and understand the Earthly consequences. This is precisely why faith in God has to be nonnegotiable!
What Happened to Job?
Job 42:7 -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 of Me what is right, as My servant Job has. [Your view regarding my interest in life on Earth is far too shallow and superficial.]
Job 42:8 -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 [as I should] according to your folly. You have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.
Job 42:9 -So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the Lord told them; and the Lord accepted Job's prayer [asking God to forgive them, for they did not know what they were saying].
Job 42:10 -After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.
Job 42:11 -All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house [because they had only the Earthly perspective]. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had allowed to happen to him and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.
Job 42:12 -The Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys.
Job 42:13 -And he also had [ten more children] seven sons and three daughters [and hopefully, his wife had a change of heart].
Once the test was over and God's objectives in Heaven as well as on Earth were accomplished, God blessed Job. He gave him twice the wealth that he had before this event took place in his life and he lived happily ever after. So, why did Job need to suffer in the first place? God had to demonstrate a key component about His government to the angels and to his credit, Job was found worthy in God's sight to provide that demonstration. Now that you know "the rest of the story," perhaps you will associate the name of Job with an incredible victory that comes by faith, rather than the man who experienced horrible suffering for a short season.
One last thought. I have no doubt that God is testing each of us right now for cosmic purposes. We may not understand God's purpose at this time. We may suffer without understanding, just as Job did. So be encouraged! I am sure that God is preparing each of His children for a higher life and calling than is possible on Earth. Romans 8:28 states,"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."One day we will understand the cosmic picture. Until then, may God find in each of us, the faith He found in his servant, Job."Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him. . ."(Job 13:15, KJV)