Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Book Of Job

I received an e-mail yesterday from a friend who had recently read an interesting article about the Book of Job, and so he forwarded it to me. I read it this morning and thought it worthy to copy and paste here for you to read...and I hope that you will be blessed by doing so. It's from Dr Warren Vanhetloo's almost-daily "Cogitations" - an email that he sends around to those who request it containing some great thoughts and insights on Scripture...

Pray to learn from Job and to live like Job.
"Consider My servant Job": Ah, Job. What an interesting character and story! My assumption always was that the book was well summarized by the idea of suffering. Trials, tribulations, sorrow, false accusation and all the other things that tend to make our lives miserable appear to cluster around Job like metal filings to a magnet. He endured more loss than dozens of us put together could possibly register. He kept only his wife and his life (and sometimes it appears as if keeping his wife was not all that great a blessing). Yes, like the Savior, he was "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief."
But somehow, that isn't the whole story! Many years ago I was having lunch with the late Louis Paul Lehman (twice pastor of the great Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, MI, radio preacher, and widely-known conference speaker). Paul was a delightful eccentric who tended to say things as they popped into his mind. He turned to me that day and said, "Do you know the real theme of the book of Job?" I answered with the obvious, "suffering." He, said, "That is an element in the picture, but it is not the real main theme." He went on to say that he was convinced that the main theme was this: Will a man serve God for nothing? He challenged me to study the encounter between God and Satan early in the book to determine if he was actually correct. I did, and he was.
God asks Satan if he has considered His servant Job. Satan responds that he has, but that he is not incredibly impressed. He suggests to God that anyone as blessed as Job would surely serve the God who had blessed him. He boldly suggests that if God takes away all he has, God might find another Job altogether lurking under the surface of the grateful and joyous Job he knows so well. The obvious implication? Job serves you for what he can get out of it. Take that all away and see what he does. In other words, let's find out if a man will serve God for nothing. [Rather than keep you hanging in case I forget at the end, the answer to that question is also strikingly clear before the conclusion of the book: yes, but with great difficulty!]
God sets a couple of boundaries and then tells Satan he can have at him, and the rest of the book unfolds the story of what transpires. There is a fairly simple outline to the book that goes as follows:
The Prologue - Chapter 1:1-28 (the story of Job)
The Dialogue - Chapter 2:9 - 42:6 (the struggles of Job)
The Epilogue - Chapter 42:7-17 (the sequel of Job).

Job's struggles are many and intense. He struggles with his circumstances, with himself (a major factor in the book), with his wife, with his friends, and with his God. The struggle with his friends takes up much of the book and is quite revealing. I think the phrase, "With friends like these, one doesn't need enemies," may have originated in Job. They were so spiritually ignorant that they said the right things to the wrong person, the wrong things to the right person, and the wrong thing to the wrong person, but never got around to saying the right thing to the right person.
Most of us are sufficiently familiar with the story that it is probably unnecessary to review all the gory details; suffice it to say that Job goes "through the mill" in ways that few if any of us have ever experienced (and most of us could not survive either physically, spiritually or emotionally), and he does so more than once.
We have the theme (a question and its answer), and we know the story. What lessons can we learn from his experience of God's dealings in his life? I believe there are at least ten lessons we can learn from His servant, Job.
1. God always has His purposes even though they are often unknown to us (should I have said most often unknown to us?). A praise chorus says, "though I may not understand all the plans You have for me, my life is in Your hands, and through the darkest night, I can plainly see, God is good!" And His overall purpose can be known: to glorify Himself through His servants.
2. Satan is alive and well on planet earth. No need to belabor this point; we all have eyes and ears. I always have mixed emotions at this point, however, as it is easy to blame everything that goes wrong on Satan and to fall back on the old excuse, "the Devil made me do it." The opposite, however, is equally wrong and dangerous - that Satan isn't involved in anything that happens. Don't automatically blame your troubles on Satan as some of the worst may be self-created. Don't, however, rule out the role that Satan plays in keeping the world in rebellion and the Saints in personal turmoil.
3. Struggles don't indicate sin in the life. Don't get over-simplified! Job had done nothing wrong to warrant what happened to him. Don't assume that your own sufferings or those of others have their root in some specific sin. It would be wise also to realize that lack of struggles at a particular time does not indicate that "God loves you better than He does His other children."
4. The overall story of the exchange between God and Satan also brings to the forefront the importance of motives. What Satan was really after was discovering the actual motives that drove Job. How much we need to examine our hearts to be sure that what we do is done for the right motive (at best as humans are able to do such). I've often said that right is its own reward. This - and many other truths - expresses that our motives are what determines the worth, if not the outcomes, of our efforts for the Lord.
5. It is natural for man to struggle. I think there has been a lot of erroneous teaching in this area. You know, the "comfort clich├ęs" that are part of an evangelical arsenal. If you think a struggling believer is required to "suffer in internal silence while expressing major external happiness," I think you have missed the point. Read the Psalms again. David said some things to the Lord that I would be even hesitant to think, and he did so out of the intense struggles through which he was passing. I'm not God, but I do know from Scripture that He remembers what we forget, even about ourselves: that we are dust!
6. This follows on the last point. It is ok to take our struggles to the Lord. He knows what's going on in our minds anyway, and it would seem only logical to openly bring such matters to Him. Again, I cite many of the Psalms of David. You can suffer in silence and loneliness, but I'm not at all sure that is necessary. If He keeps all our tears in a bottle, then he must have a lot of crying people coming to the throne.
7. The lessons to be learned are always worth the trials to be endured. Many of us can testify that some of the greatest learning experiences of life have been provided by the problems we have faced (especially those that were of our own making). In a moment we will see some of the incredible lessons Job learned. There is enough in the book to change our usual approach of "How can I get out of this?" to "What can I get out of this?"
8. Great flashes of light often come in the darkest of night. In the midst of his struggles (in Chapter 19), Job makes some striking revelations. Remember, Job probably lived in the Patriarchal age, and his story may well be the oldest in Scripture.
With that in mind, look at the "flashes of light" God gave him:

He got a glimpse of personal redemption - verse 25 ('I know that my Redeemer liveth," which expresses personal faith in redemption by a Personal Redeemer").
He got a glimpse of eternal resurrection - verses 25&26. "He shall stand upon the earth" (an interesting indication of millennial truth); "In my flesh I shall see God."

He got a glimpse of supernatural recognition - verse 27. "Whom I shall see for myself and mine eyes shall behold," even though right now I feel like I am being destroyed ("my heart faints within me").

9. Ultimately, things always turn out right. Humanly and temporally, they do not. The way the lives of some of God's choicest servants end is, from a human standpoint, just plain not right. I think particularly of Donna and Doris and the host of others who are struggling near the end of the way in a manner they never knew before. The assurance is, however, that in the end, it all comes out right. What we must realize is that death is not the end, and that "the sufferings of this present world are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed."
10. The final message of Job: Hang on to your faith no matter what. Job is a book of broad perspective, and we need to realize that Job didn't know what we know - that he was going to see it all come out right in this life (which also happens at times today). On the basis of what we know now, however, we would surely say to Job, "Hang in there, Buddy." And that's a good note on which to leave our study of Job - "Hang in there, friend."
God knows what He is doing whether or not we have even so much as a clue. – Dr. Chuck Wood

No comments: