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Don Smith :: Chapter 1: The God of Job (Job 1:1-5)

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Chapter 1: The God of Job (Job 1:1-5)

In a place far, far away and in a day long, long ago, there once lived a man renowned for his wealth, wisdom, and faith. His reputation was great throughout the land. His riches and possessions were legendary. His peers and customers respected him for his business ethics. His wisdom earned him the honored place as an elder at the city gates. His integrity was unrivaled and he gave to the poor and needy. His young family was a model of faith and happiness. He lived an idyllic life filled with prosperity and dignity until one day without warning or explanation everything about this man changed. The stock market crashed and he lost all his holdings. That same day all of his children were killed in a mysterious windstorm. In spite of this devastation in his life, his faith remained intact. While still suffering in his grief, he noticed unexplainable sores on his skin. Leprosy, the feared and cursed disease, began spreading over his entire body. He instantaneously became an outcast, no longer seated in the gates of the city but in the city dump. This man's plight drew mourners who attempted to ease his pain; instead they only added to his misery. His counselors sought theological answers to his plight. None were satisfactory.

Human wisdom, then and now, is inadequate to account for the inscrutable ways of God. Some people reason that human suffering exists because God is either not all good or not all-powerful. More problematic is finding a satisfactory explanation for why the righteous suffer. This pursuit is not just theological curiosity but theological practicality, especially when unexplainable hardship, disease, and adversity enter our lives or the lives of those we love. Why do bad things seem to happen to good people while it seems to escape the wicked? Why do the wicked seem to prosper while the righteous suffer? Does God really rule over all things? If so, what kind of God sits silently on the throne of heaven while the righteous call out for deliverance? Is all suffering a direct result of transgressing God's law? Is the severity of human suffering in direct proportion to a person's sin? Does every man have a price by which he will sell out his faith to save his skin? How far will God go to test the faith of His own? Do men worship God because they believe this is the way to garner His favor? Or do those of faith worship God in spite of their hardships and sufferings? How are we to pray when things come crashing down upon us? Does God hear? Does prayer change things?

Welcome to the world of Job. His story is captured in one of the most profound books ever written. It has retained its place in world literature as a masterpiece of poetry and prose. Martin Luther referred to Job as "more magnificent and sublime than any other book of Scripture." It is prophetic as well as poetic. It is a gigantic, sweeping drama, encompassing heaven and earth. Job is the actor on the stage of life who is caught in a struggle between heaven and hell. Behind the earthly scenes, the heavenly director masterfully weaves the actors and their actions to serve His purposes. It is a real human story only God could tell and that is why it remains a bestseller. Let us begin our journey back in time to rediscover the truths of Job. Before we examine the opening scene of this true-life drama, let us consider the story's preliminary backdrop.

The Backdrop to Job's Story

I have entitled this series "The God of the Whirlwind" because Job's God is presented to the reader as Supreme. It is uncertain who authored this book. It could be argued that Job himself is the author or even Elihu, who is one of Job's counselors. Others suggest the writer is Moses, Ezra, or Solomon. Solomon is an interesting possibility because of Job's many similarities to the poetry of Song of Solomon and to the wisdom literature of Ecclesiastes and Proverbs. But whoever the author was, it was a book accepted and revered as Scripture by Israel.

Job is mentioned as a real historical figure in Ezekiel along with other righteous men like Noah and Daniel (Ezekiel 14:14, 20). The New Testament also refers to Job as an example of suffering and patience. An important insight given by James is that Job's story reveals the compassion and mercy of God, which is often overshadowed by the tragic events in Job's life (James 5:10-11). This is so typical of the way many people read the Old Testament. There is an inclination to let the earthly drama overshadow the heavenly drama and our sight of God.

Job certainly is one of the oldest biblical stories. The events and circumstances alluded to in Job seem to place it during the patriarchal times - perhaps during the time of Jacob. His story, however, could have been written from reliable oral sources much later by Moses, Solomon, or Ezra.

Job's Theology

Job's perspective of God is the most important thing about him. He had an adequate and appropriate theology, but was still mystified about God's ways. In the midst of his unexplainable suffering, he called out to God for answers to his prayers. He wanted explanations to things for which he had no answers. He believed God was sovereign over all things in heaven and earth, but why did He appoint sin and suffering to exist? God had determined the day of his birth and the number of his days. God allotted the nights and months of his suffering (Job 7:3; 9:19; 14:5; 20:29; 23:14; 30:23; 34:13). God would bring him to death and appoint him a place with all the living. God appointed the days and destiny of the wicked as well. What Job could not reconcile was why he had been appointed to suffer?

Job also pondered why God would ever be pleased for the righteous to suffer. Even as God was pleased for the Seed of the Woman to be bruised by the serpent, so Job believed God was pleased to crush him (cf. Genesis 3:15; Job 6:9; Isaiah 53:10).

In Job 6:8-10, he cried out to the Lord, "Oh, that I might have my request, that God would grant me the thing that I long for! That it would please God to crush me, that He would loose His hand and cut me off!" Job was willing to be crushed by God if he only knew "why"? He believed himself to be righteous, so why should he suffer at the hands of God? His predicament anticipated the comments of Isaiah in Isaiah 53:10, "Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him (Christ); He has put Him to grief." God was also putting Job to grief, not because he was unrighteous or sinned, but to serve purposes known only to God that would glorify Him forever-especially for all who read this book.

Job sincerely believed God was all-wise (cf. Job 38:36-37; 39:26; Isaiah 55:8-9), but by what wisdom had He assigned the righteous to suffer? God created the world and all the things in it out of His infinite wisdom. It was God who put the right amount of waters in the sea and rivers. He had numbered every cloud. It was God who gave the birds of the air the wisdom to spread their wings to fly south and the hawks to soar high above in search of its prey. And it was God who put wisdom in the mind of man and understanding in his heart. Therefore, Job believed God's ways were far beyond his own finite understanding.

The Lord spoke to Isaiah with similar words in Isaiah 55:8-9, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts." This is what kept Job hoping in God while still seeking to argue his case with Him. He certainly was not a "God-Shrinker," but a "God-Magnifier" and "Admirer."

Yet even with this great theology, Job's sufferings seemed to have no purpose or explanation. What he lacked was perspective. He did not have the perspective of heaven which we enjoy as the readers of his life. We are privileged to see behind the curtain of time and see God on the throne. We are able to see that the trials he faced were not because he was unrighteous, but because he was righteous. This was foreign to him, but not to those of us who have read the life of Christ.

God, in His infinite wisdom, has revealed, to the saints, glimpses of His glory to help them gain perspective of their trials. For example, when Isaiah thought there was no hope, God revealed a vision of Christ's glory seated on the throne with angels crying out, "Holy, Holy, Holy" (Isaiah 6:3). It was a vision to remind Job and us that God is on the throne when everything else seems chaotic.

In many ways the pattern of scenes in Job parallel those of Revelation. There are opening scenes on earth, but then glimpses of Christ's glory on the throne. What He ordains in heaven comes to pass on the earth. The earth shudders under God's wrath, but in heaven we see all things are working together for God's ultimate blessing of the saints. Job, like Revelation, is a book to show the supremacy of God even in our trials.

The study of Job reminds us of the importance of having a sufficient theology to face the suffering and adversity of life on planet Earth. Job teaches one universal truth-"the just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17)-faith in God's faithfulness to Himself and His Holy purposes.

The Poetic Wisdom of Job is more like a theological primer used by biblical writers throughout the ages in both the New & Old Testaments. Listen to Job's wisdom still echoing down through the ages of time to us:

"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD." (Job 1:21)

"Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" (Job 2:10)

"Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty. For He bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole." (Job 5:17-18)

"What is man, that You should exalt him, that You should set Your heart on him, That You should visit him every morning, And test him every moment?" (Job 7:17-18)

"Though God slay me, yet will I trust Him." (Job 13:15)

"For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth;" (Job 19:25)

Job's theology was far more developed than we might give credit to those living before Moses. He, like others dating back to Abraham and before, had great faith in God and His promise of redemption. Even with great theology, Job's knowledge of God and understanding in his crisis was blurred by tears, grief, and pain. His story should be read with an eye to the same possibilities in our own lives. The lessons we learn from him may comfort and help us in our own time of testing. With an intentional eye kept on God throughout the book, we begin with Job's faith.

Who Was Job?

His faith was in a God who is worthy to be feared (cf. Job 1:1; Proverbs 9:10). The prose begins with a simple statement about a man in the land of Uz. The geographic location of this land is not certain. Some suggest it is near the ancient city of Damascus which borders the desert. It may be identified with Abraham's nephew who was named Uz (Genesis 22:21). But wherever it existed, it was a thriving region for trade, commerce, and crops.

The man of unrivaled piety was named "Job." His name means "the tried" or "repentant one." It is possible that this was the name given him after his ordeal. Essential to our introduction of Job is his character. The suspense and drama revolve around his righteousness. His righteous character is attested to not only by men, but by God. What was this man like?

First Job is described as "blameless" by the author and later, twice by God Himself. The Lord said of Job, "There is none like My servant Job on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil" (Job 1:8; 2:3). To be blameless is to be a man of integrity above reproach. It does not mean Job was sinless or morally perfect-this can only be assigned to Christ.

Secondly, Job is considered "upright" (Job 27:7-11; 29:7; 29:21-24; 31:13-21; 31:32). To be upright is to walk with distinction, not diverting from the path set forth by God. Job was highly esteemed for his moral standards and commitment to the truth. He was determined to stay the course set before him without compromise. The people in the city square kept silent to hear his wise counsel. He spoke for the poor, stood up for the rights of the working class, and comforted widows. He did not rejoice in the judgment of his enemies nor did he eat when others went hungry. He was the people's favorite, like a king with his loyal army of followers.

Thirdly, he was a "God fearer." This is the ultimate compliment that can be given any man or woman. Job had a legitimate awe and appropriate reverence for God that influenced every aspect of his life and values (cf. Job 23:13-16; Proverbs 9:10; 10:27). He was not a casual worshipper. When he entered God's presence in worship he said, "I am terrified at His presence; When I consider this, I am afraid of Him. For God made my heart weak, and the Almighty terrifies me" (Job 23:15-16). This is a response completely repugnant and shunned by our generation. But this fear was the beginning of his wisdom. Proverbs 9:10 expands this thought, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." The wise understand that they are fallen creatures and that God is their Creator and Redeemer. This is the basis of all wisdom. But this wisdom comes only from a personal acquaintance with the Holy One, Jesus Christ. Therefore, men are not saved by their own wisdom, but by the wisdom that comes from above. Christ is the wisdom of God, who entered time and space in Job's time as a whirlwind and again in the first century as Jesus of Nazareth.

Finally, because Job feared God, "he shunned evil" (Proverbs 8:13). Because of his passion for God's glory, he kept away from evil as much as possible and walked away from it when it came at him. Here was a godly man who treasured righteousness above all things.

Who Was Job's God?

Job's God was gracious and benevolent (Job 1:2-3; 2:10). God made Job prosperous beyond his greatest expectations (Job 2:10). The very list of his possessions expresses the goodness of God. He had a wife, seven sons and three daughters; the number of children (being ten) numerically represents God's number of complete provision. Job's children were the glory and joy of his life (cf. Proverbs 17:6; Psalm 127:3-5).

The Lord also completely provided possessions for Job as seen in the number ten again. The Lord blessed the work of his hands by giving him 7,000 sheep for food and clothing plus 3,000 camels for hauling merchandise. There were 500 yoke of oxen plus 500 donkeys for plowing and pulling carts. Job saw himself as a steward of God's resources. Everything he enjoyed was a gift from God. Job believed that we are to accept adversity with the same gratitude that we accept prosperity. He reasoned that if God is sovereign and holy, then whatever He allows or designs to enter his life is for God's glory and his good.

God made Job "The greatest of all the people of the East" (Job 1:3). In the days of his prime, God was good to Job's tent. His wife and ten children surrounded him. Every step he took was bathed in cream and the rocks poured out rivers of oil. Things could not have been more idyllic and pleasant-all because of God's grace. This was the day God appointed prosperity for Job. But that day was about to come to sudden stop.

We, like Job, do not know what we will face in days ahead. God has ordained that this knowledge be hidden from us. That is why we are to live by faith. Psalm 62:10 warns us: "If riches increase, do not set your heart on them." Wealth, relationships, and health can be taken from us so quickly. Ecclesiastes 7:14 also speaks as to what our perspective on life should be: "In the day of prosperity be joyful, But in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other, so that man can find out nothing that will come after him." Life is not to be mourned or squandered; rather it is to be enjoyed while time, resources, and health permit.

As the curtain closes on the first act, Job is seen as a priest sacrificing to his Holy God (Job 1:4-5). A true measure of Job's blessing was that of his family celebrating life together. His sons and daughters gathered for family birthdays and festivals even when he and his wife could not attend. They would invite all the family to come for these great events where every member of the family was significant and celebrated on their appointed day. The family is a place to belong, a shelter in a time of storm, a museum of memories, a school of truth, a Red Cross center, and a sacred site for worship. And Job's children perpetuated these spiritual and family values with which they had grown up.

When it came time for these family celebrations, it provided an opportunity to pray for every child individually. Job would invite each of them to come home and spend some time with him. Then he would sanctify or purify them in preparation to worship the Lord. He would cleanse them and anoint them with oil. Then he would offer burnt offerings that ascended up to the Lord. He was a priest for his family like Noah, Abraham, and Jacob, years before the Levitical priesthood was ever ordained by God.

Why did Job do this? He did this because he feared that one of his family members might have offended a holy God. As the priest of his family, he wanted to intercede for his children when they sinned. But he also feared they may have cursed God in their hearts. Nothing so tortured his heart than to think that one of his children might have blasphemed or dismissed God in their hearts. It would have been helpful to hear Job's godly counsel as he listened to his sons and daughters and then lead them in personal worship of God.

Concluding Thoughts

As the stage darkens and the curtain falls on the scene of one of Job's stories, the orchestra plays bright, melodious music as the audience sinks back in their cushioned seats thinking, "This is a boring, predictable drama filled with moral lessons." But as we shall soon see, the curtain will rise and a scene in heaven will change everything. That is the beauty of Job's story. It is a reminder to live every day as a gift from God. God is immutable, but His ways are not always revealed to us. He is most pleased when we are pleased to radically trust in Him. For the Lord has said, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways; For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Introduction ← Prior Section
Chapter 2: The Supremacy of God (Job 1:6-22) Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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