Series: JOB: From Tragedy to Triumph
Title: "A Look Behind the Scenes"
"Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart. The LORD gave
and the LORD has taken away; may
bthe name of the LORD be praised."
No one will argue the fact we live in a broken, fallen world. There are countless victims of evil atrocities all over the globe, and we empathize with their losses, pain and suffering. But when it strikes home to the ones we love, it is an entirely different picture that many would have immense difficulty with. This week, Charles Price begins a new series from the book of Job in which the whole question of suffering is explored; its causes and explanations, and most importantly, what can be redeemed from it.
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Whether the story of Job is fiction or historical fact has been up for debate, but there is no doubt as to its authenticity. The account of Job starts by giving him a name and a geographical location. Uz is mentioned elsewhere in Scripture and is east of Edom, presumably in today’s northwest Saudi Arabia. In Ezekiel 14:14, God is pronouncing His judgment if a country sins, and He says, “Even if these three men – Noah, Daniel and Job – were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness.” If Job were a fictional character, God would not have mentioned his name in the same breath with Noah and Daniel as being among the most righteous. James 5:11 commends the perseverance of Job, not as a fictional character, but an historical person. The dialogue between Job and his friends is written in poetic form, but that does not distract from its validity. Many of the Psalms are written poetically, which makes them memorable and easier to recount.
The book of Job is about suffering physically, materially, emotionally and even spiritually, because throughout Job’s suffering God remains silent for a lengthy period. Job is described as “blameless and upright; a man who feared God and shunned evil, the greatest man among all the people of the east” (Job 1:3). In a matter of minutes, he has been informed by separate messengers, each one entering while the other was still speaking, that he has lost all his oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, his servants and most devastating of all, every one of his ten children.
Suddenly, his livelihood, servants and children perish, but what does Job do? Job 2:20 tells us, “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship.” He did not blame God, resent God or even get angry with God, but in his suffering, he praised God. As if this was not enough, Job’s body is soon inflicted with painful open sores and he is forced to sit in heaps of ashes, because they were sterile and scratch himself with broken pieces of pottery. His wife turns on him and says, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 9) Then his friends come to visit him with intentions of comforting him, but instead heap condemnation on him, certain he had committed sin against God. Understandably, Job falls into a deep depression, but through it all, maintains his righteousness before God.
There is a crucial element to the story of Job that explains his suffering, but he is kept totally in the dark. It begins in heaven when God calls His angels before Him. Satan was among them and God asks him, “Have you considered my servant Job?” Satan answered, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger” (Job 1:8-12). In all the tragedy Job suffered, he remained loyal and clung to his faith in God. Satan appears before God again and states his reason why Job has not relented. “Skin for skin!” he said. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But now 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” (Job 2:3-6). Job’s body is now ravished with sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.
This gives us incredible insight into what went on behind the scenes. It may surprise us to know, but heaven is Satan’s natural habitat. God created him as the most beautiful of all angels. He was given the name ‘Lucifer’, which means ‘Morning Star’, but because of his beauty and splendour, Satan’s heart became corrupt and he wanted God’s position of supreme authority. God hurled him down to earth, along with a league of angels who joined in his rebellion. To this day, they busy themselves, roaming the earth trying to drive as many as they can to be at enmity with God.
God did not create an evil devil, but the most splendid of all angels. However, He did not create robotic angels any more than He created robotic people. Satan chose his own fate, but every now and then God calls him up to heaven to give account. Satan needs permission to attack and is given boundaries. It is under the sovereignty of God he operates, and the closer we come to God, the harder the devil will try to lure us away. Job was not attacked because of his unrighteousness, but because of his righteousness.
Suffering will often expose the real person in a way little else does. Mrs. Job cursed and Mr. Job worshiped. We can all be fair weather Christians as long as the sun is shining and the sky is blue, but when tragedy strikes, our hearts become exposed. What we believe about God surfaces and our faith is tested. In the midst of such horrendous suffering, Job said of God, “If I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him. When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him” (Job 23:8-9). In other words, Job could not see the fingerprints of God in any of this. He then says, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me I will come forth as gold” (23:10).
The wonderful thing about Job is that he was a man who had it all; a good family, health, wealth and prosperity, but after losing it all, Job 1:22 says, “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” There are people today who prosper financially, enjoy good health, have a wonderful home and a wonderful family, but what slowly sneaks up on them is a sense of entitlement. There are rules they think no longer apply to them, because they have grown accustomed to the good life and feel they have a right to it. When there is this sense of entitlement and we lose some of those things we hold dear the response is usually anger. The truth is none of us are entitled. We must live on that level of “I am not entitled”, and when God gives, enjoy it; when God takes away, worship Him just the same. Job had no idea why this was happening to Him, and no clue that it was because of his righteousness God granted Satan permission to attack.
The Book of Job does not give us a definitive answer to suffering, but exposes the wrong answers, the simplistic explanations we often have for suffering. It exposes the wrong of miraculous cures we want God to give us and the wrong theological conclusions we come to about suffering. The book leaves us with the elimination of wrong explanations, but does not give us the right explanation simply because there is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ explanation for suffering. But it is a wonderful moment when God is worshipped and trusted in a way that is not conditional upon what He will do for us. It is a true test of faith where we learn something about ourselves, about God, and like Job, we may come forth as gold.