Job 2-3: What in the World is Going On?
Job is a difficult book to teach, not only because of the troubling content, but also because of the way it is laid out. We will enter a section where Job interacts with three friends who have come to visit him and offer their viewpoint of what is happening and why. Their dialogue and exchanges will cover the majority of this book. Here is an outline of the structure of this book:
Part 1: Job 1- Job 2:10 What happened to Job and who caused it.
Part 2: Job 2:11- 31:40 – Job loses it. The conversations between Job and his three friends.
Part 3: Job 32-37 – Job’s instructions from Elihu
Part 4: Job 38-39- God’s reply to Job’s questions
Part 5: Job 40:1-42:9 – Job’s two confessions and God’s rebuke to his three friends
Part 6: Job 42: 10-17 – Job’s prayers for his friends and his restoration
WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON?
This story has multiple facets:
- God’s Sovereignty- why He is worthy of our worship.
- Suffering and why it is necessary.
- Endurance or patience.
- Integrity and character and what it means.
God’s Sovereignty: In today’s pluralistic culture, we are told to be tolerant of all concepts of truth. It is interesting that Jesus said in John 18 in his conversation with Pilate. “For this reason I was born, and for this reason I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me. What is truth? Pilate asked. With this he went out again…” Tolerance is defined as accepting other races, backgrounds, cultures and externals and making sure we do not relate to them or treat them differently. But the enemy has redefined this word tolerance to mean no idea, no viewpoint; no religion is more true or valid than another one. But God is Sovereign. This is what the Bible teaches us about Him. Listen to just one of the ways God describes Himself: “This is what the Lord says- Israel’s King and Redeemer; the Lord Almighty: I am the first and the last; apart from me there is no God. Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before me what has happened since I established my ancient people, and what is yet to come- yes, let him foretell what will come.” (Isaiah 44: 6, 7) Hinduism, Buddha, Islam, Jehovah Witnesses, and all other religions cannot do what only God can do and his prophecies have proven to be true. Jesus said I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no man comes to the Father except by me. (John 14)
God is before all things; above all things, creator and sustainer of all things, knows all things, control all things, can do all things, His purpose cannot be thwarted by anyone or anything. He is superior to all others. There is no god like Him. Job is a story of His Sovereignty. He alone is worthy of our worship and this story of Job reveals this. God has promised those of us who love Him that He will work all things together for good in our lives. He has also promised never to test us above that which we are able to bear. The story of Job testifies to this truth. Our response to His Sovereignty: Bow down and worship Him. He is King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and the King of the Universe. Every knee shall bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. Believe Him.
The story of Job tells us everything that comes into our lives as God’s children, His servants, God has allowed or decreed and will use it for good in my life and His glory. We must believe this with all our heart and trust Him with all our heart and therefore refuse to worry. And we should behold Him in all of His majesty and awe and compassion and mercy and love! 2 Cor 3: 18 tells us when we behold the glory of the Lord, the Spirit of God transforms us. The reason God wants us to worship Him is He knows what we worship we become like. And He is the only One worthy of our worship!
Now the story of Job is a story of suffering. And what we will learn is suffering, endurance/ patience – integrity and character are all linked together. Suffering is never without purpose. Suffering is necessary to produce perseverance. Perseverance is also described as endurance and patience. Paul says: we also glory in sufferings (tribulations, KJV) because we know that suffering produces perseverance and perseverance, character and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us…” (Romans 5) The purpose of suffering is to produce perseverance. And perseverance produces character, integrity. Integrity is moral uprightness; a firm adherence to moral values, incapable of being morally corrupted. The new creature we become at salvation, when we are born again is a ‘partaker of His divine nature.’ This perseverance or endurance enables us to run the race with patience. Patience is a virtue and Job’s story is a story of perseverance more than it is of suffering.
Suffering is multi-faceted. Paul writes in 2 Cor 4: ‘We are hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down. This physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual suffering. Multi-faceted and sometimes all at once.
Suffering can come to a community. Orlando, Noah and Jackson, 911. And when it does, God intends His church to be a refuge.
Suffering equips us for ministry. 2 Cor. 1 tells us when we have passed through certain fires and experienced God’s comfort, we can then comfort others with the same comfort we have received. Suffering is a battleground. This is certainly a battle we see which originated in heaven and is taking place in Job and his wife’s lives. And suffering prepares us for a greater glory.
Let’s pick up the story as chapter 2 starts out in heaven again after the most disastrous day in the life of Job and his wife. We cannot imagine how they could possibly go on after the loss of everything so precious to them.
We must keep in mind; Job and his wife do not have the viewpoint of what is going on in heaven between God and Satan. How God could allow such tragedy to occur in their lives is a mystery to them. In many ways, what we are seeing is how the Old Testament is incomplete, it is filled with expectation and those expectations are fulfilled in the New Testament. Job does not have the comfort of the scripture which tells us: “There hath no temptation taken you but such is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able to bear; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it. “ (I Cor. 10:13) He does not have the sure word of Jesus who tells us His Father is always at work. (John 5:17) Nor does Job know God is working all things out for good for those who love the Lord and are the called according to the purpose… but Job is learning these things through experience. You cannot learn how to swim watching a video and practicing your strokes on the den floor. You have to get in the water. If you want to walk on the water, you must get out of the boat.
Chapter 2 starts in heaven, where once again the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came with them to present himself before Him. And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan replies from roaming the earth and going back and forth in it. We have a repetition of his comments about Job as occurred in chapter 1 with a very interesting, revealing statement added. He comments on Job’s character and remarks” there is no man on earth like him. He is blameless and upright; a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
Then God adds this: “And he still maintains his integrity, although you incited (moved) me against him to ruin without any reason (cause, KJV).” God is saying there is no reason in Job’s life to cause me to allow this trouble. There is a greater reason at stake, the sovereignty of Almighty God the basis of His worthiness to be worshipped. In Revelation 4 and 5 we read the praise of the angels: “ You are worthy, Our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power for you created all things and by your will they were created and have their being. “ We also read about the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus: “You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nations. You have made them a kingdom and priests to serve our God and they will reign on the earth.”
These are the angels praising God for they have a viewpoint Job did not have. They have witnessed the defeat and humiliation of the fallen angel previously known as Lucifer and now known as Satan, the adversary. They know he is defeated. They know and ten thousand times then thousand encircle the throne and praise the Only One worthy of worship. For they have witnessed the story of Job and have seen what God’s motive was from the very beginning.
What does the enemy, the devil, want to do? He wants to change the rules of the contest. Let me touch his body, his flesh and bone and he will curse you then, God. Do you notice how much faith God has in Job to allow this? God knows Job’s heart.
Satan thinks he knows Job’s heart. His thoughts are derived from his own philosophy which is everyone is self-centered, basically selfish, just like he is. And when you allow me to strip everything away and put them in the pressure of pain- they will give up their faith, their religion and curse God. He has underestimated Job so far, but his reputation among the fallen angels who have followed him is at stake. Satan is a sore, bitter loser. He is like the salesman who when someone else gets the award, he always complains it was an unfair contest. They had a better territory than he did and they were the favorite of the boss.
So God with confidence in Job allows the enemy to strike him with a painful, hideous disease with boil-like sores from head to toe. It will last, (as best I can tell) for months.
At this point, if we are honest with ourselves, we are thinking: God has this man not suffered enough?
Here is a lesson within the lesson: Suffering and prosperity are not distributed in the world in proportion to the evil and good a person does. Missionaries lives as paupers and pornographers live in great wealth. The best suffer while the evil prosper. Yet God reigns over the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. We know how that ended. The test of every trial is how it ends!
My mother when dying of cancer told Gina, “You never know what’s around the corner.” Why does it seem sometimes the good die young, while the destructive, evil people live to ripe all ages? Why are some people born with a silver spoon in their mouths and others are born with cleft palates? In John 9, the disciples want to know why a man was born blind. Was it his sins or the sins of his parents which cause this? Jesus said neither- ‘this man was born blind that the work of God might be displayed in his life’. (NIV) The problem of suffering and pain has remained a great mystery to both the skeptics who use it to doubt God’s existence but also for the believer who questions God’s purpose. Why is this happening Father? Trust me- I know what I am doing. We see the disciple’s first assumption- this is caused by sin. Earlier we said, discipline, suffering and pain can come from neglect- such as not taking care of one’s teeth and ending up with pain and loss. Also we know when we sin, our Heavenly Father disciplines us. But other times, like in the case of Job, we see a work God is doing which includes suffering, pain, loss and disappointment for a greater good. But we will find we are much like the disciples or Job’s friends when looking on the outside at someone’s troubles. Be careful what advice you offer. Be an encourager, not a critic. Never be a ‘told you so’. Sometimes we just need to sit with them, be with them. Do not be judgmental.
God is always at work. And usually God is working on your heart. And the result will be one of three outcomes: it will grow hard; it will be broken; or it will be tender.
Now you see in the man born blind a greater reason and God had a greater reason for what He allowed in the life of Job. Not only was God shaping Job’s heart, He was allowing us to see how an upright person deal with struggles and tragedy which come to him through no fault of his own.
Job had been living on the mountain top of life. Now he had been brought down into the dark valley of despair. Some of God’s most important and precious work is done in the valley. The valley of the shadow of death. *Here God works on the heart. The heart is made of three parts: the mind, the will and the emotions. We will see how Job responds in these three areas.
Job’s wife finally can take no more. She along with Job has lost everything. Ten children she bore, nursed, changed their diapers and held in her arms are gone. She is devastated and now her husband is covered with hideous boils. If this is a test of Job’s integrity and God’s worthiness she is collateral damage which seems unfair, doesn’t it?
She strikes out in her grief and loss and discouragement and say: “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” You can hear the emotions in her voice- she is broken.
Job replies to her: “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. (Somehow, I do not believe his words comforted his wife.)
Job’s friends arrive. These three we will get to know in the long discourses they each have with Job. We are told they are shocked at his appearance. He looks worse than they could have imagined and the wail and tear their clothes and sit for seven days in silence.
In Job 3, the dam of emotions breaks in Job’s life. Job wishes he had never been born. Or if he had to be born- that he would have died at childbirth. Job does not curse God, but he curses he day he was born. He is losing hope and when one become hopeless, death looks like a way out of the misery.
I wish I had never been born. George Bailey wished the same thing and his guardian angel, Clarence, gave him that wish. Interesting title to the beloved Frank Capra movie: “It’s A Wonderful Life.” The story gives us two other people in George’s life who seem to have everything- his younger brother Harry. A star athlete in college, a smart chemist and a hero in World War II; and Sam, who becomes a wealthy business man. Meanwhile life wasn’t so wonderful for George. George Bailey had dreams when he was a boy whom he held onto until he was a young man; he wanted to be a builder, an architect. But he got stuck with his father’s business in Bedford Falls. Through no fault of his own, it was his Uncle Billy’s carelessness and Potter’s evilness which cause the problem. George loses it like Job does here in chapter 3. He rails out at his wife, his kids, Uncle Billy, the school teacher on the phone. We all know the story; Potter is the adversary who makes the life of George Bailey difficult. Then through the loss of money, facing ruin and disaster George Bailey in a bar, prays to God for help. What happens after that? A man, the husband of a teacher, George had just insulted on the phone, hears his name and slugs him. Ask God for help and He allows you to be knocked flat on your back. Brokenness is God’s requirement for maximum usefulness. When did Joseph in his 13 years reach his bottom? I believe it was when he was in prison. It did not occur at first; in fact it occurred in the 11th year of his 13 year journey. (Of which we estimate up to 10 years were spent in prison.) Joseph had interpreted the dreams correctly of the butler and when the butler was released; Joseph asked him to remember him and show kindness to him and mention him to the Pharaoh. Two years passed before the butler remembered him. It was during those first weeks and months; Joseph must have kept thinking the butler will put in a good word to the Pharaoh for me today. Weeks turned to months, to years. Time seems to stand still sometimes when you are waiting for God. You are in a holding pattern and the enemy wants to see you fail and God wants you to hang on. Joseph must have had some dark moments in his journey but he learned what he needed to learn. The amount of time we spend in the valley will be based on our attitude and also on the work God is preparing for us. Joseph would come out and be prepared on the first day to be in charge of the most important project facing Egypt and his family and thousands and thousands of people. It had taken God 13 years to prepare the 17 year old boy for this job.
God is in the business of restoration, renewal and redemption. He was in the days of Job and He is the same today as He was then. All tests are temporary. God will not take any longer than necessary.
You will get through this. You will get to the other side, through the storm, through waters and through the fire.
It will not be painless. Job and his wife can testify to that truth.
It will not be quick. Joseph can tell you about time in an Egyptian prison.
But God will use this mess for good. Do not be foolish or naïve. But don’t despair either. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed. We are perplexed- but not in despair. We know God will not forsake us or ever leave us. He is our helper and you will get through this. I promise you Job and his wife did.
I almost wish I could skip the next 39 chapters and take you to the end to show you just how it ends. But God has much for us to learn and we will make sure we try to absorb everything we can. For we know we too will face trials, tests and suffering.
But we know the One who is in charge of the fire. We can trust Him with all our heart. We must not lean to our own understanding.
We may not know what in the world is going on- but we know the One in charge of the world. “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ!” Phil 1: 6