Monday, January 10, 2011

A Study in Job - Part 2

As a reminder, I want to recap some of the insights I gleaned from studying the book of Job, using Ray Stedman's book 'Let God Be God'.
  • Being blameless is not the same as being sinless: The book of opens with a description of Job as blameless and upright, fearing God, and shunning evil. Job was not described as sinless, but rather, "blameless". Stedman writes that the Hebrew word used here is "tam", which means complete, lacking nothing. Job was complete because he confessed, repented and turned from his sin; he dealt with his sin as God requires. And when we have truly repented and confessed our sin, God is faithful to remember it no more. As Psalm 103 tells us,

8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Job shows us that if we repent and confess, we can be blameless, and freed from our sin.
  • We need spiritual help when things are going well: Chapter 1 of Job describes how Job's sons would have parties and feasts to celebrate their birthdays and after their partying was done, Job would send for his children and have them purified, and would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them. Job didn't know for certain how, or even if, his children had sinned, so this was somewhat of a precautionary measure. Stedman also noted that Job did not make sin offerings for his children, because a sin offering cannot made be made by someone on another's behalf . Job made burnt offerings, expressing his desire that his children would belong wholly to God. I found it fascinating that Job's fear was that his children had cursed God in their hearts, which is exactly Satan's goal for Job.

  • Satan roams the earth, he definitely has power, and yet God is in control: The name Satan means "the adversary", and in the Book of Job, while Satan is clearly and adversary of Job and God, he is not consigned to hell as some believe. In fact, he has access to the throne room of God! According to his own words, he roams the earth, presumably looking for someone to devour (1Peter5:8), but Satan is clearly accountable to God, and is explicitly constrained by God in what he may and may not do to harm Job. As Stedman writes:
"Some people seem to think that there are two gods in the universe, a good God and and evil god named Satan, and they struggle against each other on equal terms. The book of Job shows us right from the beginning that God is in control of all things. All the forces of the universe are His to command. All of time and space are under His authority. Nothing ever takes God by surprise. There is nothing beyond the reach of God's will, not even Satan."

Stedman goes on to say that while some people have suggested that the book of Job describes a "war" between God and Satan with Job somehow caught in the middle, this cannot be the case, as in war, one side does not have to get permission from the other side to act. Rather, what's going on here is a test. Satan is testing God and His creation (man) through Job, and God, in His sovereignty, permits this test.
  • Satan's philosophy revealed: Satan reveals his philosophy in how he interprets Job's behavior and how he expects Job to respond in crushingly difficult circumstances. Stedman reminds us that Isaiah 14 tells us Satan's desire is to raise his throne above God, " be like the Most High." Satan believes that all Job really cares about is Job, that he (Job) is his own god. Because things are good for Job, he fears God, but if Job was to be put in painful circumstances, he will choose bitterness and resentment, and his heart will grow cold towards God. Job, Satan believes, is really no different than him. Satan's goal is not to turn Job against man, but to turn Job against God.
  • Satan does have power: Shortly after the first conversation between God and Satan, all manner of calamity befalls Job. In four catastrophic events, his children and servants are killed, his flocks and herds are destroyed, and he is left with nothing but his wife and his grief. In two of the four events, "natural disasters" strike (fire and wind) whereas in the other two, Satan uses people, the Sabeans and the Chaldeans, to strike Job. The fact that Satan can act using natural forces was not something I had really thought about before. There are many places in scripture where we can see God controlling the natural world, but apparently Satan can do so as well, with God's permission. Stedman made a fascinating observation about the incident described in Chapter 8 of Matthew, where Jesus calms the storm on the sea of Galilee. Stedman writes:
When Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee, he rebuked the wind and the waves. This doesn't mean that Jesus spoke to air and water. Rather, he spoke to the forces behind the wind and waves, the satanic power that stirred up the storm.

Stedman goes on to say that "Disastrous forces such as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and droughts are often called 'acts of God.' Yet we need to realize that Satan, the god of this world, is at times given permission to bring these terrible events about."

  • God does not need a defense: It's troubling to think that God allows suffering, especially suffering as brutal as that experienced by Job. We know God is just and loving, and yet God does allow bad things to happen to people, so we often come up with superficial answers to the difficult questions about suffering, to try and reconcile our anguish about why such things happen. As a Christian, sometimes I feel compelled to give a defense for God in times of tragedy. But Stedman reminded me that God does not need anyone to defend His actions; He is not subject to some higher moral authority. He IS the highest moral athority! Stedman believes that this is one reason the Book of Job was written - to show us God's deeper reasons for permitting tragedy and suffering. The Book of Job will reveal to us that God is not cold and indifferent towards us, and he does not inflict us with pain for his own pleasure, but rather, He is merciful and compassionate.

Much more to come...


Cindy said...

Adrienne, this is great! And so insightful. If it's alright with you I am going to put something on my blog about it with a link to your blog. I think that this is something that all Christians should ponder.


fuzzytop said...

Cindy - Thanks for your kind comment, and of course you can link to this post! I'm still pondering and processing through all I have read.


michellemabell said...

I love glad you are posting this!!
So much to really let sink in, especially the difference between being sinless and blameless...
And I love also the reminder that "God doesn't need anyone to defend His actions."... Amen to that!!

Leah @ Point Ministries said...

It is so comforting to me to know that God is in total control and nothing happens without His knowledge and permission. That means that anything that happens to me has come through God. Lots of comfort there.

Great post...keep it up.