Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Study in Job - Part 3

Despite the fact that he has lost his children and all his wealth and possessions, Job does not do as Satan expected, he does not curse God. Rather, Job falls to the ground in worship, saying

"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised."

Satan has been proven wrong, yet as we see in Job Chapter 2, the testing is not over.

1 On another day the angels[a] came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him.
2 And the LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”
3 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”
4 “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. 5 But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
6 The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”
7 So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.

8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

Satan's attack is relentless: Despite his loss in Round 1, Satan is unwilling to concede defeat. He complains that Job was protected, and while Job maintained his faith and fear of God through the loss of family and possessions, Satan believes he will not do so if he is physically afflicted. When Satan speaks of attacking Job's "flesh and bones", he means to attack Job in his physical body (flesh), but also in his inner man (bones), his thoughts, emotions, and his spirit. And attack, he does. Satan holds nothing back! As he did with Job, he will take every inch of ground he is permitted. This makes me realize that I (we) constantly have God's protection around us, holding Satan at bay.


Rebuke with gentleness: As if his losses and affliction weren't enough, Job also loses the support and comfort of his wife, who is also suffering the loss of her children. She encourages Job to do exactly what Satan wants, but Job rebukes her gently. Job's wife believes, as many of us probably do, that God somehow owes us a wonderful life, filled with blessings, and if it is not, we should turn from God. Job tells her she is speaking foolishly, out of her pain. He reminds her that when hard times come, we must continue to love and trust God. What Satan wants most is for us to turn from God.

9 His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”
10 He replied, “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.

Just recently, I have felt like I was gently rebuked by God. I had fallen into the trap of thinking that way too much of my security here on earth came from our bank account. Did we have have enough $ to get us through hard times? And then in Nov and Dec of 2010, we got hit with some huge financial bills that wiped out our savings. Ouch! But through this, God reminded me that we are not to store up treasures on earth, but rather, store up treasures in heaven.

Lessons on friendship: The bulk of the Book of Job covers the dialogue between Job and his three friends, Eliphaz, Bilda, and Zophar, or as Stedman describes them, "Eliphaz the Elegant, Bildad the Brutal, and Zophar the Zealous."

11 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12 When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

Job's friends make mistakes in their response to Job's situation, but they do manage to do two things right:

  1. They showed up! And this wouldn't have been an easy thing to do. First of all, it would have been some time before the news of Job's troubles reached them, and then they still had to make arrangements and travel some distance to see him. I think there would have been a strong temptation for them to say to themselves "...it's too much trouble to go, and by the time we get there, things will be better...." But, they did take the time and make the effort to go to their friend.
  2. They waited for Job to speak: After they arrived, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar sat with Job, waiting silently for 7 days and nights. This is incredible. I don't think I would have been able to remain quiet for 7 minutes. When one of my friends is suffering, the tempation to speak comforting words and offer advice and opinions is overwhelming!

But once Job begins to speak, things with his friends deteoriated. Out of his deep pain, Job laments the day he was born, and wishes he would just die and get it over with. Stedman writes "Few things are harder to bear than meaningless suffering. If we could see some reason for what we go through, we could more easily endure it. But pointless trouble is corrosive to our souls."

Job's three friends have the same basic argument: "This suffering must be your fault Job. There must be something in your life, some sin, for which you are being punished. Admit your sin, and you will be restored." Stedman reasons that the reason they think this way is because if Job's suffering is NOT his fault, the result of his sin, then it could happen to them, and also to us, as well. This is a terrifying thought!

According to Stedman, Job's friends make three major mistakes in how they treat Job and his situation:

  1. They respond to Job's words without understanding his agony: Job makes many rash statements out of his incredible pain and grief. He regrets his birth, wishes to die, and asserts that he wants to give God a piece of his mind. His friends argue with him and attack his logic, where they should be looking past that to understand his torment. Job's words aren't the words of a man who is thinking clearly, and he doesn't need criticism or a theological debate.
  2. They have an incomplete theology: They speak as if they have all the answers. Stedman writes: "They spoke as if their views were the final word on the subject. They seem unaware that there might be dimensions to God and His plans that they couldn't even imagine. According to their limited view of life, suffering is always caused by sin. It's true, of course, that sin does have consequences in our lives, but trials are not always the result of sin. Their theology was narrow and incomplete." When we dish out Christian platitudes to people who are hurting and suffering, we need to be very careful about what we are saying, and mindful of the fact that here on earth, we will never fully grasp the mind or plans of God. Whatever we might think God is, He is so much more.
  3. They never pray! Amazingly, Job's three friends never pray for or with Job, and they never pray for their own understanding of Job's troubles. They act as though they already have all the answers. This was huge to me - the fact that something as simple as prayer was overlooked.

4 comments:

Leah @ Point Ministries said...

Adrienne,

Job's three mouthy friends always remind me to just keep my mouth shut toward someone who is suffering. My part in comforting them is probably just to be there and to let them know I love them and care.

More good insights. Thanks for posting this.

Leah

His grace is sufficient. said...

This study is most fascinating. Part 2 I just had to read over and over and ponder on it. Today is a little more what I expected. However, you did bring out something that I had not thought about before. That Job's friends did not pray.
Unless they spent some time during that 7 days praying which was not mentioned in scripture. I like you could not believe that they went a whole 7 days without speaking. Of course you have to consider that this is men with less reason or need to speak that women have.
The other thing that has always bothered me but I have come to accept and even somewhat understand is God offered Job to Satan. He said "Have you considered My servant Job?"

I have learned that God allows things to come into our lives to prove to us who we "are" or "are not" because God already knows. He also uses these circumstances and the way we handle them to be a witness to others. Your "true character" shines in the dark.

Cindy said...

I can't wait to read this book. Thank you so much for your Job series. The fact that his friends didn't pray smacked me in the face. Have I ever been guilty of trying to help a hurting friend with my wisdom instead of praying for God's wisdom?

twinkle said...

There is so much wisdom in your gleanings here. Job is a rich study that speaks to me in so many ways. Suffering warriors of faith need prayer and support, but I've found that these days are a call from God to seek His face and His face alone. Trusting Him is what suffering seems to be all about, to me. Love you and hope we can get together soon.