Well, my reading plan juked and jinked and took me from Genesis right into Job. I was expecting to be floating down the Nile with baby Moses this week… but, instead, I am sitting beside Job’s three friends and listening intently to the exchange between them and their greatly suffering friend.
My reading plan is supposed to be chronological, so that is why I was shuffled on to Job after Genesis. It seems that most scholars agree that the events in Job happened sometime after the Flood, but before the time of Moses.
Job opens this story as the model of a man who is both prosperous and righteous. We are then told that God and Satan start having a discussion. God holds up Job as an example of a man of integrity and unwavering righteousness.The Devil, in a particularly ‘devily’ mood, suggests that Job only loves and serves God because he has been blessed and protected. God, however, knows the heart of Job and that his faith runs deep. So, He allows Satan to have power over everything Job owns.
The devil proceeds to seek, kill, and destroy everything Job owns and everything he holds dear. His wealth is completely wiped out, and all of his children die in a freak accident. Job is broken by this, but continues to praise God. The devil then suggests to God that the only reason Job is remaining faithful and sinless is because he still has his health. God delivers Job’s health into Satan’s hands, under the one condition that his life is to be spared.
Satan cooks up some nasty boils for Job that leave him not only devastated from his recent losses but now unspeakably miserable and in constant excruciating pain. Still, when his wife begs him to just ‘curse God and die’, Job reprimands her, making it clear that we should accept both blessings and adversity from God, because well, He is God.
Three of Job’s friends show up to be with and comfort him. He is now in such emotional misery and physical anguish that he is unable to speak to them for seven days. They simply wait with him while he lies on the ground until he is ready to say something.
When he does speak, he curses the day he was born (in standard Old Testament fashion) and wishes he hadn’t been born. Or wishes that he had been stillborn. Or wishes he had experienced infanticide. Basically, he is (rightfully) miserable beyond comprehension and longs for death.
In the remainder of this daily reading passage (Chapters 4 and 5), his friend Eliphaz offers his first speech. It boils down to this: God always rewards and protects the righteous. Present you case before Him, and if you are blameless, He will bring you out of this.
So, we have the set-up for the basic deceit of the story of Job. The question of “What to do with Suffering?” is answered in James and 1st Peter (among other places). But, in Job’s pre-Christ existence, it will be interesting to see exactly how this question is addressed. The sovereign nature of God, the Lord Almighty, will be the key to understanding the answers we are given in Job.
Suffering is one of the few sure bets in Human existence. The big thing I have gotten from these first five chapters of Job is the importance of perspective. Few, if any, of us have suffered like Job did.
This fact should be both convicting and encouraging.
Encouraging because Job praised God through all of his mind-blowing suffering. He set the example we should strive to follow.
Convicting because we, being oh so modern and sophisticated and stuff, have perverted the meaning of suffering. We have completely lost the understanding of what it means to suffer. We want to engage in ‘woe-is-me’ behavior over trivial inconveniences. We are sometimes ready to give up on life for the pettiest of reasons.
Even when we experience real tragedy, we lose our perspective.
Our lives are so centered on our own ideas of self-happiness that we relegate ourselves to uselessness. I’m a chief offender here, so I know what I’m talking about.
Put into proper perspective, I have never experienced true suffering. But you wouldn’t know that from all the angst-ridden crappy lyrics and musings I scribbled during my high school and college days. So focused on my own faux-woes was I that I became useless.
My prayer is that I never sink back into uselessness. May my temporary sorrows never be placed in front of the Light of Christ. May I become useful for His Kingdom work. The Author of All Things is my Savior.
Two things to remember:
Temporary troubles are nothing more than opportunities to worship.
And… All trouble is temporary.