lessons from job

lessonsfromjob
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”[1]

The God in your mind is the God that you in turn serve. Tragically, it must be said that this sentance can be stated inversely: the god in your mind is the god that in turn serves you. For some, God is the puppet master behind the curtain controlling all things from the maximal to the miniscule. For others, God is the sad lonely grandfather sitting in His heavenly nursing home, wishing that His children would come and visit Him. One thing is certain, the God that berates Job with questions, violated every notion of what Job had thought and heard God to be. “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6).[2]

Job’s friends came to convince him of what he already knew: God is good, He wouldn’t allow this to happen to him for no reason. However, their presumption as to why God allowed it was wrong (Job 42:7). Being certain that God’s vindication and blessing were to be fulfilled fully here on earth, they had an almost karma-esque perception of God. According to that reasoning, since Job was once so highly blessed and favored and then suddenly lost everything, it was clear to them that it was because Job was in sin. Job, being sure of nothing else but the fact that God could not be charged with wrongdoing in this, had no argument against theirs’ but his innocence. Job’s only plea to God was that he could make his case before Him (Job 13:3). Then, God responds...

Why do you confuse the issue? Why do you talk without knowing what you're talking about? Pull yourself together, Job! Up on your feet! Stand tall! I have some questions for you, and I want some straight answers (Job 38:1-3, The Message).

God shows no signs of mercy in His incessant questioning of Job:

  • “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding” (Job 38:4).
  • “Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this” (38:18).
  • “You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!” (38:21).
  • “Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on the earth?” (38:13).

The thesis of God’s questioning of Job is this: who are you to question Me? Job had complained that he could think of no reason why God would allow a righteous person to be afflicted by evil. So, God challenged Job to offer his solutions, but Job had none.[3]

While at first God’s response could be read as if He is being defensive, this approach would be missing the point completely. God is not listing His great works to simply put Job in his place, but to instruct Job that He functions on another plane that he could never fathom. He (God) is teaching Job the long lesson that He spoke succinctly through the mouth of Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Put another way, Job had been saying throughout his story, "I know for a fact that there can't be any good reason that a good God would allow this specific thing to happen to me. If only I could tell Him that." And God responds with, “There could be all sorts of good reasons why I allowed something to happen that caused suffering, despite your inability to think of them.” If there is an infinite God big enough to be mad at for the suffering in the world, then there is also an infinite God big enough to have reasons for it that one cannot think of.[4]

Job responds with the only proper thing to say to such a question, “surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (Job 42:3).” While Job may have been wrong in his assumptions about the nature of God’s will, yet “in all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” (Job 1:22). Even though God’s reasoning escaped him, he refused to accuse God of wrong doing. Additionally, he learned the invaluable lesson that obedience to the Lord is not determined by comprehension of His plan but is rooted solely in one’s trust that He is good. He surrendered to the answer that every reader of his story will receive to their question of why, “Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King."[5]

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

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1 A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York: HarpersCollins, 1992), 1.

2 Unless otherwise noted, all verses are quoted from the English Standard Version.

3 Good News Editor, “What Job Learned by Suffering”, http://www.ucg.org/christian-living/what-job-learned-suffering/.,Accessed 9/3/2012.

4 Timothy Keller, “The Faith to Doubt Christianity” http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/08/27/the-faith-to-doubt-christianity/, Accessed 9/3/2012.

5 5 C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (New York, HarperCollins, 2005), 79.