Thursday, September 29, 2011
You've done an awesome job, Job!
But the thing that really intrigued me and has never been far from my mind during these weeks is the dialogue between God and Satan at the beginning of the book. Honestly, I've never really liked the idea that God would brag on Job, bringing the patriarch to Satan's attention, and then cavalierly give Satan permission to make Job's life miserable.
At the same time, this scene is startling to me, fascinating even, because it's exposing life on two levels: the natural and the super-natural. Clearly, the inhabitants of the supernatural world are aware of happenings on earth while we earthlings are pretty much clueless about what's going on in the unseen world around us.
And this is what sets up the tension in the narrative - a curtain has been pulled back on this extraordinary scene in Heaven and we know from the get-go that Job truly is a good man! Something his friends should also know but in the heat of the moment, don't! So you find yourself (or at least I did) wanting to shout at Job's friends, "You've got it all wrong, you self-righteous idiots!" Equally, as Job sinks under his afflictions and his "friends'" accusations, it's hard not to stand up and yell, "You've done an awesome job, Job! Hang in there! God is sooo proud of you! And the end is going to be good, really good!"
But still, even though I "get" all that - God is proud of Job; Job's suffering is temporary; and his blessings will far outweigh what he suffered - I couldn't help wondering why God even brought Job up at all because it just seems to my twenty-first century mind that by mentioning Job to Satan, all God did was paint a bulls eye on Job's back. As one of my friends said many years ago: kind of makes me hope God doesn't brag on me... Like, thanks, God but, um, no thanks!
So I went to the Matthew Henry commentary (because I was able to download it on my Kindle for something like 4.00.... Do you know how big that book is??? Four bucks!!! Wow, what a bargain... Anyway, I digress...) and honestly I couldn't understand all of what Henry wrote about this passage - the "thee's" and "thou's" sort of got in the way and he's a bit wordy for my taste. (Still, four bucks!! :) But I did get some things from him which when combined with the CBS info really helped me.
1. God is omniscient. The first thing God asks Satan is where has he (Satan) been. God knows the answer already but quizzes Satan in the same way an adult might quiz a child, wanting the child to verbalize the answer for whatever reason.
2. Satan says he has been walking back and forth on the earth. I Peter 5:8 goes further by telling us that Satan doesn't just stroll around on the earth to enjoy the scenery. He has a purpose and we need to be alert, to remember that.
3. Since Job was so blameless and upright that even God would commend him, it's hard to believe Satan had over-looked Job. When God asks if Satan has thought about His servant, Job, Satan doesn't reply, "Job who?" but instead busts out with, "He's not your guy without reason!! You've got a security wall around him like nobody's business and he's rolling in wealth!!!" (Slight paraphrase...)
4. Which brings another point to mind - Satan is devious while God is open. As Matthew Henry says, Satan implies that Job is a mercenary - that he is for hire to the highest bidder. Implications are hard to refute and perhaps this is one reason God brings everything, including Job's faith, out into the open.
5. And Job's faith is impressive. God says there is no one else on the earth like Job. And that's where the line is drawn in the sand: if Satan can cause Job, the most devout man on earth, to curse God and die (as Job's poor wife suggested), then Satan has proven that faith in God is nothing but a sham. Satan wins; God loses.
Job has no inkling of any of this.
In 1:13-15, when the Sabeans steal Job's oxen and kill his servants, Job has no idea that Satan is the one behind this. Ditto for when lightening falls from the sky and destroys Job's sheep plus more of his servants. When his children are taken as well and then he is afflicted from head to toe with boils, it seems clear to everyone in the book (including Job) that something out of the ordinary is going on but at that point they conclude, wrongly, that God is the one who is ripping Job's life to shreds.
None of them knew about the gauntlet that Satan had thrown down in the Heavenlies or the fact that God, in His wisdom, had decided to take it up. None of them knew that eventually Job would receive double for everything he lost. None of them knew that God would be so angry at Job's friends for the "sound" theological advice they gave that He would rise up in anger against them and only Job's intercession would save their hides. And none of them for sure ever dreamed that several thousand years later, people would still be drawing hope and comfort from this narrative of Job's testing.
In Luke 18:6-8, Jesus promised that justice would be done for God's chosen people. But He ends this passage with what almost sounds like a lament to me: However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?