Eyes That See

“I Once Was Blind”

A Personal Breakthrough on Job.

For those of you who have not read my testimony (here, here, here, and here), I grew up in a Christian home, started doubting and questioning my faith towards the end of high school, and was an unbeliever from college (Aug ’02-May ’06) until March ’07. From a theological perspective, I would say that I went away from them (believers) because I wasn’t really of them- meaning that I wasn’t converted when I was young, although I said “the prayer” and got baptized. My conversion did not happen until March ’07. But, from a worldly perspective, I was a believer, then an unbeliever, and am now a believer. Something that I struggled with when I was first a believer, was one factor in my “de-conversion,” and until recently was still a problem was the book of Job.

As a competitive person and an amateur philosopher, I always had a problem with Job. In any kind of competition or any arena where one person has authority over another, you always want to reward good and punish bad. In any kind of competition, this is the only way to get the best people to try their best. And with authority, it is also the only way to get the most out of those under your authority. If you punish good and reward bad, then bad is a valued commodity. This makes sense logically, but seems to contradict the book of Job.

First, let’s take a brief look at the book of Job and why I had a problem with it. I’ll then pass along a couple of things that I have learned from John Piper. And I’ll end with a prayer in light of my newfound understanding of Job.

Job 1:1 introduces us to Job the man: “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” In verse 8 the Lord uses the exact same words to describe Job. In the third verse of chapter two, the Lord adds that “there is none like (Job) on all the earth.” So not only does the author of the book of Job call Job “blameless,” but the Lord also bestows that description upon him. The Lord describes Job this way to Satan, and Satan says that Job is only righteous because the Lord has a hedge around him and blesses him. So the Lord tells Satan that he can do anything that he wants to Job’s possessions. The only limit is that Satan cannot stretch out his hand to Job himself. So in one day, the book of Job tells us that Satan took from Job all of his 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and all of his servants except for the ones that were left to deliver the message of Satan’s destruction. More importantly, on the same day Job’s seven sons and three daughters were celebrating the birthday of one of the siblings, and a wind destroyed the house they were in and killed all 10 of them.

Two things are striking about Job’s reaction to all of this. First, he worships! And secondly he names the Lord as the one who has taken all of his possessions and all of his children in a single day.

“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.'” -Job 1:20-21

Then verse 22 tells us that Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. So saying that the Lord took his possessions and children was neither a sin nor charging God with wrong. Apparently taking all of Job’s possessions and killing his 10 children wasn’t enough to prove the sincerity of Job’s faith to Satan, for in Chapter 2 he says that the only reason that Job remained faithful was that he still had his health. So the Lord then tells Satan that Job’s flesh and bones are now fair play, and the only limit is that he cannot take his life. So Satan inflicts Job with “loathsome sores.” As Job sits in ashes, mourning his pitiful state and all of his losses, his wife and three friends prove to be sorry comforters. His wife, rather than following in her husband’s faithfulness to God, tells Job to “curse God and die.” And his friends encourage him to repent of whatever sin has led God to act this way toward him. Since the book of Job is pretty much the first place I go when people speak as though there is a direct relationship between faith and blessing, I’m not sure what exactly I would have said to these guys. But, I would like to think that if I had a friend in Job’s situation, or in a situation anywhere near that kind of suffering, I would try to provide comfort and support without accusing him or her of some secret sin or telling him or her to curse God and die.

Anyways, most of the rest of the book of Job is occupied by discussions between Job and his three friends. In 19:25 Job gives us another example of his great faith, as in the midst of this unimaginably awful situation he says, “For I know that my redeemer lives.” Whatever else you can say about Job, you cannot say that his faith was tied to his circumstances. If that had been the case, then his faith would have gone kaput as soon as his circumstances did.

At the end of the book of Job, the Lord appears to Job and his friends in a whirlwind and makes known His might. He speaks of the “Behemoth” and the “Leviathon” and His power over them both, and contrasts that with the comparative weakness of Job. Job then confesses that he had uttered what he had not understood and repents in dust and ashes. The Lord then tells Job’s three friends that his anger burns at them for not speaking right, as Job has. Job is then restored, and is blessed with twice as many of each kind of animal as he had before, as well as seven sons and three daughters. And his daughters are more beautiful than any of the daughters of the land.

The problem that I had with the book of Job was that Job was called “blameless” by the Lord, and He said that there were none like Job in all the land. So Job was the best of the best of God’s people. And what is his reward for being the best and for being blameless? Suffering. Although Job was restored at the end of the book and had more possessions, I must assume that there was a sense in which the 10 children at the end of the book never could replace the 10 children at the beginning.

The train of thought that I was tempted with was something along the lines of this: if that’s what you get for being blameless, then I don’t want to be blameless. But, in what I thought was faith at the time, I tried to wrap my mind around it as best I could and keep pushing forward in “faith.” So I thought the message was that we’re not supposed to love anybody more than we love God, or He’ll take them from us. Part of my “de-conversion” was that I came to a place where I knew that I was not living as good as I thought I was supposed to. As I understood more about the Bible, read the amazing words in the hymns that for the most part weren’t being lived out by anybody around me, I knew that I had to go one of two directions. I was at a Jean Valjean-esque crossroads. One path was the path of holiness and righteousness. If I went that way, then I was going to have to strive for the perfection that I thought Christians were supposed to enjoy. The other path was to live like the world around me. Part of my decision- though I can’t say exactly how sizable the influence was- was based on the book of Job. One deterrent from choosing the path of righteousness was that I didn’t want God to do to me what He did to Job.

When the Lord pealed off the scales over my eyes, unstopped my ears, and pierced my heart so that they would see, hear, and understand His irresistible grace, I was suddenly once again staring my problem with the book of Job in the face. This time the concept of the “closed” canon added to my attempts to grasp understanding of Job. My thought was that God used Job as an example, for the purpose of revealing Himself to us in His word, to show that He gives and takes away as He will. I also realized that Job gives us a great example of the faith that we should have regardless of our circumstances. But, I comforted myself with the thought that He wouldn’t really act that way (would He….?) now that the Bible is complete. And in light of the Truths He had revealed to me, I had no choice but to strive as best I could for righteousness.

Over the last year-plus I have benefited greatly from pastor John Piper. Two things that I have learned from him are that God is most glorified in us when we are satisfied in Him, and that He is more glorified in us when we are satisfied with Him in the midst of suffering rather than in the midst of comfort.

I was actually thinking about those two ideas, rather than the book of Job, when the breakthrough on Job was given to me. As I contemplated that God is most glorified in us when we are satisfied in Him in the midst of suffering, as well as Paul’s words that, “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12), everything started coming together. If God is in control and brings everything together for good, then persecution must be good, in order for God’s sovereignty and goodness to mesh with 2 Timothy 3:12. I think that it is indeed good, for two reasons. First and foremost it glorifies God, as Piper points out very well in the links above. Secondly, I think that we foolish, complacent, proud sinners are most apt to draw near to God in the midst of suffering.

Therefore if God’s glory is supremely valuable and drawing near to God is the only path to both happiness and satisfaction of our greatest wants, needs, and desires, then suffering is desirable. Let us strive for Job-like faith in our Lord and Redeemer, and may He grant us repentance from our sins! And if it glorifies Him, let Him bring on the suffering!

Heavenly Father, the book of James tells us that the effective prayer of the righteous man can accomplish much. I am daunted by that, and only find the confidence to come to you in prayer by the same righteousness by which I, a sinner, stand justified before you- the righteousness of Jesus Christ. I pray that You will look on me and hear my prayer through the filter of His precious blood. Father I ask that you will bless me with a long and fruitful life. But if it brings more glory to You to take my life, then take it! To live is Christ and to die is gain anyways! I pray also that You will bless me with the wife of my dreams, that we would be faithful to You and to each other, and that our relationship and our family would glorify You for many years. But if it brings more glory to You for me to never marry like Jeremiah, so be it. If it brings more glory to You for me to marry an adulterous wife like Hosea did, so be it. If it brings more glory to You for You to give me a wife, and then take her away, as You did with Ezekiel, so be it. I know that You are faithful to draw near to those who draw near to You. If it brings glory to You and will bring me closer to You, then suffering is a great blessing! May I worship when I suffer like Job did. May you grant me the understanding to rejoice that I can suffer for the Name the way the apostles did! Grant me the desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus, that I may suffer! Father, draw me to Jesus, who gives life to whom He will by the power of the Spirit! I ask all these things for Your glory, in the name of Jesus, and by the power of the Spirit! Amen!

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June 14, 2008 Posted by | Job, John Piper, Suffering | , , | Leave a comment