Archive for Job


Once Upon a Time:: 2

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“There once was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless—a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil. He had seven sons and three daughters. He owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 teams of oxen, and 500 female donkeys. He also had many servants. He was, in fact, the richest person in that entire area. Job’s sons would take turns preparing feasts in their homes, and they would also invite their three sisters to celebrate with them. When these celebrations ended—sometimes after several days—Job would purify his children. He would get up early in the morning and offer a burnt offering for each of them. For Job said to himself, “Perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular practice.” (Job 1:1-5, NLT)

The Book of Job begins by introducing the reader to this remarkable person. Why is he remarkable? The first five verses give three explicit reasons, the first of which is his character (1:1). The writer reports that Job is a man whose life is marked by blameless thoughts and attitudes as well as behavior that is of complete integrity. He does this by fearing God and avoiding evil.

Not only is he a man of character, he is a man of affluence (1:2-3). He possessed exceptional wealth. Among the inventory of his possessions is the fact that he has been blessed with ten children. Those who lived in the ancient near east believed that prosperity was a sign of God’s blessing. The thought that Job was “lucky” or hard working would have never occurred to his peers. Their evaluation would have been that he was blessed by God.

In addition to these two elements we find that Job is also a man of influence (1:4-5). Because of the early nature of Job’s story, there was no central priesthood, but that didn’t stop Job from priesting his family. He led his family spiritually, pointing them to God, making sure that even their potential sins were atoned for. As we read on, we find that Job not only influenced his family, he helped those around him. Job 4:3-4 states of Job, “In the past you have encouraged many people; you have strengthened those who were weak. Your words have supported those who were falling; you encouraged those with shaky knees.”

Everyone loved and respected Job. But even more that the affirmation of his family and peers was the affirmation of God, who called Job “the finest man on earth!” (Job 1:8, 2:3)

Why is this information important? It’s important because Job’s righteousness is essential to the story. Had Job been a rascal we would look at his pain and suffering and write it off as well deserved. But he’s not a rascal. He’s the most exemplary person on earth…and that’s God’s assessment!

Job’s righteousness sets us up to wrestle with some very important questions.

— Why do bad things happen to good people?
— Why do the righteous suffer?
— Is God arbitrary?
— Is God just?
— Is God fair?

That’s the stuff of the story of Job. And its worth

Categories : Job, Suffering
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Once Upon a Time

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What did you read growing up? As a child learning to read, one of the genres of literature that I cut my teeth on was fairy tales. Those fairy tales had a certain rhythm. They began with recognizable phrases such as “once upon a time,” or “long, long ago in a far away land.” There was the main character, usually a castle, and the story involved someone with incredible wealth. The main character was usually beset with some adversity that was rooted in evil such as a magic spell. The main character would be delivered and live, of course, “happily ever after.” Fairy tales are written for at least two purposes. First, the story is written in a manner that allows the reader to insert himself or herself into the narrative. Think about how many “princesses” came to your door on Halloween. Second, the story is written to offer a moralism or a truth that can serve as some form of life lesson.

Job is written in such a fashion.

By making that observation I am in no way suggesting that the Book of Job should be considered fictional literature. There is a lot of evidence that would support that Job was a real person who did indeed suffer greatly. But to my point, it is written in a way that allows the reader to insert himself or herself into the story and find a take away to live by.

According to scholars, Job is one of the oldest books in the Bible. Chronologically it appears in the middle of the Old Testament, categorized with the wisdom literature books of Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. But its interesting to note that some of the oldest Old Testament manuscripts are from Job, suggesting that before God wanted to talk about subjects such as creation, the Patriarchs, or the Exodus, he wanted to address the universal dilemma of human suffering.

Yesterday I began a nine week series on the story of Job. I hope that you will find these reflections helpful as together we try to understand the ways of God in the midst of our own pain and suffering.

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On Sunday I’m going to begin a nine week study on the life of Job. Check my blog each week for my latest thoughts and interactions from the book that speaks the universal language of suffering.

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In this final post, I’d like to offer four thoughts on applying the story of Job to our lives.

First, focus on what you affirm to be true about God. Those who know me are aware that I have a deep distaste for cliché Christianity and “pat answers.” I think those things should be categorically rejected. Neither can we praise mystery without restraint. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Job struggled deeply, but his struggle was the struggle of a believer who clung tightly to his convictions about what he knew to be true of God.

Second, it is possible to serve God with a pure heart in the midst of suffering. It’s important to remember that suffering does not give you a hall pass on faith and the practice(s) of faith. You can and should live your faith to the best of your ability in spite of your circumstances.

Third, be aware that there are always bigger purposes at work in your life, whether you know it or not. Job endured his entire battery of suffering not knowing about God’s conversation with the accuser at the throne. We must realize that when suffering strikes home God is not being capricious or arbitrary. He’s not playing cosmic games with his creatures to alleviate his own boredom. At the same time, what you experience is not always about you. There are larger forces and purposes at work even though we may not see them as such.

Finally, any suffering helps us to identify more closely with Christ. If you lay the life of Job atop the life of Jesus you’ll quickly identify several interesting parallels. Both suffered greatly, both suffered innocently, and both understood the fickle nature of friends and followers. Ultimately, both Job and Jesus found help on this earth in the end. For Job, it was restoration, and for Jesus, it was resurrection. Never forget that suffering is the primary tool that God invests in your life to make you more like Jesus. In Paul’s quest for knowledge of Christ, he wrote, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing his sufferings” (Philippians 3:10, NIV). The former does not come without the latter. That was true of Paul, and its true of us as well.

Categories : Broken, Evil, Job, Suffering
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I suppose volumes could be written on Job and his suffering. I think that the 30,000 foot view of the book as a whole provides some helpful insights regarding the broken places in our lives.

Observation One: Job insisted that his suffering was within the framework of the sovereignty of God. In chapter 2:10 he asks, “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” Job is not certain as to what was happening to him, and even less certain as to why those things were happening. But he realized just the same that nothing could touch his life without God’s sanction. Behind the suffering stood Satan, and behind Satan stood God.

Observation Two: Job highlights the fact that there is such a thing as innocent suffering. Sometimes our suffering is the direct result of a particular sin or sins. But some suffering occurs that is not directly related to any sin. Suffering can be the result of human malice, negligent behavior, irresponsible governing, human selfishness, or natural disaster. All suffering is a consequence of the fall. But not all suffering is the direct retribution of particular sin. The whole point of the story is that Job was innocent. We insist on an economy where good people have good things happen to them and bad people have bad things happen to them. If bad things happen to you, you have done something wrong. Job is a blanket protest against this analysis of how things are in the world.

Observation Three: No matter how we prepare ourselves for the possibility of suffering, nothing can adequately prepare us for the actual shock of reality. It’s not unlike diving into an ice cold pool or stepping into a cold shower. In Job 3:25 Job said, “What I always feared has happened to me. What I dreaded has come true.” Job had already thought about these things. He knew it was not beyond possibility, and to that extent he was prepared. But awareness of the possibility or even the probability doesn’t decrease the pain.

Observation Four: Job doesn’t know at the beginning or the end the root of it all…God’s conversation with Satan. God’s intent was to prove that humans can love him, fear him, and pursue righteousness without any prompt material reward. Satan’s contention was that human’s pursuit of God was grounded in self interest, that humans are merely mercenaries, offering their devotion to the highest bidder.

Observation Five: Though his lament was loud and strong, at no point did Job abandon his faith. Why? He knew God was there and he believed God to be loving and just. Job struggled deeply, but his struggles were the struggles of a believer. God does not blame us if in our suffering we honestly vent our despair and confess our loss of hope, our sense of futility and our lamentations about life itself. But in the midst of his complaint lie deep confession. Job affirmed the right things about God’s character and nature.

Categories : Broken, Evil, Job, Suffering
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“He (Job) was blameless — a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil.” (Job 1:2; 1:8; 2:3, NLT)

Any time we discuss the problem of evil and suffering, we are going to face challenges. Those challenges are never more poignant than those times in which the particular suffering strikes us as irrational and unfair. How do we reconcile the lack of proportion between the depth of the suffering and the seeming innocence of those who are afflicted?

One of the benefits of studying the book of Job is that it affirms the innocence of Job. Please notice I didn’t say he was perfect. But on three occasions in the first 25 verses he is called “blameless and upright.” And that was God’s evaluation of his life! Whatever he endured in his suffering was not divine retribution.

Assuming you’re familiar with the story, I’ll skip re-telling the detail of the plot. Suffice it to say, Job had ten children and massive wealth. He was pious and devout to God. It was not pretense. He had his act together in every area that counts: his family, his finances, and his faith.

Unbeknownst to Job, there is a conversation at the throne of God. Satan’s accusation was that God’s followers follow him merely motivated by God’s blessings and protection. He argued that if the blessings and protection of God were removed, the followers would no longer follow.

Which leads to a strong question: Why do you follow God? Is it for the blessings and benefits? Or do you follow God because he is God?

Categories : Broken, Evil, Job, Suffering
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