Life Stinks, Then You Die

Out of all the classes that I took during my undergrad time at Oklahoma Baptist University, one of the most impactful was Basic Counseling Skills. I use what I learned in that class more than most of the others in my day to day life in vocational ministry.

One thing that was repeated over and over in that class was the fact that the counselor is supposed to listen intently and ask gentle questions that get deeper into the issue at hand. What you were not supposed to do was start projecting your beliefs onto the person you were counseling, much less berate them.

That seems like some pretty common sense in my opinion.

In the case of Job and his friends, Eliphaz did not have any common sense. Sure, he started well, by simply sitting with Job in his suffering. But then he had to go and open his mouth.

Today we’re talking about Job 4. If you want a crash course in how not to counsel someone in suffering, just read it. In the previous chapter, Job has poured out his heart to the Lord and within earshot of his friends. He bemoans his suffering and despairs of life itself. Then comes Eliphaz.

Eliphaz starts strong. He reminds Job of the ways that Job himself has been an encouragement and counselor to many, how he has strengthened the weak with his guidance (vv. 3-4).

Let’s jump down to verse seven. It’s Eliphaz’s crucial mistake in my opinion.

“Remember: who that was innocent ever perished?
    Or where were the upright cut off? – Job 4:7

This is the central tenant of Eliphaz’s argument (condemnation against Job really).

In his mind, the innocent never perish. The upright, morally upstanding men and women of the world never get cut off from the blessings and prosperity of the Lord.

Eliphaz’s world is black and white. Do good, get good. Do bad, get bad.

If we are brutally honest with ourselves, many of us basically adhere to such a version of Christianity in our own lives. We convince ourselves that God is ready to bless us when we’re in his Word and when we’re actively seeking His face in prayer. It gets messy though when we believe the opposite as well. That if we snooze six times and barely make it to work, skipping personal time with Him altogether, then we are going to face curses from the Lord.

This is the world of Eliphaz.

He looks at the immense suffering of his friend Job and jumps to the immediate conclusion that Job is at fault. Some secret sin in Job’s life has led to his entire world imploding.

If I was Job,

I’d have punched Eliphaz in the face.

Eliphaz had a high view of God, this can be seen through much of what he says in this first speech. Consider these verses with me.

By the breath of God they perish,
    and by the blast of his anger they are consumed. – Job 4:9

‘Can mortal man be in the right before God?
    Can a man be pure before his Maker? – Job 4:17 

Eliphaz believed that God was powerful, that His anger consumed the wicked, that His purity and holiness was such that no one could stand before Him. I would agree with all of these assertions.

But Eliphaz got it wrong when He jumped to the conclusion that only the wicked suffer.

That’s where Eliphaz’s argument begins to break down for me. He simultaneously says that all are unable to stand before God in purity and that all who are not pure before God are punished accordingly on earth.

His view is quite depressing actually.

When I was a kid, one of my friends would say basically all the time: “Life sucks, then you die.” I think he was mostly joking, but there’s some who deep down believe that version of viewing the world.

Bad things happen perpetually and consistently, and then you die.

I feel like this was the belief system of Eliphaz.

Look at how he concludes his first counseling session with Job.

Even in his servants he puts no trust,
    and his angels he charges with error;
how much more those who dwell in houses of clay,
    whose foundation is in the dust,
    who are crushed like the moth.
Between morning and evening they are beaten to pieces;
    they perish forever without anyone regarding it.
Is not their tent-cord plucked up within them,
    do they not die, and that without wisdom?’ – Job 4:18-21

That’s one of the more depressing things I’ve ever seen.

Eliphaz says God trusts no one. We are crushed like moths. We are beaten to pieces. We perish and die without anyone caring. We die without wisdom.

No hope.

No grace.

If you believe in a black and white world, you are forgetting the cross.

You see, we get to view the world from the other side of the cross.

We don’t get what we deserve.

Yes, the wicked seem to thrive while the righteous suffer.

But at the end of the day, Eliphaz was right. We’re not pure. We can’t stand before our Maker. We deserve punishment.

But we don’t get it.

Not in the way that we deserve.

Truly.

Now, again, this is not the words you say in direct response to someone’s first venting against God in the midst of suffering. If someone came to me in the hospital bed that I was laying in after my surgery and told me “I know you’re hurting, but at least you’re not in hell”, I would have not been very happy.

But this is what you can do if you have a family member or friend in the midst of suffering.

Listen and pray.

Listen.

And pray.

Don’t give a speech.

I know that the Lord works in the midst of suffering. He did so in my life (Why The Long Face?). Let Him do it in his own timing.

The world isn’t black and white for the Christian.

For the Christian, there is the cross.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

Worst Fears

What is your worst fear?

I’m not asking about what you’re afraid of. I’m afraid of plenty. Just yesterday some close friends of mine were having a ball with the fact that I’m terrified of spiders and really bugs in general. I’m not a fan.

I’m asking what is your worst plausible fear.

For many of us it would be the unexpected loss of a family member, the loss of health, the loss of relationships, the pain of a child. School shootings. Natural disasters. Cancer. These things bring fear to our hearts and minds.

Now, what if a combination of all of these horrible fears came to fruition in a day?

It would probably lead you to say something like this:

What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil. – Job 3:25-26

The third chapter of Job is when Job begins to let it all out before God. In the first two chapters, he has shown exemplary faith (Receiving Bad From God) while having his world rocked by unjust, abject suffering. Now he is ready to tell God how he feels about the situation.

If you’re like me, you probably read the first two chapters with an air of annoyance. You start to feel like Job is a superhero, a super Christian, only ever praising God. The third chapter humanizes him no doubt. He is still not walking in consistent, unrepentant sin, but he lets his emotions come pouring out. I strive to teach my students regularly that God is more than capable of listening to and bearing your emotions. To hide from Him how you really feel about any given situation is not only unnecessary, but impossible due to His omniscience. Job worships, but he also wrestles.

We too can both worship and wrestle with God at the same time.

In Job’s wrestling, we see that there are some aspects of his heart that still need to be worked on, still need to be molded by the grace of God. As I’ve written about earlier in this study (A Man Named Job), Job had a karma-like view of God to some extent. He consistently sacrificed offerings to the Lord (that weren’t mandated by God) in order to protect his children from harm. It’s a noble idea, but it’s one that has a quid pro quo view of God just under the surface. If Job gave offerings to God, then surely God would keep his children safe.

Now, Job is facing the reality that all of his good deeds and good intentions did nothing to prevent him from suffering. His worst fears were being realized, and his gut reaction is to curse the very day of his birth. Reading through the book of Job is like reading the innermost thoughts of those in our churches and in our communities that are facing incredibly difficult circumstances. Job, a follower of God, curses the day of his birth, repeatedly saying he wishes he had never been born, for that would be better to him than the suffering he was going through.

That’s a level of pain I’ve honestly never experienced. But I know that it’s a level of pain that some are experiencing right now. As I read Job, the question that keeps coming to my head is whether or not our churches are a place where people can say the type of things that Job says with the knowledge that they will be listened to and loved.

Think about it.

If someone said something like that in Sunday School, the majority of us would cringe at best, offer our theological proclamations of God’s goodness at worst (again, I’m talking at the very beginning of suffering Christian, Be Quiet).

Our churches need to be places where there is space to mourn, to grieve, to suffer in community.

There’s something else interesting I want to point out about this chapter. Let’s look at verses 13-14, and 19.

For now I would be lying down in peace; I would be asleep and at rest with kings and rulers of the earth, who built for themselves places now lying in ruins, . . . The small and great are there, and the slaves are freed from their owners. – Job 3:13-14, 19

Job proclaims that if he were to die, he would be at peace. He would be at peace with both the small and the great. He mentions also that those who built kingdoms for themselves here on earth would have nothing to show for it, as their kingdoms now lie in ruins.

While you can’t make grandiose doctrinal assumptions from passages like this, we know for a fact that this is true. The small and great die. Job’s view of death is not inherently Christian at this point, since his view of death is just rest, not communion with God. That being said, all people face this. Everyone faces either an eternity of communion with God or an eternity of separation from God.

So those kingdoms we’re building for ourselves don’t matter. They don’t go with us. Job said it in chapter one, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.

We can’t really judge for certain what Job’s motivations were throughout his life, but he had a kingdom. He had power, prestige, money, a solid family. He had everything that most people want. Yet it was all stripped away from him in a day.

The reality is, we will all be like Job at some point.

Death strips us from all of our kingdoms of sand.

In death, all we lived for other than the Lord comes down, gets left behind.

Job 3 is an opportunity to look into the mind of a man who has lost everything. And it’s just the start.

My prayer is that our churches become places where raw emotions can be shared without judgment or disdain. My prayer is that our churches become places where people are reminded that there is only one Kingdom that lasts and it has nothing to do with us.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

 

 

 

 

Receiving Bad From God

It’s easy to praise God on good days, isn’t it? When things are stable vocationally, relationally, financially, and physically, our worship of God is pretty natural.

What about on difficult days though?

What about on the days when one thing after another seems to be falling apart in your life?

On those days, it doesn’t come nearly as natural to us to open up our mouths and hearts in praise to our Heavenly Father.

Yet, this is exactly what Job did in Job 1. He faced the most excruciatingly difficult day of his life, and he was able to praise God regardless.

The second chapter of Job takes us back to the throne room of God. The angels are again presenting themself before His splendor and majesty (v. 1), and Satan again comes into the room. God is quick to bring up Job again, showing Satan that Job’s integrity and righteousness remained intact (v. 3), despite the tremendous suffering that was thrust upon him.

Satan is prepared for this, and he quickly responds.

“Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.” – Job 2:4-5 

Satan’s point is clear. Job’s family and finances were destroyed, sure. But his body was still intact. Satan’s argument is that if God would affect Job’s physical body, Job would respond in anger and cursing.

Let’s read together what happens next.

The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”  – Job 2:6-8

I want you to see this first. Our good, glorious, gracious, and generous God allows this next test to be played out, just like He allowed the first. Beware any prosperity gospel that promises an easy life as a follower of Jesus. There is no such thing. It is a good life, absolutely, but it is not one devoid of suffering. Job’s life makes this abundantly clear to us.

Satan leaves the throne room of God and immediately goes after Job. Job is afflicted with a skin disease that isn’t exactly clear to us as the reader. It sounds like some sort of leprosy. Regardless of what it was, we see that Job is full of painful sores that go from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. There is no relief to be found anywhere.

Then Job’s wife enters the picture.

Now, I personally am blessed with a wonderful wife. When I face difficulties in my life, she is quick to encourage me and share wisdom with me. She’s done so in a couple instances just this week.

Job however had a less than great wife in this circumstance.

It’s interesting to note that there are some who actually believe that the wife was more or less on Satan’s team in this story, being used by him to encourage Job to fall into sin.

I personally don’t see her as a willing participant in the schemes of Satan. That’s a little extreme.

That being said, her faith is not grand. In the throes of pain (all this suffering surely affected her too, right?) she encourages Job to simply curse God in such a way that would cause God to strike him down in justice.

What happens next is another one of the most powerful sections of Scripture (well writing that sounded like a clickbait Facebook article. “We adopted a goldfish, what happened next will stun and amaze you!”).

He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. – Job 2:9-10

Notice that Job doesn’t call her wicked, nor does he say that she is in fact foolish. Rather, he says that she is simply talking like someone who is a fool.

I’m not really sure what happens to Job’s wife after this, not gonna lie. She doesn’t ever show up again in the book, even after Job’s life is restored (chapter 42). He has more children, so maybe that’s proof she sticks around? I’m not sure. Consult someone smarter than me.

Let’s focus in on the second part of his statement though.

Dang.

That’s some A-level faith. We willingly accept good from God, we should be just as willing to accept evil (side-note. I was reading a commentary that mentioned that the Hebrew word here means ‘bad’. Don’t think that God is capable of doing something wicked or sinful).

“. . . for when the bad as well as the good is received at the hand of God, every experience of life becomes an occasion of blessing. But the cost is high. It is easier to lower your view of God than to raise your faith to such a height.” – Francis Andersen

Job’s faith is powerful, as is this quote.

Again, remember, Job is going to wrestle with God throughout this entire book. Yet, his faith here at the onset is secure. He doesn’t get it. He can’t fathom why this has happened to him. Yet he knows that it is from the Lord.

Again, the prosperity preachers and their thirty second clips getting shared on Facebook will tell you you’re an overcomer, a champion, a conqueror. They’ll tell you that you can overcome sickness if only your faith is strong enough. You can be blessed financially and spiritually and relationally and vocationally if you just have enough faith.

They must have cut this book out of their Bibles.

Job teaches us something powerful.

Following God is not about the level of your faith.

It’s about what your faith is in.

I’ll say that again. Following God is not about the level of your faith. It’s about what your faith is in.

Job is going to incessantly wrestle with God, but his faith is in God. That won’t waver.

The text goes so far as to say that Job didn’t sin in what he has said.

He hasn’t sinned, yet the affliction will remain for dozens of more chapters.

As followers of Jesus, we must have the faith to receive the bad as well as the good.

Job models that for us well.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

The Problem Of God’s Control

In a day, everything he had was taken from him.

It started out like any other Sunday. His children were together, feasting and celebrating with joy. His flocks were well maintained by his ample and qualified servants. He had arisen early in the morning to offer an offering to God for his children. All was well.

Yet, now here he sat.

Devastated by innumerable tragedies. Living in the wilderness certainly had its dangers. Sabeans and Chaldeans sometimes went on raids, natural disasters were just a part of life.

But this?

This was like an overly dramatic sitcom you’d see in the mornings on NBC.

His mind was still reeling from the day’s events. Servant after servant came in to inform him of some destruction, some loss. First it was his oxen and donkeys getting stolen. Then lightning burning up his sheep. A massive lightning storm no doubt, since it plundered thousands of them. Next came the camels being stolen.

None of that compared with the last message though.

His children.

His precious children whom he prayed for and made sacrifices for to God.

They were dead.

Not just one of them.

All of them. In a freak accident brought about by a whirlwind.

He could only imagine what they went through. Joyous laughter and celebration quickly turning to screams of fear and then. . .

silence.

 

This story is found in the first chapter of the book of Job. Job was a righteous man in the eyes of God, someone who feared God and turned away from evil (1:1, 8). In a black and white world, he would be the man that we would assume would be continuously and perpetually blessed by God. Instead, Satan lays down the gauntlet: if all was stripped from Job, would he still praise the Lord? Or is his worship of God only because of God’s favor and blessings? God allows Satan to come after Job, and what happens is the utter destruction we read in the passage (vv. 13-19).

Now, Job finds himself in a place that we too find ourselves in after suffering strikes us.

He has a problem.

That problem is the control of God over all things.

His sovereignty.

Now, I’ll just tell you now, I’m not going to even attempt to philosophically argue through the “problem of evil”. That’s not what I’m trying to do. If you’re looking for writing of that depth and intelligence, look elsewhere.

What I am instead wanting to highlight is that for those of us who follow Jesus and believe in God, what happened to Job and what happens to us is harder to accept.

The following quote is long, but it is better than I could say it.

Desert brigands, lightning and cyclone are all part of man’s life in the East. Things like this happen to everyone, if not always on the same scale. The intense faith of job immediately sees the hand of God in every ‘natural’ event. There are no ‘accidents’ in a universe ruled by the one sovereign Lord. Hence Job’s problem. Such mishaps are not a problem for the polytheist, the dualist, the atheist, the naturalist, the fatalist, the materialist, the agnostic. An annoyance, a tragedy even, but not a problem. – Francis Anderson

There it is.

In the modern world, it is extremely sad that hurricanes, cancer, and gun violence take the lives of men and women, boys and girls. What’s even more sad is that these losses are seen as the dangers and realities of modern living. For the atheist in 2019, there is no real ‘problem’ to be wrestled with. When tragedy strikes, it’s just fate. It’s just an accident, just the luck of the draw.

But when tragedy like that strikes the life of a Christian, we know that God orchestrates all things. So we have a problem.

Job had a problem.

Job responded to his problem with amazing faith. Let’s read it together.

At this Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. – Job 1:20-22

Wow.

That is powerful stuff.

Job took the problem of God’s involvement in his suffering and used it as a means for worship. The section I highlighted is one of the most powerful morsels of Scripture. The Lord gives and takes away. But His Name should still be praised.

No, that’s not philosophically deep. It may not be a satisfactory answer for most.

There is certainly lots of wrestling ahead, as the majority of the book of Job is full of debates between Job and his friends about why he has fallen into this suffering.

Contrary to the Satan’s forecast, Job has the same good opinion of God’s blessedness, even when things go wrong. But this faith cannot survive without a terrible struggle. . . Job is hurled into a cauldron of doubt concerning the justice and equity of God’s ways with him. He must suffer and grow before he can see why this has happened. So far he has begun superbly. – Francis Andersen 

Still, Job’s immediate, knee-jerk reaction to the darkest day of his life is to worship.

Job points us forward to Jesus.

When I read the phrase “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord”, I can’t help but think of Jesus proclaiming “not my will, but your will be done”.

They both unjustly suffered (obviously Jesus way more so since He was completely devoid of sin), and they both responded with worship.

The book of Job continues to be a soothing balm for my soul. It is dark and gritty, yes. In fact, in a lot of ways we’re just getting started.

But my prayer for you as you read is that you will be encouraged and reminded that God truly is in control. He may cause us some problems, but it also leads us to joyful dependence on Him when we get through the suffering to the other side.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Why The Long Face?

It was late Saturday night, and I had woken up groggy and disoriented yet again. For a few nights in a row I was having experiences where I awoke from my sleep with the sensation that I was coming out of anesthesia. I knew where I was, but things felt hazy and cloudy, and my arms and legs felt weighted as if they were moving through water.

It had been five days since my jaw surgery, and I was getting over the hump of the discomfort, only to have my sleep continuously upended by these lingering side effects. The day had been a little rough, and I was just so done.

Jamie woke up to my groans, quickly coming to my side to see what was wrong. I told her, and started to tear up. All I wanted was to sleep.

Jamie, in her always on point wisdom, encouraged me to pray aloud while she went to the kitchen to get me some medicine.

I didn’t feel like praying, not gonna lie. Yes, all things considered, my suffering in the aftermath of my surgery was minor. My pain was not extreme, my battle not with death. But, in the moment, I was fighting despair.

So that’s where I found myself. Disoriented and uneasy in bed, encouraged by my wife to pray aloud.

As I stared up at the fan, I started to pray.

The words got louder and louder, my heart pouring out and echoing down the hall. The tears started flowing and things continued to escalate until I yelled loudly, “Look at what I’m doing for You, and this is what you did to me.”

As soon as the words left my mouth, things got quiet in the room and in my heart. You see, Scripture clearly teaches that our words come from the overflow of our hearts. Every thing we say displays some aspect of where our hearts are at.

Suffering tends to really reveal our hearts.

My suffering had revealed some things in my heart I didn’t really like.

I strive to serve God in all that I do. I strive to be obedient. I strive to point others to Jesus. I strive to show others the wonderful grace of God. I strive to extend the love of God to others. I strive to be a lifelong disciple of my risen Lord and Savior.

There’s nothing at all wrong with any of those desires of mine.

Yet my scream of anger at God showed that I certainly felt like I was entitled to a good life, one of prosperity and blessings. I scratch your back, you scratch mine. I tried to serve God faithfully, so it only made sense that He should bless me with favor.

In the quiet stillness after my outburst, I felt God lovingly but firmly reminding me of what is true about Him. He doesn’t need me. If I wasn’t a family pastor in Vernon, someone else would be brought in and fill the same role.

Talk about oof.

What followed was the reminder from God of all the bazillion good gifts He had given me. A wonderful wife, parents who pray for and care for me, a brother and sister-in-law that let me have a fun weekend stay at their place before my surgery, a church family that has been continuously so amazing towards me (they’ve brought me meals and mowed my lawn), friends, a wonderfully talented surgeon, in-laws that let me stay with them when I got out of the hospital. The list goes on and on, and that’s centered around simply this past week or two.

Big oof.

Suffering causes us to lose sight of all of the light of God’s good and gracious gifts to us.

God continued to speak through His Word to me. He reminded me of His control over the situation. He reminded me that in the darkest of moments, He is still at work and still cares for His people like me (this has been slammed into my face since I’ve been studying Job for my blog and teaching Judges to the youth on Sundays).

All of this happened in my heart so fast.

Jamie came back in the room, helped me take some medicine, and soon I was back to sleep.

I wanted to share this experience with you for a handful of reasons.

First, I want to hopefully take away some of the stigma associated with acknowledging a hard day. It’s easy for us to compare our suffering to that of others, feeling like we can’t share that it’s been tough on us in fear of sounding pathetic or wimpy. If you’re struggling through something in your life right now, I genuinely pray that you have a faith community around you that can uplift you and that you can be open with. Stop the facades people, we need to be more real with others about our suffering and struggles.

Secondly, I want to remind us all that is in those dark nights (in my case literally) that we can ask the Lord to reveal the content of our hearts to us. Hear me, suffering is NOT always the result of sin. We don’t live in a black and white world like that. But, suffering can be used by God to reveal some sinful attitudes, motives, desires, etc. Just as He did with me.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. – Psalm 139:23-24

Lastly, I want to encourage you that our God reigns. Every single day, He has walked with me through this. Some days are harder than others, but He has brought stability. As I’ve been studying Job, I’ve been so encouraged by the following verse. Job cries out in all his emotions to the Lord all throughout the book. He despairs of his very life. Yet, in the midst of despair, He has a confidence in God. He is able to make the following declaration.

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. – Job 19:25

Living in 2019, we are able to say the same. Our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, lives.

Whatever you’re going through, you’ll get through it.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Fight Night

Last night, there was apparently some big UFC fight. For hours leading up to the event, there was copious amounts of commentary, conjecture, and conversation. The bout itself lasted no longer than twenty minutes. I personally don’t see the appeal of paying money to watch grown men and women beat the snot out of each other. UFC fights are intriguing however. Sometimes the opponents are evenly matched fighters, trading blows as the fight drags on into the later rounds. Other times however, one fighter either gets a good jump or they are simply better pound for pound, as KO’s and TKO’s happen abruptly, sometimes within a minute or thirty seconds of the fight beginning.

I believe that many of us have a view of spiritual warfare that is more like the former type of fight I was describing. I know that for me personally, it’s easy to fall into the mindset that good and evil, life and death, darkness and light, God and Satan are evenly matched opponents duking it out on a grand stage. What the book of Job teaches us however is that God and Satan are not equally matched opponents. Rather, Satan is indescribably pathetic in comparison to the majesty and magnitude of God.

Let’s dive in together. If you haven’t got the chance to read it yet, you can catch my latest blog about Job via this link: A Man Named Job. It will tell you who Job was, where he lived, and what he did.

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. – Job 1:6 

If you are familiar with the book of Job, then you know what’s about to happen. Job’s picture-perfect life is about to come falling apart around him, and his faith will be tested through tribulation. Before we see the trials come, we get this sort of court room scene. God is enthroned on high, and the ‘sons of God’ (think angelic beings) are gathering around Him. We read that Satan is ‘among’ them. Now, in Hebrew literature like we have in the Bible, this word can imply an intruder (I just had surgery, so this week I’ve had a lot of smoothies. So think, spinach was among the apples and strawberries. It’s not supposed to be there. Vegetables are gross). Satan is not welcome here, as if he is a regular character before the throne of God.

God quickly questions Satan about what he has been up to (v. 7). The enemy of our souls tells us that he has been roving throughout the world, going to and fro. This is not a casual stroll. We know from other Scripture that Satan prowls the world like a lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Also, be reminded that God is not in need of a report, in need of knowledge. He is omniscient.

Verse eight is when thinks get tricky.

God brings up Job.

That was a component of this story that hadn’t really hit me before, until recently when it was brought to my attention. Satan doesn’t bring Job up. God does. Knowing all that is to follow, the total breakdown of Job’s cosmos, it’s hard to wrap my head around that God initiates it. God sets the ball in motion that will lead to seemingly abject and unnecessary suffering for a man that God Himself describes as “my servant. . . a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil”. If you find yourself confused, struggling with this, perfect. This book is for you. The book of Job is for those of us who can’t seem to wrap our heads around suffering.

I remember often reading the start to the book of Job and wishing that God would describe me the way He described Job. God seems to be so proud of the character of Job. There seems to be affection even, or at least that’s how I would read it. So I would clinch my fists, grit my teeth, and strive to be the man who turned away from evil and instead sought God. As a twenty-five year old, it’s already starkly clear to me that I will never be that. I will never be the blameless and upright man that the angelic hosts know of for my righteousness and purity of heart.

At least, not of my own accord.

There is so much freedom in realizing that Job is to point us to Jesus.

Jesus is the better Job.

What we are going to see in the book of Job is that Job is going to sin, struggle, and fall short in the midst of intense suffering.

Jesus faced far worse and yet remained solid in His righteousness, His fear of God, and His turning away from evil.

Because of Jesus, I don’t have to face the standard of being like Job.

Let’s move forward.

Satan responds to God by playing Devil’s Advocate (pun intended). In verses nine and ten, Satan lays the gauntlet. He questions the sincerity of Job’s faith and His righteousness. I mean, of course someone is going to follow God faithfully if that gets him or her wealth and prosperity and power and prominence. But remove all that, remove blessings, and no one will praise God.

But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face – Job 1:11

Here’s the real rub of the book.

The basic questions of the book are raised. God’s character and Job’s are both slighted. Is God so good that he can be loved for himself, not just for his gifts? Can a man hold on to God when there are no benefits attached? – Francis Andersen

In verse twelve, God accepts the challenge laid forth by the enemy of our souls. The only caveat is that Job’s physical health cannot be touched.

As hard as it is to wrap your head around, all that is taking place in the book of Job is happening due to God’s sovereign hand and loving kindness. This suffering that is looming over the horizon does not catch God off guard.

Any suffering that you are facing doesn’t catch Him off guard either. There is certainly suffering that doesn’t seem to have a purpose, suffering we will not understand this side of eternity. But suffering is not wasted. As we keep going through the book of Job together I hope that you see that.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

A Man Named Job

The book of Job teaches us a whole lot about God, the world, our enemy, suffering, sin, friendship, and humility. If you didn’t get the chance to read my post from yesterday, I would encourage you to do so. It will give you some guidance on how to approach the book of Job, and it will provide you with some brief background information (Suffering And Sin).

Let’s dive in.

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. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually. – Job 1:1-5

That is all that we’re going to cover today. This narrative introduction in the book of Job sets the stage for all that is to follow. In these five verses, we see some things about Job that will come in handy down the road. I would encourage you to leave any preconceived notions about Job behind as we dig in together.

I know that for me, I had a cookie cutter version of Job in mind growing up. I thought that he was a near perfect man who was given a bad hand. I thought that all he did was righteous and right. That’s not the case necessarily. So, deconstruct any image of Job that you have, and let’s build him back up together as we look at the text.

Who Was Job?

We don’t know a ton of stuff about Job from a historical point of view. While some doubt that Job was even a real person, I hold to the belief that he was. In Ezekiel 14, the prophet Ezekiel is speaking about how Jerusalem would not be spared. In verses 14 and 20 of that chapter, he mentions that even if Job were there in Jerusalem, his righteousness (and that of Noah and Daniel) would not be enough to spare the city. While this isn’t an airtight argument for the literal existence of Job, I believe it is a reminder that people knew his story.

Biblical scholars who are far smarter than me have deduced that Job lived in the time of the patriarchs (Think Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). He was an extremely wealthy man, as seen by the great number of livestock that he had. I personally would be confused, rather than impressed, by a man with thousands of camels. Back in the day though, that was some serious wealth. I can’t really think of a modern equivalent, so just think, super rich.

Not only was Job wealthy, he was divinely blessed by God. When the text says that he had seven sons and three daughters, the original readers of this book would have seen those numbers to be signs of completion and divine blessing. Basically, Job is presented with the divinely given perfect family and perfect life.

Lastly, we are told that Job was righteous, blameless even. This is not to say that he was perfect. Instead, it is to say that he was a man who turned away from evil. He didn’t allow sin to fester in his life. He removed it, he repented of it, he turned from it.

Where Did Job Live?

Job lived in Uz, which was in ‘the east’. When you read ‘the east’, think the Wild Wild West. One commentator I read likened it to the edge of civilization, a romantic, often wild place. It wasn’t an empty desert, but it certainly wasn’t the center of civilization, much less Israelite civilization, in the time of the Patriarchs. This isn’t the place to go into a detailed study of exactly where this location was, but some see it as to the northeast of the Sea of Galilee.

Job was a God-fearer. He was a man who feared the God of the Israelites, even though he was not living with the Israelites. Anytime I read in Scripture that there are people worshipping God outside of the geographical residence of the people of God, I’m reminded that God’s Kingdom is not limited to borders, to a country. Those at the edge of civilization today are just as capable to love and fear and serve God as those of us with access to all that Western civilization has to offer.

What Did Job Do?

Lastly, we see what Job did. Now, this is where things just about immediately descend into tension and gray area.

We see that Job’s children had parties at their individual houses, something that we should NOT read as an indictment against their character. Job’s children were simply celebrating and utilizing the lavish wealth that God had blessed their family with. There is nothing in the text to assume that these were wild parties of drunkenness and licentiousness. That being said, Job made sure that they were purified. That’s why verse four tells us he would have them consecrated after their feasts.

Job would also make sacrifices to God in order to atone for the possible sins of his children. He didn’t know for sure that they had committed the grievous sin of cursing God, yet out of his love for them, he made sure to offer the Lord sacrifices on their behalf.

This is not yet explicit in the text, but there is a hint of a reciprocal view of service and blessing here. We find out later a little bit more about Job’s regular offerings, but we see already that he had what could be construed as an unhealthy view of God’s justice upon his children.

I’ll close with a quote from Craig Bartholomew.

“His greatest fear appears to be that their (his children) behavior would bring God’s judgment rather than His ongoing blessing. Therefore, part of Job’s religion was motivated by an unhealthy anxiety and fear.”

Can you relate?

Is your religious activity sometimes motivated by a fear that if you don’t offer up your prayer, time in His Word, Sunday morning attendance, or service, that you will be cursed, or at least certainly not blessed by God?

If so, as we keep going through Job, my prayer is that you will see that God is faithful. I pray that you will see He is not a God to be anxiously feared, but rather a God to be humbly trusted.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach