The book of Job is a perplexing one to many Christians. Apparently older than Genesis, this book appears out of nowhere, and is more or less self-contained in its own independent context.
The Bible records that Job was a righteous man. In fact, he was so righteous that God uses him, along with Daniel and Noah, as the benchmark for a righteous man (Ezekiel 14:4). Given that Noah was ranked the most righteous person in the entire world at one point (Genesis 6:9), this puts Job in very good company.
God was so pleased with Job that He endorsed him before Satan: “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” (Job 1:8).
Satan then challenges God to remove the blessings that He has poured out on Job, claiming that Job only fears God because of the blessings and protection given to Job.
Things happen very quickly after that. The Bible records that in a single day, Job loses almost all his livestock, and all his children die in a tragic accident. Job is later afflicted with painful sores from head to toe.
Yet amazingly, in all of his sorrow and anguish, Job neither curses God nor sins against Him.
A lot of Christians find it hard to rationalise the God in the book of Job with the God we think we know. Our understanding of justice and therefore how a “just” God would act appears contrary to what happened to Job. We basically believe that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. After all, blessings were promised for obedience to
God’s commands and curses for disobedience, not the other way around.
A quick search on Google will turn up many articles on trials and suffering, about trusting God, and how God will ultimately reward good and evil. To quote John Piper, who pretty much sums up 99% of all Job-related content:
“The lesson from the big book of Job is:
1) That God is sovereign over all our suffering;
2) He permits Satan to come into our lives and do horrible things to us;
3) He means to prove our faith and purify our lives through it;
4) In the end he will make it good, either in this life or in the life to come; and
5) Satan does not have the last word in the lives of God’s people.”
I believe I speak for all of us when I say that while Lessons 1, 3, 4 and 5 are all wonderful truths, I feel somewhat concerned by Lesson 2.
Let’s go back to the start of Job. But this time, attempt to read it not from a human perspective, but from God’s point of view.
Satan insults God, basically telling God to His face that no one will love God for who He is alone. That man only loves God and fears Him because of what man can get from God.
What an insult to God! What a slap in the face of God who is love, who specifically created man with a free will, that man may of his own accord enter into a relationship with Him.
Someone once told me that the way we interpret the book of Job says a lot about whether our heart attitude is really one of “seeking His Kingdom first”.
That’s akin to an evil stranger coming to your house and telling your parents that you don’t love them at all for who they are, and that you only spend time with them and please them because of what you can get out of the relationship.
Did humanity, in the form of Job, rise up to the challenge? Did he show Satan that we are capable of loving God for who He is? Did he defend God’s honour and His decision to create us?
(Spoiler alert, in case you haven’t got to the end of Job: Yes he did! Despite having three friends who were doing their best, albeit with the best intentions, to mislead him.)
Someone once told me that the way we interpret the book of Job says a lot about whether our heart attitude is really one of “seeking His Kingdom first”. Matthew 6:33 reminds us to seek first His Kingdom and adds on a promise that if we do so, we need not worry about our material needs – God will take care of them.
It’s easy to let the second part of the verse become our motivating factor for “seeking His Kingdom first”, but the book of Job reminds us that seeking Him first ought to be an end in itself.
So as we enter into 2017, seek His Face, not just His Hand.