An unflappable person has the patience of Job, as the saying goes. And for many who are familiar with the Old Testament book, Job’s patience seems to be on full display. After all, most remember that Job’s life appears to be the subject of some form of wager between God and Satan. But, by looking at the book that way we might conclude that Job really didn’t deserve all that happened to him. We might, secretly, do exactly what Job did NOT do.
I went back to this book after reading Thomas Boston’s The Crook In the Lot. You can get it on your Kindle here for .99. That book deals with the presence of adverse circumstances in everyone’s life, and the desire to have them lifted.
No spoiler warnings should really be necessary, here. God inflicts us with “thorns in the flesh.” Though the Apostle called it a “messenger of Satan,” it came from God’s hand. Job suffered under God’s hand, as well.
Right now, some readers will be thinking of the abundant life, the blessings that are waiting, etc. that false prophets declare with passion. God wants us to be living exceptionally, doesn’t He?
We’ll come back to that. For now, I’d like to discuss Job.
Job’s name means one who is persecuted, hated and counted as an enemy. (see Matthew Henry’s commentary, as well as Albert Barnes).
Job was described as perfect, upright, fearing God and turning from evil. He was said to be the only one in all the earth (Job 1:8).
Job is depicted as being an intercessor for his children, continually (Job 1:5).
The adversary, Satan, charges that Job was like this only because God had never let him be afflicted, and had blessed him with family, wealth and honor. We should remember that Satan cannot know a man’s heart. Only God knows the heart of man (we don’t even know it ourselves, fully) (Jer. 17:9-10). Thus, Satan is accusing the perfect man, God’s righteous one, of being ready to turn and blaspheme God.
The implication of the opening chapter is that Satan has roamed the world and might be claiming victory over God. He might be claiming that there are no righteous men on the earth (similar to when God destroyed the world in the Flood during the time of Noah).
Job lived in Uz, a land not too far from Ur where Abraham lived (they were contemporaries). It is possible this event took place around the time of Abram’s first call from Ur. Thus, we cannot say that Job is the only one who was faithful to God (unless we say that Abram was still not there, so Job was the only representative).
More importantly, the description of Job, the meaning of his name and the events that follow strongly point (as do other characters in the Old Testament) to Christ. Jesus was perfect, upright, fearing God and turning from evil in the perfect sense. Jesus came to earth and became the enemy of all and suffered persecution. Jesus makes intercession constantly for his children before the Father.
Unlike Isaac, who was taken up the mountain, bearing his load of wood, then willingly laying down beneath the knife of his father, Jesus was not spared by a substitute. Unlike Job, God did not set the limit for Jesus at sparing His life.
Taking Job as a type of Christ, we can learn more about being identified with Christ. After all, Peter says that we are to be identified with Christ in our sufferings (1Peter 4:12-13) an count it a joy.
What were Christ’s sufferings? He was shunned by the religious establishment, called a blasphemer, accused of working with Satan, hated for his good deeds, thought to be crazy by his family and friends … the list goes on. Most notably, He was falsely accused, tried and convicted, beaten, then crucified.
Job is a picture of this as he goes from his mansions with wealth, to being a poor, miserable man, unrecognizable due to the boils on his flesh (hint: Jesus was nearly unrecognizable after his beating and whipping).
How does all this help in how we see God in the trials and identify with Christ? Are we supposed put on a smile and tweet hashtag blessed? Just put on a happy face, grin and bear it with “the patience of Job?”
I don’t think so. Jesus was called a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Is.53:3). Job, we read tore his clothes, shaved his head and fell to the ground after his wealth was taken and his children were dead. He visibly mourned for the tragedy he suffered.
Jesus mourned for the condition of humanity in the grip of sin.
We are within the bounds of God’s Word to mourn for the trials of life. While Peter tells us not to be surprised by the trials, and to “count it all joy” it does not mean we are thrilled when we lose a child, or suffer some painful illness. It means we understand that it is from God’s hand, and He intends it for a good that we may not understand in this life.
The objection I might hear is that Satan is the one who inflicted these things on Job (with God’s permission). And, yes, the Bible does show God telling Satan that “he is in your hand…” But, when Satan returns, God says that Satan moved him to act against Job to destroy him without cause (Job 2:3b). Satan, for his part, always says, “but put forth thine hand…” to God. And Job, himself, says, “The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away…” (Job 1:21). Note, too, that throughout the book, Satan is never mentioned as being the cause of Job’s calamity. Rather, it is seen as coming from the hand of God.
I think people give too much power to the enemy of our souls. I think people are too enamored with the lie that Hollywood tells, with spinning heads, pea soup projectile puke, slamming doors, moving objects, creaky floors, etc. While I don’t understand how the spirit world works, and no one really does, I think we can look at Job and see that even Satan recognized his limits. He rightly ascribes all action to God.
People object to this because–in human reasoning–God cannot be party to sin. And He’s not. When God allows someone to do the evil that is already in their heart, He is not the author of that evil. What that person intends to do is meant (by them) for evil. But, God allows it for good.
The problem people have is that they don’t really believe God is good. Or, if they believe He is good, they don’t believe He is in complete control (hence they ascribe more power to Satan and his demons than they should).
If God is in complete control, and completely good, then Satan and his demons cannot approach one of God’s children without permission and set limits.
As a bonus thought: God ordered an angel to lie as part of his sovereign plan. What? Can this be when lying is a sin and this would make God ordering an angel to sin? Look up 1 Kings 22:19–23. God asks his angels who will go and convince Ahab to go against Ramoth-gilead and die? An angel volunteers and God asks him how he will do this. The Angel says he will be a “lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.” And God gives the angel the green light.
It’s important to note that false prophets already want to say flattering things to their king. So, the angel was going to be God’s messenger to allow the prophets to do what they already wanted to do. Again, we would be way off base to assume we know the workings of God’s sovereignty and how He administers His government.
The point for our lives is to remember that whatever happens to us, it is from God’s hand. The pain we experience is approved by God. We may ask for Him to lift that suffering, or relieve our pain, but we should never assume it is not from Him. We should never be lulled into the lie that God just wants us to be happy, wealthy and relaxed in this life. Because if we think that (which is in direct contradiction to God’s Word) we will have to conclude that our adverse circumstances are beyond God’s control, or that Satan has more power than he does.
Rather, we need to be like Job (and Jesus) who commit our souls in humility to the One who judges rightly. If we are guilty of sin and are suffering the consequences, we need to repent, turn from that sin and live in obedience to God. If we cannot discover any sin that might be the source of our troubles, we need to humble our minds to accept the circumstances as ordained by God for our good.
Paul suffered the thorn in the flesh and asked three times for it to be lifted. God’s answer, “My grace is sufficient for you.” His strength was perfected in Paul’s weakness. That doesn’t mean that God shows His strength despite our sin (as some have interpreted weakness). No, His power is shown when we’re barren and post-menopausal, and we give birth to a child. His strength is shown when we’re all out of options and we cannot possibly win … and He fights for us. In those circumstances, God gets the glory, not us.
Paul was a strong orator, a scholar in Judaism. One might think this celebrity of Jewish doctrine would be sent to the Jews. And yet, God sent him to the Gentiles who couldn’t have cared less about his schooling and status. God stripped him of his oration and his stature, making him a shaking, blind, timid image of a man (2 Cor. 10:10).
God may be stripping us of all that the world treasures. We may be counted among fools. We may be alone and holding onto our faith against all advice of those closest to us. But faith is a gift of God. It is the strongest force that holds us up during trials and assures us of walking in harmony with our elder brother, Christ. He walked these paths before us. There is nothing we suffer that He hasn’t endured, as well.
Thankfully, we have the promise that we will not forfeit our life. Jesus was the only one who could do that. He gave His life for all who would believe. So, when we face all manner of trials, we may be asked by Him to endure to the end, never seeing them lifted in this life. But then, as we awake on the shores of eternity, we will see all our oppressors lying dead on the beach. And the wealth to which we’ll be welcomed will far surpass anything we might have been given in this life.