The following are thoughts about the Old Testament character of Job from the Book of Job. I wrote them in my journal in January 2010. My divorce was to be final at the end of January in that year, and I guess I was trying to allow God to speak to me about my life before, during, and then what would come next. About 3 and one-half years prior to this, I was asked by the director of drama ministries at the church we were attending at the time, to play the lead in “God’s Favorite”, by Neil Simon. The play is an adaptation of the story of Job. At that time, my marriage was at the beginning of the end stage. I felt certain that God was using the part to speak to me. It indeed gave me an outlet to give voice to my anger, fear, and pain; while also to express the vital release valve of sarcastic, dark humor. (I love Neil Simon!) Once again, I was trying to allow Job to talk to me plainly about life when it sucks…(I was using the NIV for scripture references, so the language might be a bit “clanky” for some readers.) These thoughts are of a man in process… trying to make sense of the Life Cataclysm that had recently been his experience, all the while reaching out to God for assurance and with deep questions about the past, present, and of Tomorrow’s promise or doubt.
January 1, 2010
Job’s character: “…blameless and upright…” (1:1)
Job’s spiritual orientation: “…feared God and shunned evil…” (1:1)
Job’s family: “…seven sons and three daughters…” (1:2 )
Job’s stuff: “7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 donkeys” (1:3)
Job’s reputation: “He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.” (1:3)
Job’s heart: “His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes and they would invite their sisters to eat and drink with them.” (1:4)
Job was generous and passed the trait to his children. He had to make the food available from his estate for these feasts. After the feast:
“Job would send and have them purified.” (1:5)
Job passed on his faith and its availability to his children:
“Early in the morning, he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, ‘Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.’” (1:5)
Job interceded in prayer for his children:
“This was Job’s regular custom.” (1:5)
A great man of substance and faith!
*Superimpose an eternal/spiritual scene over the home, time, and place Job lived:
“The angels came to present themselves before the Lord…” (1:6)
Angels are subject to God. They are accountable to God.
“…and Satan also came with them.” (1:7)
This seems to infer that Satan has access to the throne of God. ? Is this:
• A statement of spiritual reality?
• A theatrical component of the story?
• A testament to God’s dominion over all the spirit world?
“The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’” (1:7)
Is this God holding Satan accountable?
“Satan answered the Lord, ‘From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.’” (1:7)
• Satan can’t be everywhere at once.
• Satan has open access to the earth.
• Satan is free to “roam” where and when Satan chooses.
God points out Job with pride and respect:
“Have you considered my servant Job?” (1:8)
Why does God point out Job to Satan?
What point is God trying to make?
Satan responds with a sneer:
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” (1:9)
Satan points out the blessings Job enjoys from God:
God has placed “…a hedge of protection around…” :
2. His household…
3. Everything he has…
You have blessed the work of his hands.” (1:10)
“Look, God… his relationship with you has made him rich! Why wouldn’t he take a ride on that gravy train?” Satan begins to try and take Job out of God’s care. But God has to give Job over to Satan. Satan can not take Job away.
“…but stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” (1:11)
Satan tries to incite God’s action against Job… God’s child. God’s and Satan’s intentions were headed in opposite directions.
• God intended to stretch Job’s trust and belief and faith to a place where Job didn’t rely on a comfortable, successful life to choose God.
• Satan intended to sew doubt in Job’s heart in order to entice Job away from God’s face.
The Question: Was Job’s trust in God dependent on a comfortable life?
Is that what has happened in my life? I certainly haven’t show the character and earthly wisdom of Job, but my love and trust of God has been determined by my circumstances. While I believed God’s love for me was determined by my performance, my own love for God was defined by…
NO… that’s not true! As life got harder, I learned MORE about God’s love and faithfulness. God’s love in these dark days has inspired my own changing love for God.
CATASTROPHE: All of Job’s stuff and his children are taken and he is advised of each incident in blow after blow at one period of time! (1:13-19)
“At this, Job got up and tore his robes and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship…” (1:20)
Job’s response: Acts of grief and worship!
‘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.” (1:21)
Job’s world was crushed and he responded with poetry…
In this song, coming from his broken heart, Job shows his understanding that God owned everything in his life and could require it at any moment. Somehow, Job was able to worship in his grief…
…In the beginning. But his test was just at the Start. God wasn’t done, yet.
Through the last three years, I have believed I deserved all the catastrophe in my life. I believed I had earned the bad. But did I originally believe I had earned or could earn the good? Is God trying to teach me that God owns it all AND loves me in spite of what I have or don’t have? I am learning to trust God… come what may. God’s love for me can never be earned, or lost.
“In all of this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrong doing.” (1:22)
Asking God, “Why?” and telling God he is wrong is NOT the same thing. “Why” sometimes comes rushing out from the depths of our soul. It carries the assumption that God has a reason, or that there IS a reason for the events of our lives. Honestly, I don’t think there is a reason. Sometimes things just are! Like a snowfall in winter, or earthquakes, or faulty wiring causing a fire… Sometimes physical conditions are such that things happen. We are then called upon to respond. Either with trust and faith, or with distrust and accusations. Anger can be present in either personal response. God’s ultimate desire is to use what happens in our lives to draw us closer to God and invite us to be healthier, fuller functioning creations of God. We become fuller-figure expressions of the Imago Dei. Sin closes us off to God’s actions in our lives and leaves us more alone. Asking “Why?” actually shows we are opening ourselves more deeply to God.
Job 2:3- The same scene of heavenly accountability as in 1:6, with the same opening exchange between God and Satan. Job’s economic and familial circumstances had changed, but Job’s response to life and to God had not… nor had Job’s standing with God.
“’Skin for skin!’ Satan replied. ‘A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.’” (2:4-5)
Job sits in the ashes of his life, scraping the sores on his body with broken pottery. “Where is the purpose in this?” he must have thought. His wife attacks his faith and personal integrity in 2:9. “Give up Job… I have…” she seems to say. Job responds out of the frustration caused by the pain…
“You are talking like a foolish woman! Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (2:10)
It’s easy to understand where both people are…
Both afraid of their “out of control” lives…
Anger rising from an inability to change the past…
Deep grief from the loss of their children…
Awaiting the drop of the next shoe…
Questioning their security of life fundamentals…
But Job’s wife had to watch her husband’s health deteriorate. Formerly a healthy, confident, capable man. Now a dirty, diseased, bruised man. And yet… Job still trusted. His earthly resources gone, he still trusted God’s provision and plan, even though he couldn’t see it.
“When Job’s three friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar… heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.” (2:11)
A good start by these men:
• Get together…
• Get a plan…
Sounds like business men. And then…
“When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him;” (2:12)
Maybe they saw the dust and smoke rising from where Job’s house used to be. As they grew closer, they saw a lone figure seated amid the desolation. The figure did not rise to greet them as he would ordinarily have done. He had an unknown disease, so would’ve kept his distance, as would they, to protect against its spread. His friends wept at the destruction of their friend… yes… but also possible the destruction of their own feelings of invincibility. If this could happen to Job, could it not also happen to them? So… their grief for him left them quiet.
They couldn’t touch him…
They most likely could think of nothing constructive to do…
They showed wisdom, I think, in saying nothing…
None of them could relate to Job’s predicament, but they cared. So…
For seven days.
Job’s agony turns into the “Black Why?” His pain nudges him towards the slippery slope of disillusionment. All he previously believed about life and God were being attacked by his own faith immune system… his own questions.
“What did I do to deserve this?”
“How can I go another day in this kind of pain?”
“What do I do next?”
“How could God love me, yet do this to me?”
“This wasn’t supposed to happen to me!”
Finally, when he can’t figure out the answers to his own questions, and determines the search is futile, anyway; Job collapses into the “Black Why?”
“Why was I ever born?” (Chapter 3)
Everyone who has gone through prolonged pain and heartache is at least tempted to ask the “Black Why?” by the apparent futility of their life. As Henry Nouwen writes:
“A person of faith from long ago who asked and lived the difficult questions of existence was Job. A careful reading of the biblical Book of Job shows that Job’s questions were ‘answered’ by his friends, but not by God. As he lives his own questions in the face of suffering, all Job can say is, ‘The Lord gives and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.’” (Spiritual Direction, by Michael Christensen and Rebecca Laird. Pg. 6)
God has the decency and wisdom to leave unanswered questions we ask in despair, because “living out our questions” as Nouwen calls the process, leaves us with much more than answers. We gain a deeper, richer life. We also catch a clearer glimpse of our God-given value. So the “Black Why?” answers itself.
The challenge during the “Black Why?” is…
To keep living…
To keep walking…
And that is where my thoughts on Job concluded. The years since have been my attempt to do that. Just keep living and walking and listening and speaking, and questioning, and… live out my unanswered questions. I have found that as you live out those questions, the answers become not relevant, eventually. Because life changes, and the answers don’t really matter. I am finding that God lives in dissonance, and we must learn to hold seemingly opposite views in tension. Like needing to ask questions, but not needing answers…