A Well Run World

Victorian author Thomas Carlyle once said, “Job is the grandest book ever written with pen.”[i]In the introduction to Job the recently published Systematic Theology Study Bible says, “Job is a literary and theological masterpiece. It combines surprising narratives and heated conversations that test the mettle of its main characters. The book’s goal is wisdom, which here and other OT books amount to balanced living based on a proper understanding of God and people.”[ii]And lastly, in the introduction to Job the also recently published Spurgeon Study Bible says, “The book of Job teaches that suffering comes to everyone, the righteous and unrighteous alike. God does not always keep the righteous from danger or suffering. Ultimately God controls all of life’s situations, including limiting the power of Satan. God’s comfort and strength are always available to the trusting soul.”[iii]

Before getting into Job 1:1-5 allow me to make two introductory comments.[iv]

First, Job is a very long book, forty-two chapters to be exact. And while we are very familiar with the beginning and end of the story, most of us have no idea what to do with the middle. But ask a question here at the start, ‘Why is Job so long?’ Perhaps the answer is that God wants to take us on a journey. A journey that will take some time. Through this journey God intends to make you into a different person. How? By entering into, becoming familiar with, and being unsettled by the suffering of Job. And learning that when suffering is in view, there is no easy answer. There is no quick fix. So rightly handled, Job cannot be distilled to a few sermons and general application. You must enter it and listen carefully. But not only is Job’s suffering in view, Christ’s suffering is also in view. Indeed without Christ’s suffering coming into view in Job’s suffering Job would only be a record of unanswered agony.[v]

Second, Job is poetry. Other than chapter 1, 2, and 42 all the rest of Job is poetic and we must remember that. Poetry always has a personal take on something, aiming not just at the head but at the heart of the reader. Because of this on one hand poetry is well suited to speak to the needs of the whole person. But on the other hand we must recognize that poetry doesn’t often sum things up in neat and clearly defined categories. Rather it tends to slowly work on us, revealing deeper and deeper layers as we dive deeper into it again and again. Christopher Ash on this very point says, “You cannot ‘do’ Job as a one-day tourist might ‘do’ Florence.”[vi]

As you can imagine there have been many commentaries, books, sermons, and songs produced from these forty-two chapters. A glaring omission in most all of them is Christ. How are we to see Christ in Job’s suffering? To see this, I’ve chosen Christopher Ash’s commentary to be our guide. It is careful, compelling, and Christ-centered. I encourage you get a copy of it and read it devotionally at some time in your life. I promise, you’ll find it very worth your time.

So without further ado, let’s look into Job 1:1-5.

If I were to ask you ‘What kind of world would you like to live in?’ what would you say? We’d eventually all come around to similar answers I think. We’d like to live in a world where that isn’t fallen, a world where the wicked don’t prosper and the good aren’t trampled on. Our friends across the pond in the U.K. have a saying to describe a gathering or meeting of important people. When talking about it they say ‘the great and the good were there.’ Isn’t that the kind of world what we want? Where the great men and women leading our world always do good, governing with justly and humbly? This well run world is what we find as Job begins.

v1-5 tell us four things about this prominent man from Uz.[vii]

His Place

Job lived “…in the land of Uz…” We don’t know much of Uz in Scripture. We read of it in Lamentations 4:21 which says, “Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, you who dwell in the land of Uz…” So from all we can gather it seems Uz was a city in Edom, a pagan land east of the promise land. Notice here not mainly where Uz is but where it is not. It isn’t in Israel and Job’s story never really comes into anything having to do with Israel at all. Most think Job was a contemporary of Abraham so remember the Jewish people hadn’t become a people yet, they weren’t enslaved in Egypt yet, God hadn’t given His Law yet, and He hadn’t brought them into the promis land yet. Before all these things, here is a man named Job who should’ve known almost nothing of God, yet truly does know God, trusted in God, and worshipped God.

His Godliness

Of all the things we hear of Job in v1-5 one of the most important things we hear of is his godliness. v1 says it, Job was, “…blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” This same word that shows up here as blameless is used elsewhere in Scripture. In Joshua 24:14 it is translated as sincerity. In Judges 9:16 it is translated as integrity. God calls Abraham to walk in this blameless way in Genesis 17:1, and in Psalm 119:1 we find that blessing will come to those whose way is blameless. So when Job is in view, what you see is what you get. This is the opposite of hypocrisy, a pretending to be something outwardly while knowing it’s a different story inwardly. Centuries later Paul had to counsel Timothy on how to pastor those who “…had the appearance of godliness but denied its power” (2 Tim. 3:5). Job is refreshing for us to see, for he has the appearance of godliness because there was real godliness about him.

He feared God and turned away from evil meaning verticallyhe had a true devotion/love for God. He was an upright man meaning horizontallyhe was honest and moral in his dealings with others. Job was a man you could trust to give you counsel and a man you could trust to do business with. Job was a man with true piety, and is certainly an exemplary model for Christians in all ages.

His Greatness

In v2-3 we learn Job has seven sons, three daughters, 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 oxen, 500 female donkeys, and many servants. From these things there is only one conclusion we can arrive at, Job “…was the greatest man of all the people of the east.”

Seven sons was seen as something of a goal to aim at. Naomi’s friends describe Ruth as “…being more to you than seven sons” (Ruth 4:15). When the formerly barren Hannah has children she praises God saying in 1 Samuel 2:15, “The barren has born seven!” The number seven symbolizes a complete number, and in this culture sons were not only a help with daily work but were also a promise of an extended family lineage. What more could you want then seven sons? Well, how about daughters? Three of them to be exact, which is also seen as a number of completion. Job’s quiver is full and his life is blessed for it. And in addition to his children we see him having an enormous amount of possessions. When you combine all his animals and servants that manage his entire estate we come to see that Job is a man of great wealth and power. So great and so powerful that there is no one like this man in all the east.

On this point Christopher Ash says of Job in his commentary, “Job was, on a regional or local scale, what Adam was meant to be on a global scale – a great, rich, and powerful ruler.”[viii]Pause on this and note. Job was enormously blessed by God, and Job was immensely faithful. But we also notice that there’s another thing about Job we see in v4-5 that shows us more of the story.

His Anxiety

In v4-5 we see that each time his sons and daughters got together for one of their birthdays, a festivity, or a feast day Job grew anxious. He would call each of them to his house for a ceremony. Rising early in the morning he prepare a burnt offering for each one of them. As God’s people would come into being, be rescued from Egypt, and be given God’s Law, they were commanded to do burnt offerings as well. This offering was an expensive ceremony, where a whole animal was burned up in fire. The fire symbolized God’s anger toward sin, the animal symbolized the sinner, and that the fire would then consume the animal entirely symbolized what God would do to sinners for their sin unless redemption occurs. As Job did this for each one of his children, perhaps he pointed to it and said, ‘This one is for you’ until all his children would be represented in their own offering. Seeing this we can rightfully ask, ‘Why go to all this trouble and expense to do this after each family get together?’ v5 tells us, Job would think, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Job had a deep integrity that is clear, but he isn’t so certain about his children. This, Job did continually.

So, in v1-5 the stage set for what is to come. In v1-3 we meet the man himself and in v4-5 we see what he did continually. “This sets a happy scene with one shadow. The happiness consists in a good man being good, a pious man being a prosperous man. It is a picture of the world being as the world ought to be, a world where the righteous lead. It is ironically a world where the prosperity seems to be true.”[ix]The shadow is that even in this seemingly perfect setting something dark lurks beneath the surface. Job is anxious about it after every family gathering. Even in this perfect scene we learn two great truths. First, in the best and most materially abundant of environments the possibility still exists for men and women to curse God in their hearts. Second, only sacrifice – bloody, gory, wrathful, substitutionary, atoning, sacrifice – can cover such sinful hearts.

 

Citations:

[i]Quoted in Christopher Ash, Job: The Wisdom of the Cross – Preaching the Word Commentary, page 15.

[ii]Systematic Theology Study Bible, page 567.

[iii]Spurgeon Study Bible, page 640.

[iv]Ash, page 22.

[v]Ash, page 15.

[vi]Ash, page 23.

[vii]Ash, page 30-36.

[viii]Ash, page 34.

[ix]Ash, page 35.

Advertisements

The Gospel in Job 9

Job is a hard book to read.  We squirm when we see what happened to Job, we squirm when we recognize the same thing could happen to us, and we seem to squirm even more when we understand God Himself was behind all the events of Job’s life.  Many people point out the suffering and relief of Job in how it points forward to the suffering and exaltation of Christ, but I want to point out something different – something from Job 9:32-33, which says:

“For He is not a man, as I am, that I might answer Him that we should come to trial together.  There is no arbiter between us, who might lay His hand on us both.”

Before you move on from this and back to your duties of the day, stick with me.  In context, Job is frustrated.  He clearly does not know what we know as the readers.  We got to read chapter 1-2 and see the Devil come before the heavenly council ending up with Job to test, and test hard.  But Job does not know why these events have happened and by the time chapter 9 comes into view Job’s friends  have begun telling Job that these things have taken place because he has sinned.  Job responds by pleading the case for his innocence and is clearly frustrated with his friends.

In chapter 9 as he is talking through his frustration, Job mentions something strangely fantastic.  In 9:32-33 Job speaks about his desire for someone to be in between him and God, a mediator of sorts, or an arbiter.  The language of this is precious.  Job is yearning for someone to grab hold of him and grab hold of God and bring the two closer together.  The interesting thing here is that Job feels what every human being feels.  What is this?  We all feel that left to ourselves, God and us are at odds, far away, distant, estranged, and separated.  This feeling of separation from God, which feels more like exclusion, is the sinful human condition which causes most people to do all sorts of wicked things to get closer to God.

What Job desired, what every human longs for, God has already provided.  He has sent His Son into the world to remove the estrangement between Himself and us through the work of His Son Jesus Christ.  Galatians 4 says it like this:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Because God has sent His Son into the world, we can be estranged from Him no longer.  What Job desired, trusted in, had faith in, and looked at from a distance – we can taste for real.

“Have You Walked in the Recesses of the Deep?”

In the end of the book of Job, God asks Job 63 questions, all of which Job must humble himself and answer, “Not me Lord, only You.”

In Job 38:16 God asks Job, “Have you entered into the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep?”  Job obviously has not done this, but God has.  I often feel that the more I learn about God, the more I awaken to the fact that I don’t really have a grasp on Him at all that He is forever beyond my grasp.  Even though the more I seem to grasp His character, the more questions unfold about His being, actions, motives, heart, will, etc.  I often find answers in the Bible that open up more questions to me, so many that I will never have the time nor the life span to spend in hunting them down.  I often feel like Job.

I cannot ever exhaust a text of Scripture to the fullest but O’ how I yearn to be able to do so to know God more!  The more I dig, the further I see how deep the hole goes!  Is this a bad thing?  Heavens no!  It is overwhelmingly great feeling to me.  Because when I see how much deeper the hole goes than I thought, I realize that I have only scraped the surface of the joy I have in Jesus and that there is an infinite amount of pleasure that is yet to be attained in Christ by my little feeble sinful hands!

Charles Spurgeon felt this too and comments:

Some things in nature must remain a mystery to the most intelligent and enterprising investigators.  Human knowledge has bounds beyond which it cannot pass.  Universal knowledge is for God alone.  If this be so in the things which are seen and temporal, I may rest assures that it is even more so in matters spiritual and eternal.  Why, then, have I been torturing my brain with speculations as to destiny and will, fixed fate, and human responsibility?  These deep and dark truths I am no more able to comprehend then to find out the depth which coucheth beneath, from which old ocean draws her watery stores.  Why I am so curious to know the reason of my Lord’s providences, the motive of His actions, the design of His visitations?  Shall I ever be able to clasp the sun in my fist, and hold the universe in my palm?  Yet these are as a drop of a bucket compared with the Lord my God.  Let me not strive to understand the infinite, but spend my strength in love.  What I cannot gain by intellect I can possess by affection, and let that suffice me.  I cannot penetrate the heart of the sea, but I can enjoy the healthful breezes which sweep over its bosom, and I can sail over its blue waters with propitious winds. My Lord, I leave the infinite to Thee, and pray Thee put far from me such a love for the tree of knowledge as might keep me from the tree of life.

Will you join me in sailing on the blue waters of the Almighty?  Will you enjoy the healthful breezes of the sea of God’s Word with me?

I pray you will.  We cannot penetrate it to its depths, but we can enjoy it as fiercely as we can!

We Can Now Taste What Job Could Only Long For

Job is a hard book to read.  Not only do we squirm when we see what happened to Job, but we squirm even further when we dare to think that the same thing could happen to us.  Many people point out the suffering and relief of Job in how it points forward to the suffering and exaltation of Christ, but I want to point out something different – something from Job 9:32-33, which says:

“For He is not a man, as I am, that I might answer Him that we should come to trial together.  There is no arbiter between us, who might lay His hand on us both.”

Before you move on from this and back to your duties of the day, stick with me.  In context, Job is frustrated.  He clearly does not know what we know as the readers.  We got to read chapter 1 and see the Devil come before the heavenly council ending up with Job to test, and test hard.  But Job does not know why these events have happened and by the time chapter 9 comes into view Job’s friends  have begun telling Job that these things have taken place because he has sinned.  Job responds by pleading the case for his innocence and is clearly frustrated with his friends.

In chapter 9 as he is talking through his frustration, Job mentions something strangely fantastic.  In 9:32-33 Job speaks about his desire for someone to be in between him and God, a mediator of sorts, or an arbiter.  This is a precious reality.  Job is yearning for someone to grab hold of him and grab hold of God and bring the two closer together.  The interesting thing here is that Job feels what every human being feels.  What is this?  We all feel that left to ourselves, God and us are not close, far away, distant, estranged, and separated.  If we were to take God to task and square up to Him, we know we could not stand.  This feeling of separation from God, which feels more like, exclusion, is the normal human condition which causes most people to do all sorts of crazy things to get back into God’s arms.

What Job desired, what every human longs for, God has already provided.  He has sent His Son into the world to remove the estrangement between Himself and us through His life, death, and resurrection.  Galatians 4 says it like this:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Because God has sent His Son into the world, we are no longer estranged from Him.  What Job desired, trusted in, had faith in, and looked at from a distance – we can taste for real.

Categories Job