In this episode we look at the story of Job. This epic journey is widely considered the first book of Scripture ever recorded. The life of Job ebbs from triumph to tragedy. He is a man who God calls righteous but suffers through some the most tragic circumstances imaginable. Through it all, Job exercises his faith, a feat that fascinates angels. We will walk into the depths with Job and see how our choices, even in tragedy, affect eternity.
We talked about our epic two-minute ride, our adventure ride, our Snow White ride; and it’s going to take us through a lot of experiences and challenges, opportunities; and God’s going to use those to carefully weave together our lives so that we can grow. And these could well be described as the terrain of our journey. And though they vary wildly in scope and nature, they basically fall into one of three categories: You’ve got the valleys, the times of trial, the in-betweens, everyday life, routine, and the mountain tops. All three have their challenges; all three have their opportunities.
So today we’re going to talk about the downs, those difficult dark days where life throws us to the ground and then seems to stomp all over us: diagnosis of cancer, unexpected firing from a job, being betrayed by a close friend. It’s life in the dark valley. And most likely we’ll spend more time there than we would prefer; but each of these terrains provide their own unique challenges, opportunities, and dangers, but this valley experience is something we have to make it through.
We’ll start with a quote from a saint from the Middle Ages, a Spanish saint named Teresa de Avila. She said this: “God, no wonder you have so few friends. Look how you treat them.”
Job, the earliest written book
Well, you know, it would make perfect sense that the first words to mankind from God’s story, his epic tale that he tells us, would be “In the beginning God” because every great tale has to have a beginning. “Long ago in a faraway land,” or “Once upon a time.” So it’s no real surprise that the words of Genesis open with “In the beginning.”
But though Genesis tells us the earliest history, scholars believe the first written book begins this way: “Now there was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. Uz, not Oz. Why would God put the first written letter to mankind in the book of Job?
I started to understand this when I had a Job experience, one of these deep valley experiences, and I really suffered. And I found myself asking the same kind of questions Job must’ve. Why me? What is life about? Is this worthwhile? Why all this pain? Why can’t I just live a comfortable life and then go to heaven?
And I began to find answers to my questions in Job, and it’s really formed a real pillar of foundation for how I see life at this point. And I haven’t really lived life happily ever after after going through that valley, but I have learned how to live a sort of transcendent happiness, something that’s rooted in a perspective, and that’s what I hope to explain to you today.
God and Satan know Job individually
Well, when Job opens, we find all kinds of actors: God, Satan, angels, and men. But it’s interesting, the focal point of this grand epic tale, it’s one person, the man Job. Isn’t that cool? God deals with each one of us individually. Jesus said every hair on our head is numbered. How much God cares about us individually.
And what we know about Job is God really, really liked Job. He was his favorite guy. Well, what is it that God will do for the man he seeks to honor? We’ll see.
Blessings for those who suffer for righteousness sake
The book of Job hits at the heart of what it really means to be in this world. Job goes through trials none of us would choose. At one point, Job even wishes he had not been born. His best friends show up and chastise him. His wife ridicules him. His kids are no longer alive to comfort him. Little wonder why Job’s overriding request to God is, “Let me have my day in court! Let me show you how you’ve erred! Then we can straighten out this mess!”
Have you ever thought that way? If you’re old enough, you’ve felt this too; I certainly have.
We really need the book of Job. It makes great sense as to why it’s the first written story to instruct us on our two-minute adventure. It lets us know why the ride’s, well, a ride.
In 1 Peter 3:14, the Apostle Paul says real happiness comes from suffering for being righteous; but if you should suffer for righteousness, sake you are happy, he says.
Since Job’s declared by God to be the most righteous man around, we’re going to have to understand something about Peter and God’s idea of a happy ride. Job’s pilgrimage allows us to understand what happier and wealthier really mean from God’s perspective.
Our adversary in life
And most importantly, why we need it, why it isn’t better just to go to the Snow White’s Scary Adventure ride, just skip to the exit and wait for the grown-ups to come off. Oh, that would certainly make Satan happy. It’s an option. It’s not a good option.
We have an adversary inciting and opposing us every step. Everything in Satan’s playbook toward us is designed to erode and neutralize our faith, to sabotage our confidence in God. God has our best interest at heart, and that’s one of the hardest lessons to learn. That is the core essence of what it means to walk by faith.
The ride of life is epic
And the book of Job also helps us to see this ride is cosmic. It’s epic. It’s affecting everything in the universe and all eternity, each one of our own personal rides. Because of Job’s perseverance and trust, angels danced, demons sulked, Satan went home with his tail between his legs.
The journey of Job shouted not only to the seen inhabitants of the earth but also the unseen inhabitants of the heavenlies, that trusting God through life circumstances leads to knowing God.
Our only opportunity to know God by faith
And the opportunity we have to know God by faith during our two-minute ride, that’s it. Just this two minutes. It’s the only chance we get to know God by faith. It can’t be reproduced in heaven. There won’t be any faith in the new earth. You can’t trust something you already see. It’s not possible.
This fleeting life is it. One speck in our existence, one wisp of vapor and then our two-minute opportunity will be gone.
The angels are fascinated by faith
There’s a fascinating passage where Peter writes that the gospel of message has been sent by the Holy Spirit and these things—this is 1 Peter 1:12—these are things which angels desire to look into. And the Greek here gives a picture of the angel stooping down like an archeologist studying an artifact.
And Paul says something very similar in Ephesians. Ephesians 3:10. To the intent that the manifold wisdom of God is revealed by the church to—who? Who would you think the manifold wisdom of God would be revealed by the church to? You probably think the world, but that’s not it. Maybe believers? No. —the manifold wisdom of God is revealed by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,
Well, why are the principalities and powers in the heavenly places stooping down like an archeologist to understand God by looking at us? Where have they been for eons of time? In heaven. Who’s their teacher been? God. Is he an insufficient teacher? What have they seen with their own eyes? God!
Then why are they stooping down to understand us to know the wisdom of God? It can only be one thing that I can think of and that is angels know nothing of living by faith. Only people, fallen, frail men and women like you and me are put in the predicament and amazing opportunity of living by faith in this life, a life where God’s masked his presence for the time being.
Last week, Mark played a video, and it said we can’t see, but we can see the results of. How do you know there’s wind? You see the leaves. We can see plenty of evidence that there’s God, but we can’t see God, and that makes all the difference. It’s a huge deal! We take it for granted, but the angels are craning their necks to get a better look.
Whenever we turn our back on a secret sin, we’re changing the world. Refusing to lash out at our spouse, we alter the cosmos. Being generous to those in need, a change forever in our capacity for happiness.
C.S. Lewis wrote that even just sitting down and enjoying a cup of tea changes eternity if we do it in thanksgiving and gladness.
We just put one faltering foot in front of another on this step of life through all this terrain. We’re being used by God in cosmic, universal proportions. But it doesn’t seem like it to us. It just seems like everyday life. It just seems like we’re in a position we shouldn’t have to be in.
You ever want to do something great for eternity? Well, God designed your personal epic adventure just so you could alter human history forever. And what he wants us to do is simply walk by faith.
A conversation between God and Satan in heaven
Let’s look at Job’s saga more closely. The book of Job, if you want to turn to it, we’re going to be going through and looking at pieces of it. The book of Job begins with an unusual scene, a conversation between God and Satan in heaven.
Now this is not a heaven with puffy clouds and harps and cherubs running around. It’s more like a reception room, it made me think about the Oval Office.
The sons of God come to check in, the angels, to give an account of themselves; and Satan is among them. Isn’t that interesting? Satan’s in heaven.
You know, heaven’s not necessarily so much who’s there, but what their relationship is with God.
Well, so Satan comes and checks in, and God says,
“From where do you come?”
Satan says, “Well, from going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”
And God answers, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”
Now, is God actually checking for information? Does an omniscient God need to know facts? Not really. No, this is really smack-talk, really, is what it is. It’s cosmic, in-your-face talk. He’s mocking Satan. “Have you really looked at this human being who of his own free will does what you were supposed to do but didn’t? Fear God and shun evil. Job’s my main man! He’s making you look awful, Satan.”
Of course, Satan answers trash talk with trash talk, “Does Job fear God for nothing?
Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side?
Why say this? Well, you know satan is actually a job title. It means accuser. His given name is actually Lucifer.
Satan’s basic charge is that Job is just a shrewd businessman. He’s not righteous; he just understands a good bargain: Serve God, get the goodies.
Nobody goes into Satanism for love of Satan. They go into it for some benefit that they perceive, power or pleasure. The devil’s just accusing Job of being—ah, he’s just pay-to-play. You’ve given him everything! Big family, security, wealth—Job was basically an ancient billionaire—camels, you know, like a transportation company. If you have a trading company, you probably have a bank. You got oxen. You got farming, land interests. You got donkeys. You basically own a car factory. I mean, he’s a mega, mega business owner.
What does Satan say about that? “Well, you’re just bribing Job to get his obedience. I would do that. I do that all the time!”
So God tells him to go ahead and have his way with Job, just don’t let a hand on his body.
In one day, the entirety of Job’s possessions is plundered. Servants are murdered. All of his sons and daughters were killed in an accident. And the way Satan did it, he was making sure that there was no doubt that it was a supernatural event because it all happens simultaneously from completely different occasions. And the basic message is, “No more goodies for you, Job.”
What does Job do? Look at 1:21. He strips himself naked, shaves his head, falls to the ground, basically an ancient Near Eastern way of mourning, and Job worshiped.
And he said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Did you see the word Satan hates so much there, worshiped? Strip Job of absolutely everything dear to him in life, and not only does he still choose God, he even worships God. God 1; Satan 0.
But note the final verse of chapter 1, 1:22. In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.
This is going to be really important as we go through this and see his three friends’ communication with him.
Scene 2 in heaven; Satan strikes Job’s body
Well, if Satan’s anything, he’s relentless. Scene two in heaven’s almost an exact rerun, but now more material for mocking. Look at 2:3.
Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And then he adds, And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.”
It’s interesting that God takes responsibility for Job’s ruin. While Satan actually did it, God authorized it. Satan is always subservient to God’s sovereign purposes, even when he thinks he’s winning out.
And again, God permits Satan to test his charge that Job’s still in the get-the-goodies mode, and this time with his health. Job 2:4.
So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life.
But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”
And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.”
So Satan leaves. You can almost hear him chuckling. He strikes Job with boils, skin cancer, soles of his feet to the crown head. And Job takes a piece of broken pottery and just starts scraping himself. He’s totally miserable.
Job’s wife tests him
And at this point his wife tests him. Job 2:9.
“Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!”
So now I guess we know one of the reasons that Satan spared his wife. It’s just so she could add insult to injury. But here’s what Job answers. Incredible grace! I mean think about all this guy’s gone through. And he says, “You speak as one of the foolish women—” Yeah, you’re better than! This doesn’t speak as a foolish woman! You’re not foolish.
So here we have broken Job ministering to his wife. God 2, Satan 0.
But then again there’s this interesting sentence which closes out this episode. Job 2:10. In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
Job’s friends test him
Again, this is going to be really important as we consider what Job’s about to hear from Eliphaz and his two friends.
The trial continues. This time the trial is from his friends, the people ought to be comforting him.
Now it’s really important to note that Eliphaz and his two friends who show up actually are amazing friends. They genuinely care about Job. They’re just misled.
Consider this: They come, and they sit for seven days mourning with Job, and no one says a word. Would you do that? Sit for seven days? In the ancient Near East, the aggrieved would always speak first, so they waited for seven days for Job to say something. I wouldn’t do that. That’s amazing friendship!
So then Job begins to speak, and the dam breaks; and, basically, the next 30 chapters or so is a conversation with these friends. And you can look in 8:5, and you can see kind of the basic gist of what Eliphaz and his two friends say: Job, if you would just
—earnestly seek God
And make your supplication to the Almighty,
If you were pure and upright,
Surely now He would awake for you,
And prosper your rightful dwelling place.
Though your beginning was small,
Yet your latter end would increase abundantly.
And this is basically what they say all throughout. Look, you must have done something really wrong because God doesn’t punish the godly; he only punishes the ungodly. So just figure out what it is and repent; and once you repent, God will restore you.
You would think Job might embrace this readily. Just confess it, and it’ll go away. Just have enough faith, and it’ll happen! There’s just one problem. Job is a man of the utmost integrity.
These guys are saying, make a plea bargain, and you can get off! And he says, “But I didn’t do anything! I don’t know anything to repent of! If I do that, I’m just manipulating.”
What Job does say
Look at Job 6:8, and we can see what Job does request. He’s not going to do something without integrity, but here’s what he does say:
“Oh, that I might have my request,
That God would grant me the thing that I long for!
6:24. “Teach me, and I will hold my tongue;
Cause me to understand wherein I have erred.
He’s hurting and miserable, but he’s still righteous. But what he really wants to know is, can I have my day in court with God? Can I understand why this is happening? And the gist of what Job wants is to get with God, get an audience with God, and explain to God the missing perspective God must have because if he just understood what he was missing, then he would right this wrong.
Look at 13:18
See now, I have prepared my case, Job says.
I know that I shall be vindicated.
19:6. Know then that God has wronged me,
And has surrounded me with His net.
In our age we might hear a more summarized version of this: how could God let this happen? You ever said that? We might not speak so poetically as Job does, but the complaint’s quite familiar.
Look at 23:2-5, Job speaking.
“Even today my complaint is bitter;
My hand is listless because of my groaning.
Oh, that I knew where I might find Him,
That I might come to His seat!
I would present my case before Him,
And fill my mouth with arguments.
I would know the words which He would answer me,
And understand what He would say to me.
Would He contend with me in His great power?
No! But He would take note of me.
There the upright could reason with Him,
And I would be delivered forever from my Judge.
Job’s ready to enter the courtroom. He believes he’ll emerge victorious. Look at those words. “He would answer me. He would take note of me. I would be delivered forever from my judge.”
So, now, it’s important to note that Job acknowledges God has a right to do whatever he desires. He never questions that. Apparently, Job sees God as somewhat distant, missing this perspective that Job can offer.
What God says to Eliphaz and friends
But before we see how God deals with Job with this request for an audience, which Job gets, let’s look at how God deals with Eliphaz and his two friends.