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DEVOTIONALS ON THE BOOK OF JOB

Studies by Dr. Gordon (Ernesto) Johnson

THE LIFE OF JOB - LESSONS IN HOLINESS AND HUMILTY   (4)

The Ultimate Assault Under Divine Restraint

Job 2: 1-9

Dr. Gordon E. Johnson

Rio Grande Bible Institute

The first assault on Job by Satan was devastating with the sudden loss of all his worldly possessions--cattle and servants. The loss of all his children at one fell swoop was a far greater loss and beyond immediate comprehension. "A great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young men, and they are dead." Then for the fourth time Job heard the ominous words – "and I alone have escaped to tell you!" (Job 1:19).

In the impossible process of understanding the fourfold assault, Job's first response was the shaving of the head and the rending of his garments.  "He fell to the ground and worshipped." But the unusual response of faith was, "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" (v.21).         

In our attempting to appreciate Job's resolute faith, we must constantly remind ourselves that Job knew absolutely nothing of Satan's previous audience in heaven.  God had set the limits to Satan's worst efforts. Job had been walking with the Lord, not aware of any conscious sinning on his part; he was a faithful priest for his family offering sacrifices in their behalf. He could discern no reason for such overwhelming tragedies.

In addition, Job did not have the New Testament promise that we enjoy: "No temptation [trial] has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Job's faith, as the faith of Abraham when he offered up Isaac, was not grounded in his intellectual knowledge of God's truth but rather in the felt reality of God Himself and the trustworthiness of His promise of a Messiah already revealed to His own.

The Second Assault of Satan   – "The Worst Is Yet to Come"    Job. 2:1-9

The second heavenly audience of Satan amid the angels in God's presence duplicates the first almost verbatim.  God asks Satan where he comes from; his answer is standard – to and fro to oppose You and Your people. Again God asks him if he has had "his eye on Job." That fact is taken for granted; with that God makes an even greater statement in Job's favor: "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 still he holds fast to his integrity, although  you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause" (v.3).  What a defense from God Himself!

Satan with the same cynicism and brash retort, "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." Satan has thrown down the gauntlet to God who in response says, "Behold he is in your hand, but spare his life" (vv. 4-6).

The stage has now been set for the most profound example of suffering any believer has ever experienced.  God will defend His own person against the adversary. In so doing He verifies the trustworthiness of His grace and the faith of Job, limited in his understanding of God's ways. What a test of faith awaits Job! 

God will ultimately triumph, but it will be in a chastened Job with a deeper inward work of holiness and humility. All this suffering will be to the end that God might bless him doubly in his life, family and ministry. Such discipleship comes with a cost to the "old man" but introduces the wonder of the new man – "Christ in us the hope of glory."

 

Satan Goes Out from the Presence of the LORD    Job 2:7-10

Satan makes his final attack with vengeance. He has Jehovah's final permission with only a single limitation. "Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life." This is the final word; the battle is joined, but the sovereign Lord has set the boundaries. That one limiting feature establishes that the sovereign Lord still has the final word and will accomplish His sovereign purposes in Job's behalf.  But Job can only respond in faith without any knowledge of the final outcome.

 

"Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with painful boils             from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head"  (v.7). Satan has his limit. Job has what was called in that day a form of leprosy that led to his exclusion from society. [1] It was one thing to be stricken with a painful disease but at the same time one that rendered the richest man a social outcast!

The battle is joined and Job must walk by faith.

Once again God has established the limits of the furnace of affliction. Such limits Job neither knew nor could he understand. His faith will be tested to its nth degree. But grace will triumph.  We will later see the process and the cost to Job of the purification of his faith.

With a touch of irony, the author of Hebrews quotes verbatim the counsel of Eliphaz, directed earlier mistakenly to Job. "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives" (Job 3:11, 12; Hebrews 12:5,6).

But God's chastening, in whatever form it may take, is for our ultimate good and future glory. "Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:11).

The essence of faith is its lack of sight and the unknown future until divine illumination comes in response to faith and obedience on Job's part. To say the least, Job was walking in the dark. Remember he had no New Testament to illumine his path. We do not know how much time had elapsed between the first divine permission and the second, but God is the one who measures the flame of His furnace and will not allow us to be temped above what we are able to bear.

Where do we find Job?  From the affluence of his wealth surrounded by family and envious friends, he sits on the ash heap. In that day the village excrement was carried out of the city and regularly burned; the sun warmed the ashes.[2] Job, the wealthy leader once envied by all, becomes the village spectacle. We may imagine the neighbors commenting on his new location. In public full view he sat alone, scraping himself with a potsherd.

One cannot measure the depth of the trial that Job suffered. From the richest and greatest man of the east in two short bouts with Satan, he is without possessions, family and health; he is about to hear his own wife's counsel: "Curse God and die" (v.9). That is adding mischief to misery.

Job‘s response of faith, tested to the very limit, is beyond our comprehension.  Remember that "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence/realization of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). Job's present circumstances were the epitome of one rejected by friends and associates and maybe by God Himself. You can be sure that the adversary would have made that suggestion.

In the most terse and cold manner possible, his long suffering wife had pronounced her curse. To that Job responds "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good  from God, and shall we not accept adversity?"  His rhetorical statement silenced his last hope of consolation. 

The editorial comment of the inspired writer of the Pentateuch attests to Job's moment of victory.  "In all this Job did not sin with his lips" (v. 10). The tongue can be the thermometer of the heart and Job's faith stands triumphant. However, as Job processes his trial and his friends' misdirected counsel, he will unleash his tongue in heart confusion and agony of heart. But he never acceded to Satan's boast; God would hold him steady through the mystery of suffering. But He will emerge chastened and doubly blessed.

Job's lot cannot be measured in terms of your suffering and mine. Without the full light of the  Cross and with the sudden and most abrupt loss of every human support, his faith was put to the supreme test. Why would God try Job in such a manner?   God ways are past finding out, but He is moved to test so He can in turn bless more abundantly.

In one sense Job becomes a forerunner to the Son of God who suffered infinitely beyond anything we could imagine. His Father turned His back on Him. "And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying: "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?"  that is, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27: 46).  He died alone as a perfectly sinless substitute.  He bore the full weight of the sins of the whole world - yours and mine.

An Approach to the Mystery of Today's Suffering Foreshadowed  in Job's Suffering

A reasonable question remains. Why did God put Job to the test when He Himself had said twice: "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? . . . you incited me to destroy  him without cause" (Job 2:3).  After the two bouts with Satan's worst attacks, Job's faith stands strong. What more should we expect? The book should logically end there, but instead 40 more chapters develop the depth of suffering that he endured. What was God seeking to do in Job?  That is the challenge of the book.

Evidently God still had a necessary work to do in Job, a deeper work revealing His capacity to refine further a good man and reduce him to the two step final response and immediately the double blessing that God had in store for Job. After the first round of God's questioning, Job is humbled (39,40). "Behold, I am vile; What shall I answer You? I will lay my hand over my mouth " (Job 40: 4).

And after the second round of questioning by God (Job. 40, 41), he responds in deepest contrition: "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (42:5, 6). God had done the work He had purposed to do and blessings now flowed. What was that work? God had to reduce Job's self-righteousness which for the first time Job owns and fully confesses. For God "mission accomplished."

This process of coming to the end of self- rule, "hating our own life also," has always been God's plan for those He blesses and uses: Jacob fought with the angel and forever limped but was given in grace a new name, Israel – "you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed" (Genesis 32:28); Joseph had to be betrayed and sold by his own to come to the throne  and save his brethren (Genesis 50:20); Moses had 40 years of the wilderness and the burning bush (Exodus 3:4-6); Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up and said "I am undone [in Spanish I died]" (Isaiah 5:5). John the Baptist stated the truth concisely, "He must increase and I must decrease" (John 3:30).  This truth is the Message of the Cross, our greatest challenge to our faith.  

Job's Sufferings in the Light of Christ's Discipleship Demands Today

Job, then, is seen in the smaller focus of one man's walk with God and his sufferings, but we may attempt to discern God's overriding purpose in the larger focus of the New Testament believer.  In the teaching of our Lord He made a consistent demand in unequivocal terms. In fact, it is repeated some 6 times in the Gospels. "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14: 26, 27). This categorical demand is often accompanied by the identical truth couched in a paradox.

Earlier Luke had recorded a similar version. "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whosoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it" (Luke 9:23, 24).  These are fundamental demands never to be minimized. 

The underlying truth is that God at the Cross did indeed cancel, put to death the former dynamic of the believer, his "old life," his ego, his selfishness and pride. This is precisely what God did through His sinless Son, our substitute, to the "old man" at the Cross. This is the other half of "so great salvation" (Hebrews 2:3) so often passed over today in the interest of so called "leadership." True discipleship or leadership - that term sounds more impressive to our pride - is really a Biblical reference to sanctification in terms of service.

Paul in Romans 6 Outlines the Death/Resurrection Mid Process

Paul devotes Romans 6, the entire chapter, to expound on the "how," the "when" and the result. In my 66 years of ministry experience, Romans 6 seems to be the least referred to of all the chapters of Romans, but it opens to us the foundation to our Spirit-filled walk of victory in Jesus.  I never tire of returning to its liberating secret.

Paul goes to the heart to the matter, our union with Christ in death to sin: "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin [the sin principle singular, not sins plural] that grace may abound? Certainly not. How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" This rhetorical question can have no other answer but no, never.

In the following three verses (vv. 3-5), Paul analyses his conclusion and then synthesizes it concisely. "Knowing this [not our intellectual knowing, nor a mere theological positional abstraction] that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with [its power rendered null and void] that we should not serve sin" (v.6 - the key verse]. This is what God did, once and for all, cancelling the power/authority of the old life. He did it; we can never by our best efforts achieve it.

However, our response is seen in our faith grasp of this truth. God did it; it was accomplished for us and which truth we can only believe, affirm, give thanks for and embrace its implications. Note the powerful comparison that follows.  "For the death that He died, He died unto sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God," to which we say an easy AMEN.  But this comparison is the springboard to the application that is the pivot of our response. "Likewise you also, reckon,[count] yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our lord" (vv.10,11).

What follows now is possible as the result of what God did. We add only faith and counting on His Word, our daily and heartfelt faith. On the authority of His death and our identification with Him, we can now no longer  let sin reign (v.12); we don't present our members to sin (v.13) but we do present our renewed will God (v. 13) and sin does not reign in our members because we are not under law/our best efforts (vs. 14).

Where faith is the Holy Spirit does His faithful work. We don't need to ask for His help. Notice that Romans 6 says nothing about reading and mediating in the Word. That necessary discipline of the Christian walk will surely come in due order as the fruit of faith, but our doing is never the means to victory. It is rather our believing what God did once and for all at the Cross.  Here many sincere expositors lose their way and set up a new set of  "good works" for us to do.

In brief and in conclusion, God was seeking to strip Job of every source of human confidence – possessions, dearest family relationship and His own life also in order to deal pointedly with his ego, his self-righteousness, his hypocrisy. Such a work of grace could only be done in the crucible of suffering. Therefore, in all sufferings, in whatever form they may take, God is dealing with our "self-life" in order to bring it to the Cross and, in turn, so to share His risen life in us, Job's double blessing.



[1] Jesse-Penn Lewis, p.28

[2] Jesse-Penn Lewis, p. 28.