DEVOTIONALS from the Book of Job
THE LIFE OF JOB - LESSONS IN HOLINESS AND HUMILTY
The Battle Enjoined in the Heavenlies
Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute
The last words of the first debate between God and Satan were ominous, to say the least. "Then Satan went out of the presence of the LORD" (1:12). In colloquial usage "All hell broke loose."
Under divine restraint Satan, however, unleashes a devastating series of catastrophes. There would be four: one after another rapid fire attacks on Job's possessions and family. The report of the messengers will become fearfully monotonous: "And I alone have escaped to tell you."
In that earlier day the wealth and prestige of anyone were directly tied to what he owned. In an agricultural setting, it would be his ownership of cattle and servants. Satan had accused God of having bought Job by giving him many material possessions. The thesis of Satan's attack was to prove conclusively that Job only feared God for what God had given him - a cynical accusation that Job was a mercenary. Satan would never believe that Job could love God only for who He is, a God of mercy and grace.
Satan had believed this premise since his incorrigible fall. "You were the anointed cherub who covers: I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God. You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you . . . . Therefore I cast you as a profane thing out the mountain of God; and I destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the fiery stones" (Ezequiel 28:12-19).
God would triumph by allowing Satan to remove all of Job's treasured possessions, plus his greatest possession--his children and his wife, but Job would still maintain his trust in Him. Job's love for God in such impossible circumstances did not waver. However, any time we may subtly question God's love for us thinking: "God doesn't love me because He allows this suffering." We walk on Satan's dangerous territory.
Job's Fourfold Devastating News
Job was totally ignorant of the debate in heaven. Satan masterfully delivered the first blow in a moment of innocent pleasure which had become a family custom. He would hit Job in the most unexpected moment and hope for a rash reaction. "Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house; and a messenger came to Job and said, ‘The oxen -500- were plowing and the donkeys -500 - feeding beside them, when the Sabeans raided them and took them away--‘indeed they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!"(vv.13-15).
The author had earlier made the point that Job, far from encouraging dissolute behavior by his children, actually was the priest of the family before God. For in just such possible occasions of reveling should they sin, Job would "sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, ‘It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.' Thus Job did regularly" (vv.4-6). What a tribute to Job's genuine love for God and his holy walk before his family!
The second messenger interrupts the first and brings more bad news: fire from heaven consumed the sheep -7,000 - and also the servants. And then the monotonous rhythm of: "and I alone have escaped to tell you!" (v.16).
With no time for Job to process this disaster, the third messenger interrupts the second. The Chaldeans raided the camels - 3,000 - and killed the servants: "And I alone have escaped to tell you!" (v.17). Ultimately possessions are only possessions; they can be replaced but the worst is yet to come.
The fourth messenger interrupts the third and delivers the "tiro de gracia" [Spanish-the last extra shot]. The breathless report of the messenger: Your sons and daughters were drinking wine in their brother's house "and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of house, and it fell on the young men and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!" (vv.18-19).
How can any mortal process so much bad news in such a short span of time? Again we must take into account the divine revelation of the scene in Heaven. Satan has made his crass accusation: "God, you have Job in your pocket. He serves you because you bought him." That accusation is common place and true in political circles; here it is laced with sarcasm and cynicism. God had Himself raised the question if Satan had had his "eye on Job;" He now faces squarely Satan's challenge to His divine integrity. In essence He responds to Satan's challenge. "You said it; I will allow you to do your worst, but you can't touch is life."
This is a staggering challenge to God by Satan, but it gives us an insight into God's confidence in the work of His own grace in the life of a true child of faith. The issue here is not Job, or Satan, it is God Himself. His grace is the anchor of the soul "both sure and steadfast and which enters the Presence behind the veil" (Hebrews 6:19). Such faith cannot be shaken by hell's all-out assault.
Job anticipates Paul's later paean of praise. "For I am persuaded that neither life nor death, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8: 38-39).
Job's Heartfelt Response Job 1:20 22.
In an abrupt physical response as expected in oriental times, Job rent his clothes, shaved his head as evidence of the deepest sorrow "and he fell on the ground and worshipped" - the two most amazing words. This was not a knee-jerk reaction but rather a heart response. In that one word "worship" is conveyed the highest expression of adoration, submission and sheer delight in God's holy presence.
Worship in its essence is centered on God alone, on His truth, grace and mercy. Worship expresses to God our loyalty and love. We glimpse this in Abraham, the father of the faithful, when with his young son, Isaac, approached the mount of his ultimate sacrifice. "And on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you" Genesis 22: 4, 5). Hebrews 11 makes it clear that in Abraham's heart he had already sacrificed his son and God, of necessity to keep His covenant promise, had raised him from the dead--a proof of faith's solid grasp of God's intervention in suffering (Hebrews 11:17-19). What an illustration of the divine mystery of suffering at His hand!
Job's sudden agreement in faith with God's inscrutable plan may take us by surprise. However, whatever the remaining dialogues with his friends and the tortured monologue with himself may be later in the book, Job's response is genuine faith at the level of his heart understanding. It could never be a merely emotional reaction.
The words that follow are concise. "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" (vv.21). The divine name is LORD or Jehovah, a reference to His special covenant with His people, is marked by love, protection and privilege. Job's first statement is stark reality, but his adoration raises his response to the highest heart acceptance in the face of his most dire circumstances.
Job was a man of heart faith. He lived before the Cross and so lacked much knowledge that we are blessed with. However, he believed God just as "Abraham believed in the Lord and He accounted it to him for righteousness" (Genesis 15:6). Job's faith was rooted in God, His integrity and His promise of the Messiah – the seed of the woman" (Genesis 3:15) - and God's covering of their sin. "The LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them" (Genesis 3:21).
From a truly regenerate heart, Job blessed the name of God. In Scripture the name of God is the totality and fullness of His divine person and attributes. While Job would not have intellectually grasped in that instance all that God was doing, he chose to accept and say thanks. "Praise is faith in full bloom" as Dr. F. J. Huegel, my early mentor defined thanksgiving and praise.
Lest we might underestimate Job's immediate response, Moses, the inspired author of the Pentateuch, adds, "In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong" (v.22). There is benefit sometimes in alternate renderings in another language. My life time ministry has been spent in Spanish ministry. The translators of Reina and Valera say: Job did not ascribed to God any oddity, out of character, act of purpose mistakenly taken [my translation]. Job did not blame God nor did he know the cynic taunt of Satan.
We will witness later the human confusion and limitations of Job's knowledge in his dialogue with his three friends and his monologue before God, but he never retracted his "Blessed be the name of the LORD." Job never questioned Jehovah's right to send suffering. Later he would say. "Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" (2:10).
Salvation in the Old and New Testament - A Balanced Perspective
The following sidebar is a theological consideration of salvation/regeneration in the Old Testament. In some circles there exists a certain tendency to compare the two Testaments. It is true the Old prepares the way for the fuller historical revelations of the New. Its truths are indeed often implicit, while in the New they are explicit. However, that assumption may unknowingly assign to the Old Testament virtually a second rating in our present knowledge of the theological truth of Christ's incarnation, death, resurrection and triumphant return. However, we must affirm that faith is not based primarily on head/intellectual knowledge in any age but rather on a deep heart faith and commitment to the character of God as revealed in both Testaments.
But a better approach is to see the two as complementary, granted the historical differences. In terms of God's person, holiness, mercy and attributes, the Old may be the richer in the revelation of promise and historical examples of faith. God's grace shines as brightly in the Old as in the New. Augustine has well said: "The New is in the Old concealed and the Old is in the New revealed."
The salvation of the Old Testament saints was by faith through grace – never by works; their standing before God is the identical salvation of the New. There is no inferior and then superior salvation. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written: ‘The just shall live by faith'" (Romans 1:16, 17). Take note of the quotation from Habakkuk, an Old Testament prophet.
Take special note of this masterful summary statement of the entire book of Romans that includes both Testaments with reference to the depth of salvation. To believe as defined as faith is mentioned four times in these two verses. Biblical faith is always obedient faith that commits to God's salvific design.
"For by grace you have been saved [in the past consummated at the Cross but now actively
available today -- present perfect participle] through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the
gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Ephesians 2:8, 9). This has always been the
definition of salvation in whatever age.
Hebrews, the Touch Stone of Our Common Faith
The Book of Hebrews offers a unique approach to the Old, a needed balance is grasped in the majestic introduction: "God, who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son [no article-the Son is the message]:" then follows the seven-fold description of Christ's eternal person. God has spoken and uniquely so in the Old as well as in the New.
Hebrews 11 heralds the gallery of faith, the human response to God's Word (Romans 10:17). I like to describe faith as "the outstretched empty hand that receives the offered gift of grace."
After the definition of faith come the ex cathedra of truth: "Now faith is the substance of things [realization] hoped for, the evidence of things not seen," The author proceeds to detail the faith of the elders (v.2), Abel, Enoch [we could add Job]. "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (vv. 4-5).Nothing can be any clearer than this statement of truth.
We, then, can rest assured that what God allowed as suffering in Job's life to refine and purify is what today He wants to do in your life and mine. May our response be as Job's. Let us walk with Him in the commitment to faith, in suffering and toward eternal glory.