Have You Considered Job - 4.5.11 1110

Have you ever gone through the book of Job?

I’ve been reading it with some guys on (some) Monday nights, and not only has it sparked some lively discussion, but it has really gotten me to think about how old some biblical concepts are, specifically the concept of a Christ.

Job is allegedly one of the earliest written books of the bible. And while he is reputedly Semitic, he’s not an Israelite. So what we have with this book is an ancient perspective on God, as seen through the eyes of a non-Israelite, meaning we also have a nearly undeveloped image of God. Job does not have the Exodus event to draw on, or the Law to refer to. There is no Abrahamic covenant or promise of reconciliation through the seed of that covenant. All Job has is the raw, unrefined, basic understanding of God’s operation with humanity. If for nothing else, this book of poetry offers us a fascinating insight on, what is essentially, the old testament equivalent of a non-believer, and how this “Gentile” (for lack of a better word) sees God.

With a specific variable. Suffering.

Job tackles the most ancient of questions about suffering, God and sovereignty. What’s more, he has to try and answer it without scripture, a more “knowledgeable” holy man, or direct revelation. He’s confident in his innocence, yet doesn’t understand his predicament. 

Why me, he asks. If I have not sinned, why the injustice of this pain?

Job starts out nobly enough. I shall accept the curses as well as the blessings from God. But as the book goes on, and his friends become increasingly offended at Job’s tenacious grip on his blamelessness, Job begins to question God’s actions and Job gets more and more direct with his comments about God’s nature. He even describes God as the enemy and a voracious animal that is tearing Job to shreds for no reason at all. But the internal struggle he has towards understanding it all is clearly seen as he balances every angry word with a plea for mercy.  And this is where it gets good.

While living the life of luxury, Job’s view of God was one of love, mercy, kindness and justice. He is completely sovereign over the happenings of the world and he could be pleaded to for forgiveness of sins via animal sacrifice. We have every reason to believe that this is how Job lived most of his life, resulting in a deeply ingrained image of God. This is what he holds onto as the waves of suffering relentlessly hit him over and over. But as the depression sets in deeper and deeper, it gets harder and harder to fall back on this image. His words become angrier, more direct, less forgiving and is balanced out less frequently by images of kindness, mercy and love. There are moments of Job just basically saying, screw it, I don’t care. I have no hope; there is no one to intercede for me. If only there was a third party that would defend me against God’s wrath! Job sees his pleading falling on deaf ears and so wishes for someone else to plead with. In his depression, he sees no one… at first.

A vengeful, vindictive God who has a capricious nature does not mesh with the God Job grew up knowing. Surely God does not operate like this! He is not a God without mercy, yet I receive none from him. God would not allow the world to work like that, all mindless anger and destruction. And so Job’s logic, in the depths of darkness, leads him to an intercessor.

This intercessor, thus far in the book, is not ascribed divinity. Job calls him simply as his “witness in heaven,” his “friend.” And then he says, “on behalf of a human being he pleads with God as one pleads for a friend.”
Job’s basic understanding of how God operates with the world fights to remain in the spotlight. His infantile knowledge of God’s character does not allow room for a purely vengeful God. His logic is founded on the premise that there is justice, that there is an intercessor pleading with God, that there is someone up there to balance out the anger and to allow man to live. And this seems to be the secret of Job’s endurance through it all, that there is hope. Even if that hope isn’t coming directly from God, God has still allowed someone up there to advocate man’s interests. 

Because that is how God operates. 

He does not shut a door without opening another. He does not give us more than we can handle. And we know that as mankind’s situation became bleak and unsustainable, God’s intercessor prevailed and hope was born, an anointed one was sent, and look at that – it was God himself who came to the rescue!

I am not trying to suggest that God is always out to get us and Christ is always trying to defend us. But I am suggesting that this is how Job saw it. In his primitive worldview of God in simplest form, he was able to come to the conclusion we know to be true today.

Before Abraham.
Before the Law.
Before the Christ event.
Before divine revelation in written form.
Before elaborate theological debates over the three-in-one, predestination, or degrees of sovereignty.
Before clutter.

This was Job’s conclusion. His uneducated, unrefined, primitive conclusion based on nothing more than God’s basic nature of mercy.

When things seem beyond hope, what do you do? Where do you turn? Will you allow thoughts of an angry God prevail or can you remember, as Job did, that there is always hope, always a way out?

John said God is love. Think about how far you are willing to believe that.

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