Groaning With Job – 1


Blake_1793_Job's_Tormentors

The Book of Job is a powerful and insightful look into the providences of God and the mysteries which attend our living within those providences – sometimes with little means to understand what is going on. This is especially true when those providences lead us into un-explained suffering. This is Job’s dilemma.

Job asks throughout this chronicle – WHY? Why am I suffering so? This question, the perennial one we all ask in trial, is in fact never answered.

What Job does come to accept as enough of an answer is – WHO. He finds who is behind it all – His God. And in a final vision of His God in all of His glory, Job finds this God is worthy to be trusted.  Knowing who this Who is…all is well – even though Satan and his machinations are at work too.

Now the purpose of giving us the background regarding Job that he was “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” seems precisely aimed at preventing our assuming his trials are related to personal sin. Job’s sinfulness is the base assumption of His comforters. It is a vile assumption which must be crushed. When we live in a tit-for-tat universe, soon, every man is beyond mercy, and our prayers for them are nothing but foolishness.

What I would like to do here is attempt to paraphrase both Job’s words, and those of his comforters – Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar in a more modernized way so as to bring this amazing piece of sacred and Divinely inspired poetry into the frame of our own lives more accessibly.

The narration begins by telling us of Job’s uprightness, and of his considerable fortune and pleasant situation. Married with 10 children. Devout. Wealthy. Well respected – Job loses everything in a day. And who can rightly begin to understand the crushing weight of the loss of his 10 children in one day – let alone the rest of his suffering? It boggles the mind.

Such is our hero in this study. And each day I will give you a key to the portions I am paraphrasing – which might serve you much better if you read the Biblical text in full for that day. It is usually 2 chapters or at the most 3 – and can be read in a few minutes.

But let us note at the outset several framing thoughts.

1. 1:1 & 1:8 – God Himself announces that this is a good man. Perfect? No. But upright, blameless, one who fears God and turns away from evil. He is NOT a scoundrel bringing down just condemnation upon his own head.

2. 1:6 – Even Satan must give an account of his actions to God – he is not permitted to run unfettered in God’s universe. And in 1:8 – even Satan’s thoughts are known to God as much as our own.

3. 1:20 – In times of great distress, it is imperative that we guard our hearts by justifying God in it. The Enemy of our souls is after the turning of our hearts against God. That was evident in Satan’s words. To suspect God of capricious acts. To assign to Him dark or sinful motives. To think of Him as detached, hard, uncaring or even cruel. Not only will Satan tempt us toward this, our own hearts often feel the need to blame someone for every ill. God is often the first we blame – especially when tragedy strikes and it is of the kind that obviously is out of the ordinary – catastrophic. “Acts of God” we call them. Things we put in His domain and that He could have prevented. The battle is to preserve right thoughts of Him, for who else is it that is our strength and shield? Who is our help? Who alone loves us so that we can truly trust Him even in the unfathomable. Only God. If we allow ill thoughts of Him, we remove ourselves beyond all hope.

4. 1:22 – It is not sin in Job in looking to the ultimate hand of God above all. This is not to deny the Devil’s role – it is simply not to make the Devil the sole factor – and to be sure that He looks to His God, rather than trying to deal with the Devil himself.

In chapter 2 Job will call this “evil” – he does not pronounce calamity good. He sees the “badness” in it – yet he also recognizes God in His goodness overruling all.

Read Chapter 1 with these 4 thoughts as a backdrop – and we will begin to groan with Job in the following chapters.

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2 thoughts on “Groaning With Job – 1

  1. I have just started this series and may find answers to my questions later (as I move through your ‘series’ on Job), but my main struggle with Job has always been trying to understand the WHY. Why God would allow this, and other tragedies upon others, to happen. When I speak of such things, I speak of the events that occurred, not as a consequence or punishment, but seemingly ‘out of the blue.’ I know that I attribute human things to a perfect God, but my mind cannot fathom, nor reconcile, how an all-knowing, loving, all-powerful, just God has ‘allowed’ man to continue in such depravity and evil for so long. God weeps for his children, yes? Yet, it seems that there is no purpose or good in allowing us, the fallen sinful beings we are, to continue to destroy the planet, ourselves, and others. It almost seems trivial or something to state that the ultimate goal is to allow those events to ‘trust’ God or be closer to Him. I mean no disrespect when I say that, I just can’t justify such horrors in order for us to follow Him, especially when so many don’t as a result of these tragedies.

  2. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments Stephanie. And thanks for reading along.

    The questions you raise are important, probing and have been a source of human angst for as long as human suffering has existed. Theologians and Philosophers alike have a name for it: “theodicy.” If God is loving and good, how did evil arise and why does it seem as though God does not stop it? Every thinking person wrestles with these issues if they think very deeply at all. So you are far from alone.

    What I can’t do here is give a thorough reply, since there is neither time nor space, and to some degree, we do not have as complete answers as we might like. I don’t want to give you empty platitudes or quippy sentences that dismiss the seriousness of the things you are thinking through. But let me offer a few thoughts that may be helpful as you continue thinking things through. And if you prefer, rather than in this public forum, write me at my email address: reid.ferguson@gmail.com

    If we stop to consider how the Bible says we were created (by “how” I mean in what state) and the implications surrounding our creation – we arrive at some interesting pictures. Now I understand that the “answers” I propose may not be to your liking, but the ultimate question we have to ask is not whether or not we LIKE the way things are, but whether or not we have a truthful picture of how things are.

    The Genesis record says humanity was made by God as a special creation, and that humankind was brought into a world without sin and death and destruction as part of its normal state. It also argues that humankind was endued with free will as one aspect of being created “in the image of God.” Now it is obvious (I would hope) that “free will”, however we think of it has some restrictions. No matter how free one’s will is for instance, they cannot will to make a new primary color or to be a bird and not a human being or to make a square circle, etc. That only makes sense. Will, has its limitations. But the human will in its freedom also has the ability to make decisions that cannot be reversed once made. If I for instance decide in a crazed moment to poke out my own eyes, that act of my will, prevents my will from being able to restore my eyesight, no matter how much I want it. Or, say one willfully jumps out of an airplane at 30,000 feet. Whether that person has a parachute or not, no amount of willing, can stop their fall.

    This is a an apt illustration (despite its being a bit over simplistic) of what the Bible calls “The Fall”. Mankind in its first parents, by an act of the free will given to them as made in God’s image, rebelled against God’s command, and in the process, brought the very sin and death and suffering into the world that we groan through now. In all of its various manifestations. So we read in: Romans 5:12 (ESV) “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—”

    Let introduce one last thought. We might say “hey, that’s not fair, this ancient ancestor made a decision that plagues me!” Yep. That is the way the creation works. I do not know if you have children but they could rightfully say to you “hey, we did not ask to be born or brought into a world where there is suffering and pain and death – that’s not fair.” Truly, you made that decision for them, and they must bear the results. This is simply how life works.

    But it is in this very reality that we come face to face with the Gospel. For in the Gospel we see that Jesus Christ, as God’s own Son, was born into this fallen world, and by His death, paid for human sin so that all who believe in Him can be cleansed of their guilt, reunited to God and delivered from suffering pain and death. In the Bible’s terms, the death of this one man (Jesus) and its benefits, is given to us by faith, just as the disobedience of the first man (Adam) was given to us by natural birth.

    Let me leave it there for now, and please don’t hesitate to write back anytime, and we’ll try to dig deeper together.

    Reid

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