Saturday, March 5, 2011

Seven Lessons for Believers from Job

  1. Don't ask God to do you a favor... God does not owe you anything. We should not worship God for the blessings we hope to get. The Satan's primary accusation was "does Job worship God for nothing?"
  2. God is not a just God, nor is he an unjust God... He is Just God. To those who wonder why the innocent suffer, Job's answer is "they just do." To those who look for equity and fairness in life... who wonder why life is not fair — Job's answer is "it just isn't". Good deeds being rewarded and wrongs being punished is not always the way it happens, even though the Old Testament many times says it does. So we are brought to the point of doing good because it is good to do good and believing that virtue is its own reward.
  3. God's ways are not our ways. God is inscrutable. Not only is there much we do not know, but there is much we would not understand if we knew it. [quick aside: I am reminded of a time several years ago when I attended a revival with a pastor friend of mine. Being of the Southern Baptist persuasion, he held a dim view of emotional excesses. At the meeting, he was prayed over and was "slain in the spirit" as they say (i.e., he passed out on the floor). Later he confided that the experience "did not agree with his theology". ] And yet there is hope for understanding more and learning more. After all, what did the ancients know of electricity or nuclear fission or space or DNA? Are we not the ancients of future generations? W.S. "The God-given nature of man is to ask, to learn, to explore."
    We may not currently see order in the chaos, but that is not proof that there is no order. It only proves that we cannot see it. Our demand for justice on our terms lowers God to the point of a push-button dispenser... we put in certain behaviors, we get just rewards, whether good or bad. But God says, "Nothing doing! I am not here to serve you or to deliver your justice according to your understanding; you are here to serve me, even without perfect knowledge or reason or understanding." 
  4. Suffering is not evidence of sin. Job was as perfectly righteous as any mortal could hope to be. God himself said so and Job knew it was true.
    Job's friends, all of whom turned into accusers, held to the longstanding belief that you only get what you deserved... they even said as much. Even today, we want desperately to be able to blame the victim for their suffering. After all, if they deserve what they got... if God is punishing them justly... then it lessens our moral obligation to help them lest we interfere with God's plan to make them shape up. [Another aside... a friend told me about her mother's church. Her Pastor, Stan, told his congregation that they should not send any relief aid to the victims of Hurricane Katrina because God was punishing them for their sin. Pastor Stan — and countless like him — failed to learn a lesson from Job: that suffering is not evidence of sin. To those friends of Job who still insist it's true God says, "You have not spoken right about me."
  5. We are not alone in our misery. Those who turn to the Bible for comfort can find it in Job. Not only does it teach us that suffering is not evidence of sin, but also that punishment — if indeed we ARE being punished — is not evidence of isolation from God. Nobody walks alone; God is always with us. Job's expressed loneliness and feelings of isolation echo our own feelings when trouble has come upon us. But because we know that Job was wrong about being cut off from God, we can believe that we have not been cut off, either!
  6. God is in control. When God appeared out of the whirlwind, he took Job on an exhaustive journey of discovery, revealing the entire universe — from the stars in the heavens to the fish in the depths of the seas — and showing the intimate care he gives to all of it. And yet, as William Safire points out, he gives man dominion over the earth and human affairs on it. If all of creation continues by his unseen guidance, we can be assured that our lives are within his unseen guidance as well, even those times when it appears that chaos reigns supreme. Rather than boasting of his power, God is revealing the immensity of his responsibility and, by analogy, calling on mankind to fulfill our responsibility on the earth to "Act Justly; to Love Mercy; and to Walk Humbly with our God." (Micah 6:8)
  7. Suffering MAY be a blessing in disguise, or Suffering is not without purpose. One purpose for the prologue to Job is to set up the possibility that God is hiding the reason for our suffering from us. The encouraging word from Eliphaz the Temanite was "Happy is the man whom God rebukes... the hands that smite will heal". Elihu offered the same consolation later when he said "those who suffer he rescues through suffering and teaches them by the discipline of affliction."
    If God dispenses only good to us, then it stands to reason that our suffering will turn out for our good.

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