The Gospel According to Job

Today, I want to bring out this book, out into the spotlight.  It is a tremendous devotional that makes its way through the book of Job.  I have leaned on it, and it has held me nicely.  I challlenge you to get a copy of this, and to let it work in the confines of your spirit and mind. ––Bryan

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Excerpt from “The Gospel According to Job,” by Mike Mason

 

“An Honest Look at Pain and Doubt from the Life of One who Lost Everything”

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A“Once I met a man who, like Abraham, had moved his entire household halfway around the world on the strength of a vision from God. When I asked him to tell me the story, he answered that there were three versions of that story, and which one did I want to hear? First, there was the version of the story that he told to Christians. Then there was the version he told to non-Christians. Finally, there was the truth. Job is a book that tells things from the third point of view. Probably, along with Ecclesiastes, it does this better than any other book in the Bible.

Not that the other Scriptures do not tell the truth. But Job tells the truth in a way that makes it almost impossible to pervert the truth into pious pabulum. A few years ago I went through a difficult time. Never mind what the problem was. It was nothing compared to the trials of Job. In fact, it was nothing at all compared to the sufferings of many of my neighbors right there on the quiet street where I lived.

But pain is pain, and suffice it to say that my pain was enough to drive me to my knees, totally defeated, half-crazy at times, and crying out for relief. Month after month the battles raged on, thick, dark, agonizing. I prayed, but somehow prayer did not ‘work.’ Usually nothing at all worked, except lying low and gritting my teeth until, for reasons entirely obscure to me, the straightjacket of oppression began to loosen a little––at least enough for me to get on with my life for another day or so before the screws tightened again. What else could I do? How was I to fight this?

In retrospect I can see that a large part of my anguish was rooted in the fact that there really was nothing I could do to control what was happening to me. I was absolutely helpless, and it is this, perhaps, that is the soul of suffering, this terrifying impotence. It is a little taste of the final and most terrifying impotence of all, which is death.

We Christians do not like to think about being absolutely helpless in the hands of our God. With all of our faith, and with all of His grace, we still prefer to maintain some semblance of control over our lives. When difficulties arise, we like to think that there are certain steps we can take, or attitudes we can adopt, to alleviate our anguish and be happy. Sometimes there are. But anyone who has truly suffered will know that when it comes to the real thing there is no help for it, no human help whatsoever.

Simply put, when we are in a deep dark hole we cannot think our way out; neither can we hope, sing, pray, or even love our way out. In fact there is absolutely nothing either we or anyone else can do to better our situation. We can have faith, yes; but in itself faith will not change anything. Neither faith, nor any other good thing that a person might have or do, can actually lift the cloud, move the mountain, or bring about an end to the problem.

Only the Lord Himself can do that, and when He does, as Exodus 6:6 puts it, “Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke.” How will we know? Simply because nothing and no one else could possibly have done it. In this kind of crucible, therefore, we come to a new understanding of what it means to be saved, what it means to be snatched away from the brink of destruction.

Here we get down to the bedrock of the gospel. During my night of anguish, I turned to the book of Job, and there I began to make contact with the gospel in a way that somehow I never had in studying the New Testament. Reading Job, I found myself experiencing in new and astonishing depth the reality of Jesus’ promise in John 8:32,

 “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

 

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The Curious Case of Being Job

XIR84999 Job (oil on canvas) by Bonnat, Leon Joseph Florentin (1833-1922) oil on canvas Musee Bonnat, Bayonne, France Lauros / Giraudon French, out of copyright
Image by Bonnat, Leon Joseph Florentin (1833-1922) Musee Bonnat, Bayonne, France French, out of copyright

One of the most intriguing characters in the Bible is Job. Tempted and accused, ignored and maligned– he maintained a faith in God’s goodness when hell wanted to destroy him.

His goodness should not be questioned oe diminished.

“In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.”

Job 1:1

Job becomes an oblivious participant in a cosmic exchange. God and Satan lock horns over Job’s faithfulness. God is sure of his love, while the Adversary thinks Job will fold when repeatedly tempted. But keep in mind, Job hasn’t a clue of who or why. He has to deal with life that is an enigma wrapped in a mystery. Job will soon become intimate with pain and suffering.

“Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who God, and shuns evil.”

Job 1:8

Satan is like a pit bull. And God has pointed out the character of Job, and what an enticing “meal” he would make. It’s a bit like slathering bacon grease on him and turning him over to the nearest pack of wolves. Satan now pursues his prey.

Again, Job is completely unaware of this contest. No one has bothered to consult him directly about this. Job knows nothing about this ”wager.” And it’s hard to be kept in the dark. I contend that had Job  known what was going on, this all would’ve been far easier. However, everything would be “unscripted” and  Job would suffer in complete ignorance. And that is doubly hard.

“At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”

Job 1:20-22

But there was no sin! Job will not travel down that road. Yet he loses everything– all of it. And things are going to get even worse for him. He will be visited by three “friends.” However, they won’t help him. They will only make things worse.

The life of Job, and the “total war” on his soul must be our consideration and our precedent to order our lives.

The pain of Job should become the blackboard where we practice our figures. In the New Testament book of James, (5:11) we are told to think about Job. And in our deliberations, to consider the compassion and mercy of God. Ironic, in some wild cosmic way, our trials of faith are significant.

We should realize that if you or I are going to come out clean in this, we will need to emulate the faith of Job. I think that this what James meant in 5:10-11. We understand that Jesus absorbed all our sin and pain, completely. When we see that, we can come through just about any nastiness. It won’t make the trials any easier, but it will frame the full goodness of God.

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The Awful Pain of Job

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“Oh, why give light to those in misery,
    and life to those who are bitter?
21 They long for death, and it won’t come.
    They search for death more eagerly than for hidden treasure.
22 They’re filled with joy when they finally die,
    and rejoice when they find the grave.
2Why is life given to those with no future,
    those God has surrounded with difficulties?”

Job 3:20-23, NLT

Job begins to curse his existence and his words are saturated with frustration. He grieves for all of his dead children and is sickened by his afflictions. Job is a man pushed beyond the edge.

Job is the “poster child” of human suffering. He is completely without pretense as he openly grieves. He voices exactly what is in his heart.

Let us be clear about this; He is devastated, ravaged by Satan’s grim ministry. Job to his credit, is oblivious to Satan’s wager with the Almighty God. He has no clue that he has been chosen by God in this matter. The Lord keeps His secrets.

All Job knows is the pain, and there is the endless grief that even his tears can’t help.

In Job’s first speech he asks some basic questions:

  • Why is light given to those who are full of pain?
  • Why does life unfold to the one who rather not live anymore?

Death has a powerful influence in this three verses, He wants to die, and end the charade. He wishes for non-existence and laments that he can not die fast enough.

People with disabilities and chronic pain can understand Job’s desire for release. Once they were “whole” people. Death was something to be avoided at all costs. But now it is seen as an escape.

Hurting people will often turn to drinking and drugging as a way of coping. We’ll try anything to numb our thinking. It’s what gets us through the day. Oblivion has become my best friend.

For Job (the patron saint of pain) finds that nothing will fix him. His friends have come, but they seem to only accuse and confuse job. Honestly he is better when they just sat with him in silence.

“God wants us to choose to love him freely, even when that choice involves pain, because we are committed to him, not to our own good feelings and rewards. He wants us to cleave to him, as Job did, even when we have every reason to deny him hotly.”

–Philip Yancey

“Come quickly, Lord, and answer me, for my depression deepens. Don’t turn away from me, or I will die. Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.”

Psalm 143:7-8

ybic, Bryan

 

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Oh God, Why?

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“Why have you made me your target?…Why do you hide your face?…Why should I struggle in vain?…Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment?…Why then did you bring me out of the womb?”

Job 7:20, 13:24, 9:29, 24:1, 10:18

Didn’t Job get “hammered?” His monumental suffering is unparalleled in history. He is essentially a godly man who loses everything (except his faith). Job must pick up the pieces after “catastrophic ” sudden pain and total loss.

Job is being tested with the ultimate horrors. Will he “curse God and die” as his wife suggests? Will he cave in to the final four (his friends) and agree to their twisted theology? (You have to read chapters 38-39 to find out).

The Book of Job has been regarded as inaccessible and archaic by many. Unfortunately many believe this assessment and look elsewhere for comfort. I would agree that Job is a challenging book, but so is Macbeth or Plato. (I guess you should find an easier translation).

Job is less an explanation and more a revelation of suffering. “Why” questions go unanswered. “Who” questions matter. I suppose this seems unfair. It certainly seems so, but straight answers in a fallen world won’t get any mileage at all.

One more thing. The Book of Job is about “twisted” theology. Job’s friends “toe-the-party-line” of theology that is logical. But don’t be mislead by their pronouncements, for they seem reasonable but they are flawed. It is a doctrine without love.

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

1 Cor. 13:2

You can’t split theology from love and get away with it. When you read “Job’s friends” you must remember that. These are lessons it takes a long time to learn.

The broken believer, hobbled by chronic illness, has much to learn from Job. He is like “the poster child” for those afflicted. My mental illness is an issue (of course) but God is fully in control. He brings beauty out of the ashes.

“To bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.”

Isaiah 61:3, NIV

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