The Bible Experiment Job
(Wherein I read every single book of the Bible and write at least a thousand words about each one.)
“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 is one of the greatest works of literature written in the entirety of human history. I am pretty well read, and my tastes run far and wide… so I know what I am saying here. Last time I wrote, I wrote about Esther and spent quite a bit of time talking about the Shakespearian-ness of the book. Well, Esther was marvelously plotted, but it can’t hold a candle to to Job when it comes to the Shakespearian classification system.
But you know this already, because everyone knows the book of Job. Whether you are a Christian or not, or whether you’ve ever read the Bible or not, you know exactly what Job is about. I’m sure of it. Because Job is one of those amazing stories that is both beautifully personal and yet utterly downright scary. The scope of Job is one man, and yet at the same time it isn’t… it’s actually vast and eternal. Ultimately it’s about you. It’s about me. It’s about the lives we lead, and enormous problems we face in this world.
But ultimately, Job is about the problem of pain in this world.
A while ago, I posted about the meaning of life the universe and everything and had an amazing, and long running conversation with Jane about it. And actually we’ve gone back to continue discussing it occasionally. In the post, I posited that the true meaning of life is to acknowledge God and His love, and love Him in return. (Bad summary, read it yourself.) And Jane began asking this question…
“The only problem with the theory of a single benevolent God is – the suffering and destruction in the world does not fall in line with it…”
And literally 20,000 words later, our conversation about pain and suffering and God continued. This question that Jane poses for us is the single most popular question when it comes to God. Nothing ever comes close. Why does a perfect God allow pain and suffering? Why would any God cause suffering? If God is good why is there death in the world? These are all strands of the same question. And the book that most addresses this question in the Bible (besides Genesis and the Fall of course) is Job. What?!? How is that physically possible? The guy gets pounded by an asteroid and is expected to be cheery about it!? Tut tut tut… wait for it. All good things come to those that wait.
So I think we all know the story of Job pretty thoroughly… but I’ll do a super quick walk through of it all the same (after all, I do have to get a thousand words in somewhere? Hahaha… that won’t be a problem.) Basically job is successful. Ultra-super successful. Billions of cattle, sheep, oxen, etc… and a baker’s dozen children. Just everything anyone could ask for (minus the big screen TV and Xbox of course.) Then one day when the angels were assembling before God, Satan makes his way up to God and chats about this guys Job. God is proud of Job, but Satan is certain that if he lost all his stuff and his family he’d curse God.
“One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
And so it goes. Job’s world implodes from here forward. Fire from heaven hits his sheep. Chaldeans run off with his camels. Minutes later it comes out that his kids were celebrating in the house when a huge wind hit the house and killed them all. (Kid you not.) And within minutes basically Job is destitute. Oh, and he gets some sort of of a plague that gives him boils – which he used clay pot shards to scratch.
And just like that Job is completely without hope. Lost. Now the question is this. Once destitute… will he curse God, and walk away from his faith, and his creator?
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Which is not unlike the question put before you today. We all are dealing with heavy and profound crap like this. Maybe we didn’t all lose our children, and the entirety of our wealth in an afternoon. But just in my circle of friends, I know of people with brain tumors, metastasizing cancers, suicides, unemployment, just chaos of various stripes and permutations. You do to. And maybe many of these things have recently happened to you. I’m gainfully employed, at a wonderful company, and have a lovely family, and a beautiful wife… and even still my life is filled with chaos and strife. It’s just the way the world works.
So the question I put to you, before we reach the end of the story is this – living this life, in this broken down and busted world… do you curse God and walk away from your creator? Do you despise him inwardly for the pain that oozes through this world we live in?
Why would he do that? I mean, allow pain in the world? Better yet, let’s look at one sentence at the beginning of Job that just blows my mind. It’s a simple sentence… God says, “Have you considered my servant Job?”. Its pretty
The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”
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 fears God and shuns evil.”
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied.
It totally seems like God just through a fairly innocent guy, right smack dab under the bus. I mean literally. It’s one of the most brazenly disconcerting passages in the entire Bible in my mind. Because what it could mean for me is, someday, I may be doing everything right in my relationship to God and WAM! God might point trouble my way through His over excitement about how well I’m doing. You know? I’m certain isn’t how it goes, because my own personal walk with God has shown me that it doesn’t (or won’t) work that way. But seriously? Have you considered my servant Job?!? Gah.
I know that God covets relationship with you… and me. I know that God desires true and holy worship from us. And I know that peace is our reward as our relationship with Him grows. Please understand what I mean by Peace. “Peace that passes understanding.” I didn’t just pull out a name and claim it card for you. I didn’t just say, IF YOU LOVE GOD PERFECTLY… your life will have no bad events in it. No I said, if you follow God… and trust in Him… then when trouble does come, you will trust God in the midst of it, and have peace throughout. Totally different.
Because here’s a clue. The whole of this world believes that the secret to peace is money, things, success. And that couldn’t be further from the truth. Which brings us to the kernel of Job that explains why God actually didn’t throw Job under the bus moments ago. Because in God’s eyes, Job isn’t his big house. In God’s eyes, Job is not his enormous flocks and enormous wealth. None of that is Job to God. But in our world… today, in our materialistic society, we think it is us.
We say it isn’t. But we don’t actually believe that. I would have a hard time defining myself if you walked up to me and took away my job. I’d have an even more difficult time if you took away my children and my wife. Even for me, who has worked and worked and worked at not being defined by these things. It would be difficult. But for God, its perfectly clear to Him how little of that stuff actually matters. Let’s explore this thought a little bit deeper by getting EXTREMELY controversial for a second.
Christ had a very very cutting edge view of women because He treated them with respect and treated them equally. Differently but equally. Did He fight for equal pay for equal work while he was on planet earth? No. Because it doesn’t matter. Did He fight for liberation from the tyranny of husbands? Nope. Because it doesn’t matter. I’m sure half of my two readers just walked away at this point. haha. But wait, I need to offend that last person standing. It gets worse!
Slavery. What does the Bible say about slaves? Christ said while He was on the planet, that slaves should treat their masters well and work for them as if unto Him. Wait, WHAT?!? He didn’t say that they should rise up, shake off their manacles, and overthrow their tyrannical rule? No. He didn’t. And why is that? Because it doesn’t matter. WOAH! There went that last person! Hahahah. In America, man how we are all bruised by the chaos of our slave history. And please understand, I am in no way agreeing that slavery was good. At all. But back in Christ’s day, a slave was just a type of worker, it defined the arrangement and the payout, and also the sleeping and food, etc. Today we think slavery and we think black men swinging from trees, hanged for no reason.
So let me circle back and repair my reputation a bit. Christ told husbands to live for their wives like Christ lived for the church. The next question I immediately have is – how did Christ live for the church? Well, He died for it.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,” Ephesians 3:25-26
So Christ tells husbands to die for your wives… to daily die for them, and live your life as a continual outpouring of love for them. Did He try and solve inequality issues? No. He didn’t. But did He tell us how the problem of inequality is solved incidentally? Yes, by husbands loving their wives like He loved us. And as a Christian husband I find myself grappling with this every day. I daily have to die to my own desires, and needs, and figure out how best to serve my wife. If that isn’t the most inside out, female-fashion-forward thing you’ve ever heard you absolutely haven’t been listening to a thing I’m telling you.
And similarly, Christ spoke to the slave owners, and said to treat their workers well and respectfully. He also spent tons and tons of time speaking to not only slave owners, but also to landlords, and to people that hold debt of other people, and He said to treat them respectfully… and honorably. That you aren’t to lord your wealth over them. But to work to support the widow, the orphan and the poor.
“Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.” Colossians 4:1
Job didn’t get thrown under the bus, because the only thing that really matters in this life is our relationship with God and God knew that Job’s relationship with Him was solid. His stuff disappeared, and his children disappeared, and he became sick… and yet known of those things defined Job in God’s eyes. The only thing God saw as relevant about Job was his deep love for Him. And in this world – that tells you, “You Deserve A Break Today”, this is so flipping contrary and so backwards as to be nearly incomprehensible. No, not nearly… completely. This is incomprehensible. Totally.
So if Job wasn’t defined by his money, his sheep, his camels, and he wasn’t defined by his stuff. Then what was it? He was defined by His relationship with God. And when it all went to hell in a hand basket, and Job’s wife and friends are telling Job to just curse God and die, he refuses. And he continues to trust God. He doesn’t speak an ill word about God.
But somewhere in there – somewhere around chapter 37? Job questions God. He basically says what I said earlier… God why’d you throw me under this bus?!? And you know what? God answered Him. And we get three chapters of some of the most amazing poetic, awe inspiring writing in all of the Bible. I’m just quoting one chapter below of the three, wherein God just absolutely drops the smack down on Job.
“Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:
“Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
“Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,
when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt’?
“Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
or walked in the recesses of the deep?
Have the gates of death been shown to you?
Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
Tell me, if you know all this.
“What is the way to the abode of light?
And where does darkness reside?
Can you take them to their places?
Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
Surely you know, for you were already born!
You have lived so many years!
“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
or seen the storehouses of the hail,
which I reserve for times of trouble,
for days of war and battle?
What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed,
or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?
Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
and a path for the thunderstorm,
to water a land where no one lives,
an uninhabited desert,
to satisfy a desolate wasteland
and make it sprout with grass?
Does the rain have a father?
Who fathers the drops of dew?
From whose womb comes the ice?
Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens
when the waters become hard as stone,
when the surface of the deep is frozen?
“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades?
Can you loosen Orion’s belt?
Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons
or lead out the Bear with its cubs?
Do you know the laws of the heavens?
Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?
“Can you raise your voice to the clouds
and cover yourself with a flood of water?
Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?
Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?
Who gives the ibis wisdom
or gives the rooster understanding?
Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?
Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens
when the dust becomes hard
and the clods of earth stick together?
“Do you hunt the prey for the lioness
and satisfy the hunger of the lions
when they crouch in their dens
or lie in wait in a thicket?
Who provides food for the raven
when its young cry out to God
and wander about for lack of food?
(The photos that I’ve placed with this scripture are the recently snapped pictures of Pluto by the red hot awesome space explorer New Horizons.) Oh man. Did you read that? I mean, read it! Word for word. That is beautiful… so amazing, it brings tears to my eyes every time I read it. Literally they are streaming down my face right now its so epic. CAN YOU BIND THE CHAINS OF THE PLEIADES? You can’t Job? Because I can. And you know what is really amazing – the Pleiades are chained together. Here, this fantastic post puts it more succinctly:
“As it turns out, the Pleiades (also known as the Seven Sisters) is an open star cluster in the constellation of Taurus. It is classified as an open cluster because it is a group of hundreds of stars formed from the same cosmic cloud. They are approximately the same age and have roughly the same chemical composition. Most importantly, they are bound to one another by mutual gravitational attraction. Isabel Lewis of the United States Naval Observatory (quoted by Phillip L. Knox in Wonder Worlds) said, “Astronomers have identified 250 stars as actual members of this group, all sharing in a common motion and drifting through space in the same direction.” Lewis said they are “journeying onward together through the immensity of space.” Dr. Robert J. Trumpler (quoted in the same book) said, “Over 25,000 individual measures of the Pleiades stars are now available, and their study led to the important discovery that the whole cluster is moving in a southeasterly direction. The Pleiades stars may thus be compared to a swarm of birds, flying together to a distant goal. This leaves no doubt that the Pleiades are not a temporary or accidental agglomeration of stars, but a system in which the stars are bound together by a close kinship.” From our perspective on Earth, the Pleiades will not change in appearance; these stars are marching together in formation toward the same destination, bound in unison, just as God described them.”
Our society does not believe in God. Or His power. Maybe you don’t believe in God. But that doesn’t mean He and His power don’t exist, and that He isn’t real. Our society likes to rail against God and scream at the sky. And just because He chooses today not to speak back, doesn’t mean He couldn’t respond. And here we see what happens when a feeble man chooses to question God question about his circumstances. And God puts things dramatically into perspective for Job. I have no right to question God. And yet, He invites us to ‘reason together’. But question Him? No. Not an option. His ways are much much much higher than yours. I would hope so, He is God after all.
Alright, we are approaching 3,500 words, so, I guess I liked Job. But what happens to our poor sick and orphaned fellow after he gets the world’s biggest tongue lashing from God? How does the story end? Well, in the end, Job answers God by saying possibly the most contrite and honest thing possible, “I have declared that which I did not understand”. And soon after this God blesses Job with twice what he had at the beginning of the story. Which isn’t to say that the next time you are tested you will be set. Just that God honored Job for his honesty and his faithfulness to Him.
Alright, next time, the longest book of the Bible by a factor, Psalms…