We’re in a season in the church where we’re really seeking to reconcile a loving, beautiful God and a world that can seem so cold. – So I thought, being valentines day, why not tackle the most painful, depressing book in the entire bible?!
It’s worth the effort to understand the Bible
The Book of Job
I’ve struggled – many years.
I’ve struggled with Job – many years.
Like most pastors – haven’t talked about it very much.
Didn’t want to steer you wrong. Well I’ve been studying and studying and I’m finally ready to make some statements about what I believe about the book of Job.
It’s my opinion that the book of job is THE MOST misunderstood book of the bible. Job or Revelation. Often times when the bible is misunderstood, people end up drawing the EXACT OPPOSITE conclusion than the author intended.
So I’ve said it before, but for you guys to come to church on a tuesday night, ESPECIALLY on valentines day, mean that you are the green barets of the faith. The best of the best. The few, the proud.
PREFACE – Bible
Before we get into the book of job though, there’s one thing that I need to explain to you reguarding the bible. And how you read the bible. I don’t know if you know this or not, but millions of people around the world read the bible and gather VASTLY different conclusions about it.
In fact, if you ever have a conversation with an intellegent athiest, something I get to do a lot, you’ll find that many of them know the bible better than you do. They just read it very differently than we do.
So it’s important not only that we read the bible, but that we read the bible RIGHT.
Here’s my guideline for you going forward, that’s going to helpful as we study the book of Job: Read the bible through the lens of Jesus.
Have you ever seen those ‘blue blocker’ computer glasses? Well, they’ve identified that it’s the blue light that comes off screens that messes with your cyrcadium rythm. So there’s these hideous yellow glasses that you can wear that will block that blue light in the evenings when you’re on your computer that will hopefully help you sleep better.
But they put a yellow tint everything you look at.
In the same way, we are to read the bible with our Jesus glasses on. So if we read something and we think ‘Hmmm…. I think I kinda get it, but it looks nothing like Jesus.’ My advice is this: Keep searching. Keep learning. Becasue we believe that Jesus is the ultimate reality in understanding God.
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, (Hebrews 1:1)
but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. (Hebrews 1:2)
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. (Hebrews 1:3)
Apostle Paul and all other authors of the NT tell us this: Jesus is the image of God
Jesus is the exact imprint of God’s nature. Jesus is the exact imprint of God’s nature. Jesus is God’s ultimate act of self expression. Jesus is the only perfect picture of God. Jesus is what God has to say.
Pray God rid us of any picture of God that is less beautiful than Jesus.
60 Second Version
Rich guy – ‘Job’ living in a land called ‘Uz’ w/large family and huge flocks.
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)
He had seven sons and three daughters, (Job 1:2)
and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East. (Job 1:3)
Rich guy – ‘Job’ – ‘Uz’ – large family – huge flocks.
He’s ‘blameless’ & ‘upright’. “Feared God & Shunned Evil.”
One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. (Job 1:6)
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.” (Job 1:7)
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.” (Job 1:8)
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. (Job 1:9)
“Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. (Job 1:10)
But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” (Job 1:11)
The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. (Job 1:12)
One day, ‘The Satan’ appears before God in heaven.
God brags how great Job is.
Satan says ‘well yeah but it’s only because you’ve blessed him so much.
‘The Satan’ challenges God – give him permission to punish Job, he would curse God.
God says ‘Fine. Just don’t kill him.’
All hits the fan for Job.
News: livestock, servants, 10 children – dead.
Only thing remained: his wife. Not a blessing. Rips his clothes, shaves his head. But still blesses God in his prayers.
Satan appears to God again, God gives permission to try again.
“Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life.
But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”
Horrible skin sores. “Clothed in worms and scabs”
His wife tells him to curse God and commit suicide.
3 Friends – Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar
Sit in silence w/Job for 7 days.
After, Job finally speaks.
Begins a conversion where each of the 4 men discuss ‘why’.
Chapters 4-37 are mostly his friends giving some of the more insane, ridiculous, ignorant advice that has ever existed.
Book ends w/God speaking to Job and restoring him. More livestock, more servants, more children.
Job is a book most know little to nothing about.
1st half 1st chapter – 42 chapter book.
This is a book most people know little to nothing about. Most people know the basic idea of the first half of the fist chapter – 42 chapter book.
It has a few cherry picked verses, most often used in times of suffering.
Example 1: In 2013, there was a devastating tornado in Oklahoma.
(This is a pic of the aftermath.) This is the remains of Briarwood Elementary School.
Within 24 hours a well known preacher guy who most of you know tweeted this.
Was he quoting scripture? Yes. Was he honoring God? No.
“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.” (Job 1:21)
Most often used to say ‘Everything good is God giving. Everything bad is God taking’.
Example 2: Andrea Yates
Brutal example : June 20, 2001 – Andrea Yates – drowned her 5 children in the bathtub. – Stating that God told her to do it.
Russell Yates “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. He gave me all these children and then he took them away.”
Is that true?
This guy last week “You think Satan goes to God every time He wants to do something to us and God gives him permission?”
Completely opposite – God & Satan war
That idea is totally opposite of the true picture in the bible which is God and Satan warring against each other. And Jesus coming to destroy the works of the devil.
I could see if maybe you could have thought that before the cross, but now, there’s no excuse for that kind of nonsense.
A little backstory
Up until this point in the story, the bible has been largely about ‘retribution’.
Duet 11 – Moses “blessings & curses”
Do good & stay faithful – God will bless you.
Turn to wickedness & idolatry. – Punishment & exile.
Entry – promised land. – Forbidden – unfaithfulness.
Israel decends into idolitary – Exile.
Judah follows – exile.
Righteous – blessed
Sinners – punished.
Good happens – good
Bad happens – bad.
Then we come to Job.
The whole story gets thrown out of whack.
People: Good people are always blessed!
Book of job: ‘Yeah.. it doesn’t always work that way’
Job is a man of integrity, yet he suffers.
Chapter after chapter Job’s friends argue the theology of ‘retribution’.
Job is suffering so must have sinned.
That’s the way the world works.
Job disagrees. He’s a man of integrity.
A few points:
1. The book of job is poetry.
The bible isn’t a book, it’s a collection of books.
Lots of different TYPES of writing.
History / prophetic / eye witness accounts / letters / visions.
Half way – Wisdom Literature
5 – Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon
Most human books
WHAT you’re reading determines HOW you’re supposed to read it.
Doesn’t mean it’s not anchored in historical events. I may be. But it’s not the important point.
With poetry, you have to watch for the main point and not get bogged down with the details.
Lots of poetry in the bible that we understand how to read.
Song of Solomon – Solomon LOVE Abishag
The book is Solomon communicating his unrelenting love for Abibshag. A beautiful woman.
How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are doves. Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from the hills of Gilead. (Song of Solomon 4:1)
Your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn, coming up from the washing. Each has its twin; not one of them is alone. (Song of Solomon 4:2)
Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon; your mouth is lovely. Your temples behind your veil are like the halves of a pomegranate. (Song of Solomon 4:3)
Your neck is like the tower of David, built with courses of stone; on it hang a thousand shields, all of them shields of warriors. (Song of Solomon 4:4)
Your breasts are like two fawns, like twin fawns of a gazelle that browse among the lilies. (Song of Solomon 4:5)
If you were to take this literally : (pic.)
Bogged down with technical details – miss the point.
What’s important is: what is the author teaching us?
2. The purpose of the book of Job was to point out the unbelievable ignorance of everyone who thought they knew why suffering happens.
The 3 friend come and try to give meaning to why this happened.
“Think now, who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off? As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of his anger they are consumed. ” (Job 4:7-9)
That’s dumb! – Innocent people die all the time. How about anyone who dies before the age of 9? How about babies die during birth? How about, oh I don’t know, Jesus?
Eliphaz has what we called a ‘Formulaic Theology’.
His theology: People get what they deserve. Simple forumla.
We want to grab formulas that will protect us. If I just believe this, if I just say this, then nothing bad will ever happen to me or my kids.
In doing that, we unintentionally indite everyone that bad things DO happen to.
If the reason I’m safe is because I’m righteous, well then, what are you saying about everyone else who has suffered? You’re saying they were unrighteous.
Formulaic theologies always unintentionally blame victims.
So when God comes, he’s really not happy with Jobs friends.
See in Job’s understanding: Job starts out half way decently, but as grief sets in, gets more ruthless, jaded and negative.
He would crush me with a storm and multiply my wounds for no reason. (Job 9:17)
“The Lord gives and the lord takes…” but darker.
It is all the same; that is why I say, ‘He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.’ (Job 9:22)
When a scourge brings sudden death, he mocks the despair of the innocent. (Job 9:23)
Does it please you to oppress me, to spurn the work of your hands, while you smile on the plans of the wicked? (Job 10:3)
If I hold my head high, you stalk me like a lion and again display your awesome power against me. (Job 10:16)
You bring new witnesses against me and increase your anger toward me; your forces come against me wave upon wave. (Jon 10:17)
Are not my few days almost over? Turn away from me so I can have a moment’s joy. (Job 10:20)
Is this stuff we’re supposed to believe? Of course not.
“The bible says it, I believe it, that settles it, let’s do it.”
Let’s all pray that God will leave us alone so we can be happy.
Also, Jesus comes and explains that Satan is ‘the roaring lion seeking who he may devour.’
Job is confusing God and Satan. He’s a man of the sea. He doesn’t have the cross.
“His anger has torn me and hunted me down, He has gnashed at me with His teeth; My adversary glares at me. (Job 16:9)
He’s confusing God and Satan.
Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him? What would we gain by praying to him?’ (Job 21:15)
Here’s a cool sermon – hey guys, don’t pray. Prayer does nothing.
We know that Job is dead wrong here.
He throws me into the mud, and I am reduced to dust and ashes. (Job 30:19)
“I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you merely look at me. (Job 30:20)
You turn on me ruthlessly; with the might of your hand you attack me. (Job 30:21)
You snatch me up and drive me before the wind; you toss me about in the storm. (Job 30:22)
We’re not to believe these poems.
In fact, at the end, God comes and corrects all of this.
It has a very famous ‘prologue’.
In fact, it’s most of what the average person knows about Job.
What the prologue says: The reason these terrible things happened is because of a bet between God and Satan.
Back up – “the point of the book is to point out how ignorant people are when they think they know why suffering happens.”
And the book starts with the author thinking he knows why suffering happens.
It’s very clever.
“It’s because God made a bet with the devil!”
Imagine if you had a loved one who was suddenly diagnosed with cancer.
So you shake your fist in the air and scream ‘why God why?!’ and you hear a voice from heaven saying “It’s because me and the devil have a bet about you.”
What kind of explanation would that be? – A crappy one, of course.
Also: Goes against EVERYTHING we know about God and how he works.
My point: The author begins a book of bad explanations for suffering with a bad explanation of suffering.
It’s brilliant. It adds to the confusion, and the fear, and the sense of being out of control. And it makes it all the more sweet when God finally comes and sets the record straight at the end of the book.
3. The book of Job isn’t showing us ideas we’re supposed to believe, it’s showing us ideas we’re supposed to reject.
God finally comes at the end
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2).
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (Job 38:4).
“Who determined its measurements—surely you know! ” (Job 38:5)
“Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this” (Job 38:16-18).
“What is the way to the place where the light is distributed, or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth”? (Job 38:24).
“Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on the earth?” (Job 38:33).
God comes and points out the massive ignorance of what we’ve been doing for 38 brutal chapters.
You guys know nothing about how the world works. – No position to accuse anyone.
The final chapter – Job repenting for being so stupid – blaming God for something he didn’t understand.
…“I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” (Job 42:3)
Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:6)
Job repents for saying all this crazy stuff. So clearly this isn’t the theology we’re supposed to be adopting, this is the theology we’re supposed to be repenting of.
Crazy: we see people blaming God for stuff we don’t understand and thinking they’re so Holy for it.
Read the book of Job, and remind ourselves to stop blaming God for what we don’t understand.
We see – Russell Yates “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. He gave me all these children and then he took them away.”
He thought he was using Job say something true. But he was the exact type of person the book was written for so that he wouldn’t say things like that.
4. The book of Job encourages honesty in your struggle.
Right after Job repents:
It came about after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has. (Job 42:7)
What?! – The word ‘right’ – ‘kun’ – ‘To align with’ or ‘to be straight’
In this context, can’t possibly mean you spoke the truth. He just got rebuked for it!
What it means: you spoke to me straight from your gut.
He was honest, and real.
As opposed to his friends were all religious, fluffy, retribution and ‘you must have had sin in your life’.
Job ‘God, you absolutely suck.’ You’re such a jerk.’
Kept the lines of communication open. Kept talking to God.
As wrong, weird, blasphemous as it was, it was straight from the gut and God loves that.
God honors honesty, – he wants and honest relationship with honest people.
5. The book of Job shows God teaching us where evil comes from.
Chapters 40 & 41 – God – sit Jonah down
Chapters 40 & 41 – God sits down Jonah and talks to him in a way he’ll understand, and he talks to him about …. The Leviathan.
And he talks about another sea monster : Behemoth
He’s talking about the forces of evil.
He says they’re so ferocious that only their creator can approach them and even he uses a sword.
“Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook or tie down its tongue with a rope? (Job 41:1)
If you lay a hand on it, you will remember the struggle and never do it again! (Job 41:8)
Any hope of subduing it is false; the mere sight of it is overpowering. (Job 41:9)
Its snorting throws out flashes of light; its eyes are like the rays of dawn. (Job 41:18)
Flames stream from its mouth; sparks of fire shoot out. (Job 41:19)
Smoke pours from its nostrils as from a boiling pot over burning reeds. (Job 41:20)
Nothing on earth is its equal — a creature without fear. (Job 41:33)
It looks down on all that are haughty; it is king over all that are proud. ” (Job 41:34)
Explains how there’s a cosmic battle happening.
‘I’m not the one pulling all the strings here.’
I have an enemy who does things that I’m opposed to.
He reminds us how little we actually know.
- “You don’t know all that’s going on here.”
- “Your friends don’t know all that’s going on here.”
This inspired epic poem doesn’t explain why some people suffer and others do not, but it offers a profound insight into why we ultimately can’t know the reason why. It’s not that God acts arbitrarily, as Job thought. Nor is it that people get what they deserve, as Job’s friends thought.
More importantly, for our purposes, this inspired poetic drama also provides us with a poignant illustration of what it means to have a faith that honors God. It’s not a faith that is centered on right beliefs and pious language. And it’s certainly not a faith that focuses on feeling secure and worthwhile by convincing ourselves that we’re right.
It’s rather a faith that is grounded in authenticity and that is therefore unwilling to sweep questions, doubts, and complaints under the rug to avoid the pain of not understanding. It’s a faith that is not afraid of going to the mat with God.
Greg Boyd – Benefit of the Doubt
What you have to know is that you don’t know.
As I close:
We are ignorant human beings living in an incredibly complex world that’s torn apart in war.
What we understand isn’t even a tip on a huge iceberg.
When we forgot how much we don’t know, we start assuming God is pulling all the strings.
We start thinking God is to blame for all the horrible stuff. Or maybe that people are to blame for their own circumstances (like his friends thought).
That’s the point: Don’t judge. You don’t know.
- Job judged God.
- Job’s friends judged people.
Book teaches: Always more going on under the surface than we realize.
I came out of bible college – convinced I understood healing.
Ultimately here’s the only thing you can be truly confident in: God looks like Jesus.
God looks like Jesus dying on the cross for the people who were murdering Him.
- While the world can be cruel, God is never cruel.
- The world can bring nightmares, but God’s not behind the nightmares.
- The world can kill good people, but it’s not God who’s doing the killing.
The thief comes to kill, I’ve come to bring life. (John 10:10)
You won’t know that by trying to make sense of a broken world. You have to look to Jesus.
When we confuse the fallen world with what God WANTS, when bad things happen, like Job, we push God away.
Dare to believe – God – beautiful as Jesus.
Then when tragedy happens, we can invite God in on it.
Knowing that He’s the God who’s pushing back on the leviathan.
No matter how hard things are, dark things can sometimes look, keep talking to God.
Keep those lines open.
Speak – gut.
The best news is this:
Even though we never really understand why things are they way they are.
Why some are healed and some aren’t, etc.
Some suffer more.
It won’t always be like this.
The love of God will triumph in the end.
- The good news of the NT is not that everything is awesome now. Because it’s not.
- The good news is that he wins in the end and it will all be worth it.
Pain / suffering – distant memory.
We invite him in, and he’s the master of bringing good out of evil, success out of failure. Healing out of distaster.