JOB AND THE BIG PICTURE
A. Introduction: We are talking about learning to respond rather than react to the hardships of life. When you respond, you acknowledge God in your situation by talking about who He is and what He has done, is doing, and will do. To be able to do that, you must have accurate knowledge of God. Because we have misunderstood the Book of Job, many of us have erroneous ideas about God and how He works.
1. The standard interpretation of Job is that God and Satan are at work behind the scenes, God sometimes permits the devil to afflict His servants for a sovereign purpose, and we must trust His wisdom.
a. This idea comes from not rightly dividing (or accurately interpreting) the Book of Job. II Tim 2:15
1. To rightly divide Job, we have to consider it in terms of how it “fits” with the rest of the Bible. It cannot contradict other revelations given to us in the scriptures.
2. To rightly divide Job, we have to determine what it would have meant to the people to whom it was first written. It cannot mean something to us that it would not have meant to them.
b. The standard interpretation of Job does not “fit” with the revelation of God given to us in Jesus who was and is God in human flesh. Heb 1:1-3; John 14:9,10; etc.
1. Jesus, who said He only did what He saw His Father do, afflicted no one -- ever! John 5:19
2. Jesus didn't work with the devil. He destroyed the devil's works. I John 3:8; Acts 10:38; etc.
c. The standard interpretation of Job does not “fit” when it is considered in the context of the people to whom Job was first written -- Israel in bondage in Egypt.
1. Job, the earliest book of the Bible, is the story of God setting a captive free from bondage (Job 42:10). Moses wrote it to encourage Israel that God would deliver them.
2. Job was also showed Israel that there is an Adversary at work in the earth, who challenges God, as he seeks to entice men into rebellion against God. Job's story assured Israel: Nothing Satan does takes God by surprise. Satan can't do anything that is too big for God to handle.
2. How you read the Bible is as important as what you read. Because the Bible is progressive revelation (God has gradually revealed Himself until the full light in Jesus) we must filter the Old Testament through the light of the New. Any interpretation of Job must be consistent with the New Testament.
a. Rom 15:4 says the Old Testament was written to give men hope. Job was written to give Israel hope in the midst of their troubles. The standard interpretation of Job is not consistent with that.
b. James 5:11, the only New Testament comment about Job, commends Job's endurance (patience) and directs us to the end of Job's story: God delivered Job from bondage because He is merciful and compassionate. The standard interpretation of Job is not consistent with that.
3. The man Job is mentioned in one other place in the Old Testament. That reference does not support the standard interpretation of the Book of Job. Ezek 14:14,16,18,20
a. Ezekiel 14 was a message against the elders of Israel. They came to Ezekiel seeking a word from God when Babylon was threatening to destroy Israel. God's message was: These men worship idols in their heart. Great calamity is coming because of it. Warn them to repent or be destroyed.
b. Then the Lord says four times: If Noah, Daniel, and Job were here, they alone would be saved by their righteousness and the rest of Israel would be destroyed.
1. If the point of Job is God afflicting Job for some purpose, then why does the only other Old Testament comment about Job refer to his righteousness and not his suffering?
2. Noah and Daniel suffered because of the sins of others, yet God delivered them. Job is ranked with those men because his is a similar story -- afflicted because of wickedness in this world, but delivered by God.
4. When the Bible refers to Job it speaks of his righteousness, patience, and deliverance at the hand of a loving God. We want to continue to discuss how to interpret Job in the light of the rest of the Bible.
B. If the entire Bible consisted only of the Book of Job, then the standard interpretation of Job would seem accurate. But there are 65 other writings and letters which make up the Bible and Job must “fit” with them.
1. Job opens with two conversations between God and Satan. At first glance, they are troubling.
a. But, whatever they say, they can't mean that God gave the devil permission to do horrible things to his servant Job because that interpretation does not “fit” with the rest of the Bible.
b. People draw faulty conclusions because they consider these talks apart from the rest of the Bible.
At this stage of our existence, none of us fully understand the mechanics of a face-to-face talk between God and the devil. But, we can't let what we don't know undermine what we do know.
2. Let's read those conversations (Job 1:6-12, 2:1-6). Satan appears before God after roaming the earth. God notes that the devil has targeted His faithful servant, Job. v8--And Jehovah said unto the Adversary, Hast thou set thy heart against my servant Job? (Young's Literal Translation).
a. Satan replies that Job only serves God because God takes such good care of him, but, that if Job's possessions were destroyed, Job would curse God (renounce, blaspheme, deny). v9-11
1. God answers: Everything Job has is in your power, but “Lay not a finger on his person”. (Complete Jewish Bible). And, the conversation ends.
2. Subsequent to that, the Sabeans stole Job's oxen and killed his servants. His sheep and shepherds were killed by lightning. The Chaldeans stole his camels, killing his servants. And, a wind from the desert destroyed his eldest son's house, killing all his children. v13-19
b. Satan then reappears before God. This conversation is almost the same, with a few extra details.
1. v3--God adds that Job, his righteous servant, “still retaineth his innocence; so that thou hast ordered the destruction of his property, without accomplishing thy purpose. (Septuagint)
2. v4,5--Satan says that if Job's flesh were attacked, he'd curse God. God responds, v6--“He is in your power; only spare his life.” (Moffatt). Following this conversation, Job develops a severe skin disease over his entire body -- black leprosy (Spurrell); cancer (Lamsa).
c. From these conversations people conclude: God sometimes gives the devil permission to afflict men and we must trust the Lord. But that interpretation does not “fit” with the rest of the Bible.
1. That interpretation is contrary to the revelation of God given us in Jesus. Whatever these talks mean, they can't be showing us something about God contrary to what Jesus shows us.
2. That interpretation is contrary to what these words would have meant to the people to whom they were first written. Whatever these conversations mean, they must give hope to men.
3. Because we don't know how to rightly divide the Book of Job these conversations make us afraid: Will this happen to me? Why was Job vulnerable to attacks? Will I be protected from the devil?
a. Job was not written to address any of those issues. There are other places in scripture that address protection, avoiding evil, etc. But, we tend to read the Bible to get immediate answers to our pressing needs instead of simply reading to see what it says. As a result, we misinterpret scripture.
b. Job was not written to explain why bad happens or even how the devil “gets through the hedge of protection”. It was written to tell people living in a sin cursed earth: Nothing is bigger than God!
1. In Job 1:12 and 2:6 God did not give the devil “permission” to attack Job. God was stating a fact. Job was already in Satan's power because he was born into a fallen race in a sin cursed earth where Satan seeks people to devour. Gen 1:26; Luke 4:6; II Cor 4:4; I Pet 5:8; etc.
2. In Job 1:12 and 2:6 when God said, “Don't touch his person, don't take his life” God is showing men that, even though you are in the devil's territory and under the reign of death because of Adam's sin, the devil can't snatch you from Me and My ultimate purposes for you.
4. There is one other Old Testament example of direct talks between God and Satan about men, recorded in a vision given to the prophet Zechariah after Israel left Babylon and returned to Canaan. Zech 3:1-10
a. It was recorded much later than Job so it contains more light than Job. In the vision Satan accuses Israel to the Angel of the Lord (Preincarnate Jesus). The Lord rebukes Satan (v2--I reject your accusations--Living Bible) and promises a future cleansing and restoration of Israel. God and the devil are clearly not working together.
b. Israel, a nation of idol worshippers, was reaping the consequences of their sin. Yet these words are a message of hope. To “fit” with this revelation, God's words in the Book of Job must give hope.
C. The Bible is not a collection of independent, unrelated verses. It is a book with a theme. The Bible tells the story of God's desire for a family and the lengths to which He went to obtain that family through Jesus.
Everything in the Bible, including Job, “fits” with and contributes to advancing that story.
1. God created the earth as a home for His family (Gen 1; Isa 45:18). When God made Adam, He made a son (Luke 3:38) and a race of sons in Adam (Gen 5:1).
a. When Adam sinned, mankind and the earth itself went into bondage to sin, death, and Satan (Gen 3:17-19; Rom 5:12-19; etc.). But, God immediately promised the coming of One who would undo the damage done by Adam's sin and redeem or deliver men from that bondage (Gen 3:15).
1. This message of a coming redemption was passed down through oral traditions until Moses wrote it down in what would become the Bible during Israel's forty years in the wilderness.
2. Job “fits” with the theme of redemption. God's first written revelation to His people (Job) is a story of redemption that pictures the coming Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and His redemption.
b. In Job, God delivered a captive. Job was written to encourage Israel that He would do the same for them. What God did for Israel is called redemption. It pictures redemption through Christ.
c. Job is the first place in scripture where the name Redeemer is mentioned (Job 19:25,26). Through redemption (which is pictured in Job) God obtained His family. Job advances the story line.
2. Sin separated man from God and seemed to thwart His plan for a family. Although Job justifies himself throughout much of the book, he is aware of his helplessness with sin before a holy God.
a. Job cries out for someone to approach God on his behalf, someone to do something about his sin, In doing so, he pictures Jesus and His work of redemption. Job 7:20,21; Job 9:2,30-35; 16:19-21
1. Job 9:33--There is not between us a mediator (Rotherham) who could lay his hand upon both of us (NAB). Jesus is the mediator between God and man. I Pet 3:18; I Tim 2:5
2. Job 33:23,24--The Book of Job says that if a man had a mediator he could be delivered from sin, destruction, and death. That's what Jesus, our Redeemer, has done.
b. When Elihu speaks to Job he begins by saying: I'll go between you and God. Job 33:6,7--Look, I am the one you were wishing for, someone to stand between you and God and to be both his representative and yours. You need not be frightened of me. I am not some person of renown to make you nervous and afraid. I, too, am made of common clay. (Living)
1. This is a picture of the mediatorial ministry of Jesus: A man (Jesus is fully God and fully man) who stands between God and man and brings them together.
2. When Job speaks of his Redeemer coming to earth he says: Job 19:27--Then he will be on my side! Yes, I shall see him, not as a stranger, but as a friend! What a glorious hope! (Living)
c. Job's story pictures what God's plan of redemption will do for man: deliver and restore
3. When we look at Job or anything in the Bible we have to ask the question: Does our interpretation make sense in terms of the overall plan and purpose of God, in terms of the big picture? The standard interpretation of the Book of Job does not “fit” with the overall theme of the Bible.
a. God's plan was and is to have sons who are conformed to the image of Christ -- men filled with His goodness, sons in right relationship to him, men who know God and show God.
1. Eph 1:4,5--Long ago, even before he made the world, God chose us to be his very own, through what Christ would do for us; he decided then to make us holy in his eyes, without a single fault -- we who stand before him covered with his love. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And he did this because he wanted to! (Living Bible)
2. Rom 8:29,30--For from the very beginning God decided that those who came to him -- and all along he knew who would -- should be like his son, so that his son would be the First, with many brothers. And having chosen us, he called us to come to him; and when we came he declared us “not guilty”, filled us with Christ's goodness, gave us right standing with himself, and promised us his glory. (Living Bible)
b. The idea that the Book of Job shows us that God sometimes permits the devil to horribly afflict His people for a purpose known only to Him makes no sense in light of the theme of the Bible.
1. God wants to treat men as sons. Is that how a father treats sons? Jesus revealed that God is a Father, a good Father who is better than the best earthly father. Matt 7:9-11
2. The New Testament reveals that God makes men His sons through His word and His Spirit (John 3:5; I Pet 1:23; Eph 5:26) and He makes us Christ-like, conforms us to the image of Christ, by His word and His Spirit (II Cor 3:18; James 1:21).
3. Natural things like afflictive circumstances don't produce spiritual results. Tragedies don't make people pure any more than water in the baptismal font makes people new creatures.
D. Conclusion: Life in a sin cursed earth is not easy -- not because God is permitting the devil to afflict us, not because God and the devil are engaged in some kind of cosmic game with us as the pawns.
1. Life is hard because certain dynamics were set in motion at the fall of man which are still being played out today. When Adam disobeyed God, sin and death entered the world.
a. A sin nature developed in man, and, as a result, human beings now demonstrate characteristics of the devil. God did not rescind free will because of the changes in mankind. Men are able to freely express their sin natures with all the resulting behaviors and consequences. Eph 2:1-3
b. When God made the earth He set numerous natural laws into motion. But, they were corrupted by sin. There is a now a curse of death in the earth which results in killer storms, drought, famine, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. Rom 8:20,21
c. The free wills of generations of corrupt men and the corrupted natural processes are now at work in the earth with all resulting consequences. Life in a sin cursed earth is hard.
2. We often approach the Bible to find out how to stop my most pressing problem immediately and keep me from having any more problems. But that shows a major misunderstanding of some key points.
a. God's main goal right now is not to make life easy for everyone. His purpose is to bring all men to salvation from sin and make them His sons through faith in Christ so they can be part of the eternal kingdom He's going to establish on this earth at the return of Jesus.
b. That doesn't mean there is no provision for help, happiness, and protection in this life. There is. But, life on earth will not be pain-free or problem-free until every trace of sin and its effects are removed at the return of Jesus.
3. We have been robbed of the hope that ought to come to us from Job because we have not read it in the light of the rest of the Bible and we've tried to find answers to questions that are not addressed.
a. Don't look for what's not there: Job doesn't address why bad happens to men beyond “that's life in a sin cursed earth”. Look at what is there: God set a captive free and restored to him twice what he lost!
b. In a sin cursed earth we are going to encounter thieves, storms, disease, and even death (John 16:33). But none of it is bigger than God. That's the message of Job!