Monday, June 19, 2017

Job: A Different Perspective


I’ve heard a lot of Christians say that because of the story of Job in the Bible that they believe a loving, gentle, kind, forgiving, merciful, graceful GOD – our Father - would give us illnesses and hurt us to teach us a lesson. I find that idea and belief abominable.

If that be the case, then if a Dad reached over and broke his child’s arm to teach him not to throw a ball in the house, I would be out of line to reproach the Dad, to try to prevent him doing so, to even report him to the police. If GOD hurts us and makes us ill as a lesson to us, then we have no right to expect good things from anyone who loves us.

The “I’ll make you sick or hurt you because I love you GOD” is not the GOD of the Bible. Even in the story of Job, which Christianity loves to point at and say, “See! There’s my biblical backing!” GOD’s character is misrepresented (to say the least) as a foundation to stand on for that erroneous “GOD who hurts us” belief.

So, let’s look at the Bible story of Job to see what kind of alleged “foundation” they think they have.

In Job 1:1 Job is described as a “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil”. Even GOD said about Job that “there is none like him on the earth” (vs.8), and it is reiterated that he is “blameless and upright” and that he “fears God and shuns evil”. Does that sound like someone GOD would hurt to teach him a lesson? If so, what kind of lesson does Job need to learn? What wrong was Job doing that he had to be taught a lesson? Or, in the opinion of the Christians who make this claim, does GOD teach Job a lesson without Job needing a lesson, in GOD’s own opinion?

If you read what is written there, the Bible says that GOD was talking to our mortal enemy, Satan, and that GOD was standing up for Job. Why would GOD do that if he wanted to teach Job a lesson? No, what was actually happening is that GOD was saying to our enemy that if he looked at Job he would find someone who would not be destroyed by our enemy. GOD said, “Have you considered my servant Job…?” (1:8).

In verses 10-11, Satan replies that there was a “hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side” so why would Satan consider attacking Job because GOD protected him so much? Satan went on to say that if GOD “stretched out [His] hand and touch[ed] all that he [Job] has” that Job would “surely curse” GOD to His face.

To this GOD responded in 1:12 that everything Job had was in Satan’s power, with the exception that Satan could not touch Job himself. Why would GOD do this? To prove to Satan that there are faithful people who will not turn away from GOD, who will not curse GOD, who will not fall away from GOD or from belief in Him, if bad things happen to them! It wasn’t a test, a lesson, or an attack on Job: it was a lesson to Satan!

Look at everything Satan took from Job in verses 13-22: his oxen and all but one servant with them (vs 15); his sheep and all but one of the servants with them (vs 16); his camels and all but one of his servants who were with them (vs 17); his children and all but one of the servants with them (vs 19). What does Job do?

In verses 20-22 we see Job’s response to Satan’s attack: Job “arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head and he fell to the ground and worshipped.” Who did Job worship: Satan, who took everything away from him, or GOD, who still loved Job and allowed all of this to happen to him because GOD chose to teach Satan a lesson? Job worshipped GOD. GOD was proven correct in trusting Job. In verse 22 we see “In all this Job did not sin nor charge GOD with wrong.”

That’s something that should have impressed Satan, but apparently it wasn’t enough. In 2:1 there was another meeting of the “sons of GOD” and Satan again showed up.

GOD asked Satan where he came from (2:2) and Satan replied “From going to and fro on the earth and from walking back and forth on it.”

Then -- absolutely certain that Job would be faithful -- GOD again pointed to Job (poor, faithful Job) and asked if Satan had “considered [His] servant, Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears GOD and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him without cause.” (vs3).

See what it says: Job “still” held “fast to his integrity” and that he was a “blameless and upright man” who feared GOD. Does that sound like Job needed a lesson taught to him, or does it sound more like GOD has faith in Job and in the fact that – even though the first time Job was used to teach Satan a lesson it devastated his life – GOD was absolutely certain that Job could be trusted in his faithfulness, his uprightness, his blamelessness?

GOD may seem harsh here, picking on Job again, but think of what it is saying about Job that GOD has so much faith in him. Job was a favorite of GOD’s. However, being GOD’s favorite doesn’t mean that your life will be easy as breathing. Consider Mary, mother of Christ, who was another favorite of GOD’s and who was chosen as a young teen to bare GOD’s “only Begotten Son” – while single, but betrothed and who had to face the slings and arrows of the town gossips, the accusations of town people, her future in-laws, etc. David was a favorite of GOD’s, but when he messed up, having an affair with Bathsheba and fathering a child with her then ensuring her husband’s death, the child he fathered in that affair died. Although GOD’s favor was still upon David, the baby died. That’s not an easy thing to endure, but David understood it and cleaned himself up and worshipped GOD after the child died (2 Samuel 12).

In GOD’s second time of telling Satan to “consider” Job, Satan was told that Job was in Satan’s hand “but spare his life”. Satan was allowed to do anything to Job he wanted, but he could not kill him. Job wound up with boils “from the souls of his feet to the crown of his head.” Job used a potsherd to scrape the boils from his skin and he went and sat in ashes and his wife told him to “curse God and die” (2:9)! That’s pretty harsh. It’s also what a lot of people would do in the same situation. His children are dead, his cattle, camels and sheep are gone, along with the servants that were with them. His wife is all that’s left and his wife tells him to turn his back on GOD and die! Harsh!

Look at what Job did instead. In 2:10 we read that Job stood up for GOD; “‘Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”

Even when Job’s friends came and accused him of having some sort of sin in his life – apparently they hadn’t heard GOD’s opinion of Job – Job lamented his own conception and birth (chapter 3) but he didn’t lament GOD’s touch on his life. In the coming chapters we see Job’s “friends” (with friends like these…) telling Job he is claiming to be “innocent” (4:7), but he can’t be if GOD is doing this bad stuff to him. Job has to deserve this kind of treatment for something that is hidden. Eliphaz goes so far as to say that he saw a vision in a dream that said that no one can claim to “be more pure than his Maker” (4:17), which Job, so far, hadn’t claimed to be!

His friends go on and on and on about how Job must have done something – anything – to deserve this punishment from GOD: he must be guilty, but denying it. Job defends himself against their accusations (as did GOD’s statements to Satan regarding Job), and Job answered them and defended himself in chapters 6-7, 9-10, 12-14, 16-17, 19, 21, 23-24, and 26-31, the youngest “friend” standing up and berating Job for six chapters (32-38).

Job 32:1 says, “So these three men ceased answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.” Is that a bad thing? Remember, GOD considered Job a “blameless and upright man” of whom there were “none like in all the earth”. I think that Job was just agreeing with GOD and that’s a good thing to do! (“Where two or more agree as touching anything…” Job and GOD in agreement are two or more, correct?)

In the end of the book we see GOD speaking out of the whirlwind and asking Job questions that there is no way he can say “Yes, I can”, or “Yes, I am” to. But listen to the questions and they could just as easily be directed at Job’s three “friends”, too. Then, after GOD is finished questioning Job, what happens? Is it then that Job is punished? Is it then that – after saying he was more righteous than GOD – the Lord finally takes a whack at Job and gives him leprosy, break his leg, makes him blind, makes him have erectile dysfunction? No.

The loving, gentle, kind, forgiving, merciful, graceful GOD of the Bible does none of those things. We see what happened to a man who GOD accused to his face of claiming to be more righteous than him, GOD spoke to Job’s “friends” in 42:7-8 and ordered them to make reparations with Job and to make offerings because GOD’s “wrath is aroused against you” because “you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has (my italics).” GOD, who was supposedly punishing Job, told Job’s three friends that Job said what was right and they had not.

Adding frosting to the top of the cake, in 42:10-17 GOD restored Job’s losses after Job prayed for his friends – without GOD ordering Job to do so. GOD restored Job’s losses so much that He gave Job “fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys”, and seven sons and three daughters again and GOD made Job’s daughters very beautiful (it doesn’t say anything about the sons’ looks).

So, Christians who claim Job as “proof” that GOD punishes us with bad things happening to us, where is your proof? What lesson did Job, the "upright" and "blameless" man have to learn and where did GOD say, "Job, I did this to teach you lesson X"? Where is it that you found anything close to “proof” in Job of the GOD who punishes people and that we have to accept illnesses and pain from a loving, gentle, kind, forgiving, merciful, graceful GOD? I’d like them to show me where it is that GOD does that to His children because I truly do not see it in Job. Look at the words written there and see GOD's protection of Job, not His punishment and not a lesson for him. GOD was teaching our enemy something, not Job.

I can already hear some of you yelling, Oh, but Job suffered because of the lesson! He lost his children, but Job knew his children well enough to know that he had to do what was needed to cover them with GOD's forgiveness. He was given new children to replace those the enemy took. I won't read into Job, but maybe GOD knew something we did not? I don't know. Do you?


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