A Better Look at Job

 

One of the biggest objections many Christians raise against God healing them is “What about Job?” I heard Bill Johnson give a good reply to that once, “What about Jesus? Job is the question to which Jesus is the answer.”

However, I see a very different story in the book of Job than most people do. This is partly because I come to the book believing that Jesus has revealed a more complete and accurate picture of who God is than the OT did, that he is absolute Love who is always healing and helping mankind, not siccing the Devil on us like some child abuser siccing pit bulls on his kids.

Many people interpret the book of Job as if it were saying God sicced Satan after Job, assuming that the devil was ultimately only doing the Lord’s will. Jesus made it clear that God and Satan are always totally opposed to one another in John 10:10. If we come to Job’s story with this perspective, we will read it in a very different light than how it has been often taught.

Jesus also reveals a more full picture of who we are: sons and daughters of God like himself, who have authority over the earth and over all the kingdom of darkness. It is we who determine what is allowed to happen in heaven and on earth through the authority we have been given. Whether good or evil is allowed to happen among us isn’t left to arbitrary decisions by a deity above. Even before Jesus, the Old Testament made this clear in Genesis 1:26, when God gave mankind authority over life on earth.

In Job 1, Satan is met with the Lord’s question, “Have you considered (set your mind upon) my servant Job, that there is none like him in all the earth, an upright man who fears God and who shuns evil?”

Most people assume that God was taunting Satan here, using Job as some extra tasty bait for the Devil just to prove something about his own worshipfulness. What if God was really only calling out Satan’s evil thoughts and schemes which were already in motion? Satan had been considering Job, looking for a way to take him out, and the Lord knew his every thought. God was only speaking on Job’s behalf, calling out the enemy’s plans to ruin and to kill Job. He was calling them out to put a stop to them. I imagine that the Lord was raising the hairy eyeball in Satan’s direction and speaking with anger in his voice when he said, “Satan! You’ve been considering my servant Job again, haven’t you?!”

Satan goes on to accuse Job before the Lord, claiming that if his blessings are taken away, he will curse God to his face. He even tries to tempt the Lord to harm Job himself; “…but put forth your hand and touch all he has, and he will curse you to your face!” Of course, James 1:13 tells us that the Lord cannot be tempted by evil. The Lord could not possibly have gone along with Satan’s temptation to do evil against Job. God responds, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, but do not touch his body.” Many people assume that God was giving Satan permission there to kill Job’s children and to destroy his possessions, but he really only stated a fact, that all Job owned was already under Satan’s dominion.

From the beginning of Job’s story, he was living in fear that his kids would sin during their wine filled parties. He was “continuously” (frantically) making religious sacrifices in an attempt to atone for the possibility that they “may have cursed God in their hearts.” Later, when his children were killed, his possessions destroyed, and his body was being afflicted he cried, “That which I have greatly feared has come upon me.”

Just as Job had feared, it was while his sons and daughters were drinking wine and partying that a natural disaster came upon them and ended their lives. One could easily infer that it was Job’s “great fear” which had opened the door and put his posterity and possessions into Satan’s power to begin with.

Satan referred to Job’s blessings of prosperity as the Lord “hedging him about and blessing all he does” during that first accusation. Many people teach that this hedge was a “hedge of protection” and that Satan was able to persuade the Lord to remove it so he could finally attack. The hedge is only referred to as being material blessing. Satan was saying that the Lord had “hedged” Job on all sides with prosperity. There never was a “hedge of protection.”

After Satan comes back from his first round of destruction, the Lord says to him, “Have you considered my servant Job… that there is nobody like him on earth, a man who fears God and shuns evil, and he maintains his integrity although you incited me against him to ruin him without cause?” I’m imagining God raising the “hairy eyeball” at Satan once again here, angrily calling out his continued scheming against Job, letting him know that he was already aware of his further plans to cause him harm.

When the Lord said that Satan had “incited” him to ruin Job without cause, this does not mean that God went along with the suggestion in any way. “Incite” is synonymous with “tempt,” and we know from the New Testament that God is not ever tempted by evil. The Lord was calling out Satan for this futile and wicked temptation, not saying it was successful.

This word translated in the NASB as “incite” also may have spoken of an accusation. The Lord was saying that Satan accused Job without cause. He accused Job that he would curse God to his face when his possessions were taken. Instead, Job worshiped the Lord and held to his integrity.

The passage says that Job didn’t accuse God of wrongdoing in his heart, although he did misunderstand the situation and assume that the Lord was responsible for taking his possessions. He said, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord,” revealing that he didn’t have the same perspective at the time which the book bearing his name records after the fact, that it was Satan, not God, who was causing all the death and destruction.

Refuted after his first attempt, Satan tries a second, similar accusation, “All that a man has he will give for his life! Put forth your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh. He will curse you to your face.” The Lord responds that Job was already in Satan’s hand, but commands him to spare his life. In both situations, the Lord did everything he could to protect Job within the parameters which had been set by human will and human authority, even though Satan had already gained tremendous room to operate as a result of that misused authority.

 

The Accuser of the Brethren, and How Not to Overcome Him

The accuser knows a lot more about what is wrong with us than we typically do. He looks into the generational line and finds the slightest area of iniquity, examining us to find the slightest wrong motive of our hearts which can be used against us in the legal system of the spiritual realm. I’ve seen this play out over and over in the process of setting people free, where it becomes necessary to resolve the issues which are giving the demonic a foothold in somebody’s life.

Satan was repeatedly accusing Job of having mercenary affections, that he would worship as long as he was blessed, but would curse God in his heart if tragedy struck. Since the enemy’s accusations are always strategic and intelligently designed, not random, it is worth looking into why this particular accusation was chosen. It’s interesting that this was the very area Job was so “greatly afraid” that his sons would fail in during their parties. He was afraid they would “curse God in their hearts.” It may have been the fear itself which opened the door to the accusation, which is how things sometimes work, or it could be that this had been a real problem in Job’s past or in his generational line, which is also typical to see the demonic making all the use they can get from.

Often, the enemy will gain some foothold to cause trouble due to generational sins and strongholds, regardless of the current person’s lifestyle. Even though Job was strong in this area through his intense discipline in the fear of the Lord, some of his forefathers may not have been, and this may have been the reason why he was so afraid of his kids failing in that specific way. He may have seen his close relatives failing in this way or may have struggled with it himself. Satan would have insight into this unresolved generational issue, even if Job didn’t, and would be glad to milk it for all it was worth. Such a stronghold would not be difficult to resolve if one only knew that it was there, if they only knew what they were being accused of.

“Job’s comforters,” as they are known, went on to be a clear voice for the accuser in Job’s life. Rather than supporting him in his pain, they continually berated him and accused him of having brought the trouble upon himself, specifically accusing him of holding a wrong attitude in his heart against God in the midst of tragedy, just as Satan had been accusing him in the spiritual realm. The enemy’s accusations were being played out and revealed in the natural realm through demonic influence upon the people in his life.

Here’s where Job missed it: rather than agreeing with his adversary quickly and receiving cleansing by the blood, he begins to justify himself against the accusations. In Job 9:21 he proclaims, “I am guiltless!” He goes on to argue extensively for his moral blamelessness as a reaction to the demonic accusations. He testified to his rigid obedience according to so many righteous standards, yet he was only a human being and could not have possibly been totally “guiltless” in his character.

In Matthew 5:25, Jesus shared his advice for such a situation: to “agree with your adversary quickly… lest he hand you over to the judge and you be cast into prison.” Job apparently missed that one, and suffered for a long time as the accusation remained in place. He didn’t know about the accuser in the spiritual realm, or about his Father in heaven who was always on his side regardless of what circumstances looked like, or the blood of the Lamb which could clear his guilt as soon as it was admitted.

Whatever the area was of generational iniquity or religious fear which Satan’s accusation was originally based upon, it could have been admitted to and then washed away by the blood. (Yes, it was revealed after his time, but David, Abraham, and other Old Testament saints walked in New Covenant realities in earlier days, so Job could have as well.)

It wasn’t until Job 32, where Elihu prophesied a rebuke to Job’s self-righteousness and self-justification, resulting in the Lord’s presence showing up in a whirlwind and the voice of God himself confirming the rebuke, that Job finally repents and gives up on justifying himself before the Lord. At that point, he only needed to perform an act demonstrating forgiveness (praying for) his friends who had been a voice for the accuser against him before he could receive immediate restoration from all that Satan had done to him.

The Lord not only restored him, but multiplied his blessings and turned the temporary suffering he experienced into something not worthy to be compared with the glory revealed in his new condition.

Notice that the Lord rebuked every speaker other than Elihu, who had prophesied against Job’s self-justification near the end of the story. This means that Job’s three accusers were in the wrong, but Elihu’s somewhat similar rebuke was actually correct, and lead to his deliverance.

I don’t believe God set a time period for Job to suffer before being delivered, but I believe that Job could have been delivered at any point if he had only “agreed with his adversary quickly.” Job didn’t understand this when he said in ch 9:32-33 “For He (God) is not a man as I am that I may answer Him, that we may go to court together. There is no umpire between us, who may lay his hand upon us both.” Instead of relying on the blood of Jesus, Job followed his own performance based belief system, trying to receive from the Lord based upon his works.

The term for Satan as “accuser” or “adversary” is a legal term synonymous with “prosecuting attorney.” Jesus is known in the New Testament as our “advocate” or “defense attorney.” John wrote, “If any man sins, we have an advocate/defense attorney with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” We have someone to represent us in court and to clear the charges against us, even when we have actually sinned.

 

Recovering Promises

Although the Lord rebuked Job’s three comforters for “not speaking that which was right concerning me (God),” most of what they said was truth. They expounded upon how the Lord protects and blesses the righteous, how the descendants of the righteous are blessed and provided for, and how it is only sin which allows evil to happen. These things are all clearly, repeatedly, and powerfully confirmed throughout the rest of scripture.

If you have any doubt about that, read the book of Psalms. From psalm 1, which contrasts the blessing of the righteous which does not whither but bears fruit in all seasons as opposed to the destruction of the wicked, to psalm 91 with its promises that “no plague will come near your dwelling,” “you will not fear the arrow which flies by day or the destruction that wastes at noonday,” and “a thousand will fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you, you will only behold with your eyes the reward of the wicked,” the promises of God’s lavish blessing and absolute protection from everything are repeatedly made crystal clear for the righteous.

Perfect protection is the norm, and the only exception is the enemy’s work due to the open doors of humanity’s sin. In Jesus Christ, our promises of being made joint-heirs with him of all the Father’s kingdom and of all privileges afforded to the Son himself are made clear as well. Every promise is yes and amen in him. God doesn’t ever say no regarding his promises for the sake of some mysterious purpose or cosmic wager.

This is not to heap condemnation upon those who are going through hardship as I expect some will take it, but is meant to offer hope that the Lord has paid for our deliverance in full when he paid for our sins.

In olden days, the problem with all those promises of blessing and protection were that few could live up to the standards necessary to walk in them. People thought they had to perform their way into God’s righteousness and blessings. The New Covenant reveals that we can be made righteous by the work of the Cross rather than having to measure up ourselves, revealing that we can walk in the promises of God as a result of the free gift of grace.

It’s OK though that we aren’t experiencing everything purchased for us yet. Paul himself wasn’t experiencing all the benefits of the New Covenant yet. Many people refer to his “thorn in the flesh” in the same way that they refer to the book of Job, as evidence that God will send you affliction to teach you a lesson or for some mysterious purpose.

One problem with this is that we don’t see anything like that with Jesus. He healed all who came to him and never sent anyone away saying, “Nope, my Father is using your sickness to teach you a lesson, go your way and consider your sickness a blessing.” He didn’t miraculously put sickness upon anybody as a way of helping them get closer to God. He just healed and delivered every single person who was willing, revealing exactly how God always responds to people.

Paul refers to his “thorn in the flesh” as “the angelos (Gk) of Satan,” or “the angel of Satan.” He says it was sent to “buffet him.” He writes that he sought the Lord three times for it to be removed, and the Lord told him, “my grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Notice that the “angel of Satan” sent to buffet Paul was never said to have been sent by God or even allowed by him. Paul just said it was there. Also, notice that God never refused to remove it. He is only said to have given Paul an encouraging word. We also aren’t told that Paul didn’t eventually get delivered from this fallen angel.

One thing this tells me is that, like the rest of us, Paul was still in the process of receiving his redemption. He was still “working out his own salvation” as he wrote to the Philippians. Job was no different. Our Bibles have the Lord describing Job as being “blameless,” but obviously he had areas which needed to be corrected in his journey. What if the Lord simply chooses to see people as blameless, and loves to describe all his kids that way when he brags about them to others?

What if the high praises that the Lord sang over Job to the Devil are no more astounding that the praises he declares over you and me? He said that there was “nobody like him on earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and shunning evil.” Do you know that there is nobody like you on earth either? What if God would call out specific qualities that he sees uniquely in your life, which are no less significant than those found in Job? Job’s strengths were his fear of God and his shunning of evil, but what does the Lord say he especially appreciates about you? Why don’t you ask him?

 

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