Friday, August 31, 2007

The Jobs: Living With Losses

A temptation to focus primarily on how this couple dealt with terrible loss causes us to miss the real subject of Job. Specifically, we overlook God’s response to Job’s suffering (chapters 38-41), which reveals Job’s deep heart-felt spiritual needs that his suffering exposes. By facing those issues we find a wonderful example of God’s love, and the joy that comes from knowing Him. To identify Job’s deep yearnings we will:

1. Examine his opening speech (Job 3) and what he really wants from God.
2. Look at what Job’s friends offer him in his suffering, and will look at what
3. God has to say to Job after He has observed everything.
4. Then we will see how Job’s wife’s single comment affected her husband.
5. Finally, we will compare what Job has learned and how that knowledge can cure the Laodicean stalemate of our own hearts.

Job is a man with integrity who shuns evil. Even when he loses everything, he does not blame God. In Job’s opening speech, he wants to die, to reverse creation and turn out the lights (3:1-10; note the “Let there be”... Sound familiar?) His reason? To be at rest (see 3:13-19).

It is imperative to see why he wants rest. Note 3:25: “What I fear comes upon me, what I dread befalls me.” He has always feared that this calamity would happen, and lived his life with this unsettling fear, even though he had taken all the precautions he knew (see 1:5), has held to his integrity. Why have his fears come true?

Job’s friends point out that God is perfect so that no one can sin and get away with it. Job is experiencing the just rewards of sin, and what is needed for relief is for him to acknowledge it. Their “comforting words” show that their knowledge of God is shallow; it has come too easy, their words are mere clich├ęs (for examples see 11:7-9). These men know God as a stereotyped wrathful God, all-powerful, quick to see sin and hold the sinner directly accountable.

Job responds by saying that the friends are not addressing the issues (e.g., 9:1-13). He wants to have his day in court with God because it seems He is misusing His power. God can tear down mountains, penetrate all secrets, so why is He not answering Job’s questions? The friends are appalled at this seeming arrogance. Who would presume to challenge God? (Or their ideas of God!) This exchange continues until God enters the discussion.

God truly does answer Job. One can see this when the themes of Job’s opening speech (chapter 3) are compared with those in God’s speech in Job 38-41. Job wants to turn the lights out to get rest, God asks Job if he grasps what it takes to turn the universe’s lights on? Point after point, God takes the metaphors of Job’s lament and places them in the most amazing picture of a world that is exquisitely conceived and unbelievably maintained. Everything God reveals shows an infinite creation that overwhelms Job’s idea of God’s power and knowledge. Job’s understanding of God’s creative and redemptive work is immature.

The issue is not about a God who is the ultimate combatant, overpowering all challengers and ruling the universe with strength. It is about God’s imposing order on chaos. He sets limits in a world ravished with sin. God tells Job how He draws boundaries for those things that have power to destroy. Power is not bad but there are evil forces at work in the world. God is holding them in check; nothing can stand up to Him. Life is far more involved that just Job’s situation.

To Job this is a new revelation. He thought he knew enough to anticipate God acting in harmony with his expectations. Little did he realize that he had too small a view of God, thus his frustration. Yet, his faith clung to the belief that God would do something to resolve his predicament. And in all this Job did not lose his integrity.

The lessons in Job are needed when the church is expecting Christ to come and deal with the sin problem. Why we suffer is not the most important issue, although God is very aware of our pain and hurt. We simply are not clear on what it takes to redeem us from sin. Job learned that lesson.

The Sabbath School lesson for Sunday refers to an article by Ellen G. White that states that the books of Job and Genesis were written by Moses after he left Egypt to escape his crime of killing the Egyptian.* The article clearly explains how Moses was God’s man, yet in need of insights only God could give. It would seem that Moses could not be prepared for God’s calling without understanding the story of Job! Note:

1. 1. Moses had become in every sense a great man (sounds like he is ready for translation).
2. God does not see as man sees. The traits he still needed to learn leave us questioning if Moses was good at all!
3. Later the article lists what Moses needed to unlearn. (We might wonder how God could ever call Moses a great man.)
4. God takes Moses to learn and unlearn lessons—in the wilderness where he can observe God in His natural elements! Just like Job 38-41. “Every child of God will have a similar experience.” “It would have seemed ... as if God had forgotten him, as if his ability and experience were to be lost to the world.” (Now we can understand a little more about Job’s wife and his “friends.”)

Satan counted on Job to embarrass God in His faith in Job. Satan lost because Job, despite his weaknesses and ignorance, saw God in faith and refused to give up until God resolved the problem.

This is the fact that we as a church must learn about God’s amazing grace. This is the kind of message that resembles the latter rain that we so often pray for. This is the message of faith that Waggoner and Jones caught a glimpse of, a message that will cleanse the heart temple. No wonder Ellen White was so excited when she heard it in 1888. And what we miss most is the amazing love and grace of God as our Lord and Savior is presented in the 1888 message. —Robert Van Ornam



* Signs of the Times, Feb. 19, 1880, Download the Article


If you would like a copy, sent via e-mail, of Robert J. Wieland’s “Seven Memorable Marriages in the Bible,” please request it from: sabbathschool@1888message.org. Or, download the PDF document here.



(Note: A series of CDs on these lessons recorded by this Robert J. Wieland is available from the office of the 1888 Message Study Committee: 269-473-1888.) Listen to the audio recording for Lesson 9 now in MP3 format. TO stream online or suscribe to podcast go to http://www.pluggd.com/audio/channels/wolf_s_oath_audio