The Surprises of Job
I'm reading another book by Philip Yancy -- The Bible Jesus Read. It's another pick from S's bookshelf. I didn't know he had so many interesting (to me) books over there. The big, noticeable ones are all about lighting and lighting design -- important to him, but not "must read" material for me.
I just finished (a couple of days ago) the chapter about Job. I've mentioned before that as I read Job earlier this year, I was surprised the impression that it made on me. I expected it to be depressing and useless -- it can be depressing to be sure, but not useless.
There's a neat trick in Blogger (and this will work on almost any Blogger blog) -- in the top bar that I never pay attention to, there is a search window. You (I) can use that window to search for any term that has been used on this blog in particular or in any Blogger blog all together. When I searched for Job on this blog, I got 31 hits. Not surprisingly, most of those are hits to the word job (rhymes with Bob), but 7 of them are hits to the book of Job. I'm surprised that I've mentioned it that often.
Anyway, if I think about Job, I can divide it into three parts -- the first two chapter where God and Satan are talking, the middle, where all the bad things happen to Job, and his "friends" come to "help" him, and the end, where Job and God have a conversation. I came away early this year really impressed with the third section, but still a little upset with the first two chapters. It always seemed to me that in this book of the Bible, God and Satan were playing a game with Job as the chess pawn. I didn't like it; it didn't fit with my "big picture" view of God. I don't want to be a chess piece; I want to be a child of God.
The Job chapter in Yancy's book has helped me to see some of that in a different way. Here's my list, and rather than boring you by saying continually, "Yancy says that..." just understand that most of this is based on Yancy's book:
- We often think that the book of Job is about suffering. It is, I suppose, in some ways -- it can't help but be, with all the suffering Job goes through. But after reading Yancy's thoughts, I am more convinced that it is a book about faith -- Job's faith in God, and God's faith in Job. When we look at Job to answer the question, "Why do we suffer," we probably won't find answers.
- God wants our love not because of what He can (and does) do for us -- not for what we can get out of the relationship with God, but only because He is God. Do we have faith in God solely because of what we can get out of it? And doesn't the idea that God wants our love only because of who He is resonate with us? Isn't that why we want to be loved, too? Not love in reaction to what we have, or what we do, or how we look, but love because of who we are.
- In the book Extraordinary Faith by Sheila Walsh (I found that link by using that search window -- isn't it neat?), the author describes an extraordinary faith -- God's faith in us. God chooses Job for this "test" because He has faith in Job -- of all the people He could have picked, he picked Job. Job wasn't a chess pawn; he was an honored participant in a very important enterprise.
- The outcome of the "test" mattered; it wasn't a game. Would Job have enough faith in God to continue to believe in Him even when everything is taken from him? Would Job have enough faith to love God even when he believes that God has taken everything away from him? Would he love God for who He is, rather that what He gives?
- "One man's faith made a difference -- it isn't explained, but it is suggested." The outcome of the "test" -- the test of one man's faith -- mattered to God.
- I like the comparison he makes between the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis and Job. Adam and Eve live in paradise. They have direct communication with God -- He walks with them. Their circumstances are perfect. They only have one task -- don't eat the fruit of that particular tree standing right over there. There is no guesswork, and, if you think about it, not much faith involved. They are told directly, in a perfect situation, with a pointing finger -- don't eat that! And they fail. Job on the other hand, is in the least perfect situation -- it's horrible! He doesn't have direct communication with God (until the end), and he doesn't really have any idea what he is supposed to do, or why any of this is happening to him. God had already seen what his creation would do in a perfect situation; it's a wonder that He could have faith in Job at all in this very far from perfect situation, and yet He does -- see why it's extraordinary faith?
- As the story progresses, of all the questions, requests, and demands that Job makes, the only one that God grants is Job's right to question God. Isn't there a message for us in that?
- The book of Job is not about suffering; it is about a crisis of faith. We need faith at the precise moment when it seems the most unreachable. Through it all, though, God is there.
- Yancy said, "God cares more about our faith than our pleasure." That's a tough one to swallow, isn't it?
- I like the foreshadowing that is in the book of Job. Job cries out for an advocate -- someone to stand between himself and God. Doesn't that sound like a cry for a savior? And don't WE have that advocate? Secondly, in the end, all that Job lost was returned to him doubled -- his animals, etc -- except for his children. He does later have more children -- exactly the same number as before, but the number is not doubled. Yancy says that this is foreshadowing of the idea that Job hasn't really lost the first group of offspring -- he'll be reunited with them in heaven.
I always really cringed at the idea that God punishes us for our bad behavior by making bad things happen to us. That idea doesn't fit in with my "big picture" of God. This book of the Bible flies in the face of that kind of reasoning. What happens to Job doesn't happen as punishment for wrong doing, as his friends want to point out. It happened because God believed in him. Notice very carefully, also, that what does happen to Job isn't done by God; it's carried out by Satan. God agrees to it, but not as some kind of game between two "good ole boys." He allows it because He has a huge amount of faith in Job's love for Him, and He never leaves Job alone in this crisis.
In the end, God leaves no room to doubt that He is GOD, but doesn't that revelation of Himself make the audience He grants to Job even more extraordinary? God is God, but he takes the time to show His face to Job.
So, it may not be my favorite book of the Bible, but it's climbing up the ladder.
Image: A picture I took of the sky sometime in January. That's all I know; I found it on my hardrive this morning. I tried to get a photo of the rain last night, but nothing worked out. Is there a lesson in that? Job isn't about the rain. It's about looking up.
Joke: If you've made it ALL the way through this very long post about Job, you deserve a joke, so click here.