Job: C.S. Lewis Was Right, God's Not A Tame Lion

In my first post I mentioned how much I find the book of Job to be a blessing. While discussing this with a friend he took a different view of Job. This post and hopefully several subsequent posts will be my attempt to share some of the things from Job that mean a lot to me.

Job chapter 1

In my experience, western Christianity speaks volumes of a loving, gracious, merciful God and His gift. Being a recipient of salvation by the blood sacrifice of Jesus I’m all for that part of God’s nature. What we often seem to miss, however, is how God’s sovereignty and holiness can seem capricious at times. I will submit to you Job as a character study of Jehovah; the God who would become the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It doesn’t necessarily define God but it can sure challenge your concept of Him. I don’t think the point of Job is to teach patience; I think it is to teach the sovereignty of God and how we should be humble in our relationship with Him.

Satan comes before God, an event most of us find interesting to say the least, and God initiates interaction with Satan saying, “From where do you come?” Given Satan’s answer this seems like an icebreaker somewhat akin to “So, Satan, what’ve you been doing since the whole rebellion thing?” Satan tells God (as though he could do anything else) and God asks Satan if he’s considered Job (Job 1:7-8).

[8] The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” – Job 1:8 NASB

Taking a minute to look at what God says about Job in chapter 1, verse 1 we find that God declares Job to be

  • blameless
  • upgright
  • fearing God
  • turning away from evil

That seems like Job had several commendable characteristics. Bypassing Job’s traits, I want to consider the whole God talking to Satan section. It appears that God started something with Satan knowing that Satan couldn’t touch Job without God’s permission. Well, that makes sense then. God’s not going to get Satan riled up and set him loose on Job; surely God will protect Job after ticking him off by pointing out just how steadfast Job is, right? In verse 12 of the first chapter we see that God again says something to Satan. This time the communication is that Satan can do anything to what Job has but he cannot harm the person of Job.

[12] Then the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD. – Job 1:12 NASB

Hmmmm. So a being that is already more powerful than Job has been going around the Earth (according to Peter Satan is looking for folks to devour spiritually – I Peter 5:8) God makes a point of singling out Job as a target so that Satan doesn’t just wander aimlessly and then turns this supernatural being loose on Job with God’s explicit approval to do anything he wants to Job except hurt Job himself? So that doesn’t sound like a suggly God, does it? That sounds like someone who wants to make a point. Then again I don’t pretend to understand what God does or why. Frankly one of the draws of this book to me is to demonstrate the inscrutible nature of God and how we don’t have to understand Him to worship Him. God is other than what humans are in every dimension and facet … but that’s for later.

So Satan proceeds to light into Job and destroy him through his posessions and even his family with four attacks in rapid succession:

  • Job’s livestock were all killed along with those who tended them
  • Job’s flocks were all killed along with those who tended them
  • Job’s camels were all killed along with those who tended them
  • Job’s 10 children were all killed

So Satan, with God’s permission, has some folks take Job’s 500 oxen & 500 female donkeys. Well, that’ll probably stick in Job’s craw. Then again, perhaps it’s a reasonable thought to think “Hey, they’re still alive, I’ll get a posse together and we’ll go take those oxen and donkey’s back ’cause I AM a man of God, right? He’s stuck by me up to now, surely he’ll deliver these turkeys into my hand and I’ll get back my livestock.” Yeah, that seems like the kind of thing you might think … except that while you’re formulating that thought someone else runs up and informs you that your sheep and the shepherds tending them were burned to death by fire falling from the sky. Now, first off, I’m not used to fire falling from the sky; it’s just not a season with which I’m familiar. Surprisingly, the Bible doesn’t record Job reacting to either the odd meteorological occurrence or to the idea of so many sheep and humans just dying. It’s not like someone took them and he can go get them back; those critters & people just died. They’re gone. Done. Now at this point I’ve got to think that Job, given the earlier qualifications of his personality, may have been wondering what was happening. Maybe he’s a calm customer and trusts God (it certainly seems that way) but if it’s me I’ve got to be thinking that something bigger than happenstance is at work here. Next guy rolls up and tells Job that his camels were taken. Well, there’s a silver lining, Job, you can still go get those camels back if you want. At least they weren’t burned up. It’s the little things, right? So one last messenger comes up and tells Job that his children have all been killed by a great wind. Now surely we can all agree that some folks have gotten bad news before. Maybe an earthquake occurred and killed more than one person from the same family or a tragic traffic accident happened and some family members passed. Just to make sure Job gets the point that this isn’t some random event, Satan hammers him with three attacks on the blessings God has given Job before sticking it to him by killing his kids. I’m just making a guess here but I’ve got to think that no matter how Job would have taken the news of his kids’ deaths without the first three attacks, he must by the point that the fourth messenger arrives believe that he is the target of some supernatural attack. The question of the whole book of Job is how will Job, a person who’s been blessed by God, react in adversity. Will Job accuse God, feel sorry for himself, harden his heart? What’s Job going to do?

When Job heard of all these horrible things happening he got up, tore his robe, shaved his head, fell to the ground and worshipped!?!?! Yeah, that’s right. He worshipped.
W O R S H I P P E D!

Talk about a novel concept. Most people lose a child, much less 10 of them and they don’t think to worship God. Job worshipped saying,

Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

You’ve GOT to be kidding, right?

Nope, the Bible says

[22] Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God. – Job 1:22 NASB

Compare the statement from Solomon when he says the following in Ecclesiastes 5:15-16

[15] As he had come naked from his mother’s womb, so will he return as he came. He will take nothing from the fruit of his labor that he can carry in his hand. [16] This also is a grievous evilexactly as a man is born, thus will he die. So what is the advantage to him who toils for the wind? – Ecc 5:15-16 NASB

Both guys say essentially the same thing, you can’t take it with you. You leave the same way you came into this life, naked and without any possessions. The difference is that Solomon follows his statement with “…this also is a grievous evil….” Job, on the other hand, worships God. Did both of them come to a realization that possessions mean nothing? Yes. Had both of them confronted the emptiness of life? Absolutely. One of them had everything and lost it, the other had everything and tried to worship it. The difference is in how the two men recognized their position before God. Job understood that goal of everything is to worship God while Solomon was still searching for purpose and meaning in life.

So far in this book God doesn’t seem like the lovey-dovey father figure in white clouds with a snowy beard kind of God nor does Job’s reaction seem all that normal. In Job, God who doesn’t seem to mind provoking Satan into something nor does He mind pointing out the person Satan can pick on. Next we have a guy who loses almost everything he has yet his response is to worship God. Now THAT is an attitude. Talk about “Let this mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus …” (Philippians 2:5). Where Philippians 2 talks about Jesus humbling Himself (and THAT is certainly another topic) Job exemplifies that same level of humility. Job’s response is the crux of Job and one of the central themes of the Bible. God is God and we are not. He is worthy of praise and worship even when He seems capricious. It is exactly because we don’t understand Him that we must trust that He is doing good for us and not evil. It’s hard to say that knowing that God fully knew Satan would kill Job’s children. God knew beforehand what Satan would do and He allowed Satan to go ahead and kill Job’s kids. Anyone who thinks harming children is a bad thing (I’m in that club in a big way) take note. Had God not given Satan permission, Job’s children would have continued to live. The Bible doesn’t record whether those kids were good or bad; just that they died as part of an attack by Satan on Job to get Job to renounce God. The God that let’s that happen, knowing with Godly omniscience what’s going to happen isn’t the one we talk about much.

To recap, God seems to pick a fight with Satan and then point Satan at Job. Job worships God as a response to his losses. OK, seems like we have a weird book of the Bible already.