Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bible In a Year - Job 1 to 5 (#4)

*Based on's Chronological Bible In a Year schedule. If anyone would like to join in, this blog's comments sections would be a good forum in which to share insights from the text.

Manhood: Job vs. The College Jock
Like I pointed out in my entry on Genesis 2, it looks like The Bible has a prescription for what makes dudes into men. It includes things like working hard, protecting others, obeying God, taking responsibility for things, and leading a man's own household. In Job, we meet a guy who does these things. He is able to provide: he shares servants with his children, one of whom escapes to tell him about the "great wind" that Satan sent which struck and killed his kids. And he takes care of his responsibilities to lead his family: When the days of feasting had completed their cycle, Job would send and consecrate [his children], rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings according to the number of them all. Finally, as far as Job's devotion to God, the Lord himself even says "there is no one like him... fearing God and turning away from evil."

In a day where manhood is supposed to look like frat boys crushing beer cans on their foreheads, or beating people up, or having their way with women, we could use more examples of manhood like Job provides. The guy seems worth imitating - after all, this guy even has an endorsement from God himself. In addition, Job also knows the importance of money; when he loses everything, he keeps it in perspective: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there." It's easy to be rich and greedy - to think that what you have is all there is. The economic troubles going on right now were caused by people who thought like that. More people should think like Job.

Satan: What Liars Do to Honest Men

I apparently live in the Wiccan Capital of Canada, so I know a couple of people who have some interesting views on Satan: Giver of power, glory, fame, and fortune? Check. Misunderstood bad-boy figure of heaven? Check. Object of worship? Occasionally, check (but these people have other problems). In the book of Job, Satan is a sadistic, disrespectful, challenging figure with a special hatred for honest men (probably because he's a liar -see John 8.44- and liars tend to despise the honest men most). He doesn't understand devotion, so he thinks that Job's obedience is motivated by greed; he doesn't understand God's worth, so Satan gets a kick out of the thought of turning a religious man ("he will curse you to your face"); he doesn't respect family, so he goes through Job's wife and makes her counsel him ("Do you still hold to your integrity? Curse God and die!").

And, as proven by child sacrifice in ancient times, and mass abortion in the present, Satan does not love or care for kids - so he murders all of the protagonist's 10 children at once. It's comforting to know that Satan isn't all-powerful; he has to get God's permission before he can test Job, and even then the Lord set limits: "all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him." Satan might be sadistic, deceitful, malicious, disrespectful to God, powerful, intelligent, and dangerous, but he is kept in check. That's good to know.

Despair: "Why Was I Born, Why Did the Knees Receive Me?"
This entire time, Job does not know what is happening. He doesn't have a category for "righteous, but not blessed with riches and health." He does not know that his suffering comes because of God's confidence in his virtue, not despite it. And in the middle of that confusion and hurt and mourning and pain, he asks for death: "Why is light given to... the bitter of soul, who long for death, but there is none, and dig for it more than for hidden treasures?" I like this. Job's pain is raw; real. It is also an example to those of us who experience loss and pain and don't know why. Even though Job wants to die, he doesn't commit suicide. He knows that he can't just take the easy exit so he remains steadfast. Years later Jesus' brother Jude writes about "steadfast Job," and "as patient as Job" still remains a common saying. That's a testament to suffering well.

Eliphaz: The Jerk Who Really Wasn't
The frenemies of Job really get a bad rap: this is my third time reading through this book, and I'm just starting to see things from their perspective. Job doesn't have a category for "righteous, but not blessed," so he unfairly questions God: "If the scourge kills suddenly, He mocks the despair of the innocent" (Job 9.23); his friends don't have a category for it either, so they unfairly question Job and accuse his dead children: "If your sons sinned against Him, then He delivered them into the power of their transgression" (Job 8.4). Keep in mind that both Job and his friends believe in providence, that God is in control of all things and that everything happens for a reason. They don't know that God would let a righteous man suffer to prove his perseverance. Eliphaz even offers a helpful way for Job to see his own suffering and relationship with God: "Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?" Eliphaz is a good dude. Mistaken, but still good.


  1. Hey Sean,

    It's Sammy (on my wife's account.) First I must say I love the blog buddy! Sorry I have never commented and I don't frequent it enough, but it is refreshing. The reason I wanted to respond was because I am doing the same reading plan ironically, and am enjoying another read through Job.

    My comment is on the last section. I disagree for the most part for a few reasons. The main one obviously because of the Lord's strong rebuke at the end of the book (Job 42:7, also 8b).
    "the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: "My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has."

    But even before getting to that point, I am not saying that Eliphaz is not a "good dude," but the pride in which he shows compassion is what gets me.

    You bring out a good point that none of the guys have a "righteous, but not blessed," understanding but if your friend is pleading his innocence (for this particular suffering) would you not consider your theology, rather than declaring doctrinal superiority over your suffering friend? What came to mind when I read your post is Job's response in Job 12:3
    "But I have understanding as well as you;
    I am not inferior to you.
    Who does not know such things as these?"

    The reason I find the friends message so frustrating is because sadly in our Christian tradition there are denominations/churches who so arrogantly teach their suffering flock that ALL suffering has to do with sin and it is clearly not a doctrine supported by the New Covenant Scriptures.

    Anyway my friend, just my thoughts. Like I said I love the blog and hope you come to visit Saskatoon soon and if not lets skype it up. Take care.

    Sammy Whitehawk

  2. I think that they *were* trying to be helpful though, at least at first. If their belief is that poverty, sickness, etc. = hidden sin in someone's life, then they're actually pretty loving in convincing Job of his sin and getting him to repent so that he won't suffer anymore.

    And, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar get rebuked for the things they say about God, but so does Job. So clearly Job isn't all right and they aren't all wrong.


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