Friday, June 29, 2012

Lessons from Job

The book of Job is considered by Biblical scholars to be the oldest in the Bible, predating Moses, possibly predating the Great Flood.  In those days, "sin" was seen as overt wickedness; it was what someone did, not why they did it.  God only judges according to our knowledge and understanding of Him and so He said to Satan, "...Job [is] blameless and upright, fearing God and turning away from evil".  The truth of the matter was that God DID see something in Job that - though not defined by Job or anyone else as sin, needed to be repented of.  God knew that the crucible of suffering could - and in Job's case, would - bring that to the surface so that Job would be purified, delivered from a spiritual arrogance that colored everything he did - things which not only others but he himself considered to be upright and blameless. 

Basically put, Job felt that it was up to his own righteous works to keep what he'd been given by God. He lived his whole pre-tragedy life in fear that his wealth, his health, and/or his kids would be removed from him, or that his kids would be punished by God because HE failed to clean up after them. In chapter one, Job DAILY made a sacrifice for each of his kids (that must have taken a while!) just in case they sinned against God and were punished - something which he as their righteous father would not be able to bear!!  He didn't realize that there is no way that any human being can take responsibility for another's actions - and thought that he was the only thing - that his sacrifices were the only restraining force - standing between them and God's wrath.  In chapter 3 verse 25, Job says in his complaint, "That which I feared greatly has come upon me."  In essence, the kids were partying and WHILE THEY WERE DOING THAT, calamity fell on them - before Job could make sacrifice for them.

In one fell swoop, Job lost his possessions, his children, and his health.  He was down for the count.  And then his "friends" showed up.  Some friends.  The final support structure that he had (his brothers and sisters had deserted him, and his wife was absolutely no help!) was GONE.
The reality was that Job needed to stop living in fear.  He needed to realize that God was far bigger than he was and that God could speak to others just as well as to him, and that others were responsible to God for their own actions.  He needed to stop taking upon himself the role of savior.  It wasn't his to assume. 

God didn't CAUSE calamity to crash down on Job.  Satan did...and believe me, the slippery old fellow enjoyed (and still enjoys!) his craft.  But God also knew that if He continued to put a hedge of protection around Job, then Job would continue in his delusion that he was more important than he really was, that he could save people.  He couldn't.  It wasn't his function.  It was God's. So God allowed Satan permission - and only within limits - to test Job.  (Interesting that in the Old Testament, to "test" or to "prove" was used as a goldsmith's word, to determine the purity of a particular metal - and that it could only happen by heating it up until the impure portions rose to the surface so they could be skimmed off.)

Through his suffering and his willingness for God to reveal Himself, (which God did when Job was ready to listen!) Job says in chapter 42:2-6 that he knows now that God can do all things, and that nobody can thwart His purposes.  He also states that after seeing (i.e., experiencing) God for himself, "I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." (KJV)  

Repent? when all along he has maintained his innocence?  Yes - for he has realized that there is nothing he can do to change God's mind - whereas before his personal tragedies, he had the delusional idea that he could. This is a lesson that he could learn in no other way than to be faced with the materialization of all of his fears, as horrible as that was to go through.  So he is actually repenting of his arrogance, and letting go of a lifestyle of fear-based responsibility for the welfare of others, and the belief that he could influence the outcome in other people's lives by what he did or didn't do.  He has learned to let others take responsibility for their own actions, to form their own relationship with God.  He has given up the role of self-appointed savior, and has learned instead to trust. This is a new level of freedom which he has never before known. This was the end result that God foresaw in the beginning when He said to the enemy, "Have you considered My servant Job...?"

And the heat is removed.

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