Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Job 1.6: Picking a fight

Job 1:11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
Job 1:12 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.

Notice what Satan is saying, he is challenging God to pull away his hand and to strike Job. People look at this and point out how our enemy cannot move without our Father’s say so, and this is an important truth. It again demonstrates that Satan and his are not God’s enemies, they’re ours. God is in complete control at all times, even as in verse 12, when God gives Satan the permission to do as he wills, he is giving permission, Satan cannot go beyond his permission. He is on a leash that God never loses.

This is a matter of great consolation to those who have experienced the Devil’s fury, but it leads to one troubling conclusion that many believers are not prepared to face. God is in control. Satan didn’t break out of the pen, sneak past some dozing angels and pounce on Job; or you; or anyone who experiences evil. God opened the gate and let him loose.

Good intentioned believers attempt to hide this fact by saying “God doesn’t want this for you,” or “He’s only allowing this to happen,” or “This isn’t of God, it’s of the enemy.” But the fact is that you can’t proclaim the sovereignty of God and simultaneously try to make him irresponsible for the evil that comes into your life. This would be obvious if the orderer of events was anyone other than God. If a bully went after a kid, and beat the snot out of him while his Dad stood there watching, you would be outraged at the Dad. If a Cop watched a mugging of some old lady and did nothing to intervene, you would want his badge. But because it’s God, we give him a pass. We say “Oh, well its different here. It would be unrighteous to question him, or hold him to the same standard. He’s not responsible though he has the power to intervene and does nothing.”

It seems like a spiritual position when you’re in it, but objectively it’s absurd. And worse, it misses the entire point of what the book of Job is trying to teach us. The Devil is saying, no one will love you (God) unless you bribe them (give them good). God responds to the Devil’s challenge by giving him the power, allowing evil into Job’s life. Though God doesn’t say it, the implication is clear, I can give him evil and he will still praise me. Why then, when we read this do we try to say that God isn’t responsible for the evil? He has to be responsible for the evil, or the entire ‘experiment’ is invalid. The whole point is that God is responsible for the evil! The Cop isn’t letting the mugger mug, he’s giving the mugger a target and letting him out of the car.

Armed with God’s blessing to do evil upon Job, sparing only the man himself, Satan proceeds to do his worst.

Job 1:13 And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house:
14 And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them:
15 And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

These three verses and the ones that follow, speak volumes about the Devil and Us. Remember the order of wealth before? Relationship with God; Family; Possessions (in this case, both cattle and servants). While that is God’s evaluation of wealth, Satan chooses to attack the bottom first. Possessions before Family. Why?

Well, he can’t attack Job’s character directly because one, God won’t allow him to touch him, two as we’ll see later even when allowed with the prohibition over death, Satan cannot directly touch his character. Satan cannot take our free will. Our ability to choose in reaction to the events taking place around us, cannot be stolen. This is very encouraging; our enemy cannot supersede the sovereignty of God over creation, and he cannot supersede over our choices. Our souls are fortresses that cannot be breached from the without.

Being unable to attack the top of the wealth pyramid, why then doesn’t he attack family? Because the importance of family is next in God’s measuring, but not necessarily ours. Possessions are very powerful with people. Think about how many times; a car breaks down; a job is lost; or some other material thing is taken away and in a moment of weakness or even in a pattern of behavior we lash out at our friends and family. Whether we like to admit it or not, possessions are often a very easy way to unravel our resolve. It’s not that we consciously try to make possessions more important, but they represent our time and our energy that we will never get back. To be robbed of something earned, is to steal the purpose of our efforts.

Again, the Devil shows his tactical understanding in how he attacks us.

Job 1:16 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
17 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

The devil’s first blow came at the hands of men, so we can know that men are at times his agents, but now we see that he can also summon supernatural attacks. Such that his fire is mistaken for the fire of God. One thing we must consider though is that it might actually have been the fire of God. If you read scripture thoroughly you might be surprised how often God speaks of his creations as extensions of his power. Ie when a foreign nation attacks Israel while they’re in sin, he often says “I have struck you.” Or when God allowed a lying spirit into prophets of the kings it is recorded that he “sent an evil spirit.” The point is not whether or not the fire was God’s or the Devil’s own power masquerading, the point is it could have been either.

Also, notice how there is always one survivor. Do we treat this as coincidence? Certainly not. And Job would do no less; I’m sure he must have seen the pointedness of this assault. He knew this was not happenstance that all of this is happening on the same day, reported at the same time, each by a sole survivor.

Job 1:18 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house:
19 And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

Finally, Satan attacks the family. Wiping them all out with elemental fury. When given permission, Satan has a full arsenal of natural and supernational attacks to include human pawns and the environment.

It’s easy to rush over these verses and think of it just as history, but stop and consider what this would mean to one of us. Your sixty years old and your car is totaled says the reporting officer, you have no way to get to work. In fact the car was your work so you’re now unemployed. That’s not too bad, you can afford another car and you were close to retiring anyways. The bank calls, all of your accounts are zeroed out and there is no net to catch your freefall. You are old, jobless, and penniless. But one of your employees calls, he was driving by the apartment complex where all your children live…when it collapsed and killed everyone. Your entire legacy has just been destroyed. And worst of all, the God you have served all your life has orchestrated your downfall.

How would you feel?

How would you feel towards God?

Job 1:20 Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,
21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.
22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.

Job does not deny the hurt. He admits his loss and grieves as his actions show. But this man is truly the things that God said, remember it was God who laid those four qualities on him. It wasn’t another man that exaggerates or Job himself being conceited, God himself esteemed these qualities in him. So what does he do? He shows his quality. In mourning, he falls down and worships…the word for worship means also to revere, and revere to fear. He still fears God even though everything has been taken from him.

And he does not say “I am under spiritual attack,” though that was true. He does not say “How could this happen, Lord, I thought you were in control?” He names God as the originator of the events. “The YHVH gave…the YHVH hath taken…” He knows that God is sovereign, so he knows God sent this, but what does he do with that? “Blessed be the name of the YHVH.”

Then the scripture says in conclusion, that Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly. Do you see that? He did charge God with responsibility, but he did not charge him with guilt or villainy. What should this teach us about our own sufferings? It’s hard to say. I’d like to make some conclusion like “If we trust in God everything will be alright,” but that would be the very type of cliché this book is against. The truth is that Job at the end of this chapter is still decimated, and God has not answered his suffering.

What we can say, is that God is in control. In good or evil, he is in control. That’s little comfort to those mired in evil, but it’s a start. The other thing we can see is that God picked the fight, the champion, and the terms; the Devil only issued a challenge. What does this mean? God didn’t say “Hey Devil have you seen Jesse Clark? He’s not so great, his faith is pretty weak, and a lot of times he fears men instead of me, but I’m going to give you the power to take everything from him…” God provoked the Devil’s challenge because he did know Job’s qualities, and he set the terms knowing Job’s qualities.

Going back to our analogy of the kid with the Dad (because it’s better than the cop, given our Father’s qualities), the Dad steps aside and tells the bully ‘Go ahead, my son’s the one in green with the black ballcap. Just don’t kill him.’ The bully runs off with a gleam in his eye, he’s gonna make the kid hate his Dad. He lands the opening blow; the kid is stunned. Another, and he falls. The bully kicks him in his side. Spectators gather round and their wanting to rush in, saying ‘how could this happen? Why is his Dad allowing this?’ The Dad has a quite grin, and holds out his arm to stop them. Then he says ‘Wait, he’s got this.’

We don’t know what the Dad’s point is, or what our Father’s is with us or with Job, all we know for sure is that he’s in control and he picked a fight that he knew we could win. And really, he picked the fight because he knew we could win.

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