Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Job 2.3:Good from Evil

What was Job's response to his wife?

Job 2:10 But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.

Now for the moment, he is refusing this counsel. She is saying to stop blessing because it is disconnected, he is saying that she speaks as the foolish women, saying that we should bless regardless of whether God gives good or evil. And in this, the scripture says he has committed no sin. This phrase demonstrates that though he is committing no sin, he is still killing himself. How can this be?

Certainly, because as we saw earlier evil is not the same as sin, he can be doing something that is harmful, this misalignment of heart and head while he is blessing God leaving scripture to describe him as blameless. But let’s look at Job’s righteousness. In chapter one, we find this excerpt:

Job 1:5 And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.

Job here is making sin offerings for his children; the daughters are included in the offerings it seems (included in them), but his thoughts as earlier mentioned are directed towards his sons. He does this even though he does not know if they have sinned. This is the scripture’s first example of his righteousness and so we are inclined to commend this action, and rightly so as he is taking spiritual charge and guardianship over his family as a man should. However, there is nothing in the text about him asking them if they’ve sinned, nor anything about him debating about whether or not to, or seeking God as to whether he should. The point?

Sure, he’s being righteous, but it is reflex, ‘continually,’ automation almost. What happens after round one of Satan’s attacks?

Job 1:20 Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,

Again, without any deliberation or external questioning, he immediately falls down and worships. Again, no sin and completely commendable, but it is almost cold. Like the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the pod people are known by the lack of emotion. If you really read it, doesn’t it almost hurt to know he’s not expressing his hurt? No crying to God for answers (yet), just reflexive worship. Think about in comparison, Yeshua when he faced trials. His heart was grieved by the hard hearted; he wept for Israel; he questioned and prayed for escape in the garden of Gethsemane; when he was on the cross he asked God “Why have you forsaken me?”

I think there are many Job’s today. You go into many synagogues/churches, and you ask someone how they’re doing and even if they’ve had a terrible week, they’ll paste on a good face and a shallow smile because they believe that is the mark of spirituality. They praise God for everything, good and evil, but inside they’re torn up.

None of this is meant to say that we should not bless God in all circumstances, but rather that we must speak also to our hurt places. Think of the ongoing theme of Job, God is not a man, he is not an idol. He doesn’t do things the way we expect. We must not try to fit God into a man-shaped mold. We think when we’re praising God out of empty responsiveness that we are glorifying him because “look we’re praising him all the times!” But what are we really doing? We’re praising a fragile and cold, idol because the real God is glorified in both our triumphs and our struggles and our questions about our struggles.

Think of the words of Jeremiah:

Jer 15:15 O LORD, thou knowest: remember me, and visit me, and revenge me of my persecutors; take me not away in thy longsuffering: know that for thy sake I have suffered rebuke.
16 Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.
17 I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of thy hand: for thou hast filled me with indignation.
18 Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable, which refuseth to be healed? wilt thou be altogether unto me as a liar, and as waters that fail?

God puts this word of coming vengeance in Jeremiah’s heart. He is a righteous man and obeys to speak, but he is alienated because of this burden he must carry. He is persecuted and alone, and God isn’t doing anything about it. So what does Jeremiah say “Wilt thou be altogether unto me as a liar…?”

“Wo, wo, wo, Jerry!” I can hear his fellow churchgoers saying. “You can’t talk to God like that?”

The point is God is neither fragile that he can’t handle a hard question, nor is he a cold distant God that doesn’t care about the fact that our hearts are breaking. When we say he is either, we make an idol. He is the God who asks questions he knows the answers too; who chooses people he knows will fail him; who lets his servants argue with him before his burning bush; who has patience with the defiance of his enemies and his beloved; who forgives the sins of his anointed kings even when they only repented after being caught; the God who fields hard questions from his prophets; and does not find fault with his Son praying for a different plan.

This is where Job is weak. He is a hair trigger worshipper, but he doesn’t seek God for the answers to his hurt. Fortunately, God gave him a wife that understood. So verse 10 teaches us that God is not too weak to field our questions born of hurt and frustration, and that you can still hurt yourself without doing anything wrong—not all problems fit into questions of right and wrong.

The second thing that verse 10 teaches us is the hidden teaching of Job’s words. “…shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” What is the implication? God sent the evil.

Job has no problem assigning responsibility for evil to God and the scriptures holds him faultless for doing so. And his attitude is that this is to be expected. We in the body of Messiah these days are bombarded with impressions of a god made in the image of Santa Clause or a Genie in a lamp. If we love God (and most of us don’t even hold up that end of the bargain most of the time), then we believe that God will reign down blessing on us. And in truth the confusing part is that he says he will, but how do we reconcile the pain in our lives? If God promises all this goodness and love, than why do bad things happen to his servants? We know none of us are actually good, so we’re not deserving of God’s riches. But I thought God was this all good being and sticking with him washes you clean of sin, so why am I suffering if in God’s eyes I’m spotless? It’s easy to understand why the world is suffering, if you study the world it’s almost impossible to see how any of them could have even a moment of happiness, but what is the good news of a merciful God, if God sends evil down on us?

This isn’t an easy question, and the answer isn’t easy. We have to begin by abolishing the mental image of a God whose love, mercy, and justice keeps him from causing evil and pain. Remembering that evil is not sin, but rather calamity, chaos, destruction, suffering; let’s revisit the garden of Eden. Remember, man was given a command not to partake of the knowledge that was of both Good and Evil, but after we sinned and had such knowledge we were commanded to do good only and not evil.

While the act of partaking of the knowledge was forbidden/was sin, the knowledge itself was good because God made everything very good. Sin is evil, the option to sin is good. Doing good is good, doing evil is evil, but is doing evil a sin? No.

Isa 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

God cannot be unrighteous, but God can create evil and as we have now seen in Job he does send evil. Doing evil is not sin, but doing sin is evil. Think of a surgeon who must cut (evil) to heal (good). So what is the lesson from the garden of Eden and the tree of the knowledge? Knowledge and the option to do good or evil is good, but man has a propensity for evil and he does it out of unrighteousness while not doing good. God makes all good things, but he also uses evil to work good:

Rom 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

The message? God alone, at least at the present is able to do evil to bring about good. Man cannot. And this is born out in the examples of life. Man is constantly trying to do evil “for the greater good” but it only works greater evil and it is done by sin. Think of a child and their father. The father can discipline, spank, set rules and so forth with the aim of raising a godly child, but the child it is not to discipline other children (unless from the father) or to set rules. God alone can wield both good and evil for righteousness sake, he alone can give and take.

Man’s sin in the garden is not the desire of the knowledge, it is in disobedience caused from a lust to remove God from the position of God and to make ourselves God. And the consequence; a world full of people who have the knowledge to act like God, but instead act only like Satan.

Something similar to this must be going through Job’s mind. He is a man who walks uprightly in God’s sight, so he knows about God’s justice and he fears him. Then God takes away everything from him through his agent the Devil, and yet Job blesses him. Why would he do that? Well we see that he does this out of reflex or at least at the expense of his truest heart, but the question remains for us, why should we? Remember Satan’s opener was ‘does he fear God for nought…?’ If Job has nothing left to lose, why should he still fear God? Why should he still bless him?

The hope must be that there is something intrinsic in God himself that is good. Sure we hope that his goodness will spill over into goodness in our lives, but the deepest root 
is the belief that God himself is good. Like a relationship with a spouse, we will not truly love them until we can do so apart from the goodness we expect to get from them and instead love them for the goodness that is them.

No comments: