Thursday, October 25, 2012

Chain of Thoughts on the Book of Job

Starting this month of October, our daily devotions (in church and in my family) are derived from the Book of Job.    Job is one of the most notable and iconic characters in the Bible (though he wasn’t able to make my top ten favorites), and his story is definitely compelling and lesson-filled.  Here are some thoughts, in bullets:
  • There is something about how the Book of Job is written that puzzles me, and even makes me think that the Book of Job could be a fictional story (even if it is, it won’t undermine the Bible being the Word of God.  If – hypothetically speaking – the Book of Job is indeed fiction, it still carries a lot of important spiritual truths.  It could be an Old Testament parable.  Thus, if we use the same context of the Gospels’ parables’ intent – which is being God-inspired fictional stories that allegorizes important spiritual truths – on the Book of Job, then even if it’s fiction, it doesn’t mean it destroys the Bible’s legitimacy as the Word of God).  What do I mean?  Well, the conversations here between the characters are almost all in poetry form, as if they are in a Shakespearean play!  Now, if the events in the Book of Job actually happened in history, there are only two possible reasons for this: a) the Book of Job is merely a poetical paraphrase of the actual story of what happened to Job and it was the writer who restated the actual conversations by the involved people into poem form; or b) the poetical structure was the actual delivery of the conversations because people of that time are like characters of a musical who can and will spontaneously sing an appropriate song in a given situation.
  • In the story, it was as if Satan gate-crashed himself into the throne room of God to discuss about Job with Him (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6).  Now, why wasn’t Satan completely obliterated in the presence of such extreme holiness?   We know for a fact that actual, face-to-face conversation between God and Satan is impossible.  In the midst of God’s full glory and holiness, Satan would be annihilated!  Thus, the only seemingly logical conclusion is this proves the theory that the Book of Job is, if not a work of fiction, then at least a poetical, creative rendition – but divinely inspired nonetheless – of the story of Job than an actual, direct biography.  The spiritual realm and how things work there – the form of communication between God and the Devil, battles between angels, etc. – is an absolute mystery to us.  Our human, physical minds have no capability of comprehending the mechanics of events in the spiritual realm.  We are limited by the physics, logic, and concepts of the physical realm. Thus, the writer re-interpreted the truth of “God is sovereign; Satan can’t do anything unless God allows it” into a prose form where the happening in the spiritual realm (of how Satan asks permission from God) was re-enacted as if it’s in a physical setting (thus, the whole “Satan gate-crashing into the throne room of God to discuss about Job with Him” sequence).      
  • The “how” (the means of communication between God and the Devil) is actually unimportant.  What really matters here is the fact of God’s total sovereignty.  God’s will will always reign supreme, it will always come through.  If something is going to happen contrary to His will, then He will successfully intervene because of His omnipotence.  What God wills is always for good.  He doesn’t will evil, but he does allow it to happen.  Why?  Because of His omniscient wisdom, He knows that there’s something good that will come out of that evil happening.  Because if not, then He will intervene to prevent that evil to happen.  Evil can’t ever happen if God doesn’t allow it.  And any evil that happens – no matter how terrible it is in our eyes – mean that there is something good that will come out of it.  At that moment that evil is happening or being experienced – and it’s impossible for us to see that good will come out of it – we should just trust God.  In His perfect time, the good result will be revealed to us.   
  • Satan has been given a lot of dastardly nicknames like “The Dragon”, “The Father of Lies”, “The Ancient Serpent”, and “The Evil One.”  But by reading Job, we can see that he is not only those things but he’s also the Master of Douchebaggery.  Daring God to allow him to do those terrible things to Job as a test for his faithfulness?!  That’s first-class unparalleled douchebaggery.   It’s even quite probable that Satan’s still doing this these days – daring God to test us by allowing him to do terrible things to us.  If so, we can rightfully blame the Devil for all the misfortunes we are experiencing right now.  What a jerk.    
  • It’s always a comfort that God is in control, and that any suffering that is inflicted upon us by the Devil won’t go way past the extent of what God allows, just as how God limited the amount of suffering the Devil can inflict on Job (In the first test, the Devil can take away or destroy everything Job has, but wasn’t allowed to physically harm Job.  In the second, he is now allowed to physically harm Job, but was not allowed to kill him).  Moreover, as already mentioned earlier, there is good that will result from any evil that God allows to happen.  Thus, we have the hope that God will see to it that something good will come out of our sufferings.
  • Indeed, God punishes us – His children – by letting us suffer the consequences of our sins.  This is not to destroy us, but, rather, to indicate that we have sinned, to humble us to repent, and to ultimately restore us.  But suffering isn’t always due to sin.  Job was a blameless and faithful man, but God still allowed him to suffer.  The other reason for God allowing us to suffer is to test us, and through the experience, we will have a deeper faith and understanding of God.  Just as what happened with Job.    
  • At the start, Job’s friends behaved as what true and noble friends should, they went to Job’s side during his darkest hour.  They intended to give him comfort but they only added to Job’s suffering when they opened their mouths (after being silent for seven days) since all that came out were assumptions and accusations that Job must have sinned to receive such awful series of misfortunes.   Actually, the words of Job’s friends taken per se were full of wisdom.  However, they were missing the point and context on what’s happening to Job.  Job’s suffering wasn’t a punishment from God for his sins, but was rather a test from God.  Job’s friends didn’t realize this.  Instead, because of their false conclusions, they were being foolish, insensitive, unhelpful, hurtful, and borderline self-righteous.  The lesson here is, as godly friends, we should be ready to seek God’s wisdom in helping or comforting our hurting and suffering friends.  Only God knows the exact reason why someone is suffering, therefore we mustn’t err in quickly identifying the suffering as a punishment from God.  And, sometimes, being silent and just being by a suffering friend’s side – a shoulder to cry on, an ear that is ready to listen, a strong hand to comfort the trembling – is the best approach; by opening our mouths – like what Job’s friends did – we may add to the suffering than give comfort.  Even if it’s clear that the suffering was a result of his sin, criticizing and speaking “I told you so”-kind of words during this time is not what real friends do, but rather, real friends give gentle and encouraging reminders that God will forgive and restore when someone sincerely repents.
  • God won’t allow any suffering or trial to happen to His children that they won’t be able to handle.  This is indeed a clichéd truth, but nonetheless comforting to be reminded of it. 
  • We can see how great Job’s faith is from the extent of the suffering God allowed him to experience.  Again, God won’t allow any suffering to happen that a child of His won’t be able to endure through.  Therefore, since God allowed such sheer devastation on Job’s life, it means that’s the immense extent of Job’s endurance!  Indeed, Job was a great man of God. 
  • I believe that how fast we arrive at that point we finally grumble (and, by extent, how frequent we grumble) at God is inversely proportional to the amount of trust we have in God.  Thus, the quicker we whine to God, the less our belief in God’s promises is.  And the deeper our faith in God is, the more endurance and patience we have in bearing our sufferings. 
  • Chances are, any suffering we have experienced or are experiencing isn’t even comparable to what Job had experienced.  But in the mildest of inconveniences, we are so quick to complain to God!  Well, this is true of me sometimes often… please forgive me, Lord. 
  • Indeed, God is God.  He can’t be questioned.  He is the omnipotent Creator and he reigns supreme over all Creation.  Nothing can frustrate or overcome His will.  We are merely His creatures and it is greatly foolish and arrogant of us if we challenge God.  However, after we became children of God, He becomes our Father.  And as a good, loving Father, he is willing to be patient and kind when we, His children, are having tantrums.  He allows himself to become our emotional punching bag.  He is willing to listen to our complaints and naggings.  To help us avoid releasing negative emotions we are feeling inside to others and risk sinning, we can present it to God instead.  He is ready to be the receiving end of our catharsis when we are releasing the pain, disappointment, anger, frustration, weariness, and doubts in our hearts.  And once we exhausted out all our grievances, God is sure to comfort us, and touch us to give up our stubbornness but surrender instead to His perfect will.  He will remind us to “be still and know that He is God!” (Psalm 46:10a)  I greatly appreciate this privilege so much.  Thank you, Lord. 
  • I mentioned earlier the fact that the more frequent and how quick we complain means the less we have faith with God.  The immature Christians (mostly, those new in the faith) or “spiritual babies” are like actual physical babies.  Babies have short patience and weak tolerance for pain.  Just as babies throw tantrums with the smallest of hassles, “baby” Christians would complain to God with the smallest of trials.  But, as I’ve mentioned in the last paragraph, God, being a good Father, will be tolerant of the tantrums of His “spiritual babies.”  However, this does not mean we are given the right to throw tantrums forever.  A person matures from a baby to an adult; he outgrows throwing tantrums as his patience improves.  Thus, a Christian should also mature in spirit from being a “baby” to an “adult.”  Spiritual growth should be present in the life of a true Christian.  As we mature in our faith, the less we would succumb to complaining to God.  As we mature, we will have more patience and endurance in dealing with our sufferings. 
  • When God finally answered Job’s cries, God made it clear to Job the fact that He is God!  He reminded Job how greatly vast and powerful he is and that the human mind can never comprehend his fullness.  Thus, Job realized how small he is compared to God.  Job realized that he has no right to question what God is doing in his life; since he can’t even understand the things God does with Creation, how more will he understand how God is working with his life?
  • All’s well that ends well.  In the end, it was a happy ending for Job.  After the agonizing trial that Job undergone came great blessing.  God healed Job; made him wealthy again, giving him twice as much as he had before; gave him another set of children; and gave him a long life.  This is another lesson from the life of Job: God never wastes pain.  Any pain or suffering we experience is going to be rewarded by God once we get through it.  Thus, if we desire blessings, then we must be willing to embrace suffering.  Beside, whether it’s blessing or suffering, as long as it comes from God, then we can be sure that it’s meant for our good.  As what is mentioned in Job 2:10, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”  Indeed, we should embrace, not only the blessings, but the suffering as well.      
  • The most powerful line in Job is arguably 1:21b: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”  Indeed, the glorifying of God is not dependent on the conditions we are in.  Whether in good times or bad times, God is worthy of our praise. 
  • The Book of Job mentions of the Leviathan and the Behemoth.  They definitely mean dinosaurs!  No, I won’t allow you to dissuade me.  
So, this is all for now.  I MIGHT write of more thoughts as we go on in with our daily devotions on the Book of Job.  For the time being, I encourage you to have your own meditations on the Book of Job.

No comments: