Nascars and Boils - Musing on Job's Sufferings - by Dr. C. Matthew McMahonArticles on the Christian Walk, Systematic Theology and Practical Theology
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“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God and eschewed evil…Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said into Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God and escheweth evil? (Job 1:1, 7-8)
In my estimation the verses quoted above are housed in one of the most interesting and complex chapters in all the Bible. This chapter introduces more questions than it answers. The book of Job itself is extraordinary, but this chapter enhances that quality to its uttermost. In Job 1:1, 7-8 we not only have a glimpse into the mind of God concerning His subject Job, but this passage also furnishes us with an inside exclusive into a conversation between the Lord God and the most wicked and malicious of angels, the devil. The conversation seems to be more of an interrogation by God at the activities of the devil, but at the “expense” of one of God’s servants, the righteous Job. In reality, Job is not being “used” by God as an “expense.” Rather, God’s intentions for Job are one of a loving Father to His child, and to increase his faithfulness. But this common point is not the idea I desire to draw from the passage. There is another which I find more subtle, but very interesting.
What do we know about Job? We know he was a man who lived in the land of Uz (a gentile land) even before the time of the patriarchs, as most scholars admit. (Job seems to be the oldest written book of the Old Testament.) We know he was “perfect” and “upright,” in the sense that he obeyed the Lord by God’s grace as much as humanly possible. His perfection and uprightness is qualified by his disposition as one who “feared God and shunned evil.” That does not mean Job was without sin, as some suppose. No, rather, Job was a man who sought the forgiveness of the Lord, avoided temptation and the giving of himself over into temptation (as the Lord’s grace enabled him), and continued in a constant and wholesome walk with God. Here, he eschewed evil. In this he feared the Lord. As the Scriptures tell us, those who fear God in this sense, have wisdom; “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” The context of the biblical record concerning such wisdom is always ascribed to those who are lost, then redeemed. The fear of the Lord is reserved for those who are “contrite” and “poor in spirit” and who “tremble” at God’s words as Isaiah 66:2 states. Job, from Job 1:1 exemplified this.
After a brief description of the man Job, the record turns to a heavenly meeting. In Job 1:7-8 we find the record of a discussion between Satan and the Lord, or rather, the Lord and Satan. Satan had been roaming the earth, going to and fro in it, and on this particular day he stands among the angels of God while a heavenly “meeting” takes place. Satan is interrogated and questioned by God. Satan can do no other than respond. The Lord asks him where he has been, where he comes from. He acknowledges his whereabouts, and his roaming, and then something very fascinating occurs: God initiates a conversation about one of His vessels of grace (namely Job), and coaxes Satan to consider him. Satan did not come accusing Job as he does with Joshua the high priest in the book of Zechariah. Here, the Lord prompts Satan for a response. What does Satan think about this mortal man named Job? It is as if God is boasting in His servant, and has now placed him under the scrutiny of the devil. It is difficult enough to keep from temptation in the daily assaults of the wicked one. Why would God desire to thoroughly test him against the wiles of the devil even further? What drawn attention to him? But this is exactly what God is doing.
God is boasting in the accomplishments of his servant. Actually, God is boasting in His own accomplishments in His servant Job. God knows His servant quite well. Yes, it is true, that God formed him in all his anatomical intricacies while he was in his mother’s womb. But the “knowing” I am referring to is not simply the physical body and makeup of Job. Rather, the Lord is also forming Job as one who fears God and shuns evil and there is none like him in all the earth. There is a relevant spiritual dimension to God’s prompting to Satan. God is not interested, perse, in Job’s anatomical makeup. He does not say to Satan, “Consider the intricacies of his flesh.” No, God turns the attention of Satan to Job’s spiritual accomplishments. Job is one who “fears God” and “shuns evil.” He fears God and shuns evil so “well” that there is none like him in all the earth! Satan should consider this. As a matter of fact, it would seem God is prompting Satan into a “fight.” Remember, it is vital to the passage and the point being made that God is the initiator of this line of thought. Satan was present at the meeting, and we may not have all the conversation which took place. But what we do have is a “bully-like” push by God against the devil in “hopes” that Satan will pick a fight with Job.
God allowed His servant to be tested thoroughly. God did not tempt Job to evil. Certainly not. Neither did God cause Satan to act in an evil and wicked manner. Satan accomplished the torture of Job and the destruction of his property and family of his own twisted and fallen will. But God did place Job in a situation where it warranted the exercise of his godliness. This is the point which may be of great help to the Christian.
The doctrine to be meditated upon may be stated this way: trials and tribulations in the life of the Christian should be viewed as God’s initiative to exercise the endowed grace and test its reality in each believer. It reminds me of a race car, one the Nascars at the Indy 500. The racing team plans and builds a racing car over a period of a year. They are diligent to use the best materials, and to be exceedingly careful in its design. It is planned and blueprinted. It is a particular racing car with particular specifications for a particular racing circuit it will be competing on. It must be designed in such a way as to meet those specific requirements, and to gain a level of competitive edge. After the car is built, the owner of the car hires a skilled driver to race this particular vehicle. Wealthy companies sign up to sponsor this vehicle in its competition, believing it to be a well made and competitive race car. Then comes the words by its owner, “Let’s see what it can do.” The car is then placed on a test track and pushed to its limit. It would have to be if it is going to run against the competition in a worthy manner. It not first used on the racing circuit. No, it is thoroughly tested before its inception into real racing. It is tested over and over to be sure it qualifies in its particular circuit. Then, after it passes the rigorous testing, it is placed in the racing circuit and hoped to be a winning racing car.
The racing car analogy speaks to the situation with Job. God endowed Job with transforming grace. He formed him as a spiritual man and regenerated his heart. Now, Job delights to do the will of God and delights to please his Savior. He is a man who obeys God and righteously lives before Him through the endowment of God’s good graces. Job’s words testify to this all through the book (“I know my Redeemer liveth…”). Then, after such a man as Job is spiritually built, he is tested. God desires to “see what His grace can do.” In either sense, whether Job passes the test or not, God’s grace is still glorifying to Him. If Job fails the test, the redemption of his soul is still that which is exceedingly glorifying to God since Job is not condemned, but saved through grace. If he passes the test, grace again triumphs and God is glorified in this God-exalting manner as well. No doubt, as the Spirit motions Job to good works, he will pass the test and glorify God just as he did. But God is the one who placed Job on the test track with the devil. God desires to manifest His glory to the world in His people. Vessels of mercy are created through the shedding of Christ’s blood, and God uses them as beacons to His graciousness. This graciousness is seen in the manifold trials and tribulations He willingly places these vessels in. Satan is then used against the Christian to test his grace, the quality of that grace, and it shines through as a signs of God’s majestic power consistently.
We are like Job, but never pushed to the same level of Job’s test. Job’s testing was unique, as each Christian’s testing is unique. It is was purposefully unique in that there has never been a human being (outside of the unique God-man Jesus Christ) that has suffered such intensity and direct attack as the Biblical narrative of the book of Job (Some might disagree, but I am persuaded that few have ever experienced the loss of family, fortune, health and comfort that Job lost and in the degree and timing to which he lost it). That is why the book exists. God places us in the blender of life and turns on the power to puree to see how well we will fair. What will we do? How will we act? How quickly will we give in? How stressed may we become? How much complaining will we do? What will our response be to such trials? I am certain that there is no Christian, from any age, which desires to be thoroughly tested and tried in diverse difficulties. Yes, the apostles counted it a worthy thing to suffer, but that does not make boils any less inviting. No one likes hardship. But if we took these testing times in stride with the knowledge that God has placed us on the test track of His grace, and desires to see what His grace will do, then we would have a far different attitude to the difficulties which surround each of our lives.
It would be a good use of devotional time to meditate on these few verses in Job 1. If we, at the very lest, intellectually grasp that it is God who initiates the trial, and places us into the difficulties of that trial, on purpose, then we would fair far better in glorifying Him in the trial. We must also keep in mind that God never executes anything nonchalantly. He prompts Satan, or the world, with intent and objective in every Christian test. If God would do so with the Lord Jesus Christ, why not with His people? Was not Christ “thrust” into the wilderness by the Spirit? Was He not tempted by the devil by the express will of God for 40 days and nights? Did not God afflict His servant Job for Job’s sake? Of course He did. God is in the business of conforming His servants into Christ-like vessels for His own glory. But how much glory shall we give the Creator and Sustainer of our beings? Will we become enraged in the test as the Israelites so often did, murmuring in the wilderness? Or will we become like Job who detested the day of his birth, but continued to trust in the One whom he knew has slayed him? Do we delight in God’s tests, or do we despise them? Will we really come forth as gold after we are tested, or are we emerging as rusty steel?
God will continue to try us as we live on the earth. This terrestrial ball is an incubator for testing the saints of Jesus Christ. In the end, our prayers should be that we will be made as those vessels tried and tested for the cause and sake of Christ, and to bring Him the utmost of glory. Though Satan, the world or the flesh come stridently against us (even as Satan did to Jesus Christ in the wilderness) if we trust in God’s will we shall glorify the Lord Jesus Christ in all our trials.