The Book of Job
Rector’s Weekly Letter to the Congregation for Sunday, July 21, 2019
The Book of Job
The book of Job is the eighteenth book of the Bible. It has 42 chapters and 1060 verses. Its setting is in the times of the patriarchs when the man of the home acted as the priest of the home to instruct his household in the ways of the Lord and offered sacrifices for them.
The book tells the story of Job, a rich man who had a great number of the markers of wealth of his day, that is, sheep, camels, cattle, donkeys, and servants. At the same time Job was a righteous man before God so much so that God Himself vouched for Job’s righteousness.
Satan, however, disputed God’s assessment of Job’s righteousness. Satan said Job’s righteousness was all phony and skin deep, practiced only because God blessed Job with wealth and health. Satan averred that if these were taken away from Job, the man would curse God to His face. Satan is then given permission by God to go after Job’s wealth, children, and health. In a single day, invaders struck and took off with all Job’s animals, and his children were killed when the house they were in fell on then from strong winds. The news of these happenings came to Job one after the other. Then Job made the touching statement: “Naked came I from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (ESV).
Not long after, God allowed Satan to afflict Job’s very body. Job developed a sickness that caused sores all over his body from foot to head. The itching was unbearable. He used a piece of broken pottery to scrape himself. His wife presses him to give up faith in God, but he refused and instead reprimanded her.
Three friends of his visited him to console him, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. They were so appalled by his condition he was in that for seven days and nights they said nothing to him. They just sat there silent, or perhaps even crying, with him. Job lamented and wished to not have been born. But he never stopped believing in God. He said in 13:15, “Though he slay me, I will still hope in him,” but he adds, “Yet I will argue my ways to his face.” He really wanted God to show up and stand in a witness box to explain himself as to why he was making Job suffer. Job would be the prosecutor.
Then the three friends started speaking to Job in a way of advising and consoling him. But their words added heaviness to Job. There are three rounds of speeches. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar speak in that order, and then Job replies. Sometimes Job goes beyond replying and rants away about the depth of his pain and exasperation. Bildad’s third speech was short, only six verses, showing that the friends had run out of arguments to explain Job’s suffering. Zophar did not make a third speech. He had no more to say.
The three friends brought conventional wisdom and common sense thinking of their day to explain Job’s suffering. They posited that Job must have sinned for such suffering to come his way. Job vehemently denied having done anything unbecoming. But the friends insisted that, according to common knowledge, good people don’t suffer, but the wicked do. The situation was very confusing. How could a good man, like Job, suffer!
As the rounds of speeches progressed, the friends attacked Job the more accusing him of having a multitude of iniquities and refusing to admit his evil deeds. They argued that no human being can be righteous before God. Job must have sinned in ways that were perhaps unknown to him and this caused his suffering. But none of these arguments felt right to Job. He felt inside him that he had done nothing wrong. He pleads to God to defend him to no avail. He calls God to appear so that he, Job, would present his case for all to see that he was right, and God was wrong to make him suffer.
When the three friends stopped talking, a young man Elihu comes on the stage and angrily castigates Job for maintaining that he was pure without transgression. He defends God’s justice and upholds God’s majesty. Elihu speaks some things that are right about God just as the three friends had done, but those right things were coming from a wrong view of God.
Job got the rare chance of having God show up to answer his questions. But when God appeared, He didn’t appear in the way Job ever imagined. He appeared in a whirlwind. He then bellowed out astounding and confounding questions to Job starting with “Who is this that obscures my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them” (42:2 – 3 NLT) Job doesn’t wait. He runs to hide in a corner with all desire to question God gone.
God asks quite a few questions covering two chapters 38 – 39. In 40 : 3 – 5, Job, timid and overcome with awe for God, admits that he spoke in ignorance and that he will be silent from then. But God continues with his penetrating questions all through chapters 40 and 41. Job has learned his lesson. He was wrong to question God, and he repents in dust and ashes. God then rebukes Job’s friends and restores all Job’s fortunes twice as much as he had before. Job later has seven sons and three daughters: Jemimah, Keziah, and Kerenhappuch. They are said to have been the most beautiful women in the land.
What do we learn from all this? A multitude of lessons:
- It is ok to ask God questions. He will listen. He is not intimidated by any question, whatever it is. He has plausible answers even to the questions of those who don’t believe in Him.
- The mature faith has learned that you don’t bang on God’s door and demand to be answered by Him. You cannot coerce Him into taking a certain action. You will succeed only in perhaps harming your arm.
- Our understanding of God must derive from what the Bible says about Him and not from our own ideas nor those of the environment we find ourselves in, however attractive these might be.
- Suffering cannot be explained away. We do not know why good people suffer. Suffering comes to anyone. Of course, we know that if you stand in the middle of the street, you stand a good chance of being knocked down by a vehicle. But as to why this person got that disease and the other suffered in this way, we cannot explain away conclusively. God left that to Himself. It is His prerogative.
- Suffering was originally caused by our rebellion against God in the Garden of Eden. So, wherever and whenever we see suffering, we should rage at the tempter (not at God), and determine to stand firm against him in repentance and turn to God.
- The question, “Why do the wicked prosper?” is not accurate. The wicked do not prosper. They only seem to prosper. Otherwise, they are jaded and tired of life. They are sinking deeper and deeper into the mire of their sin. They have God’s punishment hanging over their head. Their apparent ease and joy in life is a camouflage. They are stinking and dying slowly inside, and they know it but successfully hide it. Believer, don’t you ever long for their kind of life.
- We do not exist on planet earth to enjoy and bask in God’s blessings be they possessions, good health, pleasure, etc… We exist and are alive today, this moment, for this sole purpose: to know God, to make Him known, and to advance His purposes whatever state or condition of life we are in. The condition we are in then becomes part of the tools God uses to help us fulfill the three purposes of human life said above.
- It is ok to be authentic and express deepest pains and anguish of heart in the face of pain or loss or some misfortune. Stoic refusal to admit to pain and suffering is not being a Christian. It is being a hypocrite.
- Whatever we lose in this world is nothing compared to the glories of the life to come in the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ where human beings will rule over angels.
- When friends suffer, do not feel obligated to say something to them. Just being present with them is good enough. And don’t quote Scripture verses to them in a bid to comfort them. Allow them time to process the matter in their own time and in their own way. When my mother died, last year, August 9, 2018, I would look at you with scone if you told me, “Anyway she has gone to a better place.” But after processing the matter in my own time, I said, “Well, she was 96, blind, unable to feed herself, not going places anymore. What kind of life was that! And, moreover, she has gone to be with Jesus, to a better place. Now she’s perhaps running around serving my grandfather and grandmother and others, and best of all, singing to Jesus.” I felt it was good that she went. But I came to that attitude in my own time, in my own way, and at my own pace. By the way, don’t bank on it. Even now, from time to time I forget all those good ideas and mourn for my mother. That’s the way with loss and pain and suffering in general.
- Satan’s stance has always been and still is that a human being can not volitionally choose to serve God if God does not reciprocate with handouts in terms of blessings that are enjoyable to the worshiper. According to Satan, it is a win-win arrangement: a human being worships God, God pours down blessings. Conversely, God withdraws blessings, the human being ceases worshiping Him. As believers, we have the duty to puncture this outrageous and nonsensical claim of Satan, and love, serve, and obey our God, joyfully, irrespective of the circumstances surrounding our lives: good or bad health; affluent or living in lack, that is, hand to mouth; happy family or sad family, etc….
Enjoy reading the book of Job. And, as is our rule, please read slowly and intentionally.
WHAT ANGLICANS BELIEVE
The Anglican Catechism (ACNA)
The catechism is a question and answer format of teaching the basic principles of the Christian faith. The catechism is not meant just to be memorized by rote. Rather, it is meant to be discussed, reflected upon, internalized, and allowed to form us. I urge every family to take the time to study the catechism at home, discussing it word for word, phrase by phrase, sentence by sentence, without passing over any statement that is not understood or is unclear. Parents, please take the lead to teach your children and to anchor them in the Christian faith. Let everyone ask questions and get answers. Please write down any questions that arise in your discussions, questions you cannot answer locally, and pass them to the Rector. May the Holy Spirit guide your learning.
(Continued from last week…)
35. How should belief in the God of the Bible affect your life?
As I prayerfully learn Holy Scripture, I should expect the Holy Spirit to use it to teach, rebuke, correct and train me in the righteousness that God desires. This nourishes my soul toward the service of God and my neighbor. (2 Timothy 3:16)
36. How should you use the Holy Scriptures in daily life?
I should “hear, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them” (Book of Common Prayer) so that, by patience and strengthening through God’s Word, I may embrace and cling to the hope of everlasting life given to me in Jesus Christ. I should read and pray Scripture daily, that I may know God’s truth and proclaim it clearly to the whole world.
37. What other books does the Church acknowledge?
The canon of Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation. The fourteen books of the Apocrypha may also be read “for example of life and instruction of manners,” but “not to establish any doctrine” (Articles of Religion, 6).
“I BELIEVE IN GOD”
38. Who is God?
God is one divine Being eternally existing in three divine Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is the Holy Trinity. (Matthew 3:16-17; 28:19)
39. According to Holy Scripture, what is the nature and character of God?
“God is love” (1 John 4:16). Sharing an eternal communion of love between the three Persons, God loves and mercifully redeems fallen creation. “God is holy” (Psalm 99; Isaiah 6:1-4). God is utterly transcendent, good, righteous, and opposed to all sin and evil. God’s love is holy, God’s holiness is loving, and the Lord Jesus Christ is the fullest expression of God’s whole character. (Hebrews 1:3; John 1:18; 17:21; Colossians 1:19)