At this point we are mid-way through the Book of Job. The history of this book is anonymous. Some scholars have dated the book back to 2,000 B.C. which would make Job the oldest book of the Bible and perhaps one of the oldest pieces of literature still in existence. The author is also anonymous. This person records the dialogues between Job and his three friends. The Holy Spirit alone could have revealed to the book’s author the events taking place in heaven between the Lord and satan while Job suffered here on earth. Whether or not Job is the oldest book in the Bible or not, it asks one of the world’s oldest questions: why do God’s people suffer? From chapter 4-37, Job, and his friends wrestle with that question. The book never fully answers that question. Instead, it assures us that we can trust our Savior. God cares for us, even when we do not understand right away…or ever…what He is up to in our lives. All through the book, Job and his three friends ask unanswerable questions. We do not fully understand why troubles and disasters invade the lives of God’s children here on earth. This side of heaven, the answer is not a philosophy but a person…Jesus Christ.
God is always good, despite the evidence that satan uses to convince us otherwise. God kept Job in faith through his trials. Even though Job’s faith flickered, satan could not extinguish it. And we see that from beginning to end, God calls the book’s main character “my servant Job”. The Lord’s servant Job endured a whirlwind of suffering without understand why such terrible things happened to him. Along the way other people…family, trusted advisors, townspeople, and his three friends commented on his plight. And, they had lots of advice to give. Through it all Job maintained his innocence of wrongdoing and he continued to trust in the Lord, who finally delivered him from evil. Here is just a smattering of things others said to Job. His wife encouraged him to curse God and die. His three friends told him if he obeyed God, He would reward him. Elihu, whom we have not encountered yet lectured Job saying God acts justly and Job should not question Him. The evil one believed Job feared God for no reason. Through it all Job is able to say, “I know that my Redeemer lives.” Job asked repeatedly for an umpire, someone to take his side and plead for him. We New Testament believers know the umpire’s name, Jesus Christ Himself.
In the ancient Near East, the elders of a community would typically hold court in a city gate, dressed in fine robes that would announce their positions of importance in the city. Parties in dispute would approach the elders, explain their case, and seek a wise ruling. But in the account of Job and his troubles His friends did not support his case. Instead, they supported the suit against him. Job realized he needed an arbitrator, a Redeemer, to rescue him from condemnation. God Himself ultimately comes to Job’s aid. In this way Job’s story points forward to the role of Jesus Christ as our Redeemer. Job speaks of His arbitrator, his Salvation, his Renewal, his Witness, and his Redeemer. Jesus Christ is the Redeemer we cling to. It is unclear if Job had any knowledge at all of Jesus, but he knew there would be One who would save, rescue, and redeem him. Job clung to that hope even in the darkness of doubt and despair.
The Book of Job is classified as wisdom literature. Most of the book is written in poetry. Hebrew poems do not typically rhyme as English poems often do. Hebrew poems use parallelism: repeated, complementary thoughts that unfold different aspects of any given subject. Often the first line of a Hebrew poem is repeated with different words in the second line, or the second line repeats an aspect of the first while revealing something more about the subject at hand. In this way the lines of the poem build on one another and hold together.
Many look at the Book of Job and use these three words. Job was ‘sifted by satan’. The evil one’s argument with God about Job was this. Does Job serve God from a heart of love or does his praise last only as long as God’s blessings flow? Those questions set the stage for Job’s ordeal. The evil one tried his best to undermine Job’s trust and steal Job’s eternal life. But in the end the Lord vindicated Job. Along the way the Lord kept Job from losing his faith. The Lord was Job’s Redeemer, even when Job himself doubted it. It is easy to miscalculate the power of satan. We dress him in a red suit, pointy tail and horns, and a pitchfork in his hand. We even joke about him…the devil made me do it. Some treat him as a fictitious character…mean spirited but relatively harmless. Others of us overestimate him, giving him power he does not have. We picture he and his demons lurking behind bushes, hiding under beds, and waiting in the dark until they can attack us.
Scripture doesn’t tell us much about his origins, but we do know about his character. He is the accuser, slanderer and evil one. He is the ruler of the world, the earthly world, the destroyer, the enemy, a murderer from the beginning who is a liar and the father of lies. He is an evil, deceptive, powerful destroyer. But he is also on a leash and God allows him to go only so far. In the end he will be tossed into the lake of burning sulfur for all of eternity. For reasons known only to God, He gave satan permission to sift Job as long as he didn’t take his life. Job came under an avalanche of grief, poverty, illness, accusation, and fickle friends. His misery index was off the charts. But in spite of everything that happened, Job kept his faith in God. He survived satan’s sifting, and eventually regained his health and good fortune. To be sifted means to be attacked, sometimes relentlessly. It is to be tempted in all sorts of ways including renouncing faith in the Lord. Being sifted has it roots in a farmer separating the wheat from the chaff, the useful from the useless, by shaking it violently through a sieve. That is what satan wants to do to Job and to us…separate us from God, from our faith, to shake us around so harshly that we let go, give up, give in, and fall from fellowship with God.
The evil one hates God, and he hates those who follow him. He schemes to destroy us all. But Jesus interceded for each of us. And later in our readings, we will see that Job’s Redeemer gave Peter the gift of repentance and faith. Then He used Peter as His instrument to strengthen the other disciples and down through history, all of our Lord’s followers who sometimes fall for satan’s schemes. This Redeemer serves as our High Priest today. No matter what satan tries, he will not snatch us out of our Savior’s hand. When the times of sifting begin, we can rest in His arms, confident of His promises to protect and keep us.
Job may have been hanging on by a thread, or by the skin of his teeth, but the Lord would not let him go. God had plans for Job just as he has plans for us.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W