Pawns, Props, or Possessions?
“God whispers to us in health and prosperity, but, being hard of hearing, we fail to heard God’s voice in both. Whereupon God turns up the amplifier by means of suffering. Then his voice booms.” (C. S. Lewis)
The story of Job is an amazing story to me. I am ashamed to admit how I actually came about studying Job so intently. As a preacher/teacher I am very careful when it comes to handling the Word of God. There is a lot of hard and long work involved in preparing a passage of scripture for teaching. Accurately exegeting a passage of Scripute is not as easy as some think, at least how they demonstrate in their poor teaching. So, if you are preaching or teaching and it is obvious you have not put in the work that you should have and you “lose” me, I tune out and turn to Job. Unfortunately, over the years I have turned to Job many, many times. I have come to love and cherish this story. Let me bring some clarity to this account.
First of all, and for the record, the objective of the story was not to highlight Job as an important part of the story, while making his wife, children, possessions, and health as inconsequential. Job is not the ultimate character in the story. Nor is what happens to Job the ultimate purpose of the story.
The ultimate “character” in this story is God. The question that is being demonstrated to Satan and the angels – is God worthy to be worshipped for his character? Remember the question that Satan asked God after God brought up Job? Satan said, “Does Job fear God for no reason?” What was Satan asking with that question? He was stating that Job only worshipped or feared God because of what Job got out of the deal. In other words, Satan was telling God that Job only feared him because God had bribed Job into fearing him.
Satan was stating with that question, that Job fears you because you have given him enough “goods” to fear you. He fears you because he has received from you five hundred yoke (1,000) of oxen, 500 hundred donkeys, 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, servants, status, and children. The flip side of Satan’s coin was this – if you did not give these things to Job he would not fear you. That is an amazingly wicked accusation. Satan was telling God that God was not worthy to be worshipped for who he was.
Can you see the cynicism dripping from Satan as he threw out this accusation? You see Satan does not really see Job as truly being righteous. Satan does not believe that Job is essentially good. Worse than this, Satan commits a more horrific crime than this; Satan does not believe that God is truly righteous in his generosity towards Job. Did you get that? Does that break your heart? Does it cause you to want to jump up and throttle Satan? Satan did not believe that God or Job were righteous in their actions.
Satan believed God only gave Job those things so that Job would fear him. Satan believed Job only feared God in because God gave him those things. Satan knows that most religious people are religious for what they can get. Yes, even those who give it all away, live as ascetically as possible, while serving in the most despicable places known to man. If they are merely religious they are doing it for the benefit they think will be theirs by way of reward. But bottom line religious people are religious for what they can get.
Satan is accusing both Job and God of having artificial righteousness. Satan implies that both God’s and Job’s motives are wrong, but also have never been tested. Satan is saying that Job is a fake and that God you are no better than Job. You have secured Job’s devotion by bribery – you secured his fear by shielding and protecting him.
Wow, Satan is really living up to his middle name isn’t he? What is his name? Accuser! The bible says that Satan accuses the brethren (Christians) night and day to God. (Rev 12:10) Thank God, Jesus Christ is our intercessor at the right hand of God!
Satan has challenged God. He has essentially said that no real love for God would exist unless there was something in it for the one who “loved” God. Satan is saying Job would not love, fear, or worship God simply because of God’s glorious character.
This is the theme of the book – is God so good that he can be loved for himself and not for his gifts? The theme isn’t Job’s faith, or Job’s life. It isn’t his loss of health, wealth, and family. It isn’t even the contest of Satan and God. There is no game; and this is why there are no pawns. The question is simply this; is God so good in his glory, holiness, majesty, mercy, love, goodness, patience, longsuffering, grace, faithfulness, and etc. to be loved if that was all the recipient were to receive. Think about it!
The majority of the world are just what Satan thinks. They are just what Satan accused Job of being; being in it for what he could get. People like a “god” who will be good to them, give them things, make them wealthy, keep them healthy, and take care of them. People want a God that is like themselves, a God who fits there pattern. As a matter of fact, God charged Israel with that very sin, "You thought I (God) was like you."
We see this attitude in the parable of the sower in Luke 8. The seed that fell among the rocks had no soil to but roots down into for nutrients and water. That "seed" believed for awhile but when testing came, when sickness came, the job was lost; the spouse abandoned them "seed" fell away. People like what they hear about a loving and kind God but when they are tested even a little bit they walk away.
Satan was counting on Job doing this. Job you are in it for what you can get. So Satan says to God, “…stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” (Job 1:11, ESV)
Do you love God? Do you treasure God? Why? Do you love God for all that God is (all of his glorious character and nature) or do you love God for what God has given you? If God were to take everything you have right now away from you, family, health, job, children, spouse, home, and even your reputation, would you still love, adore, fear, and worship God?
First, of all this is hard to do. We are human. Our first tendency is to say, "Man, God is good" when we receive a blessing, especially an unexpected blessing. He is good. His blessings are good. He delights in us! But what do we say when the phone rings with the worst news we could ever imagine? Do we say, "Praise God, He is good?"
It takes discipline - discipline in understanding God's character as well as we can, discipline to think as Job thought - both good and evil come from the hand of the Lord for our good and His glory. Discipline to say that, yes the enemy may have attacked me today through any number of means, but, since God permitted it, approved it, gave the enemy the ok, God must have some good in this for me and it will glorify His character, therefore, God is good - thank you Lord for this ________.
Lord, willing tomorrow we will look at the question: were Job’s children helpless pawns in a game between Satan and God.