Job’s Story: Part 1

Chris

Administrator
Staff member
Job’s Story: Part 1
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

The Lord said to Job, “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?” -Job 40:8

As Job Might Have Told it Today…

I come from the land of Uz, a large territory east of the Jordan, opposite what is now the Nation of Israel. The area was named after a son of Seir of the Horite people, who shared the land with Esau’s clans during the time Jacob and his family were returning to Canaan after their long stay in Paddan Aram. Today this land belongs partly to Jordan and partly to Syria.

While my story appears well into the first third of books in the Bible, it’s actually the first one ever published, done so by Joseph while he was Prime Minister of Egypt. In many ways our stories are similar, and I guess he thought that reading about my experiences would be helpful to others in times of trouble.

While not part of the people who would eventually come into a national covenant with God, I certainly was one of His followers, and always tried my best to obey His laws. You must remember that in the beginning, everyone alive knew the LORD and understood His requirements. It was only gradually that people began going off on their own, rebelling against Him and inventing false gods and counterfeit religions in their vain attempts to replace Him. No one can live without God so if you reject the real one, you have to come up with a false one. (It’s also important to remember that the truth always precedes the lie, or else how would you know the difference? Every successful false religion has always used a grain of truth to attract people, and then played on their ignorance to promote the lies that lead them astray.)

So I was one who had stayed with the Truth, obeying God’s laws and living in ways that were pleasing to Him. There was even a time when I believed I was doing a pretty good job of it, and it’s that kind of thinking that got me into trouble. As the LORD Himself would later reveal to me, it started like this.

One day in Heaven, God summoned all his angels to give their reports, and among them was the one we call Satan, the first to rebel against God. Satan had illegally gained possession of Earth by deceiving Adam and Eve, and has been actively engaged in stealing the rest of God’s creation, humanity, ever since. He’s the real source of all false religions, author of all their lies. If nothing else, my story will show you how ingenious his plans are for stealing us away from God, and how well they work.

When He asked Satan what he’d been doing and was told he’d been roaming around on Earth, God asked if he’d run across me. He told Satan I was the most righteous man on the whole planet.

Well this made me an enemy of Satan’s and so he told God that the only reason I obeyed Him was because of all the blessings I’d received. In truth I was a wealthy man, with a large and loving family, and huge herds of animals. In essence Satan said I was obedient because it was profitable. “Take away his possessions,” he said, “And then we’ll see how faithful he is.” And so God agreed, on the condition that I not be harmed.

Satan lost no time at all. In the span of one short day, all my herds and all my children were taken from me. I was devastated but intellectually at least, my faith in God wasn’t shaken. “I came into this world with nothing and that’s the way I’ll leave it. The LORD has given and the LORD has taken away,” I reasoned, “Blessed be the Name of the LORD.”

But how could God permit this? That’s always the first question people ask. And sadly they often conclude that either God loves us enough to keep us from harm but lacks the power, or else he has the power but doesn’t love us. I now know what an arrogant self-centered conclusion that is even though at the time I considered it myself.

As I was soon to learn, it’s not our righteousness that protects us from the forces of evil, but God’s Grace. Moreover, in my righteousness I had become self-righteous, a grievous sin made all the more so by my unwillingness to admit it. Had I been truly righteous (only one man has ever been so in all creation) God, who is neither arbitrary nor capricious, could not have permitted Satan to afflict me. As it was, even though by God’s account I was the most righteous man on Earth, my unconfessed sin left me exposed, and the LORD needed to take some drastic action to get my attention before I became totally insufferable. Satan was simply a convenient, if unknowing, tool in His hand.

When I adopted a philosophical response to my great loss, the LORD knew it would take another attack to force me into reality, and so He agreed to let Satan afflict me personally, requiring only that he stop short of taking my life. Now even my wife, seeing me in my agony said, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die.”

Please understand this. The LORD takes no pleasure in seeing us afflicted, but my sin gave Satan an opening the LORD was required by His own law to permit. He is absolutely just in these matters, as I was to learn in no uncertain terms, and any attempt to justify ourselves only serves to condemn Him. Another sin.

As the Apostle Paul would one day say, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” That’s not a New Testament idea by the way; he was quoting Isaiah 64:6. And John agrees. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). The only difference between you who live after the cross and we who lived before it, is that the penalty for your sins is already paid. This allows God’s Grace to flow ever more abundantly since the cross has reconciled us to Him (Col. 1:19-20). You have only to ask for forgiveness to receive it and be restored immediately to righteousness (I John 1:9).

Now don’t get me wrong. We’re all still responsible for our behavior and must expect to bear the physical and spiritual consequences of our actions. It’s just that consignment to Hell is no longer one of the consequences for any who accept the pardon He’s provided, and purification from all our unrighteousness is as easy as asking. For all who ask will receive, all who seek will find, and to all who knock the door will be opened. Praise the LORD.

As for me, the LORD still had much to teach me, and through me, you. Remember what one of your modern day humorists, Mark Twain, had to say. “The only time experience is the best teacher is when it was somebody else’s experience.” Please learn from mine. More next time.

https://www.raptureforums.com/bible-study/jobs-story-part-1/
 

Hol

Worships Him
Wow, thank you for posting this Chris!

This quote has lots of insights:
...You must remember that in the beginning, everyone alive knew the LORD and understood His requirements. It was only gradually that people began going off on their own, rebelling against Him and inventing false gods and counterfeit religions in their vain attempts to replace Him. No one can live without God so if you reject the real one, you have to come up with a false one. (It’s also important to remember that the truth always precedes the lie, or else how would you know the difference? Every successful false religion has always used a grain of truth to attract people, and then played on their ignorance to promote the lies that lead them astray.)

My favorite thing about this mini sermon story is how Jack deals with the sin we often fall into, self-righteousness.

God's grace: It is all about Jesus!
 

mattfivefour

Well-Known Member
Yes, self-righteousness is indeed a very sneaky sin and, paradoxically, so easy to fall into for those who please God by striving to be obedient! And it was Job's problem, too. This formed a sermon I preached here at First Baptist a couple of years ago. I've taken the liberty of re-posting it here.

God’s Purpose in Job’s Suffering


My topic this morning is “God’s Purpose in Job’s Suffering. And in this examination we will find the answers to TWO questions.

The book of Job is probably one of the most misconstrued books in the Bible. Everybody understands the idea that Job is a good man whom God allows Satan to torment. Fewer get the idea that while God permits Job’s suffering He is in control at all times. And very few discover the reason why God permits the suffering in the first place. We’re going to try to discover the answers to those questions this morning.

And I warn you we are going to be looking at a lot more scripture than normal, so I hope you have your Bibles handy.

I have heard many ideas why God permitted Job to suffer. The most common is that God wanted to prove to Satan how faithful His greatest believer was. Equally common is the view that God wanted the Bible to contain an account that would provide hope amidst suffering to those who read it. The problem with both of these views is that they are either incorrect, or incomplete.

God did not, does not, nor ever will, need to prove anything to Satan. Satan, as is clear from Isaiah 14 set out to exalt Himself and displace God from His throne. The timing of this is uncertain but is likely to have preceded Creation, though that is by no means certain. What is certain is that by the time of Genesis 3:1 the Devil was already an enemy of God who sought to destroy God’s relationship with His beloved creation— man. As the Bible tells us, Satan had been judged and cast out of Heaven (Ezekiel 28:16 Isaiah 14:12; Luke 10:18), though not yet condemned to the Pit (Isaiah 14:15). And from Isaiah 14:12; Job 1:7; Revelation 12:12; and 1 Peter 3:8 we know he roams the earth. But in no way does God have to prove anything to the Devil. God is God and does not have to justify himself to anyone. Further, to use an innocent man as a pawn simply for the sake of justifying Himself is an insult to the character of God and His nature. It makes Him capricious and selfish, not caring about the very real agony that Job went through—both physically and emotionally. The Word tells us that God is good to His people (Psalm 73:1); that all His works and all His ways are perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4); and, most importantly, that God is love (1 John 4:16). None of these characteristics could be true if God could act capriciously, solely to prove something to the Evil one … or to anybody else, for that matter. Selfishness and self-justification are not part of God’s character. Therefore the idea that God caused untold suffering to a good and righteous believer in order to justify Himself to Satan is false.

The second idea—that God wanted the Bible to contain an account that would sustain those who would in future suffer at some point in their lives—is at least closer to the character of God. Every word that is written in the Bible has been given by God to strengthen and build us in teaching, in correction, in instruction in right living (2 Timothy 3:16). God’s goal in this is to make us mature, complete, and fully equipped to live as befits His children who are here solely to be witnesses to his salvation through Jesus Christ. (Acts 1:8; 2 Timothy 3:17) Thus it is correct in part to say that God wanted Job’s story in the Bible. But it is correct only in part. To state that this is the only reason, or even the chief reason is again to malign God and His character.

Now, it is indeed theologically sound to state that God is God and can do whatever He wills, since all exists for His glory. It is also theologically sound to state that man was created for God’s own purposes and God may dispose of man in any way He desires. As His servants we may be used in whatever way our Master pleases. And, therefore, it would be theologically acceptable to state that God wanted to use Job for the benefit of all those who would come after.

Job clearly told people of his story in order to instruct them properly in the ways of God and to provide comfort to them in their own troubles. Is our God not the God of all comfort? (2 Corinthians 1:3) And is the purpose of God’s comfort to us not so that we may comfort one another with the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted? (2 Corinthians 1:4) Thus Job’s account was written (many believe by Moses) under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in order to provide comfort to us. But to say that is God’s main reason for what happened to Job is to say that somehow God’s love for us was greater than His love for Job; or, at least, that His concern for our welfare was greater than His concern for Job’s welfare. And that, quite frankly, does malign God; and it leaves open the possibility that any whom He sees as good and faithful and righteous in Christ on this earth could be called to great and undeserved suffering in order to accomplish a purpose of God. This ministers fear, not faith. Our God has given us His Spirit, a Spirit that ministers not fear but power, and love, and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7) Therefore we need to press deeper into Job’s account in order to find the truth of this matter. Clearly it is important— God placed it in His Word!

A proper study of the Book of Job is necessary because it provides us with a better understanding of God’s character and a fuller understanding of just how He works in people’s lives. I am going to use the NASB in this discussion because while the manuscripts it uses agree totally with the manuscripts behind the KJV, it is more accurate in its translation and is much easier to understand.

6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.
7 The LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.”
8 The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.”
9 Then Satan answered the LORD, “Does Job fear God for nothing?
10 “Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.
11 “But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.”
12 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD. —Job 1:6-12

At a first or casual reading it appears that certain facts are true.

First, Satan wanders the earth observing man.

Second, he can appear in God’s presence.

Third, he accuses us to Him.

Fourth, there is a contest between Satan and God over man.

And fifth, Job was a perfect and righteous man.

The first three facts are indeed true. Satan does wander the earth; he can appear before God; and he is our accuser. (Zechariah 3:1; 1 Peter 5:8) The fourth is only true in the sense that Satan tries to pry God loose from man, and vice versa. But this is not truly a contest in that God so outstrips Satan in power that Satan can only do things that God permits. The fifth point, however, requires some discussion of the Hebrew before we can decide just how true it is or is not. Remember, things when translated are not always what they seem at first glance.

The question we need to consider as the basis for our discussion, is what is meant by the phrase “blameless and upright” used to describe Job in verses 1 and 6? (The King James translates this phrase as “perfect and upright.”) The Hebrew is capable of some leeway in translation; a fact that gives us some understanding of why God ensured koiné Greek was the common daily language (even in Judea) when the New Testament was written. Greek is a very precise language; far more precise than Hebrew and permitting of far more nuances and subtleties than English—a necessity to convey the great doctrinal truths of the New Testament which are really expansions and revelations of truths held in form and symbol in the Old Testament. Therefore we really need to look at the roots of the Hebrew words and how those words were used—how they were understood by the people who spoke them—thousands of years ago.

The word translated “blameless” in the NASB and “perfect” in the KJV comes from the root word תָּמַם (tamam, pronounced taw-MAM). It literally means “finished, complete’ ended. In other words, something that has reached its conclusion. We find it in its root form in Job 22:3 where Job is asked “Is there any pleasure to the Almighty if you are righteous, or profit if you make your ways perfect (tamam)? And again in Job 31:40 where Job says “The words of Job are ended (tamam).” Tamam in both Hebrew and Arabic—both of which spring from the same root language—means “complete”, “finished”, “mature”. (Interestingly, in modern Arabic it has morphed to mean “alright”, “fine”, “OK” … which after all are, I suppose, logical extensions of something being complete or brought to a finish.)

The specific word in Job 1:1 and 1:8 is derived from tamam. It is תָּם (tam], pronounced tawm). As we have noted it is translated “upright” in the NASB and “perfect” in the KJV. Its actual meaning is “morally pure”. Unfortunately the dominant KJV reading of “perfect” connotes, in our understanding of the word, the idea of perfection—in other words “being without flaw”. I agree that today that is exactly what “perfect” means. But it is not what tam meant. Tam meant a spiritual maturity that carried with it the manifestation of moral purity. It in no way meant “flawless”. In no way was it a reference to a moral absolute. Rather, it was an existential term that observed the reality of the human condition and provided a comparative of a specified individual to others of lesser spiritual character. Thus the Bible is not telling us that Job was without flaw; but rather that he was more upright than all his fellows. And this is a very important idea to understand as we seek the answer as to why God allowed Job to suffer what he did.

Certainly Job’s three “friends” did not consider Job perfect. In fact they laid sin at his door. They assumed that what was happening to Job was a result of some hidden sin, some hypocrisy, in his life; and thus we find some 28 chapters devoted to their attacks on his character, and his responses to them.

But it is not in the persistent attacks of Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite that we will find Job’s flaw, if he had one. So we can safely ignore all that they said, just as God did. But we do need to look at Job’s answers, because there we will find two revelations— a revelation of something amiss in his character, a flaw hidden from all but God; and the revelation of God’s purpose in allowing Satan to attack him.

Job’s friends accused him of being a hypocrite. But he was not. A hypocrite is somebody who consciously tries to appear one way, but in reality is quite different. He puts on an act to cover up his real self. In fact the word “hypocrite” comes from the Greek ὑποκριτής (hupokrites, pronounced hoo-pock-rit-ACE) which means a pretender, an actor, someone who performs on a stage. But Job was no pretender. He was, as God testified, a blameless and upright man as compared to his fellows. As God said, “There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1:8) No, if there was a flaw in Job, a failing from flawlessness before God, it was hidden … not just from other men, but from Job himself. And that is our first clue as to God’s purpose in Job’s suffering, in why a good God would allow the torment of a “perfect” man.

It is as the trials proceed—as the fire heats up—that the hidden dross begins to bubble to the surface. It actually hits the surface in chapter 29. Listen closely to Job’s words:

7 When I went out to the gate of the city, when I took my seat in the square,
8 The young men saw me and hid themselves, and the old men arose and stood.
9 The princes stopped talking and put their hands on their mouths;
10 The voice of the nobles was hushed, and their tongue stuck to their palate.
11 For when the ear heard, it called me blessed, and when the eye saw, it gave witness of me,
12 Because I delivered the poor who cried for help, and the orphan who had no helper.
13 The blessing of the one ready to perish came upon me, and I made the widow’s heart sing for joy.
14 I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban.
15 I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame.
16 I was a father to the needy, and I investigated the case which I did not know.
17 I broke the jaws of the wicked and snatched the prey from his teeth.
18 Then I thought, ‘I shall die in my nest, and I shall multiply my days as the sand.
19 ‘My root is spread out to the waters, and dew lies all night on my branch.
20 ‘My glory is ever new with me, and my bow is renewed in my hand.’
21 To me they listened and waited, and kept silent for my counsel.
22 After my words they did not speak again, and my speech dropped on them.
23 They waited for me as for the rain, and opened their mouth as for the spring rain.
24 I smiled on them when they did not believe, and the light of my face they did not cast down.
25 I chose a way for them and sat as chief, and dwelt as a king among the troops, as one who comforted the mourners. (Job 29:7-25)

That discourse of Job’s consumes 19 verses. In those 19 verses he uses the first person personal pronoun 36 times. Count them. I, I, I — me, me, me — my, my, my. Thirty-six references to self. In just 19 verses!

And what references! Young men fled from his presence. Old men stood in respect. Princes shut their mouths. Nobles were struck dumb.

Job knew he was blessed of men and of God and he reveled in it. Where is his humility? Where is his fear of God at this moment?

Notice his statements— “my righteousness … my judgment … my root … my branch … my glory … my bow … my hand … my words … my countenance.” Were I not aware that this was Job speaking, I would think it was God’s voice: For these are the terms with which Almighty God speaks to man! Yet it is clear that this is exactly what Job rejoiced in— that HE himself had been this important, this powerful, this great.

And chapter 30 begins in the same vein with him bemoaning that he no longer has this power, or the respect of men—not even the young ones who have no status in society. Even they do not fear him.

Please do not misunderstand. Job did fear God in his heart and in his actions. We have God’s own word for that. He did do good to those in need, doing all that James refers to as “pure religion” (James 1:27). We have Job’s word for that. And from everything I have read I am quite prepared to take Job at his word. The problem was something of which Job was not aware. But one in which he is not alone. It is one that afflicts many moral, upright individuals who live righteously. And it is called self-righteousness. It is human nature to believe that when you make a conscious effort to live in a morally superior fashion that somehow you are better than those who do not. After all, it is a choice—and you have made the right choice. Those who choose not to, then, are morally inferior. They lack character, they lack integrity.

Now, an unavoidable product of self-righteousness is the idea that somehow you have ingratiated yourself to God, that somehow your behavior merits greater status in His eyes and greater favor, and that you now have a status by which to prevail upon Him above other men. We may not like this, but it is true. And you can see it best displayed in the “holiness” movements and legalistic assemblies where one’s status in godliness and holiness is measured by the shortness of one’s hair (if a man) the cut of one’s suit, the length of one’s dress, the way in which a woman’s hair is coiffured, etc, etc.

And that, I suggest, is plainly evident in Job’s own words. You see, in case we missed them (as I did for years), the Holy Spirit has made sure to point them out. Read Job 32:1—

Then these three men ceased answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.

Because Job was what? “Righteous in his own eyes.” My friends, none who truly fears God, none who is truly humble, will ever consider themselves righteous in their own eyes. In fact we Christians should know better than anybody that none is righteous (Romans 3:10) and that all of our righteousnesses are as soiled menstrual cloths (Isaiah 64:6). Indeed we above all people should know that we have only one righteousness— the righteousness that comes by faith. That is to say, our one righteousness is the righteousness of Christ imputed to us by faith in His finished work at Calvary.

So Job, the “upright” and “morally blameless” in his conduct, at heart suffered from self-righteousness. It was deep; it did not appear in his day-to-day relationships or activities, but it did surface when the heat was turned up. And that is something we all have in common. Like the gold and silver we are sometimes compared to in the Bible, impurities are distilled by fire. As the pressure and the temperature on us increase, the hidden flaws—hidden from other men but, more importantly, hidden from us—that God in his omniscience sees and in His love wishes to remove, begin to surface. You see, once they surface, they can be dealt with. We can surrender them to God and thus grow immensely in our spiritual walk.

But there is something else very interesting in Job’s actions under stress. His view of himself does not just manifest itself in self righteousness but in the ensuing idea that somehow by his own righteousness he merits something from God. Job seems to see God as just a more perfect version of man. And he begins complaining against God and demanding that which he feels is his due. “I,” says Job, “have done all these good things in my life and thus You owe me.”
2 I will say to God, ‘Do not condemn me; let me know why You contend with me.
3 Is it right for You indeed to oppress, to reject the labor of Your hands, and to look favorably on the schemes of the wicked?
4 Have You eyes of flesh? Or do You see as a man sees?
5 Are Your days as the days of a mortal? Or Your years as man’s years,
6 That You should seek for my guilt and search after my sin?
7 According to Your knowledge I am indeed not guilty, yet there is no deliverance from Your hand.
8 Your hands fashioned and made me altogether, and would You destroy me?” (Job 10:2-8)

Job not only seeks to demand answers from God, he actually holds Him at fault for his suffering. Job continues on in the same vein as he answers his friends, who have become his judges, and in Job 24 the suffering saint complains that God not only does not reward righteousness but seems indifferent to wickedness.

1 Why are times not stored up by the Almighty, and why do those who know Him not see His days?
2 Some remove the landmarks; they seize and devour flocks.
3 They drive away the donkeys of the orphans; they take the widow’s ox for a pledge.
4 They push the needy aside from the road; the poor of the land are made to hide themselves altogether.
5 Behold, as wild donkeys in the wilderness they go forth seeking food in their activity, as bread for their children in the desert.
6 They harvest their fodder in the field and glean the vineyard of the wicked.
7 They spend the night naked, without clothing, and have no covering against the cold.
8 They are wet with the mountain rains and hug the rock for want of a shelter.
9 Others snatch the orphan from the breast, and against the poor they take a pledge.
10 They cause the poor to go about naked without clothing, and they take away the sheaves from the hungry.
11 Within the walls they produce oil; they tread wine presses but thirst.
12 From the city men groan, and the souls of the wounded cry out; yet God does not pay attention to folly.” (Job 24:1-12)

Job then justifies himself in Chapter 31, crying out with these words:

“Oh that I had one to hear me! Behold, here is my signature; let the Almighty answer me! And the indictment which my adversary has written, surely I would carry it on my shoulder; I would bind it to myself like a crown. I would declare to Him the number of my steps; like a prince I would approach Him.” (Job 31:35-37)

Well, then. Job wants a chance to confront God? Be careful what you ask for!

Chapter 38 begins with the immortal words:

“Then the LORD Jehovah answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me!” (Job 38:1-3)

God forbid that any one of us should find ourselves face to face in confrontation with the Almighty! I cannot imagine the fear I would feel in such an instance. As the words of the song “I Can Only Imagine” say:

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all?

I can, indeed, only imagine. But the Bible reveals what Job felt.

After listening to God’s unanswerable and thundering questions, can only utter these words:

I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes!” (Job 42:5-6)

Job is finally in the place he should have been all along— humbled, knowing that before God he is just another man. A place he thought he was, but wasn’t. A place many of us are tempted to forget about ourselves.

The trial brought out the imperfection, the self-righteousness, the pleasure in his own goodness, status, and accomplishments. And once revealed, Job no longer sought to justify himself. No longer did he have any hint of self-righteousness, no pleasure in his own goodness and faithfulness. He threw it all on God’s altar. And was restored not as he had been, but more blessed than ever. God loved Job so much that He could not let any imperfection exist for it would always be a barrier between Job and the perfection of God’s plan for his life.

So there we have two questions answered. What was God’s true purpose in Job’s suffering? And how does God work in mankind?

I pray the answers give you comfort. God is not capricious, nor is He unjust. All He does He does out of His deep and abiding love for us. Not us as a collective, but us as individuals. As we saw previously, He knows every hair on your head; they are numbered. He knows all your days before as yet one was written. Indeed, according to the Bible He chose you from before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:4)

There is a song written by Andrae Crouch. It is called “Through It All”. In it are the words, “My trials come to only make me strong.” Indeed they do.

I will conclude with the chorus of an old hymn that I love dearly. It was written by an old saint more than 100 years ago, a saint whom the world has forgotten. But God has not. Brother Young was an obscure carpenter and preacher in little backwaters of America. He lived simply, suffered great trials and afflictions, but led untold multitudes to eternal salvation. He wrote the beautiful hymn titled “God Leads Us Along”. The lyrics are of great comfort, but I especially like the first two lines of the chorus.

Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood.

In Jesus Christ we have our eternal salvation, a salvation produced by God’s unalterable love for us; a salvation secured by Christ’s sacrifice; a salvation confirmed by the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. God promises us that when we pass through the waters they will not overflow us nor will the fire burn us. (Isaiah 43:2-3) Rather the waters will show us God’s faithfulness, increasing our faith. And the fire will purify us, drawing us closer to Him. If we have faith, then we will trust God with all things, whether we understand them or not. Were we to understand, faith would not be required. But faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen, as the KJV translates Hebrews 13:1. The NASB renders it as “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” And from where, and how, do we obtain that assurance and conviction? From God’s Word, and by believing it. By believing that God is who He says He is and does exactly as He says He does. That belief, that faith, is a gift God gives us. But we need to use it.

So the next time storm clouds gather, the wind begins to howl, the thunder and lightning flash, the storm hurls itself at your feet and the waves crash against the place you are standing, remember that God’s purpose is to purge the dross, draw you closer to Him, and strengthen your faith. All that happens is measured by His hand and will never be one fraction of a gram more than is needed to produce the desired result in you. This is correction for growth. It is not intended as punishment at all. It is, in fact, evidence of His love and concern for you. For every child that God receives He corrects. (Hebrews 12:6)

The last two lines of that chorus I just quoted?

Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood.
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.

Just trust Him, dear ones. He alone is faithful and true. And His plan for your life and my life is perfect.
 

cheeky200386

Well-Known Member
Yes, self-righteousness is indeed a very sneaky sin and, paradoxically, so easy to fall into for those who please God by striving to be obedient! And it was Job's problem, too. This formed a sermon I preached here at First Baptist a couple of years ago. I've taken the liberty of re-posting it here.

God’s Purpose in Job’s Suffering


My topic this morning is “God’s Purpose in Job’s Suffering. And in this examination we will find the answers to TWO questions.

The book of Job is probably one of the most misconstrued books in the Bible. Everybody understands the idea that Job is a good man whom God allows Satan to torment. Fewer get the idea that while God permits Job’s suffering He is in control at all times. And very few discover the reason why God permits the suffering in the first place. We’re going to try to discover the answers to those questions this morning.

And I warn you we are going to be looking at a lot more scripture than normal, so I hope you have your Bibles handy.

I have heard many ideas why God permitted Job to suffer. The most common is that God wanted to prove to Satan how faithful His greatest believer was. Equally common is the view that God wanted the Bible to contain an account that would provide hope amidst suffering to those who read it. The problem with both of these views is that they are either incorrect, or incomplete.

God did not, does not, nor ever will, need to prove anything to Satan. Satan, as is clear from Isaiah 14 set out to exalt Himself and displace God from His throne. The timing of this is uncertain but is likely to have preceded Creation, though that is by no means certain. What is certain is that by the time of Genesis 3:1 the Devil was already an enemy of God who sought to destroy God’s relationship with His beloved creation— man. As the Bible tells us, Satan had been judged and cast out of Heaven (Ezekiel 28:16 Isaiah 14:12; Luke 10:18), though not yet condemned to the Pit (Isaiah 14:15). And from Isaiah 14:12; Job 1:7; Revelation 12:12; and 1 Peter 3:8 we know he roams the earth. But in no way does God have to prove anything to the Devil. God is God and does not have to justify himself to anyone. Further, to use an innocent man as a pawn simply for the sake of justifying Himself is an insult to the character of God and His nature. It makes Him capricious and selfish, not caring about the very real agony that Job went through—both physically and emotionally. The Word tells us that God is good to His people (Psalm 73:1); that all His works and all His ways are perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4); and, most importantly, that God is love (1 John 4:16). None of these characteristics could be true if God could act capriciously, solely to prove something to the Evil one … or to anybody else, for that matter. Selfishness and self-justification are not part of God’s character. Therefore the idea that God caused untold suffering to a good and righteous believer in order to justify Himself to Satan is false.

The second idea—that God wanted the Bible to contain an account that would sustain those who would in future suffer at some point in their lives—is at least closer to the character of God. Every word that is written in the Bible has been given by God to strengthen and build us in teaching, in correction, in instruction in right living (2 Timothy 3:16). God’s goal in this is to make us mature, complete, and fully equipped to live as befits His children who are here solely to be witnesses to his salvation through Jesus Christ. (Acts 1:8; 2 Timothy 3:17) Thus it is correct in part to say that God wanted Job’s story in the Bible. But it is correct only in part. To state that this is the only reason, or even the chief reason is again to malign God and His character.

Now, it is indeed theologically sound to state that God is God and can do whatever He wills, since all exists for His glory. It is also theologically sound to state that man was created for God’s own purposes and God may dispose of man in any way He desires. As His servants we may be used in whatever way our Master pleases. And, therefore, it would be theologically acceptable to state that God wanted to use Job for the benefit of all those who would come after.

Job clearly told people of his story in order to instruct them properly in the ways of God and to provide comfort to them in their own troubles. Is our God not the God of all comfort? (2 Corinthians 1:3) And is the purpose of God’s comfort to us not so that we may comfort one another with the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted? (2 Corinthians 1:4) Thus Job’s account was written (many believe by Moses) under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in order to provide comfort to us. But to say that is God’s main reason for what happened to Job is to say that somehow God’s love for us was greater than His love for Job; or, at least, that His concern for our welfare was greater than His concern for Job’s welfare. And that, quite frankly, does malign God; and it leaves open the possibility that any whom He sees as good and faithful and righteous in Christ on this earth could be called to great and undeserved suffering in order to accomplish a purpose of God. This ministers fear, not faith. Our God has given us His Spirit, a Spirit that ministers not fear but power, and love, and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7) Therefore we need to press deeper into Job’s account in order to find the truth of this matter. Clearly it is important— God placed it in His Word!

A proper study of the Book of Job is necessary because it provides us with a better understanding of God’s character and a fuller understanding of just how He works in people’s lives. I am going to use the NASB in this discussion because while the manuscripts it uses agree totally with the manuscripts behind the KJV, it is more accurate in its translation and is much easier to understand.

6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.
7 The LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.”
8 The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.”
9 Then Satan answered the LORD, “Does Job fear God for nothing?
10 “Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.
11 “But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.”
12 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD. —Job 1:6-12

At a first or casual reading it appears that certain facts are true.

First, Satan wanders the earth observing man.

Second, he can appear in God’s presence.

Third, he accuses us to Him.

Fourth, there is a contest between Satan and God over man.

And fifth, Job was a perfect and righteous man.

The first three facts are indeed true. Satan does wander the earth; he can appear before God; and he is our accuser. (Zechariah 3:1; 1 Peter 5:8) The fourth is only true in the sense that Satan tries to pry God loose from man, and vice versa. But this is not truly a contest in that God so outstrips Satan in power that Satan can only do things that God permits. The fifth point, however, requires some discussion of the Hebrew before we can decide just how true it is or is not. Remember, things when translated are not always what they seem at first glance.

The question we need to consider as the basis for our discussion, is what is meant by the phrase “blameless and upright” used to describe Job in verses 1 and 6? (The King James translates this phrase as “perfect and upright.”) The Hebrew is capable of some leeway in translation; a fact that gives us some understanding of why God ensured koiné Greek was the common daily language (even in Judea) when the New Testament was written. Greek is a very precise language; far more precise than Hebrew and permitting of far more nuances and subtleties than English—a necessity to convey the great doctrinal truths of the New Testament which are really expansions and revelations of truths held in form and symbol in the Old Testament. Therefore we really need to look at the roots of the Hebrew words and how those words were used—how they were understood by the people who spoke them—thousands of years ago.

The word translated “blameless” in the NASB and “perfect” in the KJV comes from the root word תָּמַם (tamam, pronounced taw-MAM). It literally means “finished, complete’ ended. In other words, something that has reached its conclusion. We find it in its root form in Job 22:3 where Job is asked “Is there any pleasure to the Almighty if you are righteous, or profit if you make your ways perfect (tamam)? And again in Job 31:40 where Job says “The words of Job are ended (tamam).” Tamam in both Hebrew and Arabic—both of which spring from the same root language—means “complete”, “finished”, “mature”. (Interestingly, in modern Arabic it has morphed to mean “alright”, “fine”, “OK” … which after all are, I suppose, logical extensions of something being complete or brought to a finish.)

The specific word in Job 1:1 and 1:8 is derived from tamam. It is תָּם (tam], pronounced tawm). As we have noted it is translated “upright” in the NASB and “perfect” in the KJV. Its actual meaning is “morally pure”. Unfortunately the dominant KJV reading of “perfect” connotes, in our understanding of the word, the idea of perfection—in other words “being without flaw”. I agree that today that is exactly what “perfect” means. But it is not what tam meant. Tam meant a spiritual maturity that carried with it the manifestation of moral purity. It in no way meant “flawless”. In no way was it a reference to a moral absolute. Rather, it was an existential term that observed the reality of the human condition and provided a comparative of a specified individual to others of lesser spiritual character. Thus the Bible is not telling us that Job was without flaw; but rather that he was more upright than all his fellows. And this is a very important idea to understand as we seek the answer as to why God allowed Job to suffer what he did.

Certainly Job’s three “friends” did not consider Job perfect. In fact they laid sin at his door. They assumed that what was happening to Job was a result of some hidden sin, some hypocrisy, in his life; and thus we find some 28 chapters devoted to their attacks on his character, and his responses to them.

But it is not in the persistent attacks of Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite that we will find Job’s flaw, if he had one. So we can safely ignore all that they said, just as God did. But we do need to look at Job’s answers, because there we will find two revelations— a revelation of something amiss in his character, a flaw hidden from all but God; and the revelation of God’s purpose in allowing Satan to attack him.

Job’s friends accused him of being a hypocrite. But he was not. A hypocrite is somebody who consciously tries to appear one way, but in reality is quite different. He puts on an act to cover up his real self. In fact the word “hypocrite” comes from the Greek ὑποκριτής (hupokrites, pronounced hoo-pock-rit-ACE) which means a pretender, an actor, someone who performs on a stage. But Job was no pretender. He was, as God testified, a blameless and upright man as compared to his fellows. As God said, “There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1:8) No, if there was a flaw in Job, a failing from flawlessness before God, it was hidden … not just from other men, but from Job himself. And that is our first clue as to God’s purpose in Job’s suffering, in why a good God would allow the torment of a “perfect” man.

It is as the trials proceed—as the fire heats up—that the hidden dross begins to bubble to the surface. It actually hits the surface in chapter 29. Listen closely to Job’s words:

7 When I went out to the gate of the city, when I took my seat in the square,
8 The young men saw me and hid themselves, and the old men arose and stood.
9 The princes stopped talking and put their hands on their mouths;
10 The voice of the nobles was hushed, and their tongue stuck to their palate.
11 For when the ear heard, it called me blessed, and when the eye saw, it gave witness of me,
12 Because I delivered the poor who cried for help, and the orphan who had no helper.
13 The blessing of the one ready to perish came upon me, and I made the widow’s heart sing for joy.
14 I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban.
15 I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame.
16 I was a father to the needy, and I investigated the case which I did not know.
17 I broke the jaws of the wicked and snatched the prey from his teeth.
18 Then I thought, ‘I shall die in my nest, and I shall multiply my days as the sand.
19 ‘My root is spread out to the waters, and dew lies all night on my branch.
20 ‘My glory is ever new with me, and my bow is renewed in my hand.’
21 To me they listened and waited, and kept silent for my counsel.
22 After my words they did not speak again, and my speech dropped on them.
23 They waited for me as for the rain, and opened their mouth as for the spring rain.
24 I smiled on them when they did not believe, and the light of my face they did not cast down.
25 I chose a way for them and sat as chief, and dwelt as a king among the troops, as one who comforted the mourners. (Job 29:7-25)

That discourse of Job’s consumes 19 verses. In those 19 verses he uses the first person personal pronoun 36 times. Count them. I, I, I — me, me, me — my, my, my. Thirty-six references to self. In just 19 verses!

And what references! Young men fled from his presence. Old men stood in respect. Princes shut their mouths. Nobles were struck dumb.

Job knew he was blessed of men and of God and he reveled in it. Where is his humility? Where is his fear of God at this moment?

Notice his statements— “my righteousness … my judgment … my root … my branch … my glory … my bow … my hand … my words … my countenance.” Were I not aware that this was Job speaking, I would think it was God’s voice: For these are the terms with which Almighty God speaks to man! Yet it is clear that this is exactly what Job rejoiced in— that HE himself had been this important, this powerful, this great.

And chapter 30 begins in the same vein with him bemoaning that he no longer has this power, or the respect of men—not even the young ones who have no status in society. Even they do not fear him.

Please do not misunderstand. Job did fear God in his heart and in his actions. We have God’s own word for that. He did do good to those in need, doing all that James refers to as “pure religion” (James 1:27). We have Job’s word for that. And from everything I have read I am quite prepared to take Job at his word. The problem was something of which Job was not aware. But one in which he is not alone. It is one that afflicts many moral, upright individuals who live righteously. And it is called self-righteousness. It is human nature to believe that when you make a conscious effort to live in a morally superior fashion that somehow you are better than those who do not. After all, it is a choice—and you have made the right choice. Those who choose not to, then, are morally inferior. They lack character, they lack integrity.

Now, an unavoidable product of self-righteousness is the idea that somehow you have ingratiated yourself to God, that somehow your behavior merits greater status in His eyes and greater favor, and that you now have a status by which to prevail upon Him above other men. We may not like this, but it is true. And you can see it best displayed in the “holiness” movements and legalistic assemblies where one’s status in godliness and holiness is measured by the shortness of one’s hair (if a man) the cut of one’s suit, the length of one’s dress, the way in which a woman’s hair is coiffured, etc, etc.

And that, I suggest, is plainly evident in Job’s own words. You see, in case we missed them (as I did for years), the Holy Spirit has made sure to point them out. Read Job 32:1—

Then these three men ceased answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.

Because Job was what? “Righteous in his own eyes.” My friends, none who truly fears God, none who is truly humble, will ever consider themselves righteous in their own eyes. In fact we Christians should know better than anybody that none is righteous (Romans 3:10) and that all of our righteousnesses are as soiled menstrual cloths (Isaiah 64:6). Indeed we above all people should know that we have only one righteousness— the righteousness that comes by faith. That is to say, our one righteousness is the righteousness of Christ imputed to us by faith in His finished work at Calvary.

So Job, the “upright” and “morally blameless” in his conduct, at heart suffered from self-righteousness. It was deep; it did not appear in his day-to-day relationships or activities, but it did surface when the heat was turned up. And that is something we all have in common. Like the gold and silver we are sometimes compared to in the Bible, impurities are distilled by fire. As the pressure and the temperature on us increase, the hidden flaws—hidden from other men but, more importantly, hidden from us—that God in his omniscience sees and in His love wishes to remove, begin to surface. You see, once they surface, they can be dealt with. We can surrender them to God and thus grow immensely in our spiritual walk.

But there is something else very interesting in Job’s actions under stress. His view of himself does not just manifest itself in self righteousness but in the ensuing idea that somehow by his own righteousness he merits something from God. Job seems to see God as just a more perfect version of man. And he begins complaining against God and demanding that which he feels is his due. “I,” says Job, “have done all these good things in my life and thus You owe me.”
2 I will say to God, ‘Do not condemn me; let me know why You contend with me.
3 Is it right for You indeed to oppress, to reject the labor of Your hands, and to look favorably on the schemes of the wicked?
4 Have You eyes of flesh? Or do You see as a man sees?
5 Are Your days as the days of a mortal? Or Your years as man’s years,
6 That You should seek for my guilt and search after my sin?
7 According to Your knowledge I am indeed not guilty, yet there is no deliverance from Your hand.
8 Your hands fashioned and made me altogether, and would You destroy me?” (Job 10:2-8)

Job not only seeks to demand answers from God, he actually holds Him at fault for his suffering. Job continues on in the same vein as he answers his friends, who have become his judges, and in Job 24 the suffering saint complains that God not only does not reward righteousness but seems indifferent to wickedness.

1 Why are times not stored up by the Almighty, and why do those who know Him not see His days?
2 Some remove the landmarks; they seize and devour flocks.
3 They drive away the donkeys of the orphans; they take the widow’s ox for a pledge.
4 They push the needy aside from the road; the poor of the land are made to hide themselves altogether.
5 Behold, as wild donkeys in the wilderness they go forth seeking food in their activity, as bread for their children in the desert.
6 They harvest their fodder in the field and glean the vineyard of the wicked.
7 They spend the night naked, without clothing, and have no covering against the cold.
8 They are wet with the mountain rains and hug the rock for want of a shelter.
9 Others snatch the orphan from the breast, and against the poor they take a pledge.
10 They cause the poor to go about naked without clothing, and they take away the sheaves from the hungry.
11 Within the walls they produce oil; they tread wine presses but thirst.
12 From the city men groan, and the souls of the wounded cry out; yet God does not pay attention to folly.” (Job 24:1-12)

Job then justifies himself in Chapter 31, crying out with these words:

“Oh that I had one to hear me! Behold, here is my signature; let the Almighty answer me! And the indictment which my adversary has written, surely I would carry it on my shoulder; I would bind it to myself like a crown. I would declare to Him the number of my steps; like a prince I would approach Him.” (Job 31:35-37)

Well, then. Job wants a chance to confront God? Be careful what you ask for!

Chapter 38 begins with the immortal words:

“Then the LORD Jehovah answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me!” (Job 38:1-3)

God forbid that any one of us should find ourselves face to face in confrontation with the Almighty! I cannot imagine the fear I would feel in such an instance. As the words of the song “I Can Only Imagine” say:

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all?

I can, indeed, only imagine. But the Bible reveals what Job felt.

After listening to God’s unanswerable and thundering questions, can only utter these words:

I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes!” (Job 42:5-6)

Job is finally in the place he should have been all along— humbled, knowing that before God he is just another man. A place he thought he was, but wasn’t. A place many of us are tempted to forget about ourselves.

The trial brought out the imperfection, the self-righteousness, the pleasure in his own goodness, status, and accomplishments. And once revealed, Job no longer sought to justify himself. No longer did he have any hint of self-righteousness, no pleasure in his own goodness and faithfulness. He threw it all on God’s altar. And was restored not as he had been, but more blessed than ever. God loved Job so much that He could not let any imperfection exist for it would always be a barrier between Job and the perfection of God’s plan for his life.

So there we have two questions answered. What was God’s true purpose in Job’s suffering? And how does God work in mankind?

I pray the answers give you comfort. God is not capricious, nor is He unjust. All He does He does out of His deep and abiding love for us. Not us as a collective, but us as individuals. As we saw previously, He knows every hair on your head; they are numbered. He knows all your days before as yet one was written. Indeed, according to the Bible He chose you from before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:4)

There is a song written by Andrae Crouch. It is called “Through It All”. In it are the words, “My trials come to only make me strong.” Indeed they do.

I will conclude with the chorus of an old hymn that I love dearly. It was written by an old saint more than 100 years ago, a saint whom the world has forgotten. But God has not. Brother Young was an obscure carpenter and preacher in little backwaters of America. He lived simply, suffered great trials and afflictions, but led untold multitudes to eternal salvation. He wrote the beautiful hymn titled “God Leads Us Along”. The lyrics are of great comfort, but I especially like the first two lines of the chorus.

Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood.

In Jesus Christ we have our eternal salvation, a salvation produced by God’s unalterable love for us; a salvation secured by Christ’s sacrifice; a salvation confirmed by the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. God promises us that when we pass through the waters they will not overflow us nor will the fire burn us. (Isaiah 43:2-3) Rather the waters will show us God’s faithfulness, increasing our faith. And the fire will purify us, drawing us closer to Him. If we have faith, then we will trust God with all things, whether we understand them or not. Were we to understand, faith would not be required. But faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen, as the KJV translates Hebrews 13:1. The NASB renders it as “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” And from where, and how, do we obtain that assurance and conviction? From God’s Word, and by believing it. By believing that God is who He says He is and does exactly as He says He does. That belief, that faith, is a gift God gives us. But we need to use it.

So the next time storm clouds gather, the wind begins to howl, the thunder and lightning flash, the storm hurls itself at your feet and the waves crash against the place you are standing, remember that God’s purpose is to purge the dross, draw you closer to Him, and strengthen your faith. All that happens is measured by His hand and will never be one fraction of a gram more than is needed to produce the desired result in you. This is correction for growth. It is not intended as punishment at all. It is, in fact, evidence of His love and concern for you. For every child that God receives He corrects. (Hebrews 12:6)

The last two lines of that chorus I just quoted?

Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood.
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.

Just trust Him, dear ones. He alone is faithful and true. And His plan for your life and my life is perfect.
Wow!!!! I just shared this with my mom and will sending it to all the Christians I know. This was an eye opening sermon. I can't believe I never noticed those verses of self righteousness. This is a book I always struggled with but never studied as closely as I should have. Thank you so much as this has brought so much comfort to me.
 

Spartan Sprinter 1

Formerly known as Shaun
Yes, self-righteousness is indeed a very sneaky sin and, paradoxically, so easy to fall into for those who please God by striving to be obedient! And it was Job's problem, too. This formed a sermon I preached here at First Baptist a couple of years ago. I've taken the liberty of re-posting it here.

God’s Purpose in Job’s Suffering


My topic this morning is “God’s Purpose in Job’s Suffering. And in this examination we will find the answers to TWO questions.

The book of Job is probably one of the most misconstrued books in the Bible. Everybody understands the idea that Job is a good man whom God allows Satan to torment. Fewer get the idea that while God permits Job’s suffering He is in control at all times. And very few discover the reason why God permits the suffering in the first place. We’re going to try to discover the answers to those questions this morning.

And I warn you we are going to be looking at a lot more scripture than normal, so I hope you have your Bibles handy.

I have heard many ideas why God permitted Job to suffer. The most common is that God wanted to prove to Satan how faithful His greatest believer was. Equally common is the view that God wanted the Bible to contain an account that would provide hope amidst suffering to those who read it. The problem with both of these views is that they are either incorrect, or incomplete.

God did not, does not, nor ever will, need to prove anything to Satan. Satan, as is clear from Isaiah 14 set out to exalt Himself and displace God from His throne. The timing of this is uncertain but is likely to have preceded Creation, though that is by no means certain. What is certain is that by the time of Genesis 3:1 the Devil was already an enemy of God who sought to destroy God’s relationship with His beloved creation— man. As the Bible tells us, Satan had been judged and cast out of Heaven (Ezekiel 28:16 Isaiah 14:12; Luke 10:18), though not yet condemned to the Pit (Isaiah 14:15). And from Isaiah 14:12; Job 1:7; Revelation 12:12; and 1 Peter 3:8 we know he roams the earth. But in no way does God have to prove anything to the Devil. God is God and does not have to justify himself to anyone. Further, to use an innocent man as a pawn simply for the sake of justifying Himself is an insult to the character of God and His nature. It makes Him capricious and selfish, not caring about the very real agony that Job went through—both physically and emotionally. The Word tells us that God is good to His people (Psalm 73:1); that all His works and all His ways are perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4); and, most importantly, that God is love (1 John 4:16). None of these characteristics could be true if God could act capriciously, solely to prove something to the Evil one … or to anybody else, for that matter. Selfishness and self-justification are not part of God’s character. Therefore the idea that God caused untold suffering to a good and righteous believer in order to justify Himself to Satan is false.

The second idea—that God wanted the Bible to contain an account that would sustain those who would in future suffer at some point in their lives—is at least closer to the character of God. Every word that is written in the Bible has been given by God to strengthen and build us in teaching, in correction, in instruction in right living (2 Timothy 3:16). God’s goal in this is to make us mature, complete, and fully equipped to live as befits His children who are here solely to be witnesses to his salvation through Jesus Christ. (Acts 1:8; 2 Timothy 3:17) Thus it is correct in part to say that God wanted Job’s story in the Bible. But it is correct only in part. To state that this is the only reason, or even the chief reason is again to malign God and His character.

Now, it is indeed theologically sound to state that God is God and can do whatever He wills, since all exists for His glory. It is also theologically sound to state that man was created for God’s own purposes and God may dispose of man in any way He desires. As His servants we may be used in whatever way our Master pleases. And, therefore, it would be theologically acceptable to state that God wanted to use Job for the benefit of all those who would come after.

Job clearly told people of his story in order to instruct them properly in the ways of God and to provide comfort to them in their own troubles. Is our God not the God of all comfort? (2 Corinthians 1:3) And is the purpose of God’s comfort to us not so that we may comfort one another with the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted? (2 Corinthians 1:4) Thus Job’s account was written (many believe by Moses) under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in order to provide comfort to us. But to say that is God’s main reason for what happened to Job is to say that somehow God’s love for us was greater than His love for Job; or, at least, that His concern for our welfare was greater than His concern for Job’s welfare. And that, quite frankly, does malign God; and it leaves open the possibility that any whom He sees as good and faithful and righteous in Christ on this earth could be called to great and undeserved suffering in order to accomplish a purpose of God. This ministers fear, not faith. Our God has given us His Spirit, a Spirit that ministers not fear but power, and love, and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7) Therefore we need to press deeper into Job’s account in order to find the truth of this matter. Clearly it is important— God placed it in His Word!

A proper study of the Book of Job is necessary because it provides us with a better understanding of God’s character and a fuller understanding of just how He works in people’s lives. I am going to use the NASB in this discussion because while the manuscripts it uses agree totally with the manuscripts behind the KJV, it is more accurate in its translation and is much easier to understand.

6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.
7 The LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.”
8 The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.”
9 Then Satan answered the LORD, “Does Job fear God for nothing?
10 “Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.
11 “But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.”
12 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD. —Job 1:6-12

At a first or casual reading it appears that certain facts are true.

First, Satan wanders the earth observing man.

Second, he can appear in God’s presence.

Third, he accuses us to Him.

Fourth, there is a contest between Satan and God over man.

And fifth, Job was a perfect and righteous man.

The first three facts are indeed true. Satan does wander the earth; he can appear before God; and he is our accuser. (Zechariah 3:1; 1 Peter 5:8) The fourth is only true in the sense that Satan tries to pry God loose from man, and vice versa. But this is not truly a contest in that God so outstrips Satan in power that Satan can only do things that God permits. The fifth point, however, requires some discussion of the Hebrew before we can decide just how true it is or is not. Remember, things when translated are not always what they seem at first glance.

The question we need to consider as the basis for our discussion, is what is meant by the phrase “blameless and upright” used to describe Job in verses 1 and 6? (The King James translates this phrase as “perfect and upright.”) The Hebrew is capable of some leeway in translation; a fact that gives us some understanding of why God ensured koiné Greek was the common daily language (even in Judea) when the New Testament was written. Greek is a very precise language; far more precise than Hebrew and permitting of far more nuances and subtleties than English—a necessity to convey the great doctrinal truths of the New Testament which are really expansions and revelations of truths held in form and symbol in the Old Testament. Therefore we really need to look at the roots of the Hebrew words and how those words were used—how they were understood by the people who spoke them—thousands of years ago.

The word translated “blameless” in the NASB and “perfect” in the KJV comes from the root word תָּמַם (tamam, pronounced taw-MAM). It literally means “finished, complete’ ended. In other words, something that has reached its conclusion. We find it in its root form in Job 22:3 where Job is asked “Is there any pleasure to the Almighty if you are righteous, or profit if you make your ways perfect (tamam)? And again in Job 31:40 where Job says “The words of Job are ended (tamam).” Tamam in both Hebrew and Arabic—both of which spring from the same root language—means “complete”, “finished”, “mature”. (Interestingly, in modern Arabic it has morphed to mean “alright”, “fine”, “OK” … which after all are, I suppose, logical extensions of something being complete or brought to a finish.)

The specific word in Job 1:1 and 1:8 is derived from tamam. It is תָּם (tam], pronounced tawm). As we have noted it is translated “upright” in the NASB and “perfect” in the KJV. Its actual meaning is “morally pure”. Unfortunately the dominant KJV reading of “perfect” connotes, in our understanding of the word, the idea of perfection—in other words “being without flaw”. I agree that today that is exactly what “perfect” means. But it is not what tam meant. Tam meant a spiritual maturity that carried with it the manifestation of moral purity. It in no way meant “flawless”. In no way was it a reference to a moral absolute. Rather, it was an existential term that observed the reality of the human condition and provided a comparative of a specified individual to others of lesser spiritual character. Thus the Bible is not telling us that Job was without flaw; but rather that he was more upright than all his fellows. And this is a very important idea to understand as we seek the answer as to why God allowed Job to suffer what he did.

Certainly Job’s three “friends” did not consider Job perfect. In fact they laid sin at his door. They assumed that what was happening to Job was a result of some hidden sin, some hypocrisy, in his life; and thus we find some 28 chapters devoted to their attacks on his character, and his responses to them.

But it is not in the persistent attacks of Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite that we will find Job’s flaw, if he had one. So we can safely ignore all that they said, just as God did. But we do need to look at Job’s answers, because there we will find two revelations— a revelation of something amiss in his character, a flaw hidden from all but God; and the revelation of God’s purpose in allowing Satan to attack him.

Job’s friends accused him of being a hypocrite. But he was not. A hypocrite is somebody who consciously tries to appear one way, but in reality is quite different. He puts on an act to cover up his real self. In fact the word “hypocrite” comes from the Greek ὑποκριτής (hupokrites, pronounced hoo-pock-rit-ACE) which means a pretender, an actor, someone who performs on a stage. But Job was no pretender. He was, as God testified, a blameless and upright man as compared to his fellows. As God said, “There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1:8) No, if there was a flaw in Job, a failing from flawlessness before God, it was hidden … not just from other men, but from Job himself. And that is our first clue as to God’s purpose in Job’s suffering, in why a good God would allow the torment of a “perfect” man.

It is as the trials proceed—as the fire heats up—that the hidden dross begins to bubble to the surface. It actually hits the surface in chapter 29. Listen closely to Job’s words:

7 When I went out to the gate of the city, when I took my seat in the square,
8 The young men saw me and hid themselves, and the old men arose and stood.
9 The princes stopped talking and put their hands on their mouths;
10 The voice of the nobles was hushed, and their tongue stuck to their palate.
11 For when the ear heard, it called me blessed, and when the eye saw, it gave witness of me,
12 Because I delivered the poor who cried for help, and the orphan who had no helper.
13 The blessing of the one ready to perish came upon me, and I made the widow’s heart sing for joy.
14 I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban.
15 I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame.
16 I was a father to the needy, and I investigated the case which I did not know.
17 I broke the jaws of the wicked and snatched the prey from his teeth.
18 Then I thought, ‘I shall die in my nest, and I shall multiply my days as the sand.
19 ‘My root is spread out to the waters, and dew lies all night on my branch.
20 ‘My glory is ever new with me, and my bow is renewed in my hand.’
21 To me they listened and waited, and kept silent for my counsel.
22 After my words they did not speak again, and my speech dropped on them.
23 They waited for me as for the rain, and opened their mouth as for the spring rain.
24 I smiled on them when they did not believe, and the light of my face they did not cast down.
25 I chose a way for them and sat as chief, and dwelt as a king among the troops, as one who comforted the mourners. (Job 29:7-25)

That discourse of Job’s consumes 19 verses. In those 19 verses he uses the first person personal pronoun 36 times. Count them. I, I, I — me, me, me — my, my, my. Thirty-six references to self. In just 19 verses!

And what references! Young men fled from his presence. Old men stood in respect. Princes shut their mouths. Nobles were struck dumb.

Job knew he was blessed of men and of God and he reveled in it. Where is his humility? Where is his fear of God at this moment?

Notice his statements— “my righteousness … my judgment … my root … my branch … my glory … my bow … my hand … my words … my countenance.” Were I not aware that this was Job speaking, I would think it was God’s voice: For these are the terms with which Almighty God speaks to man! Yet it is clear that this is exactly what Job rejoiced in— that HE himself had been this important, this powerful, this great.

And chapter 30 begins in the same vein with him bemoaning that he no longer has this power, or the respect of men—not even the young ones who have no status in society. Even they do not fear him.

Please do not misunderstand. Job did fear God in his heart and in his actions. We have God’s own word for that. He did do good to those in need, doing all that James refers to as “pure religion” (James 1:27). We have Job’s word for that. And from everything I have read I am quite prepared to take Job at his word. The problem was something of which Job was not aware. But one in which he is not alone. It is one that afflicts many moral, upright individuals who live righteously. And it is called self-righteousness. It is human nature to believe that when you make a conscious effort to live in a morally superior fashion that somehow you are better than those who do not. After all, it is a choice—and you have made the right choice. Those who choose not to, then, are morally inferior. They lack character, they lack integrity.

Now, an unavoidable product of self-righteousness is the idea that somehow you have ingratiated yourself to God, that somehow your behavior merits greater status in His eyes and greater favor, and that you now have a status by which to prevail upon Him above other men. We may not like this, but it is true. And you can see it best displayed in the “holiness” movements and legalistic assemblies where one’s status in godliness and holiness is measured by the shortness of one’s hair (if a man) the cut of one’s suit, the length of one’s dress, the way in which a woman’s hair is coiffured, etc, etc.

And that, I suggest, is plainly evident in Job’s own words. You see, in case we missed them (as I did for years), the Holy Spirit has made sure to point them out. Read Job 32:1—

Then these three men ceased answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.

Because Job was what? “Righteous in his own eyes.” My friends, none who truly fears God, none who is truly humble, will ever consider themselves righteous in their own eyes. In fact we Christians should know better than anybody that none is righteous (Romans 3:10) and that all of our righteousnesses are as soiled menstrual cloths (Isaiah 64:6). Indeed we above all people should know that we have only one righteousness— the righteousness that comes by faith. That is to say, our one righteousness is the righteousness of Christ imputed to us by faith in His finished work at Calvary.

So Job, the “upright” and “morally blameless” in his conduct, at heart suffered from self-righteousness. It was deep; it did not appear in his day-to-day relationships or activities, but it did surface when the heat was turned up. And that is something we all have in common. Like the gold and silver we are sometimes compared to in the Bible, impurities are distilled by fire. As the pressure and the temperature on us increase, the hidden flaws—hidden from other men but, more importantly, hidden from us—that God in his omniscience sees and in His love wishes to remove, begin to surface. You see, once they surface, they can be dealt with. We can surrender them to God and thus grow immensely in our spiritual walk.

But there is something else very interesting in Job’s actions under stress. His view of himself does not just manifest itself in self righteousness but in the ensuing idea that somehow by his own righteousness he merits something from God. Job seems to see God as just a more perfect version of man. And he begins complaining against God and demanding that which he feels is his due. “I,” says Job, “have done all these good things in my life and thus You owe me.”
2 I will say to God, ‘Do not condemn me; let me know why You contend with me.
3 Is it right for You indeed to oppress, to reject the labor of Your hands, and to look favorably on the schemes of the wicked?
4 Have You eyes of flesh? Or do You see as a man sees?
5 Are Your days as the days of a mortal? Or Your years as man’s years,
6 That You should seek for my guilt and search after my sin?
7 According to Your knowledge I am indeed not guilty, yet there is no deliverance from Your hand.
8 Your hands fashioned and made me altogether, and would You destroy me?” (Job 10:2-8)

Job not only seeks to demand answers from God, he actually holds Him at fault for his suffering. Job continues on in the same vein as he answers his friends, who have become his judges, and in Job 24 the suffering saint complains that God not only does not reward righteousness but seems indifferent to wickedness.

1 Why are times not stored up by the Almighty, and why do those who know Him not see His days?
2 Some remove the landmarks; they seize and devour flocks.
3 They drive away the donkeys of the orphans; they take the widow’s ox for a pledge.
4 They push the needy aside from the road; the poor of the land are made to hide themselves altogether.
5 Behold, as wild donkeys in the wilderness they go forth seeking food in their activity, as bread for their children in the desert.
6 They harvest their fodder in the field and glean the vineyard of the wicked.
7 They spend the night naked, without clothing, and have no covering against the cold.
8 They are wet with the mountain rains and hug the rock for want of a shelter.
9 Others snatch the orphan from the breast, and against the poor they take a pledge.
10 They cause the poor to go about naked without clothing, and they take away the sheaves from the hungry.
11 Within the walls they produce oil; they tread wine presses but thirst.
12 From the city men groan, and the souls of the wounded cry out; yet God does not pay attention to folly.” (Job 24:1-12)

Job then justifies himself in Chapter 31, crying out with these words:

“Oh that I had one to hear me! Behold, here is my signature; let the Almighty answer me! And the indictment which my adversary has written, surely I would carry it on my shoulder; I would bind it to myself like a crown. I would declare to Him the number of my steps; like a prince I would approach Him.” (Job 31:35-37)

Well, then. Job wants a chance to confront God? Be careful what you ask for!

Chapter 38 begins with the immortal words:

“Then the LORD Jehovah answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me!” (Job 38:1-3)

God forbid that any one of us should find ourselves face to face in confrontation with the Almighty! I cannot imagine the fear I would feel in such an instance. As the words of the song “I Can Only Imagine” say:

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all?

I can, indeed, only imagine. But the Bible reveals what Job felt.

After listening to God’s unanswerable and thundering questions, can only utter these words:

I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes!” (Job 42:5-6)

Job is finally in the place he should have been all along— humbled, knowing that before God he is just another man. A place he thought he was, but wasn’t. A place many of us are tempted to forget about ourselves.

The trial brought out the imperfection, the self-righteousness, the pleasure in his own goodness, status, and accomplishments. And once revealed, Job no longer sought to justify himself. No longer did he have any hint of self-righteousness, no pleasure in his own goodness and faithfulness. He threw it all on God’s altar. And was restored not as he had been, but more blessed than ever. God loved Job so much that He could not let any imperfection exist for it would always be a barrier between Job and the perfection of God’s plan for his life.

So there we have two questions answered. What was God’s true purpose in Job’s suffering? And how does God work in mankind?

I pray the answers give you comfort. God is not capricious, nor is He unjust. All He does He does out of His deep and abiding love for us. Not us as a collective, but us as individuals. As we saw previously, He knows every hair on your head; they are numbered. He knows all your days before as yet one was written. Indeed, according to the Bible He chose you from before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:4)

There is a song written by Andrae Crouch. It is called “Through It All”. In it are the words, “My trials come to only make me strong.” Indeed they do.

I will conclude with the chorus of an old hymn that I love dearly. It was written by an old saint more than 100 years ago, a saint whom the world has forgotten. But God has not. Brother Young was an obscure carpenter and preacher in little backwaters of America. He lived simply, suffered great trials and afflictions, but led untold multitudes to eternal salvation. He wrote the beautiful hymn titled “God Leads Us Along”. The lyrics are of great comfort, but I especially like the first two lines of the chorus.

Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood.

In Jesus Christ we have our eternal salvation, a salvation produced by God’s unalterable love for us; a salvation secured by Christ’s sacrifice; a salvation confirmed by the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. God promises us that when we pass through the waters they will not overflow us nor will the fire burn us. (Isaiah 43:2-3) Rather the waters will show us God’s faithfulness, increasing our faith. And the fire will purify us, drawing us closer to Him. If we have faith, then we will trust God with all things, whether we understand them or not. Were we to understand, faith would not be required. But faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen, as the KJV translates Hebrews 13:1. The NASB renders it as “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” And from where, and how, do we obtain that assurance and conviction? From God’s Word, and by believing it. By believing that God is who He says He is and does exactly as He says He does. That belief, that faith, is a gift God gives us. But we need to use it.

So the next time storm clouds gather, the wind begins to howl, the thunder and lightning flash, the storm hurls itself at your feet and the waves crash against the place you are standing, remember that God’s purpose is to purge the dross, draw you closer to Him, and strengthen your faith. All that happens is measured by His hand and will never be one fraction of a gram more than is needed to produce the desired result in you. This is correction for growth. It is not intended as punishment at all. It is, in fact, evidence of His love and concern for you. For every child that God receives He corrects. (Hebrews 12:6)

The last two lines of that chorus I just quoted?

Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood.
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.

Just trust Him, dear ones. He alone is faithful and true. And His plan for your life and my life is perfect.

Thanks for that , it's definitely given me some much needed added perspective
 

Epieikes

Well-Known Member
Yes, self-righteousness is indeed a very sneaky sin and, paradoxically, so easy to fall into for those who please God by striving to be obedient! And it was Job's problem, too. This formed a sermon I preached here at First Baptist a couple of years ago. I've taken the liberty of re-posting it here.

God’s Purpose in Job’s Suffering


My topic this morning is “God’s Purpose in Job’s Suffering. And in this examination we will find the answers to TWO questions.

The book of Job is probably one of the most misconstrued books in the Bible. Everybody understands the idea that Job is a good man whom God allows Satan to torment. Fewer get the idea that while God permits Job’s suffering He is in control at all times. And very few discover the reason why God permits the suffering in the first place. We’re going to try to discover the answers to those questions this morning.

And I warn you we are going to be looking at a lot more scripture than normal, so I hope you have your Bibles handy.

I have heard many ideas why God permitted Job to suffer. The most common is that God wanted to prove to Satan how faithful His greatest believer was. Equally common is the view that God wanted the Bible to contain an account that would provide hope amidst suffering to those who read it. The problem with both of these views is that they are either incorrect, or incomplete.

God did not, does not, nor ever will, need to prove anything to Satan. Satan, as is clear from Isaiah 14 set out to exalt Himself and displace God from His throne. The timing of this is uncertain but is likely to have preceded Creation, though that is by no means certain. What is certain is that by the time of Genesis 3:1 the Devil was already an enemy of God who sought to destroy God’s relationship with His beloved creation— man. As the Bible tells us, Satan had been judged and cast out of Heaven (Ezekiel 28:16 Isaiah 14:12; Luke 10:18), though not yet condemned to the Pit (Isaiah 14:15). And from Isaiah 14:12; Job 1:7; Revelation 12:12; and 1 Peter 3:8 we know he roams the earth. But in no way does God have to prove anything to the Devil. God is God and does not have to justify himself to anyone. Further, to use an innocent man as a pawn simply for the sake of justifying Himself is an insult to the character of God and His nature. It makes Him capricious and selfish, not caring about the very real agony that Job went through—both physically and emotionally. The Word tells us that God is good to His people (Psalm 73:1); that all His works and all His ways are perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4); and, most importantly, that God is love (1 John 4:16). None of these characteristics could be true if God could act capriciously, solely to prove something to the Evil one … or to anybody else, for that matter. Selfishness and self-justification are not part of God’s character. Therefore the idea that God caused untold suffering to a good and righteous believer in order to justify Himself to Satan is false.

The second idea—that God wanted the Bible to contain an account that would sustain those who would in future suffer at some point in their lives—is at least closer to the character of God. Every word that is written in the Bible has been given by God to strengthen and build us in teaching, in correction, in instruction in right living (2 Timothy 3:16). God’s goal in this is to make us mature, complete, and fully equipped to live as befits His children who are here solely to be witnesses to his salvation through Jesus Christ. (Acts 1:8; 2 Timothy 3:17) Thus it is correct in part to say that God wanted Job’s story in the Bible. But it is correct only in part. To state that this is the only reason, or even the chief reason is again to malign God and His character.

Now, it is indeed theologically sound to state that God is God and can do whatever He wills, since all exists for His glory. It is also theologically sound to state that man was created for God’s own purposes and God may dispose of man in any way He desires. As His servants we may be used in whatever way our Master pleases. And, therefore, it would be theologically acceptable to state that God wanted to use Job for the benefit of all those who would come after.

Job clearly told people of his story in order to instruct them properly in the ways of God and to provide comfort to them in their own troubles. Is our God not the God of all comfort? (2 Corinthians 1:3) And is the purpose of God’s comfort to us not so that we may comfort one another with the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted? (2 Corinthians 1:4) Thus Job’s account was written (many believe by Moses) under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in order to provide comfort to us. But to say that is God’s main reason for what happened to Job is to say that somehow God’s love for us was greater than His love for Job; or, at least, that His concern for our welfare was greater than His concern for Job’s welfare. And that, quite frankly, does malign God; and it leaves open the possibility that any whom He sees as good and faithful and righteous in Christ on this earth could be called to great and undeserved suffering in order to accomplish a purpose of God. This ministers fear, not faith. Our God has given us His Spirit, a Spirit that ministers not fear but power, and love, and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7) Therefore we need to press deeper into Job’s account in order to find the truth of this matter. Clearly it is important— God placed it in His Word!

A proper study of the Book of Job is necessary because it provides us with a better understanding of God’s character and a fuller understanding of just how He works in people’s lives. I am going to use the NASB in this discussion because while the manuscripts it uses agree totally with the manuscripts behind the KJV, it is more accurate in its translation and is much easier to understand.

6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.
7 The LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.”
8 The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.”
9 Then Satan answered the LORD, “Does Job fear God for nothing?
10 “Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.
11 “But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.”
12 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD. —Job 1:6-12

At a first or casual reading it appears that certain facts are true.

First, Satan wanders the earth observing man.

Second, he can appear in God’s presence.

Third, he accuses us to Him.

Fourth, there is a contest between Satan and God over man.

And fifth, Job was a perfect and righteous man.

The first three facts are indeed true. Satan does wander the earth; he can appear before God; and he is our accuser. (Zechariah 3:1; 1 Peter 5:8) The fourth is only true in the sense that Satan tries to pry God loose from man, and vice versa. But this is not truly a contest in that God so outstrips Satan in power that Satan can only do things that God permits. The fifth point, however, requires some discussion of the Hebrew before we can decide just how true it is or is not. Remember, things when translated are not always what they seem at first glance.

The question we need to consider as the basis for our discussion, is what is meant by the phrase “blameless and upright” used to describe Job in verses 1 and 6? (The King James translates this phrase as “perfect and upright.”) The Hebrew is capable of some leeway in translation; a fact that gives us some understanding of why God ensured koiné Greek was the common daily language (even in Judea) when the New Testament was written. Greek is a very precise language; far more precise than Hebrew and permitting of far more nuances and subtleties than English—a necessity to convey the great doctrinal truths of the New Testament which are really expansions and revelations of truths held in form and symbol in the Old Testament. Therefore we really need to look at the roots of the Hebrew words and how those words were used—how they were understood by the people who spoke them—thousands of years ago.

The word translated “blameless” in the NASB and “perfect” in the KJV comes from the root word תָּמַם (tamam, pronounced taw-MAM). It literally means “finished, complete’ ended. In other words, something that has reached its conclusion. We find it in its root form in Job 22:3 where Job is asked “Is there any pleasure to the Almighty if you are righteous, or profit if you make your ways perfect (tamam)? And again in Job 31:40 where Job says “The words of Job are ended (tamam).” Tamam in both Hebrew and Arabic—both of which spring from the same root language—means “complete”, “finished”, “mature”. (Interestingly, in modern Arabic it has morphed to mean “alright”, “fine”, “OK” … which after all are, I suppose, logical extensions of something being complete or brought to a finish.)

The specific word in Job 1:1 and 1:8 is derived from tamam. It is תָּם (tam], pronounced tawm). As we have noted it is translated “upright” in the NASB and “perfect” in the KJV. Its actual meaning is “morally pure”. Unfortunately the dominant KJV reading of “perfect” connotes, in our understanding of the word, the idea of perfection—in other words “being without flaw”. I agree that today that is exactly what “perfect” means. But it is not what tam meant. Tam meant a spiritual maturity that carried with it the manifestation of moral purity. It in no way meant “flawless”. In no way was it a reference to a moral absolute. Rather, it was an existential term that observed the reality of the human condition and provided a comparative of a specified individual to others of lesser spiritual character. Thus the Bible is not telling us that Job was without flaw; but rather that he was more upright than all his fellows. And this is a very important idea to understand as we seek the answer as to why God allowed Job to suffer what he did.

Certainly Job’s three “friends” did not consider Job perfect. In fact they laid sin at his door. They assumed that what was happening to Job was a result of some hidden sin, some hypocrisy, in his life; and thus we find some 28 chapters devoted to their attacks on his character, and his responses to them.

But it is not in the persistent attacks of Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite that we will find Job’s flaw, if he had one. So we can safely ignore all that they said, just as God did. But we do need to look at Job’s answers, because there we will find two revelations— a revelation of something amiss in his character, a flaw hidden from all but God; and the revelation of God’s purpose in allowing Satan to attack him.

Job’s friends accused him of being a hypocrite. But he was not. A hypocrite is somebody who consciously tries to appear one way, but in reality is quite different. He puts on an act to cover up his real self. In fact the word “hypocrite” comes from the Greek ὑποκριτής (hupokrites, pronounced hoo-pock-rit-ACE) which means a pretender, an actor, someone who performs on a stage. But Job was no pretender. He was, as God testified, a blameless and upright man as compared to his fellows. As God said, “There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1:8) No, if there was a flaw in Job, a failing from flawlessness before God, it was hidden … not just from other men, but from Job himself. And that is our first clue as to God’s purpose in Job’s suffering, in why a good God would allow the torment of a “perfect” man.

It is as the trials proceed—as the fire heats up—that the hidden dross begins to bubble to the surface. It actually hits the surface in chapter 29. Listen closely to Job’s words:

7 When I went out to the gate of the city, when I took my seat in the square,
8 The young men saw me and hid themselves, and the old men arose and stood.
9 The princes stopped talking and put their hands on their mouths;
10 The voice of the nobles was hushed, and their tongue stuck to their palate.
11 For when the ear heard, it called me blessed, and when the eye saw, it gave witness of me,
12 Because I delivered the poor who cried for help, and the orphan who had no helper.
13 The blessing of the one ready to perish came upon me, and I made the widow’s heart sing for joy.
14 I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban.
15 I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame.
16 I was a father to the needy, and I investigated the case which I did not know.
17 I broke the jaws of the wicked and snatched the prey from his teeth.
18 Then I thought, ‘I shall die in my nest, and I shall multiply my days as the sand.
19 ‘My root is spread out to the waters, and dew lies all night on my branch.
20 ‘My glory is ever new with me, and my bow is renewed in my hand.’
21 To me they listened and waited, and kept silent for my counsel.
22 After my words they did not speak again, and my speech dropped on them.
23 They waited for me as for the rain, and opened their mouth as for the spring rain.
24 I smiled on them when they did not believe, and the light of my face they did not cast down.
25 I chose a way for them and sat as chief, and dwelt as a king among the troops, as one who comforted the mourners. (Job 29:7-25)

That discourse of Job’s consumes 19 verses. In those 19 verses he uses the first person personal pronoun 36 times. Count them. I, I, I — me, me, me — my, my, my. Thirty-six references to self. In just 19 verses!

And what references! Young men fled from his presence. Old men stood in respect. Princes shut their mouths. Nobles were struck dumb.

Job knew he was blessed of men and of God and he reveled in it. Where is his humility? Where is his fear of God at this moment?

Notice his statements— “my righteousness … my judgment … my root … my branch … my glory … my bow … my hand … my words … my countenance.” Were I not aware that this was Job speaking, I would think it was God’s voice: For these are the terms with which Almighty God speaks to man! Yet it is clear that this is exactly what Job rejoiced in— that HE himself had been this important, this powerful, this great.

And chapter 30 begins in the same vein with him bemoaning that he no longer has this power, or the respect of men—not even the young ones who have no status in society. Even they do not fear him.

Please do not misunderstand. Job did fear God in his heart and in his actions. We have God’s own word for that. He did do good to those in need, doing all that James refers to as “pure religion” (James 1:27). We have Job’s word for that. And from everything I have read I am quite prepared to take Job at his word. The problem was something of which Job was not aware. But one in which he is not alone. It is one that afflicts many moral, upright individuals who live righteously. And it is called self-righteousness. It is human nature to believe that when you make a conscious effort to live in a morally superior fashion that somehow you are better than those who do not. After all, it is a choice—and you have made the right choice. Those who choose not to, then, are morally inferior. They lack character, they lack integrity.

Now, an unavoidable product of self-righteousness is the idea that somehow you have ingratiated yourself to God, that somehow your behavior merits greater status in His eyes and greater favor, and that you now have a status by which to prevail upon Him above other men. We may not like this, but it is true. And you can see it best displayed in the “holiness” movements and legalistic assemblies where one’s status in godliness and holiness is measured by the shortness of one’s hair (if a man) the cut of one’s suit, the length of one’s dress, the way in which a woman’s hair is coiffured, etc, etc.

And that, I suggest, is plainly evident in Job’s own words. You see, in case we missed them (as I did for years), the Holy Spirit has made sure to point them out. Read Job 32:1—

Then these three men ceased answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.

Because Job was what? “Righteous in his own eyes.” My friends, none who truly fears God, none who is truly humble, will ever consider themselves righteous in their own eyes. In fact we Christians should know better than anybody that none is righteous (Romans 3:10) and that all of our righteousnesses are as soiled menstrual cloths (Isaiah 64:6). Indeed we above all people should know that we have only one righteousness— the righteousness that comes by faith. That is to say, our one righteousness is the righteousness of Christ imputed to us by faith in His finished work at Calvary.

So Job, the “upright” and “morally blameless” in his conduct, at heart suffered from self-righteousness. It was deep; it did not appear in his day-to-day relationships or activities, but it did surface when the heat was turned up. And that is something we all have in common. Like the gold and silver we are sometimes compared to in the Bible, impurities are distilled by fire. As the pressure and the temperature on us increase, the hidden flaws—hidden from other men but, more importantly, hidden from us—that God in his omniscience sees and in His love wishes to remove, begin to surface. You see, once they surface, they can be dealt with. We can surrender them to God and thus grow immensely in our spiritual walk.

But there is something else very interesting in Job’s actions under stress. His view of himself does not just manifest itself in self righteousness but in the ensuing idea that somehow by his own righteousness he merits something from God. Job seems to see God as just a more perfect version of man. And he begins complaining against God and demanding that which he feels is his due. “I,” says Job, “have done all these good things in my life and thus You owe me.”
2 I will say to God, ‘Do not condemn me; let me know why You contend with me.
3 Is it right for You indeed to oppress, to reject the labor of Your hands, and to look favorably on the schemes of the wicked?
4 Have You eyes of flesh? Or do You see as a man sees?
5 Are Your days as the days of a mortal? Or Your years as man’s years,
6 That You should seek for my guilt and search after my sin?
7 According to Your knowledge I am indeed not guilty, yet there is no deliverance from Your hand.
8 Your hands fashioned and made me altogether, and would You destroy me?” (Job 10:2-8)

Job not only seeks to demand answers from God, he actually holds Him at fault for his suffering. Job continues on in the same vein as he answers his friends, who have become his judges, and in Job 24 the suffering saint complains that God not only does not reward righteousness but seems indifferent to wickedness.

1 Why are times not stored up by the Almighty, and why do those who know Him not see His days?
2 Some remove the landmarks; they seize and devour flocks.
3 They drive away the donkeys of the orphans; they take the widow’s ox for a pledge.
4 They push the needy aside from the road; the poor of the land are made to hide themselves altogether.
5 Behold, as wild donkeys in the wilderness they go forth seeking food in their activity, as bread for their children in the desert.
6 They harvest their fodder in the field and glean the vineyard of the wicked.
7 They spend the night naked, without clothing, and have no covering against the cold.
8 They are wet with the mountain rains and hug the rock for want of a shelter.
9 Others snatch the orphan from the breast, and against the poor they take a pledge.
10 They cause the poor to go about naked without clothing, and they take away the sheaves from the hungry.
11 Within the walls they produce oil; they tread wine presses but thirst.
12 From the city men groan, and the souls of the wounded cry out; yet God does not pay attention to folly.” (Job 24:1-12)

Job then justifies himself in Chapter 31, crying out with these words:

“Oh that I had one to hear me! Behold, here is my signature; let the Almighty answer me! And the indictment which my adversary has written, surely I would carry it on my shoulder; I would bind it to myself like a crown. I would declare to Him the number of my steps; like a prince I would approach Him.” (Job 31:35-37)

Well, then. Job wants a chance to confront God? Be careful what you ask for!

Chapter 38 begins with the immortal words:

“Then the LORD Jehovah answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me!” (Job 38:1-3)

God forbid that any one of us should find ourselves face to face in confrontation with the Almighty! I cannot imagine the fear I would feel in such an instance. As the words of the song “I Can Only Imagine” say:

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all?

I can, indeed, only imagine. But the Bible reveals what Job felt.

After listening to God’s unanswerable and thundering questions, can only utter these words:

I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes!” (Job 42:5-6)

Job is finally in the place he should have been all along— humbled, knowing that before God he is just another man. A place he thought he was, but wasn’t. A place many of us are tempted to forget about ourselves.

The trial brought out the imperfection, the self-righteousness, the pleasure in his own goodness, status, and accomplishments. And once revealed, Job no longer sought to justify himself. No longer did he have any hint of self-righteousness, no pleasure in his own goodness and faithfulness. He threw it all on God’s altar. And was restored not as he had been, but more blessed than ever. God loved Job so much that He could not let any imperfection exist for it would always be a barrier between Job and the perfection of God’s plan for his life.

So there we have two questions answered. What was God’s true purpose in Job’s suffering? And how does God work in mankind?

I pray the answers give you comfort. God is not capricious, nor is He unjust. All He does He does out of His deep and abiding love for us. Not us as a collective, but us as individuals. As we saw previously, He knows every hair on your head; they are numbered. He knows all your days before as yet one was written. Indeed, according to the Bible He chose you from before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:4)

There is a song written by Andrae Crouch. It is called “Through It All”. In it are the words, “My trials come to only make me strong.” Indeed they do.

I will conclude with the chorus of an old hymn that I love dearly. It was written by an old saint more than 100 years ago, a saint whom the world has forgotten. But God has not. Brother Young was an obscure carpenter and preacher in little backwaters of America. He lived simply, suffered great trials and afflictions, but led untold multitudes to eternal salvation. He wrote the beautiful hymn titled “God Leads Us Along”. The lyrics are of great comfort, but I especially like the first two lines of the chorus.

Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood.

In Jesus Christ we have our eternal salvation, a salvation produced by God’s unalterable love for us; a salvation secured by Christ’s sacrifice; a salvation confirmed by the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. God promises us that when we pass through the waters they will not overflow us nor will the fire burn us. (Isaiah 43:2-3) Rather the waters will show us God’s faithfulness, increasing our faith. And the fire will purify us, drawing us closer to Him. If we have faith, then we will trust God with all things, whether we understand them or not. Were we to understand, faith would not be required. But faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen, as the KJV translates Hebrews 13:1. The NASB renders it as “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” And from where, and how, do we obtain that assurance and conviction? From God’s Word, and by believing it. By believing that God is who He says He is and does exactly as He says He does. That belief, that faith, is a gift God gives us. But we need to use it.

So the next time storm clouds gather, the wind begins to howl, the thunder and lightning flash, the storm hurls itself at your feet and the waves crash against the place you are standing, remember that God’s purpose is to purge the dross, draw you closer to Him, and strengthen your faith. All that happens is measured by His hand and will never be one fraction of a gram more than is needed to produce the desired result in you. This is correction for growth. It is not intended as punishment at all. It is, in fact, evidence of His love and concern for you. For every child that God receives He corrects. (Hebrews 12:6)

The last two lines of that chorus I just quoted?

Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood.
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.

Just trust Him, dear ones. He alone is faithful and true. And His plan for your life and my life is perfect.
This one I am printing out for ready reference. It reminds me of our need in seeking to shift from "Why me?" to "Why NOT me?" I loved that you addressed the two common interpretations initially and spoke to the end result of keeping those faulty theologies front and center. Much appreciation and well done, good and faithful servant, for such a personal blessing. ❤
 

Lindsay

Well-Known Member
Yes, self-righteousness is indeed a very sneaky sin and, paradoxically, so easy to fall into for those who please God by striving to be obedient! And it was Job's problem, too. This formed a sermon I preached here at First Baptist a couple of years ago. I've taken the liberty of re-posting it here.

God’s Purpose in Job’s Suffering


My topic this morning is “God’s Purpose in Job’s Suffering. And in this examination we will find the answers to TWO questions.

The book of Job is probably one of the most misconstrued books in the Bible. Everybody understands the idea that Job is a good man whom God allows Satan to torment. Fewer get the idea that while God permits Job’s suffering He is in control at all times. And very few discover the reason why God permits the suffering in the first place. We’re going to try to discover the answers to those questions this morning.

And I warn you we are going to be looking at a lot more scripture than normal, so I hope you have your Bibles handy.

I have heard many ideas why God permitted Job to suffer. The most common is that God wanted to prove to Satan how faithful His greatest believer was. Equally common is the view that God wanted the Bible to contain an account that would provide hope amidst suffering to those who read it. The problem with both of these views is that they are either incorrect, or incomplete.

God did not, does not, nor ever will, need to prove anything to Satan. Satan, as is clear from Isaiah 14 set out to exalt Himself and displace God from His throne. The timing of this is uncertain but is likely to have preceded Creation, though that is by no means certain. What is certain is that by the time of Genesis 3:1 the Devil was already an enemy of God who sought to destroy God’s relationship with His beloved creation— man. As the Bible tells us, Satan had been judged and cast out of Heaven (Ezekiel 28:16 Isaiah 14:12; Luke 10:18), though not yet condemned to the Pit (Isaiah 14:15). And from Isaiah 14:12; Job 1:7; Revelation 12:12; and 1 Peter 3:8 we know he roams the earth. But in no way does God have to prove anything to the Devil. God is God and does not have to justify himself to anyone. Further, to use an innocent man as a pawn simply for the sake of justifying Himself is an insult to the character of God and His nature. It makes Him capricious and selfish, not caring about the very real agony that Job went through—both physically and emotionally. The Word tells us that God is good to His people (Psalm 73:1); that all His works and all His ways are perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4); and, most importantly, that God is love (1 John 4:16). None of these characteristics could be true if God could act capriciously, solely to prove something to the Evil one … or to anybody else, for that matter. Selfishness and self-justification are not part of God’s character. Therefore the idea that God caused untold suffering to a good and righteous believer in order to justify Himself to Satan is false.

The second idea—that God wanted the Bible to contain an account that would sustain those who would in future suffer at some point in their lives—is at least closer to the character of God. Every word that is written in the Bible has been given by God to strengthen and build us in teaching, in correction, in instruction in right living (2 Timothy 3:16). God’s goal in this is to make us mature, complete, and fully equipped to live as befits His children who are here solely to be witnesses to his salvation through Jesus Christ. (Acts 1:8; 2 Timothy 3:17) Thus it is correct in part to say that God wanted Job’s story in the Bible. But it is correct only in part. To state that this is the only reason, or even the chief reason is again to malign God and His character.

Now, it is indeed theologically sound to state that God is God and can do whatever He wills, since all exists for His glory. It is also theologically sound to state that man was created for God’s own purposes and God may dispose of man in any way He desires. As His servants we may be used in whatever way our Master pleases. And, therefore, it would be theologically acceptable to state that God wanted to use Job for the benefit of all those who would come after.

Job clearly told people of his story in order to instruct them properly in the ways of God and to provide comfort to them in their own troubles. Is our God not the God of all comfort? (2 Corinthians 1:3) And is the purpose of God’s comfort to us not so that we may comfort one another with the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted? (2 Corinthians 1:4) Thus Job’s account was written (many believe by Moses) under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in order to provide comfort to us. But to say that is God’s main reason for what happened to Job is to say that somehow God’s love for us was greater than His love for Job; or, at least, that His concern for our welfare was greater than His concern for Job’s welfare. And that, quite frankly, does malign God; and it leaves open the possibility that any whom He sees as good and faithful and righteous in Christ on this earth could be called to great and undeserved suffering in order to accomplish a purpose of God. This ministers fear, not faith. Our God has given us His Spirit, a Spirit that ministers not fear but power, and love, and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7) Therefore we need to press deeper into Job’s account in order to find the truth of this matter. Clearly it is important— God placed it in His Word!

A proper study of the Book of Job is necessary because it provides us with a better understanding of God’s character and a fuller understanding of just how He works in people’s lives. I am going to use the NASB in this discussion because while the manuscripts it uses agree totally with the manuscripts behind the KJV, it is more accurate in its translation and is much easier to understand.

6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.
7 The LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.”
8 The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.”
9 Then Satan answered the LORD, “Does Job fear God for nothing?
10 “Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.
11 “But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.”
12 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD. —Job 1:6-12

At a first or casual reading it appears that certain facts are true.

First, Satan wanders the earth observing man.

Second, he can appear in God’s presence.

Third, he accuses us to Him.

Fourth, there is a contest between Satan and God over man.

And fifth, Job was a perfect and righteous man.

The first three facts are indeed true. Satan does wander the earth; he can appear before God; and he is our accuser. (Zechariah 3:1; 1 Peter 5:8) The fourth is only true in the sense that Satan tries to pry God loose from man, and vice versa. But this is not truly a contest in that God so outstrips Satan in power that Satan can only do things that God permits. The fifth point, however, requires some discussion of the Hebrew before we can decide just how true it is or is not. Remember, things when translated are not always what they seem at first glance.

The question we need to consider as the basis for our discussion, is what is meant by the phrase “blameless and upright” used to describe Job in verses 1 and 6? (The King James translates this phrase as “perfect and upright.”) The Hebrew is capable of some leeway in translation; a fact that gives us some understanding of why God ensured koiné Greek was the common daily language (even in Judea) when the New Testament was written. Greek is a very precise language; far more precise than Hebrew and permitting of far more nuances and subtleties than English—a necessity to convey the great doctrinal truths of the New Testament which are really expansions and revelations of truths held in form and symbol in the Old Testament. Therefore we really need to look at the roots of the Hebrew words and how those words were used—how they were understood by the people who spoke them—thousands of years ago.

The word translated “blameless” in the NASB and “perfect” in the KJV comes from the root word תָּמַם (tamam, pronounced taw-MAM). It literally means “finished, complete’ ended. In other words, something that has reached its conclusion. We find it in its root form in Job 22:3 where Job is asked “Is there any pleasure to the Almighty if you are righteous, or profit if you make your ways perfect (tamam)? And again in Job 31:40 where Job says “The words of Job are ended (tamam).” Tamam in both Hebrew and Arabic—both of which spring from the same root language—means “complete”, “finished”, “mature”. (Interestingly, in modern Arabic it has morphed to mean “alright”, “fine”, “OK” … which after all are, I suppose, logical extensions of something being complete or brought to a finish.)

The specific word in Job 1:1 and 1:8 is derived from tamam. It is תָּם (tam], pronounced tawm). As we have noted it is translated “upright” in the NASB and “perfect” in the KJV. Its actual meaning is “morally pure”. Unfortunately the dominant KJV reading of “perfect” connotes, in our understanding of the word, the idea of perfection—in other words “being without flaw”. I agree that today that is exactly what “perfect” means. But it is not what tam meant. Tam meant a spiritual maturity that carried with it the manifestation of moral purity. It in no way meant “flawless”. In no way was it a reference to a moral absolute. Rather, it was an existential term that observed the reality of the human condition and provided a comparative of a specified individual to others of lesser spiritual character. Thus the Bible is not telling us that Job was without flaw; but rather that he was more upright than all his fellows. And this is a very important idea to understand as we seek the answer as to why God allowed Job to suffer what he did.

Certainly Job’s three “friends” did not consider Job perfect. In fact they laid sin at his door. They assumed that what was happening to Job was a result of some hidden sin, some hypocrisy, in his life; and thus we find some 28 chapters devoted to their attacks on his character, and his responses to them.

But it is not in the persistent attacks of Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite that we will find Job’s flaw, if he had one. So we can safely ignore all that they said, just as God did. But we do need to look at Job’s answers, because there we will find two revelations— a revelation of something amiss in his character, a flaw hidden from all but God; and the revelation of God’s purpose in allowing Satan to attack him.

Job’s friends accused him of being a hypocrite. But he was not. A hypocrite is somebody who consciously tries to appear one way, but in reality is quite different. He puts on an act to cover up his real self. In fact the word “hypocrite” comes from the Greek ὑποκριτής (hupokrites, pronounced hoo-pock-rit-ACE) which means a pretender, an actor, someone who performs on a stage. But Job was no pretender. He was, as God testified, a blameless and upright man as compared to his fellows. As God said, “There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1:8) No, if there was a flaw in Job, a failing from flawlessness before God, it was hidden … not just from other men, but from Job himself. And that is our first clue as to God’s purpose in Job’s suffering, in why a good God would allow the torment of a “perfect” man.

It is as the trials proceed—as the fire heats up—that the hidden dross begins to bubble to the surface. It actually hits the surface in chapter 29. Listen closely to Job’s words:

7 When I went out to the gate of the city, when I took my seat in the square,
8 The young men saw me and hid themselves, and the old men arose and stood.
9 The princes stopped talking and put their hands on their mouths;
10 The voice of the nobles was hushed, and their tongue stuck to their palate.
11 For when the ear heard, it called me blessed, and when the eye saw, it gave witness of me,
12 Because I delivered the poor who cried for help, and the orphan who had no helper.
13 The blessing of the one ready to perish came upon me, and I made the widow’s heart sing for joy.
14 I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban.
15 I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame.
16 I was a father to the needy, and I investigated the case which I did not know.
17 I broke the jaws of the wicked and snatched the prey from his teeth.
18 Then I thought, ‘I shall die in my nest, and I shall multiply my days as the sand.
19 ‘My root is spread out to the waters, and dew lies all night on my branch.
20 ‘My glory is ever new with me, and my bow is renewed in my hand.’
21 To me they listened and waited, and kept silent for my counsel.
22 After my words they did not speak again, and my speech dropped on them.
23 They waited for me as for the rain, and opened their mouth as for the spring rain.
24 I smiled on them when they did not believe, and the light of my face they did not cast down.
25 I chose a way for them and sat as chief, and dwelt as a king among the troops, as one who comforted the mourners. (Job 29:7-25)

That discourse of Job’s consumes 19 verses. In those 19 verses he uses the first person personal pronoun 36 times. Count them. I, I, I — me, me, me — my, my, my. Thirty-six references to self. In just 19 verses!

And what references! Young men fled from his presence. Old men stood in respect. Princes shut their mouths. Nobles were struck dumb.

Job knew he was blessed of men and of God and he reveled in it. Where is his humility? Where is his fear of God at this moment?

Notice his statements— “my righteousness … my judgment … my root … my branch … my glory … my bow … my hand … my words … my countenance.” Were I not aware that this was Job speaking, I would think it was God’s voice: For these are the terms with which Almighty God speaks to man! Yet it is clear that this is exactly what Job rejoiced in— that HE himself had been this important, this powerful, this great.

And chapter 30 begins in the same vein with him bemoaning that he no longer has this power, or the respect of men—not even the young ones who have no status in society. Even they do not fear him.

Please do not misunderstand. Job did fear God in his heart and in his actions. We have God’s own word for that. He did do good to those in need, doing all that James refers to as “pure religion” (James 1:27). We have Job’s word for that. And from everything I have read I am quite prepared to take Job at his word. The problem was something of which Job was not aware. But one in which he is not alone. It is one that afflicts many moral, upright individuals who live righteously. And it is called self-righteousness. It is human nature to believe that when you make a conscious effort to live in a morally superior fashion that somehow you are better than those who do not. After all, it is a choice—and you have made the right choice. Those who choose not to, then, are morally inferior. They lack character, they lack integrity.

Now, an unavoidable product of self-righteousness is the idea that somehow you have ingratiated yourself to God, that somehow your behavior merits greater status in His eyes and greater favor, and that you now have a status by which to prevail upon Him above other men. We may not like this, but it is true. And you can see it best displayed in the “holiness” movements and legalistic assemblies where one’s status in godliness and holiness is measured by the shortness of one’s hair (if a man) the cut of one’s suit, the length of one’s dress, the way in which a woman’s hair is coiffured, etc, etc.

And that, I suggest, is plainly evident in Job’s own words. You see, in case we missed them (as I did for years), the Holy Spirit has made sure to point them out. Read Job 32:1—

Then these three men ceased answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.

Because Job was what? “Righteous in his own eyes.” My friends, none who truly fears God, none who is truly humble, will ever consider themselves righteous in their own eyes. In fact we Christians should know better than anybody that none is righteous (Romans 3:10) and that all of our righteousnesses are as soiled menstrual cloths (Isaiah 64:6). Indeed we above all people should know that we have only one righteousness— the righteousness that comes by faith. That is to say, our one righteousness is the righteousness of Christ imputed to us by faith in His finished work at Calvary.

So Job, the “upright” and “morally blameless” in his conduct, at heart suffered from self-righteousness. It was deep; it did not appear in his day-to-day relationships or activities, but it did surface when the heat was turned up. And that is something we all have in common. Like the gold and silver we are sometimes compared to in the Bible, impurities are distilled by fire. As the pressure and the temperature on us increase, the hidden flaws—hidden from other men but, more importantly, hidden from us—that God in his omniscience sees and in His love wishes to remove, begin to surface. You see, once they surface, they can be dealt with. We can surrender them to God and thus grow immensely in our spiritual walk.

But there is something else very interesting in Job’s actions under stress. His view of himself does not just manifest itself in self righteousness but in the ensuing idea that somehow by his own righteousness he merits something from God. Job seems to see God as just a more perfect version of man. And he begins complaining against God and demanding that which he feels is his due. “I,” says Job, “have done all these good things in my life and thus You owe me.”
2 I will say to God, ‘Do not condemn me; let me know why You contend with me.
3 Is it right for You indeed to oppress, to reject the labor of Your hands, and to look favorably on the schemes of the wicked?
4 Have You eyes of flesh? Or do You see as a man sees?
5 Are Your days as the days of a mortal? Or Your years as man’s years,
6 That You should seek for my guilt and search after my sin?
7 According to Your knowledge I am indeed not guilty, yet there is no deliverance from Your hand.
8 Your hands fashioned and made me altogether, and would You destroy me?” (Job 10:2-8)

Job not only seeks to demand answers from God, he actually holds Him at fault for his suffering. Job continues on in the same vein as he answers his friends, who have become his judges, and in Job 24 the suffering saint complains that God not only does not reward righteousness but seems indifferent to wickedness.

1 Why are times not stored up by the Almighty, and why do those who know Him not see His days?
2 Some remove the landmarks; they seize and devour flocks.
3 They drive away the donkeys of the orphans; they take the widow’s ox for a pledge.
4 They push the needy aside from the road; the poor of the land are made to hide themselves altogether.
5 Behold, as wild donkeys in the wilderness they go forth seeking food in their activity, as bread for their children in the desert.
6 They harvest their fodder in the field and glean the vineyard of the wicked.
7 They spend the night naked, without clothing, and have no covering against the cold.
8 They are wet with the mountain rains and hug the rock for want of a shelter.
9 Others snatch the orphan from the breast, and against the poor they take a pledge.
10 They cause the poor to go about naked without clothing, and they take away the sheaves from the hungry.
11 Within the walls they produce oil; they tread wine presses but thirst.
12 From the city men groan, and the souls of the wounded cry out; yet God does not pay attention to folly.” (Job 24:1-12)

Job then justifies himself in Chapter 31, crying out with these words:

“Oh that I had one to hear me! Behold, here is my signature; let the Almighty answer me! And the indictment which my adversary has written, surely I would carry it on my shoulder; I would bind it to myself like a crown. I would declare to Him the number of my steps; like a prince I would approach Him.” (Job 31:35-37)

Well, then. Job wants a chance to confront God? Be careful what you ask for!

Chapter 38 begins with the immortal words:

“Then the LORD Jehovah answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me!” (Job 38:1-3)

God forbid that any one of us should find ourselves face to face in confrontation with the Almighty! I cannot imagine the fear I would feel in such an instance. As the words of the song “I Can Only Imagine” say:

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all?

I can, indeed, only imagine. But the Bible reveals what Job felt.

After listening to God’s unanswerable and thundering questions, can only utter these words:

I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes!” (Job 42:5-6)

Job is finally in the place he should have been all along— humbled, knowing that before God he is just another man. A place he thought he was, but wasn’t. A place many of us are tempted to forget about ourselves.

The trial brought out the imperfection, the self-righteousness, the pleasure in his own goodness, status, and accomplishments. And once revealed, Job no longer sought to justify himself. No longer did he have any hint of self-righteousness, no pleasure in his own goodness and faithfulness. He threw it all on God’s altar. And was restored not as he had been, but more blessed than ever. God loved Job so much that He could not let any imperfection exist for it would always be a barrier between Job and the perfection of God’s plan for his life.

So there we have two questions answered. What was God’s true purpose in Job’s suffering? And how does God work in mankind?

I pray the answers give you comfort. God is not capricious, nor is He unjust. All He does He does out of His deep and abiding love for us. Not us as a collective, but us as individuals. As we saw previously, He knows every hair on your head; they are numbered. He knows all your days before as yet one was written. Indeed, according to the Bible He chose you from before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:4)

There is a song written by Andrae Crouch. It is called “Through It All”. In it are the words, “My trials come to only make me strong.” Indeed they do.

I will conclude with the chorus of an old hymn that I love dearly. It was written by an old saint more than 100 years ago, a saint whom the world has forgotten. But God has not. Brother Young was an obscure carpenter and preacher in little backwaters of America. He lived simply, suffered great trials and afflictions, but led untold multitudes to eternal salvation. He wrote the beautiful hymn titled “God Leads Us Along”. The lyrics are of great comfort, but I especially like the first two lines of the chorus.

Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood.

In Jesus Christ we have our eternal salvation, a salvation produced by God’s unalterable love for us; a salvation secured by Christ’s sacrifice; a salvation confirmed by the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. God promises us that when we pass through the waters they will not overflow us nor will the fire burn us. (Isaiah 43:2-3) Rather the waters will show us God’s faithfulness, increasing our faith. And the fire will purify us, drawing us closer to Him. If we have faith, then we will trust God with all things, whether we understand them or not. Were we to understand, faith would not be required. But faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen, as the KJV translates Hebrews 13:1. The NASB renders it as “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” And from where, and how, do we obtain that assurance and conviction? From God’s Word, and by believing it. By believing that God is who He says He is and does exactly as He says He does. That belief, that faith, is a gift God gives us. But we need to use it.

So the next time storm clouds gather, the wind begins to howl, the thunder and lightning flash, the storm hurls itself at your feet and the waves crash against the place you are standing, remember that God’s purpose is to purge the dross, draw you closer to Him, and strengthen your faith. All that happens is measured by His hand and will never be one fraction of a gram more than is needed to produce the desired result in you. This is correction for growth. It is not intended as punishment at all. It is, in fact, evidence of His love and concern for you. For every child that God receives He corrects. (Hebrews 12:6)

The last two lines of that chorus I just quoted?

Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood.
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.

Just trust Him, dear ones. He alone is faithful and true. And His plan for your life and my life is perfect.
So beautifully written and stated. This blessed me today. Thank you so much for this insight.
 
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