Many people, regardless of their religious persuasion, have heard of the O.T. biblical character named Job. The reason for this knowledge among the general populace is that Job encountered a wide range of suffering. His suffering included the loss of livelihood, wealth, children, health, the comfort of his wife’s loving support, the pain of assault on his integrity, and most profoundly the silence of God. Of all that humans may suffer, Job’s suffering runs most of the gamut of possibility; and his tragedies occurred almost all at once.
In my opinion, overemphasizing his sufferings have colored our outlook on perhaps the most overlooked lesson from the account of this man’s life, which is the greater revelation of God’s Person Job received on account of what he lost.
I realize what I just wrote may confuse more than a few, which is part of the problem. We teach Job improperly. We use the book as a kick in the pants for the person who is suffering, either to say “Buck up friend, it could be worse”—or to move their focus to the “spiritual battle” taking place between God and Satan—or to encourage the sufferer to “remain faithful and God will restore to you double”. Although I believe those truths are contained within the account of Job’s life, sadly they are not ultimately what is being communicated, although they may be a means to God’s end.
Let’s begin by accepting that Job did have some good theology. We can see that Job made sin offerings to God, which were required, even before the law of God was given. We also can ascertain to a certain degree, that his sacrifices were rightly a reminder of the One who would ultimately be our sacrificial Atonement.
(Job 19:25-27) 25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; 26 And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God,27 whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
In this we see Job lived by faith as he served as the priest of his family. Despite this understanding Job also battled with his fears and his fears would muddy his motive for sacrificing. Remember he declared “For I know that my Redeemer lives”. In this he understood that redemption was an all encompassing act that was individually applied, as the one sinning would procure the sacrifice having been convicted of sin, and ready to turn from it. Yet in Job chapter 1:5 we find the man sacrificing for his children, unsolicited by them, for “it may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts”’ Job did this regularly.
Although it would appear Job knew to some degree that his sacrifices would cover his sin, until the Redeemer came to take it away permanently, it would also appear he was sacrificing out of ungodly fear.
(Job 3:23-26) 23 Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, and whom God has hedged in? 24 For my sighing comes before I eat, and my groanings pour out like water. 25 For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me. 26 I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, for trouble comes.”
What was it that Job feared? He, like so many of us, feared the loss of what we think makes us who we are: family, wealth, health, and our good name. Yet in spite of his fears, and all the unnecessary things he did to protect it, he lost it all. In the end, what he would gain would be beyond measure, and I am not referring to the return of good standing and a good name, more children than he had before, or more wealth exponentially.
(Job 42:1-6) 1 Then Job answered the Lord and said: 2 “I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. 3 You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 4 Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’ 5 “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. 6 Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
Job’s conversation with God, actually begins in chapter 38. Prior to his interaction with God, both Job and his three friends offer all sorts of reasons for his suffering. Some of their reasoning has the scent of truth, yet most of it is ill applied to the current situation they are discussing. In Job’s comments, although he does not curse God, he comes dangerously close to misrepresenting the LORD’s character. Therefore, when the LORD speaks for the first time in chapter 38, He now questions Job…
(Job 38:1-4) 1 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:2 “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.
After almost four chapters of God revealing Himself, Job is floored and abhors himself and repents. Why did he repent?
Before the loss of everything, Job only knew about God, subsequently, most of what he did in sacrificing and being a good boy, was to avoid losing what he possessed. Therefore, we see his motive was not for the purpose of having a greater relationship with the LORD, but to maintain the life he loved. As we discovered earlier, Job did have some appropriate understanding of the One coming to be our Redeemer, yet he did not know Him. He did not know Him because of all he had accumulated.
Sadly, it was not until Job lost everything that he found to be precious, that he was truly able to know the LORD, who is precious beyond measure, “I have heard about you with the hearing of my ears, but now I see you with my eyes”. It was not till he lost it all that Job actually met the Redeemer face to face. Remember it was not God that engineered this loss (Satan), but He did allow it to bring a greater revelation of Himself to Job.
Don’t our lives often reveal this same struggle? We know Jesus is our Savior. We understand what He has done to remove our sin, transform us into His righteousness (by the indwelling Holy Spirit) and bring us to be with Him forever on that great Day. Yet as we live we accumulate stuff that we see as blessing, and it becomes personal to us. At times we fear the loss of these things and move to secure them, only to feel them slipping away. The very things we hold as precious in this life can stand in the way of our knowing the presence and power of God. Make no mistake child of God, the more we work to save them, the more they will slip away. This is a reciprocal law Jesus taught us.
(Luke 9:23-25) 23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?
In light of the word of God revelation above, we would do well to prayerfully consider Paul’s testimony about what he sought as most precious.
(Philippians 3:7-11) 7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
It is not God’s desire to take away the things we count as precious, but there can be no doubt He demands He be our most precious One (Exodus 34:14). Should the LORD gain that sole place of prominence in our lives, not only will we have appropriate perspective on what we ought to value, but we will move to discard that which hinders our relationship to Christ. When Jesus has that place of prominence, knowing Him more deeply and intimately flourishes, no matter what our circumstances or physical condition.
Thank God for the Book of Job; one man’s journey to know the God he served, personally and face to face. May we too move from hearing about the LORD with the hearing of our ears, to seeing Him with our own eyes.