Thursday, March 25, 2010

Job's Friends

Job's Friends 

In course of my current path of repentance, I'm studying the book of Job.  It is not that I see my life as a trial, or that I have experienced any particular hardship.  Rather, what I find is that Job suffered for two chapters and for the next forty chapters we learn nothing more about the trials and suffering of Job.  It is difficult for me to believe that the book of Job is about suffering when I see that forty chapters of the book recount nothing about his suffering, but rather are a collection of arguments about suffering, the nature of God, the nature of man and assorted other topics.  At first blush, there seems to be a lot one could garner from the book of Job about counseling; particularly Christian counseling.  For, if I remember correctly, Job's three friends are that helpful in their well intended efforts to assist their wounded friend.

Accordingly, what I endeavor to do now is to examine the arguments of the book of Job, in turn and with an eye to applying them in my own life.  I am not a counselor, but I am a friend, and a son, and a father.  Perhaps there is something to be learned from these in-artful counselors of one of the most famous biblical characters.

The color of submission suggests that Scripture presents itself in a form which was designed by God.  Thus, I submit myself to Scripture and begin at the beginning, rather than what I wish to do - which is to jump to chapter four and begin with Eliphaz's arguments.

Chapter 1:1

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. NASB

Introductions in the Bible are various and curious.  We're introduced to Paul - Saul at the time, as a footnote during the stoning of Stephen, the main character.  We're introduced to David in 1 Samuel 16 as the least of his brothers out taking care of sheep whom the Lord had not yet filled with his spirit.  We're introduced to Abraham as one called from Ur.  And here we're introduced to one of the most famous men of all time, for Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Jews and Atheists all know the name of Job.  In introducing Job, the writer tells us that Job was in he land of Uz.  No one knows for sure, but many suggest that the land of Uz was located to the East of Israel and south of Edom.  Today this is a desolate place, but history also suggests that this was not always so.  If this is the patriarchal time, then the date would be between 1400 BC and earlier.  

And so we meet a man not living in Canaan, who was blameless.  And we was turning away from evil.  The juxtaposition of these two statements about Job encourages me.  For Job was not perfect in being, but perfect in direction.  His life isn't blameless in every account, but rather the author is accounting for Job's life with a static forward/present looking perspective.  It is not that Job has lived perfectly, but rather, that Job is turning away from evil.  The NET and ESV versions translate the Hebrew as "turned away from evil."  The NIV reports that Job "shunned evil" and the NLT says that Job "stayed away from evil."  I am illiterate in Hebrew and rely upon the translators to provide an accurate meaning.  The idea that Job repented, and turned away from evil is realistic in experience; consistent with Scripture - all men must repent.  Job is not blameless because he has lived a perfect life.  Rather, just as Abram had to obey God through faith and leave behind the worship of the moon; just as Moses had to repent of murder; just as David had to repent of adultery and murder; just as Paul had to repent of murder and hate - so we now find Job repenting.

He shuns evil, he hides from evil, he is turning away from evil.  Proverbs 22:3 teaches us that the wise man, the prudent man sees danger and hides himself from it.  A wise man anticipates trouble.  The heart of trouble begins with temptation.

Addicts are taught to recognize their own frailty by examining themselves and learning their own nature.  The acronym H.A.L.T. is helpful.  Hungry - Angry - Lonely - Tired.  A man who senses that he is hungry knows that his body is weak, his constitution compromised, his mind distracted, his defenses down.  A wise man sees that hunger and anticipates trouble, he anticipates temptation.  Further, a wise man treats the hunger, in an appropriate way, so as to defeat the enemy before even experiencing the temptation.  If he is angry, he knows that his heart is troubled, his emotions stirred and turbulent, his rationality diminished.  He humbly recognizes the weakened state and shores up his defenses by addressing the anger in an appropriate way.  If a man is lonely or tired, he will again have his defenses compromised.  And a wise man anticipates this and responds accordingly.  Job hid himself from evil.  Job turns away from evil.

Job was both a wise man, and a repentant man.  This makes for an "upright" man.  Almost all translations use the term "upright" here.  The NLT says Job was a man of "complete integrity" and the MSG interprets the Scripture to say that Job was "totally devoted to God."  When I hear the term "upright" I cannot but help think of the evolution charts I saw constantly as a child in school.  You see the monkey to man chart and all but the last one are bent over.  They are not upright.  I also think about tent poles.  Having camped a lot in my life, more than almost anyone I've ever met, I know a few things about tent poles.  I know, for example, that if the tent pole isn't upright - you're going to have problems.  A tent pole at any angle creates imbalance and instability.  They are difficult to stabilize with lines.  They are practically useless.

So, when I think of a man who is not upright, the image in my imagination is that of a monkey - or a creature who is less than man - an instable, imbalanced creature.  I don't believe in the theory of evolution and find the idea remarkable on any level.  So, these are images that are fantastic.  But even in art we see the devious portrayed by the one hunched over.  We imagine the criminal mind hunched over his papers scheming and hiding.  

Recently I had occasion to meet two young boys of 15 and 16 years old.  They each wanted to date one of my friend's daughters and each left a distinct impression upon me by their stature.  The older was taller than the other, but his height was diminished by his stature, for his was shifty, sneaky and devious in presentation.  He did not look you in the eye and if you were successful in soliciting a handshake, it was one of those limp feminine handshakes without eye contact.  In contrast, the younger boy approached me, made an introduction which while presumptive was bold and strong.  He shook my hand heartedly with good eye contact.  The impression was made and will not be easily undone.  The one is upright - the other less than upright.  And less than upright is not good.

Job is an upright man.  We get the sense that he's direct, forthright, honest, able to look anyone in the eye because he has dealt fairly with all men.  He walks straight and tall because he has nothing to be ashamed of, he is hiding nothing.  What he has done wrong, he has already repented of, and he's familiar with his fellow man - he knows what is in the heart of man and knows that no one is perfect.  Having repented he can walk straight.

But walking upright and repenting doesn't occur in a vacuum.  There is within this one verse a raison d'étre.  For Job is not an upright man if he does not fear God.  Job does not repent if he does not fear God.  Job is not blameless if he does not fear God.  In fact, all that Job is, is due to his fear of God.

The Hebrew word here (yare') means to fear, revere, be afraid, stand in awe of, be awed, honour, respect, be dreadful, to cause astonishment and awe, be held in awe, to inspire reverence or godly fear or awe.  I've heard teachers suggest that God is not someone we should fear, but rather revere with honor and respect.  Certainly, the word allows such a limited interpretation.  I believe, however, that when we see how people respond to being in the presence of God - or hearing God call them to account - we will see that the word is more accurately held to mean awe and fear.  One cannot be in the presence of the divine and not be unchanged.  And Scripture teaches us that the most common response of people from Adam to the Apostle John - from Genesis to Revelation - is that a man is overcome with his own sin and want to hide his face.  No one in this world rushes into the presence of the Father like a 2 year old and hops in his lap.  That's just not Scriptural reality.  We are encouraged to call upon the Father with a Daddy like name - Abba Father.  We are encouraged to see his love and his tenderheartedness.  We are pointed to his mercy and his grace.  But these all exist within the power and the being of the most High, the most powerful, the only pure, the only righteous God.  Those teachers can rush into his lap - I'm probably cognizant of my sin enough to hide.

I'm not suggesting that those teachers are wrong - I just believe it to be a super-human ability to know all of our sin - to see his righteousness, justice and power - to see Jesus' propitiation and still stand on our feet, much less hop into his lap.  John the Apostle fell before an Angel!  I agree that we have the right - because of Jesus' propitiation to enter the throne room of God and call upon him as Abba Father, but I also recognize that until such time as my sin is done away with completely in whole in perfect sanctification here on Earth - I'll hide, I'll fear, I'll stand in awe of God.  Rather, hopefully I'll do these things.  If God grants me repentance; if God grants me fear; then I will be blameless too.  Then I will walk upright.

Job is not Superman.  Job is not a movie super hero.  He's a man, chosen by God, to walk in righteousness.  He is what any Christian can be, and what all Christians are called to be.  When I read Job 1:1 I am reminded that I should be able to write in my journal for my son:

There was a man in the land of Pennsylvania whose name was Kevin; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. JoK (Journal of Kevin)

Later we will examine Job 1:2.

No comments:

Post a Comment