Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Comfort (of) Job

Recently, I started a one-year chronological reading of the Bible. It is a bit odd though to end up in the book of Job after reading the first 8 chapters of Genesis. Most of us are aware of the story of Job, and upon starting this journey, I was a little less than thrilled to be heading to Job so soon. Yet, as is always the case when digging into the Word, God revealed so much through a book that in some ways is so cliche to the Christian faith.

Here is a summary of Job with a focus on one of the primary themes - comfort:
  • Job is a 'blameless and upright' man who has an abundant life. Safe to say he was comfortable. (1: 1-5)
  • God allows Satan to test Job and he loses almost everything but his own life. (1:6-2:10)
  • Jobs 3 friends decide to show Job sympathy and comfort him. (2:11)
  • Job begins to question his life: "Let the day perish on which I was born." (3:1)
  • Jobs friends try to explain and attribute (in error) Job's suffering to a punishment from God for wrongdoing.
  • Job takes comfort in that he has 'not denied the words of the Holy One.' (6:10)
  • Job claims that God will not even allow his own bed to comfort him. (7:13)
  • Job's friend Eliphaz thinks he is offering the 'comforts of God' to Job (15:11)
  • Job calls his friends 'miserable comforters' (16:2)
  • Job extends this by saying in 21:34: 'How then will you comfort me with empty nothings? There is nothing left of your answers but falsehood.'
  • Elihu rebukes both Job and Job's friends yet does not really offer any insight into the reasons for Job's suffering. (ch. 32-37)
  • Ultimately, Elihu begins to turn the focus away from Job (and morality) and back to God
  • God challenges Job about the foundations and function of the universe: "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?" (38:4); “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place," (38:12)
  • Job answers God's challenge with silence (40:3-5)
  • God challenges Job on his understanding of God's Justice and Power. Ultimately, Job tried to use his suffering as a means for answers about how God rules the world. (40:6-41)
  • Job realizes that all of God's purposes, while not always revealed, are unstoppable and that God is trustworthy.  "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know." (42:2-3)
  • Job ultimately find his comfort in the God of the universe. "Therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes." (42:6)
  • God did not hold Job accountable for his perplexity and questioning of God (42:7)
  • God rebukes Jobs friends (42:7)
  • God shows His kindness through mercy and forgiveness of Job's friends (42: 8-9)
  • At the point of Job's brokenness, God restores his fortunes by doubling all that he had before (42:10)
After studying and digging into this book, I pray that the Lord would keep these truths on my heart:
  • God is sovereign over ALL of His creation
  • God is trustworthy and has a divine purpose for his entire creation
  • Suffering is a part of life and to expect otherwise is foolish
  • The purpose of suffering is not always explainable nor does God promise to reveal the purpose of our suffering
  • Believers who suffer will find perfect comfort only comes from the Lord
  • Believers in Christ have the unique ability to comfort those who suffer
  • We should avoid at all costs trying to explain the reasons for the suffering of both us and others
  • I stand in awe at the magnificence and infinite intricacies of God's creation
  • God's character is abundant in kindness, mercy, and forgiveness
  • It is at the point of our brokenness where we will fully realize our complete unworthiness before God
  • It is also at the point of our brokenness where God restores us 
  • As does most of the Old Testament, the story of Job alludes to our need for a savior and to God's ultimate plan for salvation through Jesus Christ.
  • God redeems us through Christ and then restores us as heirs: "and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him." - Romans 8:17 
"Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful." (James 5:11 ESV)

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