Monday, July 13, 2015

Study of Job: In the Beginning

When I was a senior in high school, I had to write a persuasive paper for my AP English class (please note I included the "AP" to show you what a smarty I was). I was at a place in my life where I was questioning the faith I had grown up with, so I chose the book of Job to write on. Specifically, to show how this book reveals God's true nature as a puppet-master and we are just His playthings. (I got an A+ on the paper, by the way....see, Smarty McSmarterson right here).

I was in a place of insecurity of not only who God was but who I was to Him and who He was in me. I had a boring testimony-still do, for the most part. Raised in a Southern Baptist church, sang in children's choir, went to VBS, saved at age 10, participated in youth group, sang in youth get the point. But I had never known hunger for the Lord. I had never known need, I was blessed and hedged in by my Heavenly Father. I was Job.

Now reading this book again, after discovering my faith on a whole new level and experiencing that hunger, that longing, that need for God because I have absolutely nothing else to cling to, I am seeing Job in a whole new way, through the lens of my ever-growing faith.

The first thing I notice about this book is that Satan asks an awful lot of questions. You know that saying "It's rude to answer a question with another question?"--apparently Satan missed that memo. Also note that the entire fall of man in the Garden started with a question from Satan:

"And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said,'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?"

Remember how that turned out? Not good.
In this case, God is pointing out to Satan how faithful His servant Job is, He says "Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?" (Job 1:8a). Satan responds, "Does Job fear God for nothing?".  There we go, answering a question with a question, Emily Post would have a fit (not in public, of course).

I think this is revealing, not only of Satan's nature, but of sinful nature in general. 

It's like trying to teach our 13 year old son how to behave in his changing mind and body. We welcome questions, but expect respect. Our Heavenly Father welcomes our questions, because it means we are communicating with Him which He wholly desires and encourages. But He expects respect at the same time. There is a time and place for questioning our Lord God and a proper way to respond to His answers.  Satan lacks this basic understanding and respect (as we often do as well) like an unruly 13 year old child. (Okay, I think I may have just compared my son to Satan, which was NOT my intention. Hopefully you get that).

The next verse in Job 1 that catches my attention is God's response to Satan's snarky question. He doesn't lose His temper and send Satan back to hell to think about what he did wrong. He didn't take away Satan's toys or put him in time out. He engaged. 

Satan says to our Lord "But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" (Job 1:11). I think the punctuation here is very important. This is an exclamation, Satan is yelling at God. Are you kidding me? Yelling? At God? I.can't.even. (Oh wait-maybe I have done that a time or two myself.). But God replies in His calm, quiet way "Behold that all he has is in your (Satan's) power; only do not lay a hand on his person" (Job 1:12a).

When I wrote that paper all those years ago (we won't talk about how many), I missed this. I missed that God did nothing to Job. Job was not God's puppet with strings being pulled by His holy hands. God simply allowed Satan to throw his tantrum, to try to prove his point, knowing all along what the outcome would be, that He would be victorious through Job's faithfulness.

I have struggled with understanding this concept for the better part of my adult life. So many of us (believers and non-believers) "Why do good things happen to the faithful if God is in complete control?". I still do not understand all of it completely and may not until I meet my Father in heaven and then it probably will be moot. The answer I have for now is that not all things on this earth and in this life are of God. There is evil at work and it's name is Satan. God does not want puppets, He wants His children to choose to follow Him because they desire a close, personal relationship. 

The best illustration I have come across regarding this relationship with our Heavenly Father is the image of a father walking with his young child who is just learning to walk. The child stumbles and falls and the father immediately scoops them up in his arms to comfort them. The father did not cause the child to stumble and fall, there was an obstacle, perhaps a rock or stick, that brought that child to their knees. But, the father was right there to pick the child up. Always there. Always waiting. That is our Heavenly Father.