Many have tried to unravel the mystery that is Job and have drawn faulty conclusions. As a result, it is a book people read but do not study. Everyone has a view on Job and what happened to him, and many are wrong. It concerns the way God deals with us as sinners. It is a debate about what we are to do to find our way back to God. It asks “what is true.”
You need to approach this as a challenge. The story is going to attack your opinion and put you in your place. When you know the result you will not be disappointed.
The question is; on what basis are God and man reunited? How are they made one again, after sin has created a gulf between them? What are the principals of the atonement?
Consider a brief outline of the book. Chapter one and two give details of events that result in Jobs sufferings. They must be understood before any sense can be made of the following chapters. What follows then is a debate, between Job and his three friends about his sufferings and the ways of God. When the debate is finished we have a monologue, where Job summarizes the issues and invites God to answer charges he made. Elihu then puts his position, and finally God enters the argument and resolves the matter to satisfy all.
The book is a debate between Job and his three friends. It goes in cycles. From chapter three Job cries out in alarm about his sufferings, and his three friends listen to his complaint. They feel they ought to say something so Eliphaz offers his advice. Job answers Eliphaz, and then Bildad has a few words to say. Job answers Bildad and then the third of the three friends Zophar, contributes. When Job answers Zophar, the cycle begins again. Eliphaz speaks and then Bildad and Zophar, Job answering them on each occasion. The intensity of the argument builds, and tempers are frayed. There is a third and final round of debate, where Eliphaz and Bildad speak but Zophar fails to come forward. He is defeated. The debate is over. Job has silenced his friends, and is left to consider the problems on his own.
At that point the problems are by no means resolved. There are unanswered questions. There are issues to address and Job is confused. He complains again, and blames God for his problem. Then God answers him, first through Elihu, and then by speaking directly to him. Right there, we have what could be a problem for us, because the difficulty here is who is right, and opinions vary. But then that is how you get at the truth. You always question why you draw the conclusion you do, because it is likely to be the result of a faulty view of our world.
Do you think the Christian Church has doubts about its teaching? Is any religious group going to confess the foundation of their belief is unsound? They will not, and they do not. So what is it that makes one person wrong and another person right? The answer here rests in the spirit of those assessing or evaluating the evidence. If you are prejudiced the truth will elude you.
The subject is God’s dealings with us. We are talking about the atonement. There is no other subject in the book of Job than the atonement. Only one subject is discussed. This makes people squirm. They do not like to be hedged in like this. But we want the truth, and we will examine the words carefully to find it.
1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name [was] Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.
God made this statement about Job. A testimony to the character of a man cannot be given in more eloquent terms. When it says he was perfect, it does not mean he was perfectly obedient in the sense that he did not commit sin. It means perfect in the sense of complete. He was a well-balanced character. He was not eccentric and he was not out of balance. He was not simply a religious fanatic who failed to face the reality of life. Here was a well-rounded man. He was not as you would often see in men of power and influence a man with narrow obsessions that limit their usefulness to issues that suit their particular interests.
He was upright. He was honest. He was straight in all his dealings, he would give his word, and if it cost him anything, then he would pay the price. He did not avoid his commitment.
He was one that feared God. That is an expression in the Old Testament scripture which is related to his faith, here is a man who had an awareness of the existence and the power of God as his creator, and he feared him. Not only so, he eschewed evil, or he ran away from evil. When he could get caught in something evil Job ran away, he did not want to be compromised or to offend God.
2 And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters.
3 His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; So that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.
Job was a wealthy man. The scriptures infer there is a connection between his godliness and his prosperity. Job felt that this was the case, and his conduct was consistent with a faithful use of God’s blessings.
Who are these men of the east? There is evidence in the details given about Job and his three friends to infer these were the children of Abraham who were sent away from Isaac. Eliphaz was a Temanite. We find that he was a descendent of Abraham through Esau, a fifth generation from Abraham. Bildad was a Shuhite. Shuah was the youngest son of Keturah. Zophar the Naamathite. He was a fourth generation from Esau. Elihu was a Buzite. Buz was Abraham’s nephew, and Uz, the land of Uz, is a land that was named after the firstborn of Nahor, Abraham’s brother. It would appear the book of Job was set in the period of the patriarchs, about the fifth generation from Abraham, somewhere between Joseph and Moses. There is no mention of the existence of the Law of Moses in the book, and it preceded that period, but it is patriarchal. Job was one of the first books of the Bible to be written.
It was Abraham who sent Keturah and her sons away from Isaac, but not until he taught them the Truth. Sending them away, while seeming harsh, was done with the approval of those concerned. When God says in Genesis “that I know Abraham that he will command his children and his household after him, they will keep the way of the Lord and do justice and judgment.” It means it was in his character to do it. He did not just send the children of Keturah away, he taught them the way of the Truth. He knew they could care for themselves. He sent away a community to become a light stand in a dark place. What we have here, is a group of men, who understood the Truth, who knew the God of Israel, who knew the God of Abraham and knew him well. This man Job was the greatest of them.
4 And his sons went and feasted [in their] houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.
Many people have seen something sinister in this. They say his children were not like Job. This feasting is inappropriate conduct for the sons and daughters of God. Job, like many wealthy parents, failed to control his sons and daughters. They were living the good life. But consider this; Job’s sons and daughters were as conscientious in the Truth as Job himself. They enjoyed the benefits of Job’s prosperity. Job was wealthy and had servants in his household. His children did not have to go out and work in the field to provide what they needed. They enjoyed one another’s company, which is desirable but not common in an adult family. What they did was done in a proper way. They feasted in their houses everyone his day, and sent and called their three sisters. They kept together as a family. The most enjoyable, and memorable activities of a family is the fraternal atmosphere of a celebration.
5 And it was so, when the days of [their] feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings [according] to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.
Job, as the head of the family, was the priest of that household. As the cycle of their feasts went about, Job, as his routine was, insisted that his sons and daughters be brought to him and he acted as priest on their behalf. He offered sin offerings, that they may be sanctified and set apart. Then, he offered burnt-offerings, to express dedication to the things of God. He was concerned they might, because of their ideal circumstance, consider they were independent of God, and say in their heart, that they do not need God. They would not say it out loud, he knew that, because outwardly they showed sincerity toward the things of God. They would not say it among their brethren, but they might say it in their heart. They might think that in the community, provided you do what everyone else does, so nobody knows, you can feign religious piety. In much the same way as we act out a role when watched, but become a different person when elsewhere. So Job was careful to ensure the family was reminded of their commitment and responsibility. To him this was an important part of the truth.
6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.
This was a regular occasion. This was something that Job and the family did when they gathered with those of different parts, together as an ecclesia.
It was not simply where the family of Job gathered. This was more a community affair. The ecclesia gathered on this special occasion. How often it took place we are not told, but it is a regular meeting. On this special day when the sons of God came to present themselves before God, the adversary came as well.
This is a most interesting passage, because so many people say, here is an example of an evil supernatural force using his power against an innocent and defenseless man. When you read carefully you find the Satan did not have any power to afflict Job at all. That means the terrible things that happened to Job were not caused by the Satan. Who then caused them? The scriptures say they were caused by God.
The immediate reaction of most people would be to ask why would God do such a thing? The answer is, because that is what the adversary wanted him to do. The adversary wanted Job to be tested to see if his worship of God was genuine. You must realize that God asked this person to change his ways, and serve God the way Job served him. The adversary claimed that he was a better person than Job, because Job’s worship was connected to all the things God gave him.
Take away those things you have given him and he will not worship you anymore. Notice what it says in verse 11 “put forth now your hand, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” It was God’s power to be used against him. The adversary decided what the test should be, but it was God’s power that brought it about.
Notice in chapter 2 verse 3 in the middle of the verse it says; “And still he holds fast his integrity even though you move ME against him to destroy him without cause.” God claims it was his power. The adversary decided the test, but God is the only one with the power to carry it out.
Job believed it was the power of God, because he says in chapter 1 verse 21 “The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away, blessed is the name of the Lord.” And again, in reply to his wife he says in chapter 2 verse 10; “shall we receive good at the hand of God and shall we not receive evil?” We are happy to receive good things, we should, with the same grace, accept the bad things. So there is no doubt in Job’s mind whose power was used in this test against him. It was not a supernatural devil. There is no suggestion in the whole book that an evil force was involved. Nowhere in the debate is it suggested that anyone other than God made these things happen. Even at the end of the book it says in chapter 42 verse 11; “They comforted him over all the evil that THE LORD brought on him:” All his friends and relatives recognized it as the hand of God.
It is important first to realize the expression “the Satan” is not a proper noun and therefore should be given a meaning like every other Hebrew word. The Satan means “The adversary” and should be translated that way wherever it occurs.
This individual was an adversary to God, and as such, was no-more guilty than every other person who opposes the ways of God. What made this person different was that he presented himself as if he were one of the son’s of God.
These sons of God are thought by many to be angels. This conclusion is invalid and we will not discuss this subject here, because, as you know, men and women are called the sons and daughters of God.
Who then was this adversary? He was a man who thought he had the right to be there. He considered he was one of the sons of God. He came to a regular gathering of the believers claiming he was one of them.
There is no suggestion the adversary had any power of his own. The adversary was a man. The most common retort is: if he was a man then identify him. There is no way to do this unless God tells us who he is, and he has been careful not to. That of course does not stop people speculating, which seems to be an obsessive pastime. We are not intended to know, for a good reason which will emerge in our study. I can tell you however who it was not. It was not Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar or Elihu or anyone remotely connected with the debate. None of them knew anything of what occurred in chapters one and two. Had they known, then the debate would not have taken place, because they would know why he suffered.
It was usual in the days of the patriarchs for the one who was the oldest in the family to become the High Priest. The one who acted as mediator between God and man, the one who took the offerings and examined them, as was expected in those days.
When a man came before God and offered a sin offering, he was saying the perfect animal is offered to express the way he ought to be, that is, innocent and without blemish. It would not do if that animal was maimed or lame. The person making the offering would take special care to ensure that it was a perfect animal for this exercise, and the Priest would examine the offering made. The most obvious question for the Priest to ask is; why do you need to make this offering? “Where have you been and what have you been doing?” This is the ceremony that took place just as we have it recorded in the law. Much of the law was borrowed from things done prior to the days of Moses. Men were experienced in this same cycle of events. They were to present themselves before the Lord, and you can only present yourself with a sin offering. Cain learned that lesson, when he tried to offer the food he had grown, and he was told to offer a lamb.
This man boldly brought forward his sin offering, and offered it to the Lord. The Priest, speaking for the Lord, asked, as he was obliged to do, “whence comest thou,” where have you been, and what have you been doing? You present yourself before the Lord with a sin offering, but where have you been, and what have you been doing.