Wednesday, March 8, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 4, Job Afflicted With Boils

When Bad Things Happen To Good People
A Study Of The Book Of Job
Day 4
Job Afflicted With Boils

Job didn't curse God when he lost all his livestock and all ten of his children. Satan thought he would, but he didn't. So now the devil asks permission to do even more to Job.

"On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before Him. And the Lord said to Satan, 'Where have you come from?' Satan answered the Lord, 'From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.'" (Job 2:1-2) We should stop and take note that God is the one in charge here, the one who commands the angels to appear before Him, the one who asks the questions. Satan loves it that in the popular culture today he is often presented as God's counterpart, as if they are equals who are locked in a struggle for the fate of mankind. This is not the case. If God calls Satan to account for something, he has to show up for the meeting. If God asks the devil questions, he has to answer. Satan has no choice but to answer, but he cant manage to answer without displaying his pride in himself. He brags about how he has been roaming back and forth all through the earth, as if he thinks he owns it. When God asks for an accounting of how Satan has been spending his time, he explains that he's been busy being the "prince of this world" as the Lord Jesus calls him in John 12:31 and John 40:30. 

God brings up the name of Job again, perhaps because the devil has been accusing various men and women of sin, perhaps because He knows this is the main subject Satan wants to discuss. "Then the Lord said to Satan, 'Have you considered My servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited Me against him to ruin him without any reason.'" (Job 2:3) God says, "You asked to harm Job even though he has done nothing wrong. He's the most godly person on the planet. He doesn't deserve these calamities, yet still he is faithful. I knew he would be, because his faith doesn't depend on his earthly circumstances. His faith depends on his relationship with Me: the living God."

"'Skin for skin!' Satan replied. 'A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out Your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse You to Your face.'" (Job 2:4-5) The expression the devil uses comes from the barter system and the trading of livestock. In ancient times a man could satisfy a debt or pay a penalty for his crimes by giving livestock to the offended party, thus keeping himself from prison or death. He would be trading skin for skin: his livestock to save himself. In some cases a man might trade a son or daughter as an indentured servant in order to pay off a debt, which is also a form of trading skin for skin. Satan is saying that Job would be willing to part with anyone or anything as long as he saved his own skin. He believes it wasn't enough to take away Job's worldly goods and his livestock and his ten children. As long as Job still has his own health, he remains unbroken, but the devil thinks if Job loses his health it will be the last straw for him.

Satan has no integrity and he finds it difficult to accept that any man or woman might possess any. He believes everyone has a price. He thinks everyone has a breaking point. He feels certain that there are wicked things every person would do if only they knew for sure they wouldn't be caught. He judges mankind by himself and expects us to do what he would do. This is where he makes a mistake, because he underestimates the power of God in the believer's life.

"The Lord said to Satan, 'Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.' So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes." (Job 2:6-8) We aren't given a specific medical diagnosis for Job's affliction. I tend to doubt it was leprosy or smallpox, because Job's friends are going to come and stay with him for many days, and they might not have wanted to be that close to him if he were contagious. All we know for sure about this illness is that it caused Job a great deal of pain and that it made him itch intensely. Twice I've had a case of shingles and I had never experienced such intense itching before. It never stopped day or night. I couldn't sleep because of it and it made me feel like taking my fingernails and tearing my own skin off. There were times the nerve pain felt like it was deep in my bones. So imagine having something similar to this from your head to your feet, as Job did. He was miserable. He could get no relief day or night. Still he sits silently in the ashes of mourning, fashioning a back scratcher out of broken pottery, saying nothing against God.

These trials have not broken Job, but they have broken his wife. She can't believe Job won't blame God for their tragedies. "His wife said to him, 'Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!'" (Job 2:9) I've heard a number sermons that criticized Job's wife very harshly and in my opinion she's been treated unfairly. This woman has just lost all ten of the precious children she bore. These were the babies she once rocked to sleep, the toddlers whose hands she held as they took their first steps, the children she helped guide into becoming honorable young men and women, the family she loved with all her heart. I think she's in so much pain she can hardly breathe. And on top of this piercing grief, because of their financial ruin she doesn't even know how she and Job are going to feed and clothe themselves and keep a roof over their heads. As if this weren't already enough to drive her insane, her husband now has a terrible illness that might turn out to be fatal for all she knows. What is she going to do? How is she going to eat? Will she be homeless, begging on the street corners? If Job dies or is rendered unable to ever work again, will she be taken as a slave by a creditor because they can't pay their bills? This is why she thinks to herself, "What good has it done us to be faithful to God if this is how He rewards us?"

Those who criticize Job's wife so harshly usually view this next verse as a stinging rebuke, but in my personal opinion I think the text indicates Job replies to her calmly and wisely. "He replied, 'You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?'" (Job 2:10a) In previous studies we have discussed what the word "fool" or "foolish" means in the Scriptures. It means someone who is spiritually or morally bankrupt, who has no understanding of God and no desire to obey His laws and commandments. I don't believe a man like Job would have chosen a wife who didn't love the Lord. I think he would have been very careful to make certain she would be a good partner in the faith. He's not saying she is a foolish woman, but that right this minute she sounds like a foolish woman. He isn't calling her a dummy or telling her she's stupid. He's not putting her down. I think his words are intended to help her get hold of herself so she can remember who she is in the Lord. This may have worked, for we don't find her saying anything else. I like to think she prayed and made her peace with God, that she still loved the Lord even though she didn't understand His ways. 

"In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. When Job's three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was." (Job 2:10b-13) If only these three friends had remained silent, merely keeping him company, but later in our study we will find them accusing Job of secret sins. They don't believe bad things happen to good people. They can't accept that because it would mean such things could also happen to them. Therefore, Job must have done something wrong to bring about his tragedies. 

The Bible doesn't say so, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Satan is behind the words of Job's wife and the words of Job's friends. I think he played on their weaknesses and used them to attack Job. When we are down and out, people will sometimes say terrible things to us. They will accuse us of bringing our troubles on ourselves or they will give us ungodly advice about how to solve our problems. It's important to be on guard, because when we are at a weak point that's when Satan will entice someone to tell us, "Here's what I would do if I were you....." and those words are almost always followed by terrible advice that goes against the word of God. That's why we must know the word of God, as Job did, so we can maintain our integrity, as Job did. 

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