Still My Hope

There once was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless—a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil …

One day the members of the heavenly court came again to present themselves before the Lord, and the Accuser, Satan, came with them. “Where have you come from?” the Lord asked Satan.

Satan answered the Lord, “I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going on.” Job 1:1, 2:1-2 (NLT)

Lectionary texts: Job 1:1, 2:1-10, Psalm 25, Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12, Mark 10:2-26

The book of Job is often quoted but seldom completely read. Like many passages in the Bible, when read in context, it isn’t always uplifting – on the surface.

Chapters 3-37 of the 42-chapter book, records the discussion between Job and his three good buddies, Zophar, Bildad, and Eliphaz. This is the part where it’s easy to take verses out of context and quote them.

Though he slay me, yet I will hope in him … Job 13:15a (NIV)

Now that sounds really good. Job, even in his continued suffering, proclaims that he hasn’t given up on God’s goodness. Right? Well, actually Job’s friends have just given him several “reasons” on why he is going through these trials. Primarily they suggest that Job must have done something to incur God’s wrath and so Job tells them that he is going to go to God and argue his case that will prove he doesn’t deserve these calamities. Job is going to convince God on how He should be handling this situation! It’s no wonder that in Chapter 38 the LORD essentially tells them all to “Shut up!”

So if I want the summary of Job, I could read Chapter 1-2 and then pick up with God again in Chapter 38 through to the end. And here is where what I am reading is not necessarily what I want to hear.

This is Satan’s playground. Satan says that he has been traveling all over the earth watching what is going on. 1 Peter 5:8 says that prowls around like a lion looking for some unsuspecting prey to destroy. The suffering, disease, and consequences of bad choices and sin are all opportunities for Satan to inflict more pain, more damage. He loves it!

God does have a choke chain on Satan. Job 1:12 and 2:6 has the LORD giving Satan permission to “mess with” Job. That’s hard to read. My loving Father is giving the enemy, the accuser, the devil permission to inflict pain and suffering on one of His children. And nowhere in this book, even at the end, does Job receive a divine revelation as to the “why” of these trials. But God also limits what Satan can do. In Chapter 1, God says Satan can destroy Job’s possessions (of which in those days, children would have been part of that) but he can’t touch Job himself. In Chapter 2, God tells Satan he can attack Job but he can’t kill him.

God wins the war. Thanks to my several thousands of years of hindsight and relationship with Jesus, I know that God has won the war with Satan and one of these days, I will see that pond scum destroyed. Frankly, I am looking forward to that! In the meanwhile, there are many battles with “wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6) for us to go through and this is where I find the gold nugget in this book.

Like Job, I may never know or fully understand the “why” of my trials and sufferings but I can choose to listen to my LORD and hold fast to Him. Well-meaning friends and family may sympathize and attempt to explain God’s ways to me, the reasons behind my suffering but it will be in my own intimate time with Him that I will find the courage, the peace, even His love that brings me to the place where I say, “Though He slay me, my hope is still in my LORD.”

In Christ Alone written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend (2002), sung by Newsboys

 

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