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Related Verses: Job 1:1-5, 6-12

Leading Question: Why would God Almighty allow created beings to challenge his authority?

In my years of teaching, I have found that Job, probably more than any other book in the Bible, divides my students. Some really like the book and some really don’t. A partial explanation lies in the fact that Adventists stand “officially” in the free-will tradition (Arminian, Wesleyan) as over against the Calvinist tradition which emphasizes divine sovereignty.  Only those who support a free-will approach heartily endorse the idea of created beings challenging divine authority.  In Adventist theology this idea of creatures challenging the Creator goes under the heading of “The Great Controversy.”

Now while Adventists are “officially” Arminian/Wesleyan, many Adventists still cherish Calvinist ideas. I once told David Neff, former SDA and editor of Christianity Today for many years, that, from my perspective, free-will parents often give birth to Calvinist children and Calvinist parents often give birth to free-will children. He laughed and noted that one of his daughters had recently reacted with surprise and horror when she learned that her father believed in pre-destination.  “It’s a mild form of predestination,” said Neff, “but it is predestination. And you would think that she would have understood because we sent her to a Calvinist high school.”

During the year that I was an exchange teacher at Seminar Marienhoehe, in Darmstadt, Germany, at that time the Adventist seminary for what was then West Germany, the Sabbath School lessons were on the book of Job. Many of the ministerial students came back from their visits to the German Adventist churches reporting some of the members didn’t think we should be studying the book of Job because “no one should talk back to God the way Satan talked back to God!” These devout people would never take Job out of their Bibles, but they didn’t like the book very much.

Question: What dramatic slippage between the divine ideal and earthly reality is revealed in Job 1:1-12?  Is God treating Job “fairly” here?

Question: What kind of God would deliver his faithful servant over to Satan to be tormented and tried as described in the prologue of Job?

Note: Behind the scenes in Job 1 lies the crucial issue of whether there is such a thing a genuine morality, such a thing as “disinterested benevolence.” Satan claimed that Job worshiped God because God had bribed him. God insisted that Job was a man of integrity, one who would serve him faithfully even if his world were to fall apart.

The essence of “the great controversy” is captured in these lines from C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, a book in which everything is turned on its head, with God being the enemy and the human the “patient,” the pawn between Satan and God:

“He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.” – C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, p. 39

Because God wants a world where his creatures worship him freely, not by coercion, God allows his way to be challenged, so that in the end, the way of love can be seen to be the best way. The final paragraphs from Ellen White’s The Great Controversy, capture the vision:

And the years of eternity, as they roll, will bring richer and still more glorious revelations of God and of Christ. As knowledge is progressive, so will love, reverence, and happiness increase. The more men learn of God, the greater will be their admiration of His character. As Jesus opens before them the riches of redemption and the amazing achievements in the great controversy with Satan, the hearts of the ransomed thrill with more fervent devotion, and with more rapturous joy they sweep the harps of gold; and ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of voices unite to swell the mighty chorus of praise.  {GC 678.1}

“And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” Revelation 5:13.  {GC 678.2}

The great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no more. The entire universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love.  {GC 678.3}

Question: According to Revelation 12:7-12, what is the turning point in the great conflict?

Note: Many Christians who are aware of the war in heaven think of Satan’s fall as taking place during the primeval history of the world. But according to Revelation 12:7-12, the real fall took place at the cross.  At the cross, the crucial issue becomes clear: The principle of selfishness, embodied in Satan’s rebellion is so vile that it would even destroy God. But the principle of love, embodied in the plan of redemption, is so powerful that God would even be willing to die. And so God took human flesh so that he  could die on our behalf. A key line from Ellen White’s The Desire of Ages puts it this way:  “At the cross of Calvary, love and selfishness stood face to face. Here was their crowning manifestation.” – Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, 57

In the book of Job, the conflict focuses on one man. But that man typifies what must happen within the entire universe: God’s people by their loyalty, ensure the stability of the law of love throughout all eternity.

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