Guests: Dave Thomas and Jenn Ogden
Related Verses: Job 1-42
Leading Question: For you, what is the most important take-away from our study of the book of Job?
As author of this study guide, I would focus on four points as worthy of special note in our study of the book of Job:
1. Satan, the “accuser of the brethren.” The book of Revelation highlights one of the most crucial moments in the Scripture, namely, the point at which Satan is cast out of heaven:
Revelation 12:10: “And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.” (KJV)
Most believers tend to think of the war in heaven as something that took place at the beginning of this world’s history. And that represents an important partial truth. But Revelation 12:7-12 throws crucial light on that war. The final casting out of Satan did not happen at the beginning of time, but at the cross. Note the sequence of events in the passage:
10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming,
“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Messiah,
for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down,
who accuses them day and night before our God.
11 But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony,
for they did not cling to life even in the face of death.
12 Rejoice then, you heavens
and those who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
for the devil has come down to you
with great wrath,
because he knows that his time is short!” (NRSV)
The cross represents the great shift between Old Testament cosmology and the cosmology of the new. Prior to the cross, Satan is depicted as part of the “heavenly court” (see chapter 3 from Who’s Afraid of the Old Testament God, appended at the end of Lesson 1). The prologue of Job includes this brief note: “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them” (Job 1:6, KJV). This appears to be the same kind of scene as found in 1 Kings 22:19-23 where Yahweh sits among the heavenly beings and holds court:
“I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, with all the host of heaven standing beside him to the right and to the left of him” (1 Kings 22:19, NRSV).
From the perspective of New Testament cosmology what is striking here is that the good and evil beings are all before the Lord together. One of them volunteers to be a “lying spirit” in the mouths of Ahab’s prophets to lead him astray – lead him astray for good reason, to be sure, but still to lead him astray. And Yahweh approves their deceptive plans.
In the decalogue, Yahweh declares: “You shall have no other Elohim before me” (Exod. 20:3). Note that he does not deny the existence of other gods; there simply are to be no other gods in Yahweh’s presence. Thus Baal was the Elohim for Tyre and Sidon, just a Rimmon was the Elohim for Syria, Chemosh for Moab, and Dagon for the Philistines. Where Israel got in trouble was when they brought Jezebel’s Elohim into Israel. Yahweh wasn’t troubled if Baal stayed in Tyre and Sidon, but he had no right to be in Israel! Hence the great battle at Mt. Carmel: Who would be Elohim in Israel: Yahweh or Baal?
All of that changed at the cross. Satan no longer had access to the heavenly court as he had in Job. He was now cast down to earth. And as Revelation 12 puts it: “Woe to the earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you with great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”
The book of Job shows us that there is an evil Spirit abroad on the earth, even if we don’t know it! How true of our lives even today. When an evil event happens, we have to ask ourselves the question? Where is the hand of the Lord (providence) and where is the hand of the devil? There is no clear answer to that question.
Question: When disaster strikes us today, how does our situation differ from that of Job’s? Can we see the issues with greater clarity that he did?
2. The Great Controversy theme: God allows evil to have its day in court. In a sense, Job’s story is a microcosm of the Great Controversy macrocosm. In short, Satan declares that Job is essentially selfish, and if God were to take away the bribe, he would curse God to his face. That pits selfishness against self-sacrificing love. God allowed Satan to have his day in court to show that it is possible for God’s people to demonstrate disinterested love.
At the beginning of the Great Controversy, something analogous happens as God allows Satan to have his day in court with the creation. God steps back, just as he did in Job and allows Satan to show what selfishness can do on a global scale. The disasters tabulated in Genesis 3 to 11 illustrate the results: Adam and Eve in the Garden, Can and Abel, the Flood, the Tower of Babel. By the time Abraham comes on the scene, he and his family “worshiped other gods” (Joshua 24:2). At that point God comes back into play more visibly and enters into a covenant with Abraham to show how God’s way is best.
Question: How does our witness today, as individuals and as a community of believers, affect the Great Controversy Story? Can we counter the argument from Elihu in Job 35:6-8?
Job 35:6 If you sin, how does that affect him?
If your sins are many, what does that do to him?
7 If you are righteous, what do you give to him,
or what does he receive from your hand?
8 Your wickedness only affects humans like yourself,
and your righteousness only other people.
3. The effect of bad theology on well-meaning friends. It would appear from Job that Job’s three friends really did want to encourage him. But they were so locked into a reward-scheme theology that they ended up tormenting him.
Question: To what extent do Christians have a responsibility to others to share a gracious theology that would allow us to be more gracious with one another?
The book of Job itself is a wonderful place to begin in the effort to demonstrate the evils of a reward-based theology. In the chaos of our world, we should be very careful how we pass judgment on others. This quotation from Ellen White is to the point:
Every association of life calls for the exercise of self-control, forbearance, and sympathy. We differ so widely in disposition, habits, education, that our ways of looking at things vary. We judge differently. Our understanding of truth, our ideas in regard to the conduct of life, are not in all respects the same. There are no two whose experience is alike in every particular. The trials of one are not the trials of another. The duties that one finds light are to another most difficult and perplexing.
So frail, so ignorant, so liable to misconception is human nature, that each should be careful in the estimate he places upon another. We little know the bearing of our acts upon the experience of others. What we do or say may seem to us of little moment, when, could our eyes be opened, we should see that upon it depended the most important results for good or for evil. – Ministry of Healing, 483
4. Divine affirmation for struggles endured. Most of us will never experience the kind of dialogue that Job had with God at the end of his torments. Still, the knowledge that God affirms those who stand firm for him can be a great encouragement. And that is particularly true when we realize that we are in a great struggle and that God needs us. That divine “need” is well illustrated in this quote from C. S. Lewis which reflects on prayers not answered. He quotes first of all an “experienced Christian” and then adds his own reflections in conclusion:
“I have seen many striking answers to prayer and more than one that I thought miraculous. But they usually come at the beginning: before conversion, or soon after it. As the Christian life proceeds, they tend to be rarer. The refusals, too, are not only more frequent; they become more unmistakable, more emphatic.”
Does God then forsake just those who serve Him best? Well, He who served Him best of all said, near His tortured death, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” When God becomes man, that Man, of all others, is least comforted by God, at His greatest need. There is a mystery here which, even if I had the power, I might not have the courage to explore. Meanwhile, little people like you and me, if our prayers are sometimes granted, be-[10-11] yond all hope and probability, had better not draw hasty conclusions to our own advantage. If we were stronger, we might be less tenderly treated. If we were braver, we might be sent, with far less help, to defend far more desperate posts in the great battle. – C. S. Lewis, “The Efficacy of Prayer,” in The World’s Last Night and Other Essays, 10-11
A final rhetorical question: Can God’s people find in the book of Job the kind of courage to keep on keeping on as Job did?