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he patriarch Job was a most unusual man.
The book about him seems to be the oldest in the Old Testament.
But its message today is as timely for Christians as Revelation’s prophecies.
His life was a paradigm for true believers.
By Malcolm B Heap, Midnight Ministries
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Hidden away near the middle of your Bible is the book of Job. I bet you don’t turn there too often. For the majority of believers its message is hard to understand, and its purpose somewhat obscure.
It contains a lengthy dialogue. You have to read a lot before you come to things that you might consider of spiritual value. Many might say that it is not edifying reading like some portions of Scripture. But then, they would probably also say that about large parts of the OT. Just because it doesn’t leave you feeling uplifted doesn’t mean it is of less value. (Lamentations is another case in point.)
Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart (Eccl 7:2).
The book of Job is meant to encourage sober introspection or reflection, and help us to see our selves more from God’s perspective than our own.
I remember a friend who came to visit us about 20 years ago. We sat in the garden and chatted, and he brought up the subject of this curious book. He was puzzled by it. On another occasion, a man in his 70s also raised the topic. He didn’t fully understand it either. And I must admit that I still had a question mark against it at that time. I grasp a bit more now.
Understanding comes with time. Time births experience; and experience, hope.
The Source Of Job’s Goodness
We read the truism about human nature in Romans 3:
There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God (Rom 3:10,11).
For a person to begin to seek the things of God, the nature of God, the love of God, the right- eousness and purity of God, this must be generated within by God’s Spirit in an individual ‘calling’. John knew this well. He knew that if it wasn’t for God’s Spirit working on a person, and bringing them to repentance (Rom 2:4), no one would come to the Righteous One. He recorded Jesus’ words:
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:44).
Job had the awareness of that promise within himself. He declared:
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27.)
That is an amazing declaration for a man who lived between Abraham’s time and Moses’. Clearly, it demonstrates that God was working in Job’s life, and that He had revealed important things to him by the Spirit.
So, Job is a type of every Christian. You and I, as believers in Jesus, could not have had spiritual awareness and any desire for God had it not been for God’s instigation in your spirit.
But how many of us really give God glory for that? How many of us casually take it for granted or ascribe credit to ourselves for our spiritual condition?
God was working in Job’s life from the outset, but Job couldn’t see it, or couldn’t see the extent of it, and he didn’t give God the credit.
There are many believers who have come to Jesus, and who know that Jesus has called them, worked with them, given them a portion of His Spirit, but who still take credit for their spiritual state. Even though they know the words of John 6:44 intellectual- ly, their spirit is still not on God’s ‘wavelength’. It’s on its own ‘wavelength’. Subconsciously, they take credit for their position. They don’t realise they are doing that. They are blind to that aspect.
So, without knowing what they are doing, they cut themselves off from further immersion in the things of God. This ‘Job factor’ prevents them receiving a greater baptism in the Spirit. It can deny them the benefit of spiritual gifts, which are given to glorify God, not ourselves.
I mentioned God’s ‘wavelength’. Do you know what I am referring to?
Jesus was on God’s ‘wavelength’. All He did and said was to glorify the Father. He didn’t live for Himself whatsoever. He didn’t seek glory for Himself – even though He deserved it. It just wasn’t part of His nature. God’s nature is selfless and, astonishing- ly to most, completely humble!
To humanity, this is an alien concept. It’s one of those attributes that you can never fully describe. But people who have been in God’s presence come back to testify to it. They tell of the wonder of this Being who is so wonderful to be with; who is so lacking any exhibition of self-importance, that He treats others completely equally; He treats them with such love and acceptance that He is as their best friend. He doesn’t want you grovelling at His feet. He doesn’t want you feeling intimidated. He doesn’t want you feeling inferior. He accepts you as an equal.
Of course, we must realise that we are not God’s equal. No way! He is so majestic, so powerful, so glorious, so pure, so holy, so divinely incredible that words can never describe Him properly, and any comparison of us with Him is futile and inept.
The problem with Job was that he was doing that, probably subconsciously, without realising that such an appraisal of himself was distancing him from God. He was taking to himself the pure virtues of God, which only come from God, and ascribing them to himself. He didn’t recognise, acknowledge, or give credit to the working of God within his own spirit that was enabling him to be the way he was, and to have the righteous devotion that he had.
Job was certainly devout! God acknowledged that in confronting Satan:
Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? (Job 1:8.)
And, despite Satan’s dismissive retort that Job behaved like that because it paid him to – in other words, he did what he did out of self interest (1:10, 11) – it was true. Job WAS upright!
What God was forming in Job was the nucleus of His own nature, a nature that loves goodness and hates wickedness. Job was so devout that he even sacrificed in case his grown-up progeny might have sinned (1:4,5). His rigorous adherence to ritual was the outlet for his spiritual expression. But he didn’t truly comprehend God’s love and acceptance which I tried to describe above.
There are many Christians like that. Ritualism is an outlet for their spiritual expression. But the doing of this or that physical ritual is only a substitute for real spirituality. When you know God truly, you know that He’s not so interested in what you do. He cares more about the ‘why’ than the ‘what’.
Whatever you do by your own effort can be a substitute for the true ‘substance’ of the Spirit in your life. It detracts from God, and enhances you. Thus, worship degenerates to a human level, and self is glorified. Then Satan gains entry.
Ritualists can even hate pure truth and true believers! We have had people like that in our home. God brought them here to learn from us, but they wouldn’t have it. They proved themselves to be stubborn and hard of heart. Their unseen (to them) self-worship caused them to deny God!
This was the road that Job was embarking on, but he couldn’t see it. It leads to frustration, dissatis- faction and disillusionment. But it can take many years before you reach the end of yourself. Some never do!
God, in His love, had to rescue Job from his self-orientated blindness. There was only one way available – through trials.
The book of Job shows us the divine purpose for trials, and that Satan’s attacks and torture have their divine purpose, for the sake of their outcome in our lives. Peter and James seconded that in their letters in the NT (1 Pet 4:12-18; Jas 1).
I’m sure you have met people like Job. You could be one yourself! – proper, decent, upright, good, respectable, accomplished, diligent, poised, charming and respected.
When God calls you, you come to Jesus for cleansing from sin. He accepts you and you accept Him. God comes into your life and places some of His Spirit within you to begin the process of inner transformation.
That causes an outer transformation. You may go to a church where you meet with others who are like-minded. They are nice, kind, smiling folk who make you feel good. You are accepted and part of a wider family, the household of faith. Your outward transformation mimics what you have learned from them. It is reflected in your personality. It improves. You learn to respond positively. You develop the same good personality traits that make you likeable. What is not seen, however, is that most of this is the result of human social interaction, not the Spirit. At least, it’s not the fulness of the Spirit, merely part.
As time goes on, you attend church out of habit. Your responses to others are conditioned by habit too. And all that you do – mostly without you realising it – slowly degenerates to a human level. It is done ‘in the flesh’ – what Paul referred to as ‘dead works’ (Heb 6:1).
Job was like this. He did what he did in his own strength. His zeal and devotion to religious principle was a human outworking, one that lacked something vital in God’s estimation of us.
Job was a wonderful man:
[He] WAS blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:1.)
What was not seen was the arrogance or pride underneath. And so it is in a lot of Christians. They don’t see behind the facade that develops in Jesus’ name.
Have you read about the evangelist who fasts every week? Who preaches to vast crowds, and who trumpets ‘his’ achievements? Who is proud of all that he has done, and of all the miracles of healing that God has performed ‘for him’ in his ministry?
Have you seen the dedicated churchgoer, who thinks so much of his church, who thinks highly of his spiritual mentors, or who eagerly proselytises?
Have you seen the self-aggrandising TV evang- elism that tries to impress and appeal to pride?
There is a lot of religion that is based on pride! Do you perceive it? Most people don’t.
The ‘Job Factor’ In Churches
Most churches are cults, where people go through the motions. They follow men, not the Spirit. Unwittingly, they interact humanly, not by the Spirit.
You know what James wrote about true religion:
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world (Jas 1:27).
Ironically, that was what Job WAS doing! At least, he thought so. But he did it – without realising it – for self ‘glory’. And so do many Christians.
There are even some who have made a religion out of their almsgiving – doing the ‘visiting orphans and widows’ stuff – but doing it all because it makes them feel good or look good. It’s based on pride.
It’s that arrogance that sticks to worship of self that shuts the door on God to you. You don’t see it as worship of self. You see it as ‘true religion’. You see it as ‘doing what God wants’. You see it as ‘righteous- ness’. But it’s none of those things. It’s self-elevating.
If a man is proud of his evangelism, he’s still suffering from the ‘Job factor’.
If a churchgoer is proud of his church, or his ministers, or his beliefs, he’s still suffering from the ‘Job factor’.
If an almsgiver is proud of his almsgiving, he’s still suffering from the ‘Job factor’. That’s why Jesus said, "Don’t make a big thing out of what you do. Do it quietly before God, and God who sees it will reward you." (Matt 6:4,18).
The Rightful Place Of God
The thing is, it’s not YOU who should have any credit for what you do, because:
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights... (Jas 1:17).
Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth... (Jas 1:18).
So, likewise you, when you have done all those things which are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have [merely] done what was our duty to do.’ (Luke 17:10.)
Why should we regard ourselves as ‘unprofitable’? Because anything more than that is not from humility, but from self-assertion.
For it is God who works in you, both to will, and to do for His good pleasure (Phil 2:13).
We must realise that. If it wasn’t for God putting within us some of His Spirit, there would be no good in us whatsoever in this present evil world. That’s why Paul made the adamant statement of the evil of human nature which I mentioned at the outset.
God is the First Cause. But Job became the first cause in his life. He thought he did what he did for God, but in fact he did what he did for self. He thought that his works would endear him to God. He thought that he deserved God’s approbation. He took the credit for the way he was. He didn’t see himself as God’s creation. (He knew that intellectually, but not in his heart while there was pride present.) He saw his life as his own creation.
Pride is in every race and nationality. It varies in type, but it’s there in everyone. You have probably heard the old quip, poking fun at the Englishman’s pride – "he is the self-made man who worships his creator."
From the account in Job it’s clear that such pride is not limited to the English! It’s in all people; and it may take a lifetime to eradicate it!
It didn’t take that long in Job, but it certainly was a lengthy procedure for God to squeeze it out of him. That’s why the book doesn’t just begin with the outline of the problem in chapter one, argue it in chapter two, and end it with a solution and summary in chapter three. Wouldn’t it make easy reading if it did? No, it’s deliberately long, to help us realise that recognising and ousting pride is equally lengthy. It’s not achieved overnight, nor in one week, or even one year.
I know a man who is in his eighties. He’s devout, diligent, and loves to get on stage to evangelise. The dear man, whose religion is as exemplary as Job’s was (and God did not criticise him before Satan – Job’s life condemned Satan’s!), cannot see the pride that still motivates him.
It’s not hard to see the ‘Job factor’ in the lives of others, where this pride still sticks to them like glue. Their words and deeds, or their manner and approach, testify against them just as Job’s did.
There are many demons of respectability!
For some believers, the longer they have ‘been around’, the more deeply rooted is this pride. They don’t see it because it’s part of their religion, and they think that’s of God. But, as Jesus warned, when the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matt 6:23.)
This was the trouble with the Pharisees. It’s the trouble with most churchgoers. It’s a problem with many preachers, tele-evangelists and miracle-working evangelists. Pride! Very subtle pride.
There is only one solution. Humbling. God has to take away whatever causes them to be lifted up.
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavour, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to thrown out and trampled underfoot by men (Matt 5:13).
At the end of the process in Job’s life he said:
I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but NOW my eye sees You! Therefore, I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes (Job 42:5,6).
Job saw the purity of God’s spiritual nature for the first time. He felt so small! He was now contrite and empty. That’s when God came in and filled him up! Malcolm B Heap
Bible quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) unless otherwise stated
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