God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II (Part Five)
Having learned of how Job went through the trials, most of you will likely want to know more details about Job himself, particularly with regard to the secret by which he gained God’s praise. So today, let us talk about Job!
In Job’s Daily Life We See His Perfection, Uprightness, Fear of God, and Shunning of Evil
If we are to discuss Job, then we must start with the assessment of him uttered from God’s own mouth: “there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and eschews evil.”
Let us first learn about Job’s perfection and uprightness.
What is your understanding of the words “perfect” and “upright”? Do you believe that Job was without reproach, and honorable? This, of course, would be a literal interpretation and understanding of “perfect” and “upright.” Integral to a true understanding of Job is real life—words, books, and theory alone won’t provide any answers. We’ll start by looking at Job’s home life, at what his normal conduct was like during his life. This will tell us about his principles and objectives in life, as well as about his personality and pursuit. Now, let us read the final words of Job 1:3: “this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.” What these words are saying is that Job’s status and standing were very high, and though we are not told whether he was the greatest of all men of the east because of his abundant assets, or because he was perfect and upright, and feared God and shunned evil, overall, we know that Job’s status and standing were much prized. As recorded in the Bible, people’s first impressions of Job were that Job was perfect, that he feared God and shunned evil, and that he was possessed of great wealth and venerable status. For a normal person living in such an environment and under such conditions, Job’s diet, quality of life, and the various aspects of his personal life would be the focus of most people’s attention; thus we must continue reading the scriptures: “And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them. And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually” (Job 1:4–5). This passage tells us two things: The first is that Job’s sons and daughters regularly feasted, eating and drinking; the second is that Job frequently offered burnt sacrifices because he often worried for them, fearful that they were sinning, that in their hearts they had cursed God. In this are described the lives of two different types of people. The first, Job’s sons and daughters, often feasted because of their affluence, they lived extravagantly, they wined and dined to their heart’s content, enjoying the high quality of life brought by material wealth. Living such a life, it was inevitable that they would often sin and offend God—yet they did not sanctify themselves or offer burnt offerings as a result. You see, then, that God had no place in their hearts, that they gave no thought to God’s graces, nor feared offending God, much less did they fear renouncing God in their hearts. Of course, our focus is not on Job’s children, but on what Job did when faced with such things; this is the other matter described in the passage, and which involves Job’s daily life and the substance of his humanity. When the Bible describes the feasting of Job’s sons and daughters, there is no mention of Job; it is said only that his sons and daughters often ate and drank together. In other words, he did not hold feasts, nor did he join his sons and daughters in eating to extravagance. Though affluent, and possessed of many assets and servants, Job’s life was not a luxurious one. He was not beguiled by his superlative living environment, and he did not gorge himself on the enjoyments of the flesh or forget to offer burnt offerings because of his wealth, much less did it cause him to gradually shun God in his heart. Evidently, then, Job was disciplined in his lifestyle, and was not greedy or hedonistic, nor did he fixate upon quality of life, as a result of God’s blessings to him. Instead, he was humble and modest, and cautious and careful before God, he often gave thought to God’s graces and blessings, and was continually fearful of God. In his daily life, Job often rose early to offer burnt offerings for his sons and daughters. In other words, not only did Job himself fear God, but he also hoped that his children would likewise fear God and not sin against God. Job’s material wealth held no place within his heart, nor did it replace the position held by God; whether for the sake of himself or his children, Job’s daily actions were all connected to fearing God and shunning evil. His fear of Jehovah God did not stop at his mouth, but was put into action, and reflected in each and every part of his daily life. This actual conduct by Job shows us that he was honest, and was possessed of a substance that loved justice and things that were positive. That Job often sent and sanctified his sons and daughters means he did not sanction or approve of his children’s behavior; instead, in his heart he was fed up with their behavior, and condemned them. He had concluded that the behavior of his sons and daughters was not pleasing to Jehovah God, and thus he often called on them to go before Jehovah God and confess their sins. Job’s actions show us another side of his humanity: one in which he never walked with those who often sinned and offended God, but instead shunned and avoided them. Even though these people were his sons and daughters, he did not forsake his own principles because they were his own kin, nor did he indulge their sins because of his own sentiments. Rather, he urged them to confess and gain Jehovah God’s forbearance, and he warned them not to forsake God for the sake of their own greedy enjoyment. The principles of how Job treated others are inseparable from the principles of his fear of God and shunning of evil. He loved that which was accepted by God, and loathed that which repulsed God, and he loved those who feared God in their hearts, and loathed those who committed evil or sinned against God. Such love and loathing was demonstrated in his everyday life, and was the very uprightness of Job seen by God’s eyes. Naturally, this is also the expression and living out of Job’s true humanity in his relations with others in his daily life that we must learn about.
The Manifestations of Job’s Humanity During His Trials (Understanding Job’s Perfection, Uprightness, Fear of God, and Shunning of Evil During His Trials)
What we have shared above are the various aspects of Job’s humanity that were exhibited in his daily life prior to his tests. Without doubt, these various manifestations provide an initial acquaintance with and understanding of Job’s uprightness, fear of God, and shunning of evil, and naturally provide an initial affirmation. The reason why I say “initial” is because most people still do not have a true understanding of Job’s personality and the degree to which he pursued the way of obeying and fearing God. Which is to say, most people’s understanding of Job doesn’t go beyond the somewhat favorable impression of him provided by his words in the Bible that “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah” and “shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” Thus, there is a great need for us to understand how Job lived out his humanity as he received God’s trials; in this way, Job’s true humanity will be shown to all in its entirety.
When Job heard that his property had been stolen, that his sons and daughters had lost their lives, and that his servants had been killed, he reacted as follows: “Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down on the ground, and worshipped” (Job 1:20). These words tell us one fact: After hearing this news, Job was not panic-stricken, he did not cry, or blame the servants who had given him the news, much less did he inspect the scene of the crime to investigate and verify the whys and wherefores and find out what really happened. He did not exhibit any pain or regret at the loss of his possessions, nor did he break down in tears due to the loss of his children, of his loved ones. On the contrary, he rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down on the ground, and worshiped. Job’s actions are unlike those of any ordinary man. They confuse many people, and make them reprimand Job for his “cold-bloodedness” in their hearts. At the sudden loss of their possessions, normal people would appear heartbroken, or despairing—or, in the case of some people, they might even fall into deep depression. That is because, in their hearts, people’s property represents a lifetime of effort, it is that which their survival relies upon, it is the hope that keeps them living; the loss of their property means their efforts have been for nothing, that they are without hope, and even that they have no future. This is any normal person’s attitude toward their property and the close relationship they have with it, and this is also the importance of property in people’s eyes. As such, the great majority of people feel confused by Job’s cool attitude toward the loss of his property. Today, we’re going to dispel the confusion of all these people by explaining what was going on within Job’s heart.
Common sense dictates that, having been given such abundant assets by God, Job should feel ashamed before God because of losing these assets, for he hadn’t looked after or taken care of them, he hadn’t held on to the assets given to him by God. Thus, when he heard that his property had been stolen, his first reaction should have been to go to the scene of the crime and take inventory of everything that had gone, and then to confess to God so that he might once more receive God’s blessings. Job, however, did not do this—and he naturally had his own reasons for not doing so. In his heart, Job profoundly believed that all he possessed had been bestowed upon him by God, and had not come off the back of his own labor. Thus, he did not see these blessings as something to be capitalized upon, but took holding on to the way that he should by tooth and nail as his living principles. He cherished God’s blessings, and gave thanks for them, but he was not enamored of, nor did he seek more blessings. Such was his attitude toward property. He neither did anything for the sake of gaining blessings, nor worried about or was aggrieved by the lack or loss of God’s blessings; he neither became wildly, deliriously happy because of God’s blessings, nor ignored the way of God or forgot the grace of God because of the blessings he frequently enjoyed. Job’s attitude toward his property reveals to people his true humanity: Firstly, Job was not a greedy man, and was undemanding in his material life. Secondly, Job never worried or feared that God would take away all that he had, which was his attitude of obedience toward God in his heart; that is, he had no demands or complaints about when or whether God would take from him, and did not ask the reason why, but only sought to obey the arrangements of God. Thirdly, he never believed that his assets came from his own labors, but that they were bestowed unto him by God. This was Job’s faith in God, and is an indication of his conviction. Are Job’s humanity and his true daily pursuit made clear in this three-point summary of him? Job’s humanity and pursuit were integral to his cool conduct when faced with the loss of his property. It was precisely because of his daily pursuit that Job had the stature and conviction to say, “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah,” during the trials of God. These words were not gained overnight, nor had they just popped into Job’s head. They were what he had seen and acquired during many years of experiencing life. Compared to all those who only seek God’s blessings, and who fear that God will take from them, and hate it and complain about it, is Job’s obedience not very real? Compared to all those who believe that there is a God, but who have never believed that God rules over all things, does Job not possess great honesty and uprightness?
Job’s actual experiences and his upright and honest humanity meant that he made the most rational judgment and choices when he lost his assets and his children. Such rational choices were inseparable from his daily pursuits and the deeds of God that he had come to know during his day-to-day life. Job’s honesty made him able to believe that Jehovah’s hand rules over all things; his belief allowed him to know the fact of Jehovah God’s sovereignty over all things; his knowledge made him willing and able to obey Jehovah God’s sovereignty and arrangements; his obedience enabled him to be more and more true in his fear of Jehovah God; his fear made him more and more real in his shunning of evil; ultimately, Job became perfect because he feared God and shunned evil; and his perfection made him wise, and gave him the utmost rationality.
How should we understand this word “rational”? A literal interpretation is that it means being of good sense, being logical and sensible in one’s thinking, being of sound words, actions, and judgment, and possessing sound and regular moral standards. Yet Job’s rationality isn’t so easily explained. When it is said here that Job was possessed of the utmost rationality, it is in connection to his humanity and his conduct before God. Because Job was honest, he was able to believe in and obey the sovereignty of God, which gave him a knowledge that was unobtainable by others, and this knowledge made him able to more accurately discern, judge, and define that which befell him, which enabled him to more accurately and perspicaciously choose what to do and what to hold firm to. Which is to say that his words, behavior, the principles behind his actions, and the code by which he acted, were regular, clear, and specific, and were not blind, impulsive, or emotional. He knew how to treat whatever befell him, he knew how to balance and handle the relationships between complex events, he knew how to hold fast to the way that should be held fast to, and, moreover, he knew how to treat the giving and taking away of Jehovah God. This was the very rationality of Job. It was precisely because Job was equipped with such rationality that he said, “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah,” when he lost his assets and his sons and daughters.
When Job was faced with the enormous pain of the body, and the remonstrations of his kinfolk and friends, and when he was faced with death, his actual conduct once again demonstrated his true face to all.
The Real Face of Job: True, Pure, and Without Falsity
Let us read the following: “So went Satan forth from the presence of Jehovah, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to his crown. And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself with; and he sat down among the ashes” (Job 2:7–8). This is a description of Job’s conduct when sore boils sprouted upon his body. At this time, Job sat in the ashes as he endured the pain. No one treated him, and no one helped him lessen the pain of his body; instead, he used a potsherd to scrape away the surface of the sore boils. Superficially, this was merely a stage in Job’s torment, and bears no relation to his humanity and fear of God, for Job spoke no words to demonstrate his mood and views at this time. Yet Job’s actions and his conduct are still a true expression of his humanity. In the record of the previous chapter we read that Job was the greatest of all the men of the east. This passage of the second chapter, meanwhile, shows us that this great man of the east should take a potsherd to scrape himself while sitting among the ashes. Is there not an obvious contrast between these two descriptions? It is a contrast that shows us Job’s true self: Despite his prestigious standing and status, he had never loved nor paid them any attention; he cared not how others viewed his standing, nor was he concerned about whether his actions or conduct would have any negative effect on his standing; he did not indulge in the riches of status, nor did he enjoy the glory that came with status and standing. He only cared about his value and the significance of his living in the eyes of Jehovah God. Job’s true self was his very substance: He did not love fame and fortune, and did not live for fame and fortune; he was true, and pure, and without falsity.
Job’s Separation of Love and Hate
Another side of Job’s humanity is demonstrated in this exchange between him and his wife: “Then said his wife to him, Do you still retain your integrity? curse God, and die. But he said to her, You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:9–10). Seeing the torment he was suffering, Job’s wife tried to advise Job to help him escape his torment—yet the “good intentions” did not gain Job’s approval; instead, they stirred his anger, for she denied his faith in, and obedience to Jehovah God, and also denied the existence of Jehovah God. This was intolerable to Job, for he had never allowed himself to do anything that opposed or hurt God, to say nothing of others. How could he remain indifferent when he saw others speak words that blasphemed against and insulted God? Thus he called his wife a “foolish woman.” Job’s attitude toward his wife was one of anger and hate, as well as reproach and reprimand. This was the natural expression of Job’s humanity of differentiating between love and hate, and was a true representation of his upright humanity. Job was possessed of a sense of justice—one which made him hate the winds and tides of wickedness, and loathe, condemn, and reject absurd heresy, ridiculous arguments, and ludicrous assertions, and allowed him to hold true to his own, correct principles and stance when he had been rejected by the masses and deserted by those who were close to him.
The Kindheartedness and Sincerity of Job
Since, in Job’s conduct, we are able to see the expression of various aspects of his humanity, what of Job’s humanity do we see when he opened his mouth to curse the day of his birth? This is the topic we will share below.
Above, I have talked of the origins of Job’s curse of the day of his birth. What do you see in this? If Job were hardhearted, and without love, if he were cold and emotionless, and bereft of humanity, could he have cared for God’s heart’s desire? And could he have despised the day of his own birth as a result of caring for God’s heart? In other words, if Job were hardhearted and bereft of humanity, could he have been distressed by God’s pain? Could he have cursed the day of his birth because God had been aggrieved by him? The answer is, Absolutely not! Because he was kindhearted, Job cared for God’s heart; because he cared for God’s heart, Job sensed God’s pain; because he was kindhearted, he suffered greater torment as a result of sensing God’s pain; because he sensed God’s pain, he began to loathe the day of his birth, and thus cursed the day of his birth. To outsiders, Job’s entire conduct during his trials is exemplary. Only his curse of the day of his birth paints a question mark above his perfection and uprightness, or provides a different assessment. In fact, this was the truest expression of the substance of Job’s humanity. The substance of his humanity was not concealed or packaged, or revised by someone else. When he cursed the day of his birth, he demonstrated the kindheartedness and sincerity deep within his heart; he was like a spring whose waters are so clear and pellucid as to reveal its bottom.
Having learned all this about Job, most people will undoubtedly have a fairly accurate and objective assessment of the substance of Job’s humanity. They should also have a profound, practical, and more advanced understanding and appreciation of the perfection and uprightness of Job spoken of by God. Hopefully, this understanding and appreciation will help people embark upon the way of fearing God and shunning evil.
The Relationship Between God’s Consignment of Job to Satan and the Aims of God’s Work
Although most people now recognize that Job was perfect and upright, and that he feared God and shunned evil, this recognition doesn’t give them a greater understanding of God’s intention. At the same time as envying Job’s humanity and pursuit, they ask the following question of God: Job was so perfect and upright, people adore him so much, so why did God hand him over to Satan and subject him to so much torment? Such questions are bound to exist in many people’s hearts—or rather, this doubt is the question in many people’s hearts. Since it has confounded so many people, we must lay this question on the table and explain it properly.
Everything that God does is necessary, and possessed of extraordinary significance, for all that He does in man concerns His management and the salvation of mankind. Naturally, the work that God did in Job is no different, even though Job was perfect and upright in the eyes of God. In other words, regardless of what God does or the means by which He does it, regardless of the cost, or His objective, the purpose of His actions does not change. His purpose is to work into man God’s words, God’s requirements, and God’s will for man; in other words, it is to work into man all that God believes to be positive in accordance with His steps, enabling man to understand God’s heart and comprehend God’s substance, and allowing him to obey God’s sovereignty and arrangements, and thus allowing man to attain the fear of God and shunning of evil—all of which is one aspect of God’s purpose in all He does. The other aspect is that, because Satan is the foil and serving object in God’s work, man is often given to Satan; this is the means God uses to allow people to see the wickedness, ugliness, and contemptibility of Satan amid Satan’s temptations and attacks, thus causing people to hate Satan and be able to know and recognize that which is negative. This process allows them to gradually free themselves from Satan’s control, and from Satan’s accusations, interference, and attacks—until, thanks to God’s words, their knowledge and obedience of God, and their faith in God and fear of Him, they triumph over the attacks of Satan, and triumph over the accusations of Satan; only then will they have been completely delivered from the domain of Satan. People’s deliverance means that Satan has been defeated, it means that they are no longer the food in Satan’s mouth—that instead of swallowing them, Satan has relinquished them. This is because such people are upright, because they have faith, obedience, and fear toward God, and because they completely break with Satan. They bring shame upon Satan, they make a coward of Satan, and they utterly defeat Satan. Their conviction in following God, and obedience to and fear of God defeat Satan, and make Satan completely give them up. Only people such as this have truly been gained by God, and it is this which is God’s ultimate objective in saving man. If they wish to be saved, and wish to be completely gained by God, then all those who follow God must face temptations and attacks both great and small from Satan. Those who emerge from these temptations and attacks and are able to fully defeat Satan are those who have been saved by God. Which is to say, those who have been saved unto God are those who have undergone God’s trials, and who have been tempted and attacked by Satan an untold number of times. Those who have been saved unto God understand God’s will and requirements, and are able to acquiesce to God’s sovereignty and arrangements, and they do not forsake the way of fearing God and shunning evil amid Satan’s temptations. Those who are saved unto God possess honesty, they are kindhearted, they differentiate between love and hate, they have a sense of justice and are rational, and they are able to care for God and treasure all that is of God. Such people are not bound, spied upon, accused, or abused by Satan, they are completely free, they have been completely liberated and released. Job was just such a man of freedom, and this is precisely the significance of why God handed him over to Satan.
Job was abused by Satan, but he also gained eternal freedom and liberation, and gained the right to never again be subjected to Satan’s corruption, abuse, and accusations, to instead live in the light of God’s countenance free and unencumbered, and to live amid God’s blessings to him. No one could take away, or destroy, or procure this right. It was given to Job in return for his faith, determination, and obedience to and fear of God; Job paid the price of his life to win joy and happiness on earth, to win the right and entitlement, ordained by Heaven and acknowledged by earth, to worship the Creator without interference as a true creature of God on earth. Such was also the greatest outcome of the temptations endured by Job.
When people have yet to be saved, their lives are often interfered with, and even controlled by, Satan. In other words, people who have not been saved are prisoners to Satan, they have no freedom, they have not been relinquished by Satan, they are not qualified or entitled to worship God, and they are closely pursued and viciously attacked by Satan. Such people have no happiness to speak of, they have no right to a normal existence to speak of, and moreover they have no dignity to speak of. Only if you stand up and do battle with Satan, using your faith in God and obedience to, and fear of God as the weapons with which to fight a life-and-death battle with Satan, such that you fully defeat Satan and cause it to turn tail and become cowardly whenever it sees you, so that it completely abandons its attacks and accusations against you—only then will you be saved and become free. If you are determined to fully break with Satan, but are not equipped with the weapons that will help you defeat Satan, then you will still be in danger; as time goes on, when you have been so tortured by Satan that there is not an ounce of strength left in you, yet you have still been unable to bear testimony, have still not completely freed yourself of Satan’s accusations and attacks against you, then you will have little hope of salvation. In the end, when the conclusion of God’s work is proclaimed, you will still be in the grip of Satan, unable to free yourself, and thus you will never have a chance or hope. The implication, then, is that such people will be completely in Satan’s captivity.
Accept God’s Tests, Overcome Satan’s Temptations, and Allow God to Gain Your Whole Being
During the work of His abiding provision and support of man, God tells the entirety of His will and requirements to man, and shows His deeds, disposition, and what He has and is to man. The objective is to equip man with stature, and to allow man to gain various truths from God while following Him—truths that are the weapons given to man by God with which to fight Satan. Thus equipped, man must face God’s tests. God has many means and avenues for testing man, but every one of them requires the “cooperation” of God’s enemy: Satan. Which is to say, having given man the weapons with which to do battle with Satan, God hands man over to Satan and allows Satan to “test” man’s stature. If man can break out from Satan’s battle formations, if he can escape Satan’s encirclement and still live, then man will have passed the test. But if man fails to leave Satan’s battle formations, and submits to Satan, then he will not have passed the test. Whatever aspect of man God examines, the criteria for His examination are whether or not man stands firm in his testimony when attacked by Satan, and whether or not he has forsaken God and surrendered and submitted to Satan while ensnared by Satan. It may be said that whether or not man can be saved depends on whether he can overcome and defeat Satan, and whether or not he can gain freedom depends on whether he is able to lift up, on his own, the weapons given to him by God to overcome Satan’s bondage, making Satan completely abandon hope and leave him alone. If Satan abandons hope and relinquishes someone, this means that Satan will never again try to take this person from God, will never again accuse and interfere with this person, will never again wantonly torture or attack them; only someone such as this will truly have been gained by God. This is the entire process by which God gains people.
The Warning and Enlightenment Provided to Later Generations by Job’s Testimony
At the same time as understanding the process by which God completely gains someone, people will also understand the aims and significance of God’s consignment of Job to Satan. People are no longer disturbed by Job’s torment, and have a new appreciation of its significance. They no longer worry about whether they themselves will be subjected to the same temptation as Job, and no longer oppose or reject the coming of God’s trials. Job’s faith, obedience, and his testimony to overcoming Satan have been a source of huge help and encouragement to people. In Job, they see hope for their own salvation, and see that through faith, and obedience to and fear of God, it is entirely possible to defeat Satan, and prevail over Satan. They see that as long as they acquiesce to God’s sovereignty and arrangements, and possess the determination and faith not to forsake God after having lost everything, then they can bring shame and defeat upon Satan, and that they need only possess the determination and perseverance to stand firm in their testimony—even if it means losing their lives—for Satan to be cowed and beat a hasty retreat. Job’s testimony is a warning to later generations, and this warning tells them that if they do not defeat Satan, then they will never be able to rid themselves of the accusations and interference of Satan, nor will they ever be able to escape the abuse and attacks of Satan. Job’s testimony has enlightened later generations. This enlightenment teaches people that only if they are perfect and upright are they able to fear God and shun evil; it teaches them that only if they fear God and shun evil can they bear strong and resounding testimony to God; only if they bear strong and resounding testimony to God can they never be controlled by Satan, and live under the guidance and protection of God—and only then will they have been truly saved. Job’s personality and his life’s pursuit should be emulated by everyone who pursues salvation. That which he lived out during his whole life and his conduct during his trials is a precious treasure to all those who pursue the way of fearing God and shunning evil.
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