CHAPTER THREE: THE STORY BEGINS
(Since each chapter builds on the previous one, you’ll want to be sure you read Chapter 2 before this one.)
‘Job,’ chapter one identifies the main character of the story: a man named Job, who was living in the land of Uz. Many Bible scholars believe Uz lay in the area between Palestine and Arabia. Those same scholars lean toward identifying Job as a descendant of Esau and possibly a king of Edom. Job himself makes reference to lying down “with kings” when he goes to his grave, so that idea could have some credibility. Other scholars believe that Job is the oldest book in the Bible and that Job was actually more a contemporary of Abraham himself rather than his sons and grandsons.
The important thing for the child of God to understand is that, either way, Job was in the position of not understanding his Creator and not being able to walk fully in a covenant relationship with Him — in the way that Abraham did. Moreover, if Job was a descendant of Esau, that made him a descendant of the grandson of Abraham who should have inherited the birthright from Isaac, including the direct blessing that came with the covenant God made with Abraham.
However, since Esau chose to sell that birthright — and that inheritance of covenant blessing — he forfeited the privileges that went with them, not only for himself, but for all of his direct descendants as well.
And it is abundantly clear that Job was living his life as one who had no active covenant with God. He says himself, in chapter 9, verses 32 & 33: “For He is not a man as I am that I may answer Him, that we may go to court together. There is no umpire between us, who may lay his hand upon us both.” King James translates the word “umpire” as “daysman,” which is a very old English word meaning umpire or mediator. So Job is bemoaning the fact that there is no agreement between him and his Creator and no moderator to help them communicate with each other.
Job is described in chapter one as a man who is “perfect” and “upright.” Now, with a word like “perfect,” which leaves absolutely no room for qualifiers, the reader’s spiritual antennae should come out. What does this word “perfect” mean? If it truly means that the man has no flaw, no weakness, no sin or evil in his nature, then the scripture in Romans which says clearly that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” is a lie. However, since spiritual wisdom bids the Bible student to always interpret that which comes in shadow (Old Testament) through that which comes with light and revelation (New Testament), then the reader will have to trust what the New Testament says.
That means putting forth a little effort to find out what this word actually meant when it was written in the original manuscript. A brief look at the Hebrew word used here reveals that the word translated “perfect” also clearly means to be “complete, whole, or pious.” Job was obviously a man who knew about God and as much as possible with his limited knowledge and lack of covenant understanding, he was completely devoted to serving God. 2 Chronicles 16:9 uses the same kind of terminology when God says, “My eyes run to and fro seeking to show Myself strong on behalf of him whose heart is “perfect” toward Me (whose heart is completely Mine).”
So based on the light of the New Testament, and the alternate definitions which would make this passage agree with the New Testament, we see that the meaning of the word translated “perfect” is obviously the following: Job’s heart was totally devoted to God, and his intent was most definitely to serve Him. But he was not a man devoid of sin or other flaws in his character or lifestyle.
Also in chapter one, the second character of the story is introduced. The “sons of God” are presenting themselves before His throne. (In the Old Testament, “sons of God” is one term used to describe the angels.) At the time of the story, Satan obviously still has admittance into the presence of God (until the finished redemption work of Jesus), so he also comes before God. (For expanded explanation of Satan’s admittance into God’s presence see online appendix: directions on p. 53). The Lord, knowing what Satan has been up to, asks him a question in verse eight. And on the correct or incorrect translation of this single question hangs our understanding of the entire character of God.
The Hebrew words which quote God in this conversation have more than one possible interpretation, because the word translated “consider” has several different definitions. Translators, for whatever reason, chose to use the definition “to consider” rather than any of the other definitions of that Hebrew word, which are “to set your heart on, to mark, to purpose to have.” In the seemingly inconsequential decision to choose a single-word definition rather than one requiring three or four words, God is portrayed as an ogre (an abusive father, if you will) who deliberately baits His hateful enemy to get him to attack, torment, and nearly destroy God’s own man.
“Okay,” the reader may respond, “there are several possible definitions; so how does one know for sure which definition is correct?” There is only one fail-safe formula for finding that answer: weigh each definition against Jesus and the example He gave as He walked the earth showing exactly what God is like.
Can any Bible student find Jesus walking up to the devil and taunting him by bragging about how much His disciples love Him — and then baiting the devil to get him to hurt those men — just to prove they will still love the man that betrayed them? Of course not! And that being the case, the Bible student can safely believe that the Father God would never do such a thing either. Consequently, there’s no guess work left concerning which definitions are correct for those passages in Job.
So using the correct translation, read the passage anew: “Have you set your heart on my servant Job — the man whose heart is perfect toward me and who turns away from evil?” It’s quite easy to see how getting the correct word in this one passage begins to change the whole picture of God and His character in this story. Jesus shows a God who would never have said, “Have you taken a good look at my man Job?” — knowing Satan’s next move would be to deliberately try to destroy that man. Jesus does, however, demonstrate a God who would say, “I see you’ve set your heart on my man Job; you won’t get him.” – or “I see you’ve marked Job and purposed to have him; you won’t get away with it.”
But now comes Satan’s challenge and God’s response to it. And with this response, another old traditional teaching rears its ugly head and tries to hinder truth from coming forth. For generations, Christians have been fond of saying, “God is sovereign. God is in control. God can do anything He wants to do.” Most people who make those statements mean that God is controlling absolutely everything that happens on the earth and in their lives — and they mean that God can do anything at all, whenever and however He wants, even if it goes against a promise He has already made in His covenant.
One particular pastor has this tradition so ingrained in his spirit that he has developed a new doctrine based on it. He preaches about what he calls “God’s two percent clause.” This man preached the following from his pulpit on a Sunday morning: “You can’t put God in a box and make Him keep His Word. Now, God will keep His word almost all the time, but He also has a two-percent clause that He operates in, and about two percent of the time, He will do something else when He wants to – whether it goes against His word or not.”
Now, many readers will shudder when they hear these words spoken out so blatantly, but the truth is that the vast majority of Christians really do believe that way. They would never say those words out loud, but when something tragic happens in their lives that they can’t explain in some other acceptable way, they turn to the traditional belief that God must have wanted it to happen that way or He would have kept it from happening.
It doesn’t register with them that they are saying God broke His own word – that He is not keeping His promise to deliver them from such tragedy. If someone who is ill and has been prayed for several times dies in spite of those prayers, the vast majority of Christians respond with the opinion that it was God’s will for that person to die — despite the fact that His Word and His covenant promises say otherwise. Some Christians go so far as to say — of individuals who ended up in prison because of their own unlawful acts – that God must have had some reason for them to be in jail, because, after all, “He is in control of everything.”
NO, dear reader! That thinking is erroneous. God’s own Word is crystal clear on the matter. It is certainly true that God is sovereign. But what people must also realize is that God used His sovereignty to make a choice. He chose to bind Himself to a covenant with man. Making a covenant with the human race was God’s own sovereign idea. And when He made that covenant, He committed Himself to do certain things for man if man would commit himself to live a certain way with God. He gave His Word.
Then in the sixth chapter of Hebrews, He says Himself that even though He had made the covenant by promise, He also confirmed it with a separate oath as well. And in that covenant, He clearly lays out how He will act and react toward man. Moreover, He says that every promise in that covenant has already been answered “yes” in Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20.)
Now every word written in scripture is not relating something concerning man’s covenant with God. But every direct promise of God and every passage that does tell what our covenant includes is never going to change. So, for example, when a believer prays for anything that is specifically promised in scripture — or that the Word says has been accomplished by Jesus Christ — that thing he’s prayed for has already been given a “yes” answer, and God can never just arbitrarily decide to say “no” instead — not even two percent of the time. If He did, He would render His own Word null and void. According to Hebrews 1:2-3, the entire world is held together by nothing but His Word. So everything would collapse, and there would be absolutely nothing the human race could count on now or in eternity.
Now, if someone is asking God for His will on a subject He hasn’t covered in the Word (should I take this job, marry this man, buy this house?) there are times He will say “no” because those things have nothing to do with His covenant or His promises. But everything accomplished by Jesus and His redeeming work is finished and sealed with His own blood — never to be changed. There are often many reasons why people fail to receive or appropriate those promises and blessings, but it is never because God suddenly decided to change His mind.
Moreover, God Himself says that He is not in control of everything on earth. He is in control of the things He’s responsible for — and He is able to control a great deal of other things because His people pray and open the door to His control. But unless man opens the door to Him and allows Him control, God will not usurp it. He says clearly that His will is that every human being accept Jesus Christ and be saved for eternity, but He does not get His will. Jesus said He wept over the people of Jerusalem because He wanted to be able to gather them to Him as a mother hen gathers her chicks. He wanted to comfort them and give them life, but they didn’t want that, and there was nothing He could do to change it. God didn’t get His way.
In Ezekiel 22, God refers to Israel’s rebellion and the punishment that was due to come upon them because they had refused to walk in covenant with Him. Staying in obedience to their covenant was their protection against the curse in the earth that resulted from man’s sin. As long as they obeyed God, they were protected. But when they rebelled, the curse required punishment and sometimes destruction.
God said that He did not want that punishment and destruction to come on His people, and He sought for just one person to stand in the gap and intercede for the nation so that He could keep it from coming on them. But He says He could find no one to intercede, so He was forced to let the destruction come upon Israel. God didn’t get things to go His way.
Christians must remember that because God placed man in control on earth — and man then believed Satan’s lies and submitted to him — Satan has a legal right to operate on this earth until God shuts everything down, and starts anew. Jesus came as a man and bought back man’s right to rule on earth and turn things back over to God, but that didn’t move Satan off the planet. And God’s authority controls only as far as the church executes that authority. (For expanded explanation, see online appendix: directions on p. 53). So God has to allow some things to happen that He doesn’t want — because man allows those things to happen.
Many people think that God allows only what He wants to happen. Not true. If a man decides to murder another person, unless a believer is praying so that God can legally intervene and interrupt that act, He has to allow that person to commit murder. In the same way He has to allow drunkenness, adultery, greed, wars, pornography, and so on.
Now, coming back to Job. The devil tries to get God to do something evil to Job. One passage in chapter two says God accused Satan of trying to incite Him (tempt Him) to hurt Job. But being tempted does not mean that He submitted to that temptation. He did not.
What He said to Satan was what He was required to say legally at that point in man’s history. He said, “Behold, he is in your power.” That word power is the word for domain or kingdom. What God told the devil was, “I recognize that Job is in your domain, and you can do almost anything you want to him, but I forbid you to take his life.”
What does it mean to say Job was in Satan’s domain? Colossians 1:13 tells us that through Jesus’ work in believers’ hearts, God has been able to deliver them from the “domain of darkness to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” The “domain of darkness” is the kingdom, domain, or area in which Satan has rulership. Remember, until Jesus came and paid the price for sin, Satan had rulership in the entire earth. Even Jesus refers to him as the “prince of this world.” (John 14:30). (For expanded explanation, see online appendix: directions on p. 53).
So to begin with, Job is living in the domain ruled legally by Satan. Moreover, he has no active covenant relationship with God, no Bible, no prophetic words, and virtually no first-hand knowledge of God to fall back on. He mourns the fact that he has nothing in written form that will help him understand God. Out of ignorance, Job sees God as his adversary and says, “Behold, my desire is that the Almighty would answer me, and that mine adversary had written a book. Surely I would take it upon my shoulder, and bind it as a crown to me.” (Job 31:35-36).
This situation is made even worse by Job’s intense fear. He says himself that the catastrophes that have befallen him are the things he “greatly feared” would come upon him.
It’s easy to see some of that fear in operation concerning his children. Chapter one says that they liked to feast together,and that Job feared that when they were involved in those feasts, they might be sinning and cursing God. He spoke those fears out of his mouth, thereby giving them life and power. (Jesus said in Matthew 12 that men spoke out of what was in their hearts, and that those words brought forth real things. Proverbs 18: 21 says that life and death are in the power of the tongue.) Job was actually so afraid that something bad would happen to them that he made sacrifices for them regularly, hoping to stave off the evil that he feared they were courting.
Fear is a verb with an active component – like faith – and when it is in full force, it results in actions. Since Job says that the evil things that came upon him were his greatest fears, the reader can assume that he thought about them and talked about them consistently. That’s what humans do when they greatly fear something. Fear is actually a kind of reverse faith. It results from a person believing something so strongly that he acts and speaks accordingly, releasing the spiritual energy of that force of fear the way a person believing God’s Word releases the spiritual force of faith. There have even been scientific studies conducted and reports published that seem to bear out the theory that enough fear, when acted on, can actually open the door to that which was feared. (For specific references and more information, see The Power of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peale, Fawcett Columbine Edition, pp. 116, 144, 178 )
According to the Word of God, fear is an evil spirit, and when man activates it with his own mental and spiritual energy, he releases it to bring evil things into the natural realm where he lives. Allowing a spirit of fear to work in one’s life opens the door to other spirits and their work as well. That is why the Lord has been so faithful to tell the human race at least 365 times in His Word that they need to avoid fear.
Added to that problem was Job’s pride and his own ego, which got in his way of receiving greater accurate revelation about God and His character. However, that particular problem requires its own chapter and will be dealt with in a later section of this book. It is sufficient here to say that the result of all of these human frailties was that Job literally opened the door to all kinds of evil, and God, bound by His own Word and His commitment to abide by it, could not change the fact that this man had torn down any hedge of protection their might have been and allowed the devil the right to work in his life.
So God was not telling Satan, “Go ahead; I’m giving him into your power.” He was simply stepping back and acknowledging the legal facts that had Him bound. But because Job had evidently been faithful to God to the best of his knowledge at the time, God found enough ground to be able to require the devil to spare Job’s life.
And, of course, when the “mish-mash” of ignorant conversation by four men who knew nothing about what they were talking about finally came to an end, God was able to get Job into a faith mode by calling on him to pray for his friends. And as a result, God then had an open door to bless Job and restore great things to him. But that’s jumping ahead. There are a number of other fallacies in this story that discolor the character of God, and they need to be dealt with first. In the next chapter we will look at them in some detail.