CHAPTER FOUR: RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE WORD
Another serious problem with the book of Job is that readers make the mistake of assuming that because a statement is made in the Bible, that statement has to be a truth — or it has to be something God agrees with. That idea is a fallacy, and it is also why God admonishes his people, as Paul did Timothy, to learn to “rightly divide the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Think about it: The Bible is full of stories of people who do not know God at all – some of whom even cursed Him and terrorized His followers. Those people are quoted in scripture so that the reader will know what they felt and how they acted. But everything they said is not a fact — nor is it something God wants his followers to believe. The statements of these people are truly reported — but they are not statements of truth.
It is incumbent upon any Christian who really wants to know God and become like Him to learn to determine which statements in scripture are simply statements relating events or other people’s opinions or words — and which statements are God’s covenant principles and promises. Only those statements that are God’s own personal statements to man concerning His plans for man’s salvation and His principles of interacting with man are to be taken as His truth. Those are the statements upon which people must build their relationship with God and upon which they can rely confidently for their future in eternity.
The book of Job is full of statements – by Job, his wife, and all of his friends – which are definitely not truths. They are not accurate in the least, but are the product of their finite human reasoning, trying to explain the Creator of the universe and His ways. And even that reasoning is founded in basic ignorance of the spiritual realm and the Creator of the universe. They may have been intelligent men, but intelligence makes no difference if the information necessary to understanding isn’t available. A man can be a genius, yet have no access to true information concerning a subject or a circumstance upon which to base any judgments or decisions, so he is ignorant concerning that particular subject.
That Job and his friends were ignorant concerning God and His ways with man is clearly evident. In fact, this study of Job does not begin to have room to deal with all of the statements made by these men which are totally dis-proven when Jesus comes on the scene in the New Testament. But for the sake of clarity, this chapter will deal with a few of them.
In chapter one, after Job receives the last report concerning all of his losses, he makes the following statement: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” This particular passage has been accepted into the mainstream of Christendom, quoted, slobbered over, included in thousands of funeral services, and even used to supposedly “console” grieving survivors concerning the loss of their loved ones. The problem is that in the mind set of most Christians, a statement like this one sounds “holy.” It amounts to another way of saying, “Well, God is in control, and He knows best.” Or another way of saying, “None of this would have happened if God hadn’t wanted it to.”
But the truth is — Wait —
Does the church want the truth? Perhaps now is the time to ask that question. Do the majority of Christians really want to know the truth? Because if they do recognize that truth — that God is not always in control because He has chosen to give man some control through the covenant — then the Christians are going to have to stop using that verse as a cop-out. They are going to have to step back and say, “Wait a minute. I have a part to play in this. The devil has a part to play in this. What does my covenant say? Have I failed to learn how to walk in that covenant correctly? What does the promise of God say? Is there a condition required by that promise that I have failed to meet?”
Knowing the real truth makes the Christian responsible for a whole lot more than he’s responsible for if he can always toss off some serious loss of a blessing by saying, “Oh, well, the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away whenever He wants to. I have nothing to do with it.”
Well, where does one go for the truth in this instance? The same place God sends His people for every answer: to Jesus Christ. Jesus was quite explicit when He was teaching His followers how to recognize their God — versus their enemy. He said, in John 10:10: “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
It couldn’t be any more clear. Jesus has, in two sentences, rightly divided the Word of God and drawn the battle lines. He — representing all that God is — has come to give life only, and that in abundance. The thief is the one who steals, kills, and destroys. The devil is described as a liar and a thief at other places in scripture, so his identity should be clear to any student of the Bible. The reader also needs to bear in mind that even losses due to destruction caused by elements of nature are the result of the enemy’s interference in those forces. Because the devil has a right to operate on earth (including its atmosphere) — and because he is a spiritual being and knows how to use spiritual power — he can make use of natural elements for his own destructive ends.
To sum it up simply, if the Christian — or anyone else — is experiencing loss as a result of having something stolen, something killed, or something destroyed, Jesus says God didn’t do it. So when Job says, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away,” is his statement true? It cannot be true! Either Job is wrong, or Jesus is wrong. That decision shouldn’t take more than one second to make. “Well, then,” the reader may ask, “does that mean the Bible is wrong?” No. The Bible has truly reported Job’s statement. But Job was wrong! His statement itself is the result of Job’s ignorance concerning who gives and who takes away.
Job himself makes it clear that he is in ignorance because he says in chapter 9, verse 24, “The earth is given into the hand of the wicked; He covers the faces of its judges so that they are blinded to justice. If it is not God, who then is it responsible for all this inequality?” (Amplified Bible). Job is at least honest at this point. He says, “If God isn’t the one responsible for everything being the way it is, then who is?” He honestly doesn’t know. So he assumes that his opinion is correct. This attitude has been man’s downfall in all generations when he has tried to explain and understand God by his own finite mind.
Job is missing two very important bits of information here. First of all, he has given absolutely no consideration to the fact that he has an enemy in power on the earth: Satan. He evidently has no knowledge of Satan — or he has become like so many modern Christians — and would rather ignore him and blame God for everything. Moreover, while Job recognizes that the earth has been given into the hand of the wicked, he doesn’t recognize that it was man — not God — who handed the earth over to Satan and his forces. Job seems to be in ignorance concerning the sin in the garden, by which man chose to disobey God and submit to Satan, thereby giving him a legal right to take control in the earth. God had given man the legal control of the planet, telling Adam and Eve clearly to “rule” over every creature and to “subdue the earth” — bring it into subjection to their authority and control.
Since Adam and Eve chose not to rule over the serpent, but to believe him and obey his admonition, thereby rebelling against God, they subjugated themselves and their domain to him and his power. Job seems unaware of this fact, but he is definitely aware of the consequences of it: the fact that the earth is, at the time of Job’s life, in the hands of the wicked. (Until such time as Jesus came as a human being to win back that rulership for the human race and for God.)
But Job blames God. Moreover, he says in the two verses above verse 24, “God destroys the blameless and the wicked,” and then goes on to add, “He mocks at the calamity and trial of the innocent.” Not so. Whether Abraham was a contemporary of Job or a forerunner, his experience with God, in covenant, was that God would not slay the innocent with the wicked, nor would He laugh at their calamity. In fact Abraham had a long talk with the Lord about that very subject when the future of Sodom was at stake, and Abraham, who had a better understanding than Job concerning God, made a point to the Lord that he was sure God would not slay the innocent with the wicked. (Genesis 18:25).
David has something to say on this subject as well. God identifies David in words that He uses for no other major spiritual leader in scripture: He says David is “a man after My own heart.” (Acts 13:22).Now here’s a man who had spent years out in the fields as a shepherd, communing with God, and as a result, penning hundreds of psalms describing God and His relationship with man.
In Psalm 91, David gives an incredibly detailed account of how all-encompassing God’s protection is for those of His creation who keep themselves in an intimate relationship with Him (dwelling “in His secret place” and “under His shadow”). Like any of the promises of God, these promises have provisions. Man must, first of all, know that the promises exist; then he must believe them enough to make sure he meets the provisions; then he must activate his faith in receiving and applying those promises to his own individual life.
That’s the process by which every believer received the new birth experience. He heard the promise that he could be saved by calling on Jesus and His finished work; he obeyed the provisions of that promise; then he applied it to his life by faith, accepting the fact that he was now a child of God. He spoke it out of his mouth and lived daily in agreement with the Word of God concerning his salvation. So it is with all of God’s promises.
And according to Psalm 91, the man who will believe the words of this Psalm and apply them to himself by his lifestyle and his own words — who will put himself and keep himself in intimate relationship with God — will be kept from terror, attack from his enemies, pestilence, sudden death, and all kinds of plagues and calamity. Moreover, the Lord will deliver him from all trouble.
And as far as Job’s statement that God “slays the innocent with the wicked,” is concerned, this Psalm written by the “man after God’s own heart” says to the innocent and Godly man: “a thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not come near you.”
Now, if all of the promises in Psalm 91 are true, something’s wrong in Job’s life. He must not have been in that intimate relationship with God. In fact, according to him, he didn’t even know about any of these promises, and he obviously didn’t believe for them to come to pass in his life, because he says he was continuously fearful — even greatly fearful — so his lifestyle and his words could not have lined up with these words of God. And, once again, it is important to cite that Job seems to have had absolutely no written record of anything God had said or done concerning a covenant relationship with man.
One of Job’s other frequent complaints is that when he calls to God, God will not answer him. He says this a number of times in different ways, but, here again, his statements are diametrically opposed to everything else in scripture that is a promise or covenant principle set forth by God Himself. Again, in Psalm 91, God addresses this issue with these words: “He shall call upon me, and I will answer him.” Another similar promise is found in Jeremiah 19:12-13: “Then shall ye call upon me and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”
David has something else to say, in Psalm 41, that counters another of Job’s complaints that was rooted in ignorance of God. Job refers to himself in chapter 29 as a person who faithfully took care of the poor, the fatherless, the widows, the blind, and the lame. If that had been true, and he had been in a covenant relationship with God as David was, he would have known God’s promise to give special care and protection to the people who did those things. David talks, in Psalm 41, about how God treats the man or woman who specifically cares for the poor, the weak, and the sick. That Psalm says the Lord will deliver that man in the day of trouble, He will protect him and keep him alive, and He will refuse to give him over to the desire of his enemies. But Job is in total ignorance of a God like that.
These few examples are, by no means, the complete picture of Job’s total misunderstanding of the situation he’s in. He consistently accuses God of being his enemy and the perpetrator of all that is darkness, hardship, and evil in his experiences. But every time, the problem is rooted in his lack of knowledge and understanding, lack of intimate relationship, and, ultimately, lack of covenant with God.
To be sure, Job says a few things that are correct. In spite of all he believes God has done to hurt him, he still seems to have some degree of understanding that this God will be the only one who can deliver him and will also be the only one who will control where Job spends eternity. He refers to the fact that he knows that his “Redeemer” lives, and that he will eventually see Him when this fleshly life has come to an end.(Job 19:25).
And it is also true that the Word says that even in Job’s ignorant responses, he did not act in a way that was considered sinful. Job 1:22 says, “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” That word “charged” means to attribute folly to someone. So the indication is that, although Job accused God of doing evil, he did so out of honest ignorance and refused to judge God as evil or hold Him guilty of wrongdoing. Therefore, even though Job is wrong in his estimation of God, he is not held guilty of deliberately rebelling against Him or blaspheming Him.
But the reader needs to be careful not to take this statement as an indication that Job is correct in his judgment of God. Another similar statement comes close to the end of the book when God speaks to Job’s friends and says, “Ye have not spoken of Me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.” (Job 42:7). But God does not say this about Job until Job himself has changed his tune completely — and then only after God spent four chapters worth of time getting him straightened out.
When all is said and done, Job spends the vast majority of his time doing exactly what Elihu accuses him of in chapter 35, verse 16: “Therefore doth Job open his mouth in vain; he multiplieth words without knowledge.”
The following chapter will continue this detailed look into some more problematic passages.