26 February 2007

Test #3--Who Do You Belong To? (The book of Job)

Blessed be Your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where the streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's all that it should be
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

When we sing these words, there may be a natural tendency to focus on phrases like “blessed be your name when the sun’s shining down on me”, or “blessed be your name in the land that is plentiful”. But listen to what the writer of this song also says: “blessed be your name on the road marked with suffering. Though there’s pain in the offering, BLESSED BE YOUR NAME. BLESSED BE YOUR GLORIOUS NAME.” Some of the greatest heroes of the faith faced some of the greatest challenges. Jeremiah was charged with warning the people to repent from their evil. For which he was thrown in prison. Daniel refused to stop praying to GOD and was thrown into a cave full of lions. The apostle Paul preached Christ and Him crucified all throughout Greece, and suffered more than we could ever imagine. But they all had one thing in common: they never stopped praising GOD. In fact, they gloried in their suffering.

Listen to the words of the apostle Paul, in Romans 8:18—I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. So to any preacher who says that Christians don’t ever go through hard times, I would say they don’t know what they are missing. Because if we look to THIS life in THIS world—what a waste. THIS life and THIS world are temporary. But we have so much more to look forward to if we are, as it says in Titus 2:13—Waiting and looking for the [fulfillment, the realization of our] blessed hope, even the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus.

We’re finishing up a series on tests. We've seen how GOD will sometimes test our obedience by calling us to do something that gets us in way over hour heads, to see if we will trust Him to give us what we need to accomplish His will. We have also seen how GOD put Jonah through the test of a great storm to cure him of his disobedience, and grow his love for the LORD. Now we’re going to see, through Job, how GOD sometimes puts us through tests of our faith, not necessarily to see if we will perform a certain task, or even because of any disobedience on our part. Sometimes He simply wants to show Satan who we belong to. And sometimes, we end up finding out who we belong to. Turn to the beginning of the book of Job. We hear so many people say that s-and-so has “the patience of Job”. Sometimes I think that is overrated. Everybody has their limits, even this great man of GOD. We’re going to begin by finding out what kind of a man he was.

Verses 1-3.
There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. And seven sons and three daughters were born to him. Also, his possessions were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a very large household, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the East.

If he were alive today, he’d probably be worth more than the Wal-Mart family. No one was like this man. And not only was he wealthy beyond measure, but look in verse 1—he feared the LORD and shunned evil. With all his great wealth, he still put GOD first. Jesus tells us in Mark 10:25—“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Because, you see, when we are filled with abundance, it is easy to forget where—or rather, who—it comes from. Whenever we read from the story of Gideon, the reason GOD told him to send so many men home was "The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, 'My own hand has saved me.'" Job had not forgotten the one who blessed him with all that he had. He FEARED the LORD, and turned his back on evil. But, like so many of GOD’S saints, there came a time of testing. Now, a little bit about the word “testing”: GOD knows whether we will pass the test or not. But, GOD needs to remind Satan—and once in a while, us—who we belong to. Sometimes He gives us a test knowing we will fail.

Why would He do that? Two reasons: (1) So that we can see where we are lacking, and go to Him in prayer, asking Him to give us the strength we need to overcome that weakness. Because He knows our strengths and our weaknesses better than we do. (2) As a way of weeding out the false witnesses from his flock. You see, when some people profess to be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, they're not really doing it out of a pure heart. They may be doing it because they think it will make their lives easier. They think that GOD will rain down some financial windfall to boost their bank account. So GOD will set two paths before us. Deuteronomy 30:19—I lay before us life and death, blessing and cursing. Therefore, choose life that both you and your seed may live. Joshua 24:15—And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that [were] on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. GOD always lays out a choice for us, and gives us the choice of whether to do good, or do evil. And in verses 6-7 here, we see GOD getting ready to test His servant Job.

verses 6-8.
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. And the LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” So Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.” Then the LORD said to 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?”

One day when all the “sons of GOD”, or angels, came before the LORD, guess who else decided to join the crowd. And he tells GOD that he has been “walking to and fro…” basically, causing trouble. Satan still is walking to and fro and back and forth on the face of the earth. And if you don’t believe me just take a look out the window. But, there are many who, despite Satan’s efforts, will not be swayed to turn their back on GOD. But the devil’s very nature is to push boundaries. Look what he did with Eve in the Garden of Eden.

And he tells GOD in verses 9-11--"Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!"

But notice GOD’s response in verse 12--And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

He doesn’t take it away Himself, He lets Satan do it. James 1:13 says, Don't blame God when you are tempted! God cannot be tempted by evil, and he does not use evil to tempt others. He will let Satan tempt you, but He won't do it Himself. And in verses 13-18, Job loses his 7000 sheep, his 3000 camels, his 1000 oxen and 500 female donkeys, his house, his servants…and his children. When a great calamity comes to a family, and they lose their house in a fire, or their only child dies from some leukemia, or multiple sclerosis, there are always people who ask, or rather demand an answer to the question, “Where was GOD? Why did He let this happen?” they shake their fists. Some even stop believing. But one thing we always need to keep in mind is, like I said before, this world is temporary. This world is a fallen world. This world is an imperfect world. And it will be until Christ returns. We are going to go through times of pain and suffering. But how we respond tells the world—and Satan—who we belong to. And notice how Job responds. He has lost everything: Wealth, possessions, servants, and his children.

Verses 20-22.
Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.

Wow. Job is left with nothing but the shirt on his back, and he goes and tears that. And he does what? He WORSHIPS GOD. He puts his face to the ground, and praises Him!! He does not sin and he doesn’t blame GOD. He sits down, and, like the song, he says, “You give and take away. My heart will choose to say, ‘LORD blessed be Your name’.” Satan huffed and puffed and blew Job’s house down, but he didn’t accomplish his goal. So, at the beginning of chapter 2, on another day when the angels came before GOD, Satan comes with them. And when Satan gets his turn, I can almost imagine the smirk on GOD’s face.

Verse 3.
Then the LORD said to 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? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.”

Can't you just imagine GOD kinda leaning forward and getting indignant with Satan with that last sentence? Satan says, “Yeah, so what? A man will give up everything he has to save his own skin. But touch his skin and his bone, and then he’ll curse you.” Can't you almost see the sneer on his face when he says this? GOD says, “Go ahead. But let him live.” When we come to know the Lord Jesus Christ, and when we let Him be the King of our lives, GOD’s Holy Spirit comes to live in us, and we are immersed, or baptized, into that Holy Spirit. And it is by being immersed, or baptized, in that Holy Spirit that allows us to endure the pain and suffering of this present world with patience and hope, so that we can be an example to the rest of the world how to do the same. And sometimes GOD has to remind even Satan of that very fact.

Verses 7-9.
So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took for himself a potsherd with which to scrape himself while he sat in the midst of the ashes. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!”

A potsherd is a broken piece of pottery. I couldn’t imagine what that must have been like. To have boils form the bottom of your feet to the top of your head. How would one be comfortable? You couldn’t ay down, you couldn’t sit up, and you couldn’t stand. What would you do? This man, who had more wealth than 1000 men needed, is scraping sores off his feet with a broken flowerpot. And what’s his reply?

Verse 10.
But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

I’d like to hear Creflo Dollar comment on that verse. These preachers that go around saying that, as children of GOD, we are supposed to be healthy and wealthy, and prosperous, yet here is this man who WAS healthy and WAS wealthy and WAS prosperous reduced to less than abject poverty saying, "Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" So often, when things are going good—when we have what we need—it’s easy to praise GOD’s goodness. “Blessed be your name when the sun’s shining down on me. When the world’s all that it should be, blessed be Your name.” But, when things start to happen—we lose a job, our child gets sick, our spouse leaves—we can be tempted to, as Job’s wife said, “curse GOD and die.” But that is the world we live in.

We are led to believe by many influential people—authors, talk-show hosts, even preachers—that GOD exists to glorify us, instead of the other way around. GOD is not some magic genie that sits up in heaven waiting for us to snap our fingers so He can do our bidding. But that’s what we are told. To many people, prayer has become nothing more than a Christmas list, and if we ask for it, well by golly we better get it our we’ll stomp our feet and pout. We are commanded to pray. But, I believe that prayer is not about changing GOD’s mind, as much as it is about changing our hearts.

When Jesus taught us the “model prayer”, what many refer to as the “Lord’s prayer”, notice the things we are to pray for:

  • Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.—“blessed be your name”. The first thing we are taught to pray for is for GOD’s name to be blessed and glorified throughout all the earth.

  • Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven—may Your kingdom come to us, so that WE may perform YOUR will as the angels do in heaven.

  • Give us this day our daily bread.—Lord, anything we could ask for comes from you, whatever and however much You desire to give us.

  • And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.—may we have mercy on those who wrong us, so that You may have mercy upon us.

  • And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.—help us to not go astray, but help us to overcome evil that You may be glorified through us.

  • For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.—You are GOD forever and ever, and Your kingdom shall never end. AMEN

The earth is the LORD’s. Everything on the earth, in the earth, under the earth, belongs to the LORD. And like the song says, He gives and takes away. But blessed be the name of the LORD. Now, we see his friends come along. You’ve heard the phrase “With friends like this…” And over the course of the following chapters, Eliphaz, and Bildad, and Zophar, and Elihu, all search through their own knowledge, wisdom and understanding for a reason why this awful fate has befallen their friend Job. And while Job maintains that he is a righteous man, he doesn’t quite get to the heart of why this happened.

Job and his friends go back and forth, Job declaring his righteousness, his friends telling him there is some hidden sin he needs to repent from. But they all just kinda skim over the surface of the real source of Job’s problems. That sometimes, GOD simply lets bad things happen. In the book of Luke chapter 13, Jesus tells of 18 people who were killed when a tower fell on them. He asked, “Do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you no…” That’s about as deep as I can get on that subject. The World Trade Center, the tsunami, you name it. We live in a world corrupted by sin. And things won't get better. In fact, it says that before Christ returns, things will get worse. Now, that may not fill people with a lot of hope. But that’s why we shouldn’t put our hope in this world. We should be looking forward to what lies even further ahead. Listen to 2nd Corinthians 4:17-18—…our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. Job realizes this.

And in chapter 42, he tells GOD, “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld form You…I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know…I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes."

This man, who had been so admired by so many people, finally sees just how puny he really is, and gives all the glory to GOD. So what does GOD do? He restores what He let Satan take away…double—14000 sheep, 6000 camels, 2000 oxen, 1000 female donkeys. And also—7 sons and 3 daughters. When something comes along that shakes our faith, it’s so easy to be angry with GOD. In a song by Steven Curtis Chapman, he sings about a boy who died very young. It goes like this:

Never have I known anything so hard to understand
And never have I questioned more the wisdom of GOD’s plan
But through the cloud of tears I see the Father smile and say “well done”
And I imagine you where you wanted most to be
Seeing all your dreams come true
‘Cause now you're home and now you're free

GOD has a reason for everything He does, and everything He allows to happen. We don’t always know what it is. As they were nailing our Savior to the cross, even His closest friends did not know why. But we do. We know that His sacrifice, as sad and brutal as it was, has purchased for us everlasting life; and hope for a heaven where we will never feel pain or suffering ever again. And we will glorify the LORD our GOD forever and ever.

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