Forget Wikileaks. The Ultimate Playbook is Revealed

Besides Leviticus, Job is the LAST book I ever wanted to read in the Bible. You know the story, right? Job's life is good, God takes it all away...blah, blah, blah. Job gets everything back. Right?

Nope. Not even close. Let me first apologize to God for having it all wrong.
I also have to apologize for my reluctance, because the book of Job is actually one of the most important books I've read in the Bible. I knew God wanted me to read it...it kept popping into my mind. But I was reluctant. Check the dates between blog posts to see just how reluctant I was.

Here's the real plot in a nutshell. God points out to Satan how obedient Job is to Him. Satan replies Job's obedience stems from Job's prosperity. God allows Satan to take everything Job has, but Job remains true to God.

God says, "See? I told you. Job is the bomb-diggety." Satan insists Job's continued faithfulness is because he's still got his health. Job isn't physically suffering. So, God allows Satan to afflict Job in the most awful ways, but not kill him. Job is in a bad way...dead family, lost possessions, no friends, and oozing sores on his body. His lovely wife suggests he should curse God so he can just get the smiting over with. What a peach.

In the very next paragraph, three of Job's friends visit him, ostensibly to offer comfort. But the proximity of Satan's second request to really stick it to Job, and the entrance of his so-called friends, makes me think Satan was about to use these guys to afflict Job on the final front: his tight relationship with God.

Take a man's hope away, and he can be destroyed quickly. War mongers have known this for years. Psychological warfare is real, folks.


The friends enter into conversation with Job, each talking about how great God is. Conveniently, they all leave out any discussion about mercy, kindness, love, redemption, compassion, long-suffering. And, they each accuse Job of being a terrible sinner.


Hmmmm. Let's take a closer look at these dudes. Something's fishy.

Eliphaz means "My God Is Skill." He tells Job how great God is, a half-truth, and that God essentially has no reason to love mankind. God is huge, powerful, way too cool and important to have to be nice to the likes of us.

Bildad is next up at bat. His name means Baal or Bel Has Loved. If you don't know who Baal or Bel are, take a moment to Google it.
Bildad says mankind is stupid, worms, scum. We'll never be good enough for God, and Job is even worse than everyone else, so how could God possibly love him?

Finally, Zophar, bats clean-up to end this game. His name means Pleasing Words or Insolence. Weird juxtaposition, right? But instead of trying to reconcile the definitions of those names, think Smooth Talker. He's someone who's gifted at verbal manipulation. Zophar insists Job doesn't know as much as he thinks, and should leave the thinking to him and the team of experts. After eroding Job's confidence, Zophar strikes the final blow, telling Job that God won't even listen to his prayers for mercy until Job first becomes a better person. Wow.


The whole time, Job is insisting that God is the one tormenting him, not Satan. He's mad,
he's hurt, and he's not getting any comfort from these friends, either. In fact, they each accuse Job of being a terrible person, maybe even in secret. And most troublesome, all three of these guys use Job's affliction as proof positive that he is, indeed, a very bad man, playing on Job's fears.

Job insists he's righteous, over and over. And, he really was a good guy. I mean, except for the part about blaming God for his affliction. You know, the blasphemy part.

After much ado, a guy named Elihu suddenly speaks up. I didn't even know there was a fourth guy, did you? He wasn't mentioned in the earlier chapter where Satan opens up the hurt locker on Job. Where did he come from?
 

Fun fact: Elihu is another way of saying Elijah, which means He is My God. Elihu says he was keeping quiet because he figured these wise old friends knew more than he did. But he just can't take any more of their nonsense. Elihu fills in many of the blanks about God's character that the other guys left out. 

Elihu is angry at the three pals for not offering anything good to poor Job. But, he's also angry at Job for justifying himself to God, insisting he's a great guy and God is afflicting him unfairly. (This is where I got that crazy notion God was tormenting Job. From Job, himself.)

Today, Job would be that guy who recycles, eschews styrofoam, drives a Prius, eats sustainable seafood, shops at Whole Foods, drives the speed limit, uses gray water in his organic garden, plays in the park with his kids, donates to charity, and votes for every single initiative that supports firefighters and teachers. He doesn't even have cavities.
He's pretty darned awesome.  

Here's the hard truth. Like Job, we sure love to justify ourselves. And that's what leaves us so vulnerable to the moves of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. The devil has been studying us, and knows where our defenses are weakest. Are your defenses open?

Do you want to know how the game ended? God addressed Job's erroneous thinking. He also let the false friends know they had incurred God's wrath. Wrath, not anger.

Job responds simply and finally with a little humility, no longer trying to justify himself in his own right:

"I'm sorry, God. You are great and I am a sinner, no matter how nice I've been. What you offer me is love, not condemnation. You are the only one who can offer redemption*." That's what repentance looks like. Those are also all the elements of the sinner's prayer. Imagine that. It's like God is trying to tell us something through Job's story.

Remember God's wrath against the guys who worked so hard to draw Job away from God? Do you think he rained hellfire on them? Gave them eternal damnation? They deserved it, you know, with all that smack talk about God they offered instead of love and encouragement. Pretty sure they were in league with the devil on this one.

But God didn't smite anyone. Instead, he asked Job to pray for his friends, so that they, too, would be reconciled to God. Now that is love.

Listen carefully, readers. Consider that the message these friends gave Job is how the enemy tries to separate us from God. It's the playbook of his long game

  • Making people believe that God is scary and punitive
  • Telling us how insignificant and disgusting we are
  • Assuring us that God won't even listen to our cry for forgiveness until we've made ourselves good enough for Him to care
At the very end of the story, God restored Job's children, and gave everything back to Job - times two.

Readers, win the game. It should be easier, now that you know what to watch for.





*In Job 19: 25-29 Job speaks about his Redeemer. This takes place right after Bildad (Baal has Loved) takes another shot at him, and Bildad is the only friend who takes an extra swing at Job. This isn't a coincidence. The Redeemer whose arrival he awaits is Jesus.

Comments

  1. just Beautiful....how great is our God to offer us His forgiveness when we are so guilty ..what Great Love is this?? nothing that i can replicate....i fail time and time again. Thank You Father for sending your Son to show me your Great Love for me and for dying in my place.. a place i so deserve. Thank you that you are so great and so merciful that we can run to you and be forgiven and loved... i love you.

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