Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Phyllis, Hayley, and Ultimate Truth (part 4)

Here’s an illustration of the way God reveals certain spiritual truths to us that we could not have figured out on our own. 

Job's Perplexing Case of Suffering

The book of Job tells the story of how Job lost all his possessions and all his children in one day. However, he did not curse God. Then he lost his health. Still, he did not curse God. Job’s friends came to comfort him, and they spent about 35 chapters arguing about whether Job did anything wrong to cause this suffering to come upon him. It went something like this.

Job’s friends: “Job, this has come to pass in your life because you have done something wront.”

Job: “No, I’m innocent.”

Friends: “You must have done something wrong, or this wouldn’t have happened to you.”

Job: “No, I’m really innocent.”

Friends: “We know that good happens to the righteous, and evil happens to the wicked. Why don’t you take the shortcut to relief and just repent?”

Job: “I can’t repent of something I haven’t done. I’m innocent.”

Friends: “Even though it may initially look like the wicked are getting away with their deeds, it always catches up to them in the end. Come on, confess what you did. If you repent, God will surely forgive you.”

Job: “You’re wrong to accuse me like this. What miserable comforters you are. I didn’t do anything to do this. I wish I was never born.”

Friends: “If you would just turn away from the evil that you’re obviously hiding, things might start looking up for you.
Job: “I wouldn’t treat you like this if I was in your place. I haven’t done anything wrong, and I wish I could bring my case before God and file a complaint.

They just go around and around in circles and don’t get anywhere until God enters the conversation.

Notice why they were stuck: Both Job and his friends had an incomplete picture of reality. They had lived long enough to see that God’s pattern was to bless the righteous and to punish the wicked. As far as they knew, God's nature was unchanging, so this principle held absolutely. Then they encountered Job and something didn’t match up. Something didn’t make sense. However, instead of looking to see if this strange bit of incoming data about Job could possibly be a sign that they needed to alter their own idea about reality, they just assumed that their inner reality meter was right and that Job must have sinned, and that he must be lying about it to cover it up. They were missing a key piece of data. They needed to update their inner reality meter with a puzzle piece that would make the situation make sense. And this key piece of information was something they probably could not have figured out without divine intervention. Fortunately, God came through for them and told them what it was.

The key was God’s glory. God was getting glory in the heavenly realms by Job’s faithfulness. God was boasting to Satan, in effect, “I have a servant down there who loves me so completely that he will continue to trust me, even when bad things happen to him.” Satan doubted the possibility of this, but God vindicated Himself, for Job’s response was, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” God got glory. All the angelic and demonic powers probably took a collective gasp at Job’s words. “God, how did you do that?” they probably all wondered.

When the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, he essentially said, “Where were you and who are you and how much glory do you have compared to mine? Deck yourself with your glory and see if you compare to me.” Job, on seeing this vision of God’s glory, had no more thought of lodging a complaint, and responded, “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."

God was using Job's experience to expand on and correct Job's and his friends' inner reality meters. They were right to a certain extent, because it's true that in general, God blesses the righteous and curses the wicked. (We see that ultimately, this pattern held true in Job's life, because at the end of the story, he gets everything back double.) But they were unaware of another factor that could trump this order of things. That factor was God's glory. If God was getting glory, things on earth might seem to be going all haywire for a season. This would look random and senseless from earth's perspective, because no one saw the scene that took place in God's throne room. Without divine revelation, we couldn't know that was happening. How could we know, without being told, that we as humans could be held up as a spectacle on display for all the witnesses of heaven and hell?

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