*Good Friday morning. I hope you are having a great day. Today we begin looking into the Book of Job. Many struggle reading this book, but we are going to have fun with it. There is much to discuss in this long book, and more than just how Job suffered. We will dive deep into theology as we move forward. So, I hope you enjoy our time spent with Job.

"In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East." (Job 1:1--3)

From the very beginning it appears to me that the author jinxes Job. Now, was the statement "he was the greatest man among all the people of the East" a statement of fact, or opinion? In school we would have been taught, and I remember teaching it, the difference between fact and opinion. I can say that Bob is the greatest person in the world, but then someone else could argue that Tom is the greatest person in the world. What is this all based on? It is based on how I view Bob and how the other views Tom. Others may know a lot more about Bob and Tom and declare them to be scoundrels. It appears that the statement about "Job being the best" is setting up the story. At the same time the information about the "wealth" of Job is also given for the same reason.

"One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, 'Where have you come from?' Satan answered the Lord, 'From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.' Then the Lord said to Satan, 'Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.'" (Job 1:6-8)

The scripture above and that which immediately follows is often confusing and problematic for many people. Why is Satan with the angels coming before God? And, if you noticed God was expecting Satan at the meeting, and Satan showed up late. God wonders what Satan's excuse was. Now, pay close attention to this. When Satan answered that he had been roaming the earth, God seemingly understood why he was roaming the earth. God asks, "Have you considered my servant Job?" O.K., what is this about?

The scene appears to be a council meeting. When we have council meetings there are people assigned to various roles. We have a treasurer who reports on money, and how much we have or do not have. We have a financial secretary and chairperson who tell us what we can or can not spend. We have a secretary who takes notes, and a chairperson who leads the meeting, along with other officers. They attend the meeting as a representative of their office in the church. It appears that God's royal council each have particular roles. I would suggest that Satan serves as the prosecution. In other passages in the Bible Satan is the accuser and the adversary (Zec.3:1-10). I think that is what he is doing. Why is Satan in heaven? Well, keep in mind several things. One, Satan was created by God as an angel. Satan fell from heaven after he declared he would be exalted above God. Along the way in our journey together I have also said that the Bible is not in chronological order. I actually believe that Job should have been listed after Proverbs. (More on that later) And, do you remember from back in the Book of Genesis that I argued that the royal council (heavenly council) may have been the "us" God was referring to when God said "Let us make man in our image.?" (Gen. 1:26) Now, what follows is even more troubling.

"'Does Job fear God for nothing?' Satan replied. 'Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.' The Lord said to Satan, 'Very well, then, everything he has is inn your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.' Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord." (Job 1:9-10a,11-12)

I don't know how else you can describe this other than "a friendly eager." I know there will be those who will argue that God wouldn't do such thing, but my friend, it is right before us. Satan tells God that the only reason Job is who he is and as faithful as he is, is because God has blessed him. If God takes it all away, then Job will curse him so fast it will make God's head spin. (He didn't say it like that, but the meaning is there) Now, this begs the question: Did Satan have a degree in human psychology? Satan seems to have a good understanding of human motivation. Satan's argument is that it is easy to serve when all is going well. God simply says, "fine, we will see about that."

To begin with, God only gives Satan permission to attack Job's possessions. The only problem is: what was included in his possessions? Yep, his sons and his daughters. They were killed, and all but one servant was killed, and his livestock either stolen or destroyed. Wow! In the past something like this would only befall a person at God's hand if that person had sinned and opened the door to God's wrath. Here, it happens as a result of a discussion between God and Satan. Job has lost everything (except his loving wife who we will get to later). The question is: How will he respond?

Before we get to Job's response there are a few things we need to discuss. Throughout this study we will be looking at how we deal with loss and suffering, and our theology in regards to it. We will deal with the question: Why do bad things happen to good people? We will also discuss within all this just how we should respond to others who are going through trials. (And what not to say) This will be a very important study. Although we wont cover every chapter we will take our time with this wonderful book that I believe is one of the most important books in the Bible when it comes to theology. We have a lot to look forward to in this study. For now, back to Job.

'"At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.' In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing." (Job 1:20-22)

This passage is a common passage that is read at funerals. It is one of my favorites for a funeral service. In the past when I gave my funeral messages titles I used the title "The Gift, The Grief and The Glory" for this passage. In fact, I used this passage for the second funeral I ever preached. I can't remember the first one, and the second one was perhaps to this day one of the largest funerals I every conducted. (and when we discovered that Melody was pregnant with out son Zac) But, enough of my reminiscing. Job gives God praise, for as he sees it, everything that was taken was given to him as a gift from God. God had the right to take it back. Really? Can't you just picture Satan's face? Satan is probably thinking, "Well, that didn't work."

Monday, we will look at plan "B." You won't want to miss any of this study. I hope you have a great weekend. This Sunday we will not only take holy communion, but we will finish a sermon series called 'Hooked on a Feeling." (Yes, based on the old song) Join us if you can. God Bless! -Pastor Rick

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