*Good morning. I apologize for not posting the previous two days. I was blessed to be able to take my son to see the Pittsburg Pirates verses the Detroit Tigers in Pittsburg. It was his first major league baseball game. He enjoyed it and so did I. I don't think he realized just how big Pittsburg was. It's good to be back at work, so let's get started back on the Book of Job.
"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. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.' 'Skin for skin! Satan replied. A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and he will surely curse you to your face.' The Lord said to Satan, 'Very well, then he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.'" (Job 2:3:-6)
Last week we discovered that the Lord and Satan seemingly embarked on a friendly wager to determine if Job was only "upright and blameless" because God had blessed him. The question was: "Would a man like Job curse God like anyone else, if God removed the hedge of protection from him?" What if Job lost everything? The wager (or experiment) began with God ordering Satan not to harm Job personally. So, Job lost everything including his children. (No harm came to his wife) Job still remained true to form. Satan is not finished. He ups the ante. "Come, on Lord, let's see how he really is!" He demands. What is troubling here is that God gives in by simply saying, "O.K., fine. Just don't kill him." What? Yes, I have studied this many times, but I still struggle with this.
In just a short time (although we are never given a timeline in Job at all) Job suffers bereavement, bankruptcy and boils. "Satan...afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head." (Job 2:7) This is all new for Job. His suffering is seemingly so intense that Job's "loving" wife instructs him to "curse God and die." (Job 2:9)
We are now going to be introduced to a whole new cast of characters. They are going to help us embark on a theological discussion. We are going to hopefully learn what to say and what not to say when "bad things do happen to good people." The first character is, of course, Job's wife. The wife is never given a name in this book. Nor, is she portrayed as being a grieving mother, even though she shared in the loss of the children. However, Job's response to her indicates that she shared in the suffering to an extent. Job asked: "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" (Job 2:10) We can assume that she did not suffer from the same physical infirmities that Job suffered from, but simply the loss of children and wealth. No, this is concerned with Job's handling of his own issues. She suggests that he just "give up his integrity" by cursing God and dying. Then we are introduced to Job's friends.
"When Job's three friends (we'll look at their names later)...heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. " (Job 2:11-13)
As you probably expect my job (or calling) takes me into various situations. Some of the situations are not for the faint of heart. (I learned the hard way not to take my wife into these situations) I have leaned to take just a moment to prepare myself before barging into a situation. The last thing that I would want to do would be to go into an emergency room, look at the patient and say, "Oh My! Oh...Oh...(you can get the idea) These friends of Job were not prepared. They saw how bad he was and embarked on a ritual for the dead. Yep, they were having his funeral before he even died. That's how bad he appeared to them. However, while their initial reaction was over the top, their next reaction was perhaps their best of all. They sat with him for seven days and seven nights without saying a word.
Whenever something bad happens to a friend or loved one we often want to be a help to them. As a preacher I often think that I have to say something. (others expect me to say something too) But, it's not just preachers who are like this; We all are. We just feel that we always have to say something. Let me tell you; Talk is over rated. Sometimes the more we say the worse we make things. Sometimes when we say anything at all, we only make things worse. These friends "initially" just sit with their friend. Let me ask you; when someone is suffering (whatever the cause may be) what good will words do compared to a loving touch? Words can promise that "I'm here for you, just holler if you need anything!" while physical presence is proof that "I'm here for you, you are all that matters at this time."
Well, I don't want to get into the conversations between Job and the friends until tomorrow. That will take some time, and will be critically important. I do want to go back to the dialogue between God and Satan. We have to ask some difficult questions, especially as we embark on our own theological discussion. How responsible was God for Job's suffering? By allowing it to happen did God cause it? I ask that in response to the question that is often asked; 'Why do bad things happen to good people?" Does God cause these things to happen? When a child dies, did God do it? These are difficult questions. They are questions that people deal with in real life on a daily basis. So, when a child is taken unexpectedly do we try to comfort the grieving family by saying: "Oh, you know...God just needed another flower for his heavenly garden, or another angel to look over you...or..." (Spoiler alert! That is theology at its WORST!!! Don't ever say that!!!!)
The conversation between Satan and the Lord ends in chapter two. What will be interesting is, Satan is never viewed in this entire book as being the bad guy. Tomorrow, the three friends "unfortunately" end their silence. They begin to try to make sense of what is happening to their friend. This will be interesting. Please join me tomorrow. -Pastor Rick