God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II (Part Three)
From the beginning until today, only man has been capable of conversing with God. That is, among all living things and creatures of God, none but man has been able to converse with God. Man has ears that enable him to hear, and eyes that let him see, he has language, and his own ideas, and free will. He is possessed of all that is required to hear God speak, and understand God’s will, and accept God’s commission, and so God confers all His wishes upon man, wanting to make man a companion who is of the same mind with Him and who can walk with Him. Since He began to manage, God has been waiting for man to give his heart to Him, to let God purify and equip it, to make him satisfactory to God and loved by God, to make him revere God and shun evil. God has ever looked forward to and awaited this outcome. Are there any such people among the records of the Bible? That is, are there any in the Bible capable of giving their hearts to God? Is there any precedent before this age? Today, let us continue reading the accounts of the Bible and take a look at whether what was done by this figure—Job—has any connection to the topic of “giving your heart to God” that we’re talking about today. Let us see whether Job was satisfactory to God and loved by God.
What is your impression of Job? Citing original scripture, some people say that Job “feared God, and eschewed evil.” “Feared God, and eschewed evil”: Such is the original assessment of Job recorded in the Bible. If you used your own words, how would you pin down Job? Some people say that Job was a good and reasonable man; some say that he had true faith in God; some say that Job was a righteous and humane man. You have seen the faith of Job, which is to say, in your hearts you attach great importance to and are envious of Job’s faith. Today, then, let us look at what was possessed by Job that God is pleased with him so. Next, let us read the scriptures below.
1. Assessments of Job by God and in the Bible
(Job 1:1) There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.
(Job 1:5) And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.
(Job 1:8) And the LORD said to Satan, Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and eschews evil?
What is the key point that you see in these passages? These three brief passages of scripture all relate to Job. Though short, they clearly state what kind of person he was. Through their description of Job’s everyday behavior and his conduct, they tell everyone that, rather than being groundless, God’s assessment of Job was well-founded. They tell us that whether it be man’s appraisal of Job (Job 1:1), or God’s appraisal of him (Job 1:8), both are the result of Job’s deeds before God and man (Job 1:5).
First, let us read passage number one: “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” The first assessment of Job in the Bible, this sentence is the author’s appraisal of Job. Naturally, it also represents man’s assessment of Job, which is “that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” Next, let us read of God’s assessment of Job: “there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and eschews evil” (Job 1:8). Of the two, one came from man, and one originated from God; they are two assessments with the same content. It can be seen, then, that Job’s behavior and conduct were known to man, and were also praised by God. In other words, Job’s conduct before man and his conduct before God were the same; he laid his behavior and motivation before God at all times, so that they might be observed by God, and he was one that feared God and shunned evil. Thus, in the eyes of God, of the people on earth only Job was perfect and upright, and one that feared God and shunned evil.
Specific Manifestations of Job’s Fear of God and Shunning of Evil in His Daily Life
Next, let us look at specific manifestations of Job’s fear of God and shunning of evil. In addition to the passages that precede and follow it, let us also read Job 1:5, which is one of the specific manifestations of Job’s fear of God and shunning of evil. It relates to how he feared God and shunned evil in his daily life; most prominently, he not only did as he ought to do for the sake of his own fear of God and shunning of evil, but also regularly sacrificed burnt offerings before God on behalf of his sons. He was afraid that they had often “sinned, and cursed God in their hearts” while feasting. And how was this fear manifested in Job? The original text gives the following account: “And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all.” Job’s conduct shows us that, rather than being manifested in his outward behavior, his fear of God came from within his heart, and that his fear of God could be found in every aspect of his daily life, at all times, for he not only shunned evil himself, but often sacrificed burnt offerings on behalf of his sons. In other words, Job was not only deeply afraid of sinning against God and renouncing God in his own heart, but also worried that his sons sinned against God and renounced Him in their hearts. From this can be seen that the truth of Job’s fear of God stands up to scrutiny, and is beyond the doubt of any man. Did he do thus occasionally, or frequently? The final sentence of the text is “Thus did Job continually.” The meaning of these words is that Job did not go and look in on his sons occasionally, or when it pleased him, nor did he confess to God through prayer. Instead, he regularly sent and sanctified his sons, and sacrificed burnt offerings for them. The “continually” here does not mean he did so for one or two days, or for a moment. It is saying that the manifestation of Job’s fear of God was not temporary, and did not stop at knowledge, or spoken words; instead, the way of fearing God and shunning evil guided his heart, it dictated his behavior, and it was, in his heart, the root of his existence. That he did so continually shows that, in his heart, he often feared that he himself would sin against God and was also afraid that his sons and daughters sinned against God. It represents just how much weight the way of fearing God and shunning evil carried within his heart. He did thus continually because, in his heart, he was frightened and afraid—afraid that he had committed evil and sinned against God, and that he had deviated from the way of God and so was unable to satisfy God. And at the same time, he also worried about his sons and daughters, fearing that they had offended God. Thus was Job’s normal conduct in his everyday life. It is precisely this normal conduct which proves that Job’s fear of God and shunning of evil are not empty words, that Job truly lived out such reality. “Thus did Job continually”: these words tell us of Job’s everyday deeds before God. When he did thus continually, did his behavior and his heart reach before God? In other words, was God often pleased with his heart and his behavior? Then, under what circumstances and in what context did Job do thus continually? Some people say that it was because God frequently appeared to Job that he acted so; some say that he did thus continually because he would shun evil; and some say that perhaps he thought that his fortune had not come easily, and he knew that it had been bestowed upon him by God, and so he was deeply afraid of losing his property as a result of sinning against or offending God. Are any of these claims true? Clearly not. For, in the eyes of God, what God accepted and cherished most about Job was not just that he did thus continually; more than that, it was his conduct before God, man, and Satan when he was handed over to Satan and tempted. The sections below offer the most convincing evidence, evidence which shows us the truth of God’s assessment of Job. Next, let us read the following passages of scripture.
2. Satan Tempts Job for the First Time (His Livestock Is Stolen and Calamity Befalls His Children)
a. The Words Spoken by God
(Job 1:8) And the LORD said to Satan, Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and eschews evil?
(Job 1:12) And the LORD said to Satan, Behold, all that he has is in your power; only on himself put not forth your hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.
b. Satan’s Reply
(Job 1:9-11) Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Does Job fear God for nothing? Have not you made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he has on every side? you have blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.
God Permits Satan to Tempt Job so That Job’s Faith Will Be Made Perfect
Job 1:8 is the first record that we see in the Bible of an exchange between Jehovah God and Satan. And what did God say? The original text provides the following account: “And the LORD said to Satan, Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and eschews evil?” This was God’s assessment of Job before Satan; God said that he was a perfect and an upright man, one that feared God and shunned evil. Prior to these words between God and Satan, God had resolved that He would use Satan to tempt Job—that He would hand Job over to Satan. In one respect, this would prove that God’s observation and evaluation of Job were accurate and without error, and would cause Satan to be shamed through Job’s testimony; in another, it would make perfect Job’s faith in God and fear of God. Thus, when Satan came before God, God did not equivocate. He cut straight to the point and asked Satan: “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and eschews evil?” In God’s question there is the following meaning: God knew that Satan had roamed all places, and had often spied upon Job, who was God’s servant. It had often tempted and attacked him, trying to find a way of bringing ruin upon Job in order to prove that Job’s faith in God and fear of God could not hold firm. Satan also readily sought opportunities to devastate Job, that Job might renounce God and allow Satan to seize him from the hands of God. Yet God looked within Job’s heart and saw that he was perfect and upright, and that he feared God and shunned evil. God used a question to tell Satan that Job was a perfect and an upright man who feared God and shunned evil, that Job would never renounce God and follow Satan. Having heard God’s appraisal of Job, in Satan there came a rage born of humiliation, and it became more angry, and more impatient to snatch Job away, for Satan had never believed that someone could be perfect and upright, or that they could fear God and shun evil. At the same time, Satan also loathed the perfection and uprightness in man, and hated people that could fear God and shun evil. And so it is written in Job 1:9-11 that “Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Does Job fear God for nothing? Have not you made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he has on every side? you have blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” God was intimately acquainted with Satan’s malicious nature, and knew full well that Satan had long planned to bring ruin upon Job, and so in this God wished, through telling Satan once more that Job was perfect and upright and that he feared God and shunned evil, to bring Satan into line, to make Satan reveal its true face and attack and tempt Job. In other words, God deliberately emphasized that Job was perfect and upright, and that he feared God and shunned evil, and by this means He made Satan attack Job because of Satan’s hatred and ire toward how Job was a perfect and an upright man, one that feared God and shunned evil. As a result, God would bring shame upon Satan through the fact that Job was a perfect and an upright man, one that feared God and shunned evil, and Satan would be left utterly humiliated and defeated. After that, Satan would no longer doubt or make accusations about Job’s perfection, uprightness, fear of God, or shunning of evil. In this way, God’s trial and Satan’s temptation was almost inevitable. The only one able to withstand God’s trial and Satan’s temptation was Job. Following this exchange, Satan was granted permission to tempt Job. Thus began Satan’s first round of attacks. The target of these attacks was Job’s property, for Satan had made the following accusation against Job: “Does Job fear God for nothing? … you have blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.” As a result, God permitted Satan to take all that Job had—which was the very purpose why God talked with Satan. Nevertheless, God made one demand of Satan: “all that he has is in your power; only on himself put not forth your hand” (Job 1:12). This was the condition that God made after He permitted Satan to tempt Job and placed Job into the hands of Satan, and was the limit He set for Satan: He ordered Satan not to harm Job. Because God recognized that Job was perfect and upright, and He had faith that Job’s perfection and uprightness before Him were beyond doubt, and could withstand being put to the test; thus, God allowed Satan to tempt Job, but imposed a restriction on Satan: Satan was permitted to take all of Job’s property, but it could not lay a finger on him. What does this mean? It means that God did not give Job completely to Satan then. Satan could tempt Job by whatever means it wanted, but it could not hurt Job himself, not even one hair on his head, because everything of man is controlled by God, whether man lives or dies is decided by God, and Satan does not have such license. After God said these words to Satan, Satan couldn’t wait to begin. It used every means to tempt Job, and before long Job had lost a mountainful of sheep and oxen and all of the property given unto him by God…. Thus God’s trials came to him.
Though the Bible tells us of the origins of Job’s temptation, was Job himself, the one subjected to these temptations, aware of what was going on? Job was just a mortal man; of course he knew nothing of the story unfolding behind him. Nevertheless, his fear of God, and his perfection and uprightness, made him realize that the trials of God had come upon him. He did not know what had occurred in the spiritual realm, nor what the intentions of God were behind these trials. But he did know that regardless of what happened to him, he should hold true to his perfection and uprightness, and should abide by the way of fearing God and shunning evil. Job’s attitude and reaction to these matters were clearly beheld by God. And what did God see? He saw Job’s heart that feared God, because from the beginning right through until when Job was tried, Job’s heart remained open to God, it was laid before God, and Job did not renounce his perfection or uprightness, nor did he cast away or turn from the way of fearing God and shunning evil—and nothing was more gratifying to God. Next, we will look at what temptations were undergone by Job and how he treated these trials. Let us read the scriptures.
c. Job’s Reaction
(Job 1:20-21) Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down on the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.
That Job Takes It Upon Himself to Return All That He Possesses Stems From His Fear of God
After God said to Satan, “all that he has is in your power; only on himself put not forth your hand,” Satan departed, soon after which Job came under sudden and fierce attacks: First, his oxen and donkeys were plundered and his servants killed; next, his sheep and servants were burned to destruction; after that, his camels were taken and his servants were murdered; finally, his sons and daughters had their lives taken. This string of attacks was the torment suffered by Job during the first temptation. As commanded by God, during these attacks Satan only targeted Job’s property and his children, and did not harm Job himself. Nevertheless, Job was instantly transformed from a rich man possessed of great wealth to someone who had nothing. No one could have withstood this astonishing surprise blow or properly reacted to it, yet Job demonstrated his extraordinary side. The Scriptures provide the following account: “Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down on the ground, and worshipped.” This was Job’s first reaction after hearing that he had lost his children and all of his property. Above all, he did not appear surprised, or panic-stricken, much less did he express anger or hate. You see, then, that in his heart he had already recognized that these disasters were not an accident, or born from the hand of man, much less were they the arrival of retribution or punishment. Instead, the trials of Jehovah had come upon him; it was Jehovah who wished to take his property and children. Job was very calm and clear-headed then. His perfect and upright humanity enabled him to rationally and naturally make accurate judgments and decisions about the disasters that had befallen him, and in consequence, he behaved with unusual calm: “Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down on the ground, and worshipped.” “Rent his mantle” means that he was unclothed, and possessed of nothing; “shaved his head” means he had returned before God as a newborn infant; “fell down on the ground, and worshipped” means he had come into the world naked, and still without anything today, he was returned to God as a newborn baby. Job’s attitude toward all that befell him could not have been achieved by any creature of God. His faith in Jehovah went beyond the realm of belief; this was his fear of God, and obedience to God, and he was not only able to give thanks to God for giving to him, but also for taking from him. What’s more, he was able to take it upon himself to return all that he owned, including his life.
Job’s fear and obedience toward God is an example to mankind, and his perfection and uprightness were the peak of the humanity that ought to be possessed by man. Though he did not see God, he realized that God truly existed, and because of this realization he feared God—and due to his fear of God, he was able to obey God. He gave God free rein to take whatever he had, yet he was without complaint, and fell down before God and told Him that, at this very moment, even if God took his flesh, he would gladly allow Him to do so, without complaint. His entire conduct was due to his perfect and upright humanity. Which is to say, as a result of his innocence, honesty, and kindness, Job was unwavering in his realization and experience of God’s existence, and upon this foundation he made demands of himself and standardized his thinking, behavior, conduct and principles of actions before God in accordance with God’s guidance of him and the deeds of God that he had seen among all things. Over time, his experiences caused in him a real and actual fear of God and made him shun evil. This was the source of the integrity to which Job held firm. Job was possessed of an honest, innocent, and kind humanity, and he had actual experience of fearing God, obeying God, and shunning evil, as well as the knowledge that “the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away.” Only because of these things was he able to stand fast and bear witness amid such vicious attacks of Satan, and only because of them was he able to not disappoint God and to provide a satisfactory answer to God when God’s trials came upon him. Though Job’s conduct during the first temptation was very straightforward, later generations were not assured of achieving such straightforwardness even after a lifetime of efforts, nor would they necessarily possess the conduct of Job described above. Today, faced with Job’s straightforward conduct, and in comparing it to the cries and determination of “absolute obedience and loyalty unto death” shown to God by those who claim to believe in God and follow God, do you, or do you not, feel deeply ashamed?
When you read in the scriptures of all that was suffered by Job and his family, what is your reaction? Do you become lost in your thoughts? Are you astonished? Could the trials that befell Job be described as “horrifying”? In other words, it is appalling enough reading of Job’s trials as described in the scriptures, to say nothing of how they would have been in reality. You see, then, that what befell Job was not a “practice drill,” but a real “battle,” featuring real “guns” and “bullets.” But by whose hand was he subjected to these trials? They were, of course, carried out by Satan, they were personally carried out by Satan—but they were authorized by God. Did God tell Satan by what means to tempt Job? He did not. God merely gave it one condition, after which the temptation came upon Job. When the temptation came upon Job, it gave people a sense of the evil and ugliness of Satan, of its maliciousness and loathing for man, and of its enmity to God. In this we see that words cannot describe just how cruel this temptation was. It can be said that the malicious nature with which Satan abused man and its ugly face were fully revealed at this moment. Satan used this opportunity, the opportunity provided by God’s permission, to subject Job to feverish and remorseless abuse, the method and level of cruelty of which are both unimaginable and completely intolerable to people today. Rather than saying that Job was tempted by Satan, and that he stood firm in his testimony during this temptation, it is better to say that in the trials set for him by God Job embarked upon a contest with Satan to protect his perfection and uprightness, and to defend his way of fearing God and shunning evil. In this contest, Job lost a mountain of sheep and cattle, he lost all of his property, and he lost his sons and daughters—but he did not abandon his perfection, uprightness, or fear of God. In other words, in this contest with Satan he preferred to be deprived of his property and children than lose his perfection, uprightness, and fear of God. He preferred to hold on to the root of what it means to be a man. The Scriptures provide a concise account of the entire process by which Job lost his assets, and also document Job’s conduct and attitude. These terse, succinct accounts give the sense that Job was almost relaxed in facing this temptation, but if what actually happened were to be re-created, added to which there is the malicious nature of Satan—then things would not be as simple or easy as described in these sentences. The reality was far crueler. Such is the level of devastation and hate with which Satan treats mankind and all those who are approved of by God. If God had not asked that Satan not harm Job, Satan would have undoubtedly slain him without any compunction. Satan does not want anyone to worship God, nor does it wish for those who are righteous in God’s eyes and those who are perfect and upright to be able to continue fearing God and shunning evil. For people to fear God and shun evil means that they shun and forsake Satan, and so Satan took advantage of God’s permission to pile all of its rage and hate upon Job without mercy. You see, then, how great was the torment suffered by Job, from mind to flesh, from without to within. Today, we don’t see how it was at that time, and can only gain, from the accounts of the Bible, a brief glimpse of Job’s emotions when he was subjected to the torment at that time.