Well, we began our study of the book of Job last night. I'll be posting a recap every week of what we observed as a group in the text for those who might have missed the study.
1 There once was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless—a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil.
Job 1:1 (NLT)
The NLT begins the verse almost sounding like a children's story. It reflects an interesting phrasing in the Hebrew that serves to put the story in place as a stand alone work, and not a continuation of another.
The land of UZ - Abraham's hood, Uz "lying somewhere to the Northeast of Palestine. Tradition supports such a site. Josephus says "Uz founded Trachonitis and Damascus" (Ant., I, vi, 4). Arabian tradition places the scene of Job s sufferings in the Hauran at Deir Eiyūb (Job's monastery) near Nawa.—International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
"blameless" - does not means sinless. The word's use means "complete" and the sense is that he was a man of integrity - well balanced - aware of his nature and active in living out his devotion to Yahweh. That's also reiterated with the next clause and the follow-on sentence.
Then cue the ominous music... kind of a foreshadowing scene appears next.
2 He had seven sons and three daughters.3 He owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 teams of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and he employed many servants. He was, in fact, the richest person in that entire area.
Job 1:2-3 (NLT)
Knowing what we know already, we're thinking about just how much Job is about to lose, and yet I get the feeling that when Job saw this he simply saw God's blessings - His undeserved grace. He probably would have been surprised to know that he was the richest person in his area.
4 Job’s sons would take turns preparing feasts in their homes, and they would also invite their three sisters to celebrate with them.5 When these celebrations ended—sometimes after several days—Job would purify his children. He would get up early in the morning and offer a burnt offering for each of them. For Job said to himself, “Perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular practice.
Job 1:4-5 (NLT)
So this is an extended family that is still very close. And their patriarch father is still very active in their lives - their spiritual lives. It was mentioned that Job was "a priest to his family", and that's exactly what Job is acting as. However I have to mention that there is no provision for someone making a sin offering for another person in the OT. But this dad was concerned that in all the celebration, his kids might have forgotten the God that made it all possible. "Cursed" seems to me to be too strong.
The same Hebrew word means to "curse," and to "bless"; GESENIUS says, the original sense is to "kneel," and thus it came to mean bending the knee in order to invoke either a blessing or a curse. Cursing is a perversion of blessing, as all sin is of goodness. Sin is a degeneracy, not a generation. It is not, however, likely that Job should fear the possibility of his sons cursing God. The sense "bid farewell to," derived from the blessing customary at parting, seems sufficient (Ge 47:10). Thus UMBREIT translates "may have dismissed God from their hearts"; namely, amid the intoxication of pleasure (Pr 20:1). This act illustrates Job's "fear of God" (Job 1:1).—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
6 One day the members of the heavenly court came to present themselves before the Lord, and the Accuser, Satan, came with them.
Job 1:6 (NLT)
Oh would I love to see this scene. How does this work? Is it like a King's court with the thrones at the end of a great hall, and assorted court functionaries (in this case angels) and uh... Satan. In the Hebrew there is a definite article in front of the word "The Satan."
In the Book of Job, Satan is first designated by name: "Satan," Hebrew, "one who lies in wait"; an "adversary" in a court of justice (1Ch 21:1 Ps 109:6 Zec 3:1); "accuser" (Rev. 12:10).—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
“Where have you come from?” the Lord asked Satan.
Satan answered the Lord, “I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going on.”
Job 1:7 (NLT)
So with that scene in mind, and thousand upon thousand upon thousand of angels in front of Almighty God, God spots Satan. The pastor in me understands how easy it is to spot some one who is obviously at odds with what you are saying. You can be reading 1 Corinthians 13 and someone there might be upset with the songs we just sing, or with the Bible version you read and they look like they just bit down on a sour pickle.
I let it go.
God on the other hand.. spots the miscreant and singles him out. He asks what Satan has been doing and Satan gives him an update.
Cue that spooky music again.
8 Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.”
Job 1:8 (NLT)
So God knows Job personally. Kind of heart warming. God is proud of His servant. Maybe Max Lucado is onto something when he writes that "your picture is on God's refrigerator."
And Satan knows Job well too.
9 Satan replied to the Lord, “Yes, but Job has good reason to fear God.10 You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is!11 But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!”
Job 1:9-11 (NLT)
Satan knows human nature, and he's betting that nothing will in the end trump the human bent toward selfishness. Basically his premise is that Job is good because it's rewarding for him. That as long as his life is good, Job will be good. But when things change for the worse, Job will go back to normal human default behavior. "What's in it for me?"
So what we can gather from this interaction is that both God and Satan are very aware of what people do and what people ARE. Also that Satan has access to the very throne room of God. But more important - God and Satan are NOT equals. Satan only speaks when spoken to, and his actions are limited to what God will allow. Satan had evaluated Job's situation and saw that God's hand was on him and that he was untouchable unless God allowed tests and trials by Satan.
12 “All right, you may test him,” the Lord said to Satan. “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.” So Satan left the Lord’s presence.
Job 1:12 (NLT)
God sets the boundaries of the test. And Satan immediately goes to work. The results are devastating. Reread what God said to Satan. The limits of what Satan could have done included a range of options. Satan could have begun with small tests and worked his way up. He could have spread a series of sharp trials over a period of time. Instead one after another the reports of devastation come in, culminating with the loss of Job's family (with one notable exception).
13 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting at the oldest brother’s house,14 a messenger arrived at Job’s home with this news: “Your oxen were plowing, with the donkeys feeding beside them,15 when the Sabeans raided us. They stole all the animals and killed all the farmhands. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
16 While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “The fire of God has fallen from heaven and burned up your sheep and all the shepherds. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
17 While he was still speaking, a third messenger arrived with this news: “Three bands of Chaldean raiders have stolen your camels and killed your servants. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
18 While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “Your sons and daughters were feasting in their oldest brother’s home.19 Suddenly, a powerful wind swept in from the wilderness and hit the house on all sides. The house collapsed, and all your children are dead. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
Job 1:13-19 (NLT)
Now some of these occurances were things that happened normally in that area of the world. Tribes were always warring with each other, and bandits were always out to steal. But two of them were clearly what we would call "acts of God." "The fire of God" could have been volcanic activity, and the Scirocco winds of the area sometimes fierce. But it appears that Satan's license included use of whatever he chose to use.
My immediate reaction to this was a memory of the outcry after hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans after some pastors suggested the possibility that God had caused it to happen. When you read this passage, you cannot say that God caused these calamities, but it is very clear that they would not have happened without his permission.
20 Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship.21 He said,
“I came naked from my mother’s womb,
and I will be naked when I leave.
The Lord gave me what I had,
and the Lord has taken it away.
Praise the name of the Lord!”
22 In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.
Job 1:20-22 (NLT)
So after a series of devastating blows that took everything Job had the day before away including the family he loved so passionately - blows that occurred so close together there was no time to catch his breath - Job reacts by reminding himself and all of us of just where the blessings he had lost came from. He was devastated in grief and his actions showed it. I suspect you would have heard his weeping for miles.
But for all the pain and the heartbreak - Job collapses before his God.