Thursday, September 17, 2009

Job Chapter 2 recap

1 One day the sons of God came again to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before the Lord. 2 The Lord asked Satan, “Where have you come from?”

“From roaming through the earth,” Satan answered Him, “and walking around on it.”

Again, a gathering in which Satan is present among the angels before God's throne.

3 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? No one else on earth is like him, a man of perfect integrity, who fears God and turns away from evil. He still retains his integrity, even though you incited Me against him, to destroy him without just cause.”

God is presented as aware of the earlier trial, and its results.

4 “Skin for skin!” Satan answered the Lord. “A man will give up everything he owns in exchange for his life. 5 But stretch out Your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse You to Your face.”

Then Satan makes his revised argument. Since his earlier scheme didn't work, this was his new one. The idea behind it is a simple one - people will act to preserve themselves at the expense of anything or anyone else.

“In Job’s ancient culture, ‘skin for skin’ was a bartering term meaning to trade one skin for another. The Devil is accusing Job of being willing to risk the skin of his children and livestock in order to protect his own skin.” (Lawson)

"When it came down to it, Abraham betrayed his wife to save his life. David forsook his sanity to save his life. Peter denied Jesus to save his own life. There is certainly some truth to the statement, all that a man has he will give for his life." (Guzik)

6 “Very well,” the Lord told Satan, “he is in your power; only spare his life.” 7 So Satan left the Lord’s presence and infected Job with terrible boils from the sole of his foot to the top of his head. 8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery to scrape himself while he sat among the ashes.

Notice that God is in control here, and Satan again can only work within the boundaries that God sets for him. This is not meaningless suffering, but the opposite. The idea that God will be glorified and Satan defeated as a believer trusts God even though everything is going wrong is on display.

There are so many skin diseases that could have fit this description. Guzik develops the diagnosis from other passages in Job.

"• Intense pain (My bones are pierced in me at night, and my gnawing pains take no rest; Job 30:17)
• Peeling and darkened skin (My skin grows black and falls from me; Job 30:30a)
• Pus-filled, erupting sores (My flesh is caked with worms and dust, my skin is cracked and breaks out afresh; Job 7:5b)
• Anorexia, emaciation (My bone clings to my skin and to my flesh; Job 19:20)
• Fever (My bones burn with fever; Job 30:30b)
• Depression (I loathe my life; I would not live forever; Job 7:16 and My heart is in turmoil and cannot rest; days of affliction confront me. I go about mourning, but not in the sun; Job 30:27-28)
• Weeping (My face is flushed with weeping; Job 16:16a)
• Sleeplessness (When I lie down, I say, ‘When shall I arise, and the night be ended?’ Job 7:4)
• Nightmares (Then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions; Job 7:14)
• Putrid breath (My breath is offensive to my wife; Job 19:17)
• Difficulty breathing (He will not allow me to catch my breath; Job 19:18)
• Failing vision (On my eyelids is the shadow of death; Job 16:16b)
• Rotting teeth (I have escaped by the skin of my teeth; Job 19:20)
• Haggard looks (When they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him; Job 2:12)
• Painful swollen sores all over his body (painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head; Job 2:7)
• Intense itching (to scrape himself; Job 2:8)
• This condition lasted for months (Oh, that I were as in months past; Job 29:2 and I have been allotted months of futility; Job 7:3)"

As anyone who has had a chronic disease knows, the physical disability also brings with it a psychological cost. Satan knows this of course, and his intent is to attack the whole man, not just his physical self. People who stay hopeful have a much better chance to fight off illnesses and recover. If Satan can get Job to lose faith in God then Job will lose his hope. In that case, Satan will win.

9 His wife said to him, “Do you still retain your integrity? Curse God and die!”

This is an interesting verse for a lot of reasons. The fact that Satan took everything from except his wife is always a point of derision as men often comment on how perfect that strategy is to cause Job more misery. I tend to think that if Satan could have taken her from Job he would have. That whole "bone of my bone,flesh of my flesh" deal? Might apply here.

The Septuagent, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures adds some verses that our modern translations don't. And she talks in King James English! :)

"How long wilt thou hold out, and say, “Behold I wait yet a little while, expecting the hope of my deliverance?” For, behold, thy memorial is cut off from the earth – [even thy] sons and thy daughters, the pangs and pains of my womb, which I bore in vain, with sorrows; and though thyself sittest down to spend the nights in the open air among the corruption of worms, and I am a wanderer, and a servant from place to place, and house to house, waiting for the setting of the sun, that I may rest from my labours and my pains, which now beset me. Now curse God and die." (Cited in Bullinger)

We aren't served well though even by the verse as popularly translated. The "Curse God" quote? It literally should be translated sarcastically as "Well 'Bless God'!" The idea is that Job hasn't given up but his wife has and is now gone so far as to ridicule her husband.

10 “You speak as a foolish woman speaks,” he told her. “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” Throughout all this Job did not sin in what he said.

And yet Job treats his wife very kindly. Notice he doesn't say she IS a foolish woman, he says she is "acting like" one of them.

Still, her actions must have really hurt him. Ray Steadman writes:

"I do not know if women fully understand how much their husbands depend on them. I think husbands often draw emotional strength from their wives far more than either they or their wives realize. Here was a severe attack addressed to the very soul of Job, in which he felt his wife abandoning him, advocating that he turn from his faith and renounce his God."

Satan must have really thought he had Job.

Job’s Three Friends Enter the Picture -

11 Now when Job’s three friends—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite—heard about all this adversity that had happened to him, each of them came from his home. They met together to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12 When they looked from a distance, they could ⌊barely⌋ recognize him. They wept aloud, and each man tore his robe and threw dust into the air and on his head. 13 Then they sat on the ground with him seven days and nights, but no one spoke a word to him because they saw that his suffering was very intense. Job 2:1-13 (HCSB)

We'll have plenty of time to crack on Job's friends in later chapters, but I think there's a moment here where we can appreciate what they have done.

They came to Job. They didn't have to come, and knowing what they believed about what had happened and why, they still cared enough about their friend to come.
They wept for and with Job. It's easy to do the minimum and get out. These guys came and suffered with Job.
They sat in silence with Job for seven days. I'm sure there was a lot they wanted to say to Job, but they sat in silence until Job spoke.
They intended all the best for Job, and were persistent in wanting and doing what they thought was best for Job.
They spoke their opinion about Job and his condition to Job himself, instead of speaking about him to others. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say "some people have said..." or the like, Bunny and I could have a nice meal out. Job's friends were mistaken about what was behind this event, but they were men enough to tell Job instead of hinting around about it or gossiping with someone else.

Suffering is one of the wedges that Satan uses to tear believers away from God and to keep people from coming to faith in God. So any treatment of this human condition that can help us understand how to live through it is essential. Ray Steadman wraps it up by writing:

"But let us never forget what we have been shown at the beginning of this book: it is God who is doing this, ultimately, and he has an aim in view. And because he does not tell us at this point what it is, we, too, must suffer through this with Job. We must feel to some degree with him what he is feeling, and sense the protest, the anguish, the emptiness of his life. Nevertheless, we must remember that there is an answer, God does have a reason, and it will be made clear as the book unfolds."

Stay tuned..

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