As we continue to struggle with the Covid19 pandemic it will do us good to turn to the book of Job for some time tested counsel. In Job 1:1 we are told that he lived in the land of Uz (probably just below the Dead Sea between Edom and North Arabia). It seems most likely that Job lived around the time of the patriarchs (1950BC-1600BC) in the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. There are a number of reasons for making this assumption. In this book there is no mention of the Jews, or the Exodus, or of Israel, or of the priesthood and tabernacle because all of this follows after Moses. The book is structured into three sections.
a) The prologue – the first two chapters of prose.
b) The epilogue – the last chapter of prose
c) The dialogue – (3:1-42:6). This is mostly poetry.
We learn from chapter 1 about Job’s impeccable character (vrs 1, 8), that he was a hard working businessman (vrs 2) and that he had a passionate concern for his children (vrs 4, 5).
READ JOB 1&2
Chapter 1 records a series of crushing hammer-blows. In vrs 15 the Sabeans (marauding bandits) had rustled all of his cattle and donkey’s. In vrs 16, fire burned up his sheep. In vrs 17, Chaldean raiders made off with his camels. Worse was to follow. In vrs 18, 19 we read that his ten children were all killed in a terrible storm. It is hard dealing with the death of one family member let alone ten. If that were not a crushing enough blow we read in chapter 2 how his health was removed as well and he was afflicted with painful boils. His suffering was such that his own wife could no longer bear to watch. If anyone lived life in the crucible of suffering (Job 23:10) it was this man. Job can sympathise with those starting to struggle with their finances as a result of the coronavirus. Job can sympathise if we endure the pain of losing a family member. If you are struggling with poor health you will be able to relate to Job. Over the next few days we will allow Job to be our counselling guide.
JOB TELLS US WHO IS IN CONTROL
The problem with many Christians is that we can so easily buy into what I call Star Wars theology. The idea of a good force and an equal, opposite evil force (the light side and the dark side) is the world view of Star Wars. These may be good movies but they are a poor source for our theology. How would you answer these three questions? What is the opposite of good? You would say – evil! What is the opposite of above? You will say – below! What is the opposite of God? Careful! At this point many Christians would be tempted to answer – Satan! The moment you say this you have bought into Star Wars theology. Satan is not the opposite of God. He is the opposite of the angel Michael. Satan is nowhere close to being omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. He is capable of great evil but ultimately he is a dog on a leash. He is what Martin Luther used to call “God’s Devil!” God is the Sovereign of this universe. He has no equal. How can we subtly fall for Star Wars theology? By thinking and saying that all the good that happens to us is from God but that Satan is responsible for all the bad things that come our way. Listen to yourself (or others) speak. You misplace your car keys which make you late to set out for work? Then you get a puncture. How easy is it to say “I am being attacked by Satan.” You go for a doctor’s appointment and receive bad news. This too is attributed to Satan. Then you go to your car to go home after a day’s work only to find that it has been stolen. You say; “Satan is having a full go at me.” This is Star Wars theology. This is not the theology of the bible. Notice how our reading today teaches us who is in control.
- What does Satan acknowledge?
In 1:10-12 Satan understands only too well that he can only touch Job’s flocks and herds if God removes his hedge of protection. “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.” Again from 2:5, 6 it is clear that Satan could only afflict Job with painful sores when God allowed him. If we are in two minds as to who is in charge Satan is not.
- What does Job acknowledge?
Job himself is crystal clear on this subject of who is in control? How does he respond to the news of the loss of his herds and family? Look at 1:21; “the LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” And then when his health fails and his wife urges him to curse God and die Job can answer in 2:10 “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
- What does the Holy Spirit teach?
At the end of the book the Holy Spirit summarises the whole saga in 42:10, 11 by saying; After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before. All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the LORD had brought upon him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.
As we respond to the current coronavirus we need to let Job be our counsellor. We will find no comfort in attributing the pandemic to Satan and we should not deify creation by lamenting the cruel hand “mother nature has dealt us.” We must not dabble in Star Wars theology. We should go directly to the source – the Lord himself!
Listen to how Sarah Edwards responded to the death of her husband Jonathan in the 18th century in a letter to her daughter. My very dear child, What shall I say? A holy and good God has covered us with a dark cloud. O that we may kiss the rod, and lay our hands on our mouths! The Lord has done it. He has made me adore his goodness, that we had him so long. But my God lives; and he has my heart. O what a legacy my husband, and your father, has left us! We are all given to God; and there I am, and love to be. Your ever affectionate mother, Sarah Edwards.”
Here is a lady who did not dabble in Star Wars theology. She knew who was in charge. Almighty God!!