February 19, 2014

Country Bumpkins IV: Beasts and Burdens

This will be my last post for this short series about people in the Bible that live in an agrarian or farming culture. It will be about a blameless and upright man named Job and events surrounding his life. He lived in the land of Uz. The land of Uz was most likely in one of two areas. The first area is that of modern-day southwestern Jordan and southern Israel near Petra. It is a mostly arid and desert area. The other possible location (and more likely) for Uz is in modern Bashan east of The Sea Of Galilee and south of Damascus (near southern Syria). This is a semi-arid but fertile area within the Fertile Crescent. The reason this second location is more likely is because of the following verse in Job.

Job 1:13-15 ~  One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

We read that the oxen were plowing and donkeys were grazing. We also read that semi-arid desert-like land needed to be workable and capable of producing scratch or vegetation enough to support asses. What we also have in view here are beasts of burden in a story about a righteous man suffering through unimaginable burdens. 

If the oxen were plowing it was the planting season in a semi-arid environment so it had to have been the Fall season when the first rains had fallen and softened a hard packed semi-arid soil so that it could be plowed. It is during this time that the marauding Sabeans who were desert pirates attack and take the livestock. This would put Job and his family in a case of double-jeopardy (had most survived). One, the land is not plowed nor planted which is a death sentence at the harvest season for a people dependent on the land. Second, there would be no livestock either, therefore no meat or alternative means of sustenance. Doing this to a Bronze Age.

Of course this would just be the beginning of Job’s woes which would continue to escalate until the arrival of God to set everyone straight. What we get to surmise from the backstory is that Job and his family are people of the earth probably used to back-wrenching labor. People that were hardened and toughened by their labors. People that would not wilt or wane at the first sign of trouble. Job was the kind of person that believed in a God that was sovereign and he knew that God was in control. By reading the book of Job, especially the introduction with the incident between God and Satan, we the readers learn the same thing. Knowing this, Job knew he could be assured that he would see his losses redeemed for him by God in the end and ultimately there would be salvation. We too should understand this .

The thing that should be noted about this whole episode is that it is not God that finds fault in Job but rather Satan. Satan, the accuser of the brethren. What we really must realize then is this. If God finds no fault in Job but Satan does, Satan is railing against God. Satan doesn’t attack us because of us, he does it to act as an affront to God. Satan is attacking God here more than a man. Even now Satan stands in God’s presence and performs a repeat of Eden’s, “Did God really say….?” Instead this time Satan tempts God by saying, “The only reason Job fears You is because you pay him to do it. You protect him and as long as he prospers he worships You!” (v.9-12). 

This is the same accuser that reappears in Zechariah 3 accusing the High Priest Joshua even more aggressively than he accuses Job. God this time goes as far as to rebuke the Accuser, implying that the relationship between the two is (or has become) adversarial. I believe that the temptation of Jesus narrative in Matthew 4 intentionally echoes the language of Zechariah 3, as the Greek version of the earlier passage translates "Joshua" as "Jesus" and uses the same word for the Accuser that Matthew uses for the devil. So I believe that "the satan" introduced in Job is the same Satan we see as the main enemy in the New Testament. They are indeed...one and the same nefarious creature. This therefore thoroughly explains the victorious view of Jesus Christ's atonement as far back as Job. Satan the prosecutor in God's court...and sin gave him claim on humanity at least temporarily. A claim that is voided by the atonement. 

The other thing that should be noted is that God has to allow Satan to have an effect in a believer’s life. As such God will often work through Satan’s actions to enact His will. This does not mean that God is the author of the evil but it does mean that He is still sovereign over it. He might not be the initiator or creator of evil but He may not intervene to prevent it nor curtail it as it will inevitably lead to positive effects in the believer’s life. Sometimes the tragedies or trappingslife need to be looked passed to see their true purpose in God’s plan and will. We must never ever forget that God the Father did not even spare His Son Jesus the scourging and agony of the Cross on the way to His death and triumphant Resurrection. It required the Jesus go through the suffering to reach the glorification and be exalted by the Father. In God’s justice and economy suffering often mitigates holiness and should not be bypassed.

As I have always said when writing of Job, he has the exact proper and humble response to the tragedies that befall him. He falls prostrate to the ground in humble submission to God and worships God.

Job 1:20 ~ “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped.

There really should be no other response from a suffering believer. Of course he mourns his loss but he also worships and honors God which is proper. In the most painful loss to date in my life (the death of my father), I fell to my knees at the burial site and worshiped and praised Jesus out loud over the six foot hole prepared for my father’s body. We’re all going where my father went so the proper thing to do is to give glory to the one that has control over the eternal destiny of your soul. 

By laying ourselves prostrate in these periods of mourning instead of bashing God over our loss we are submitting to His will and abasing ourselves by accepting God’s actions or actions He permitted in our lives. Just as Jesus submitted to the will of the Father and allowed Himself to be crucified. Yes it is okay to ask God to remove the burden, pain or suffering but we should never definitively expect that He will. He is under no obligation to do so. If anything we are dead in our sins and trespasses and deserve death. It is only through God's mercy and grace that we even get a second chance. We should count ourselves lucky and be thankful...just as Job did. In doing this we remove the accusation of Satan and nullify his loudmouthed drivel and effectively shut his claptrap. In so doing we also bring glory to God, just as Jesus did with His obedience to the Father also.

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