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Twisted Scripture: The Book of Job

• Greg Boyd

The Book of Job has often been misused as a way to explain the mysterious ways of God in suffering and pain. The truth is that the Book of Job is there to teach us that God does not inflict pain and suffering, rather it is the cosmic warfare that we cannot see which interferes with God’s true will for his people.

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The Book of Job is one of those Scriptures that has been twisted throughout history and can often result in creating a distorted picture of God. In particular, the inappropriate use of the verse in which Job declares, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” This verse spoken by Job is often used as a way of explaining suffering and pain by placing the blame of the pain and suffering onto God. The problem with this interpretation is it takes the words of Job completely out of context and disregards the whole picture of the book.

The Book of Job is written within the genre of epic poetry. This type of literature is not intended to simply tell us an account of a real character, but rather it is a God inspired poetic dramatization meant to teach a lesson to all that hear. This type of genre begins with a prologue which sets up the story. Satan has accused God of being a Machiavellian ruler (a ruler who manipulates people into worshipping him). The only way to prove the accusation false is to put it to the test. Everything that was done to Job flowed out of Satan’s power; the pain and suffering Job endured was not part of God’s great plan, nor was it God who took anything away from Job.

The story then tells of the aftermath of Job’s pain and suffering. It put forth two competing theologies—Satan’s theology and Job’s theology. Job’s friends ascribe to a theology that God blesses the righteous and punishes the sinner (a twisted version of Satan’s theology). By blaming Job’s pain on his lack of righteousness, the friends have found a sense of security for themselves. As long as they remain righteous they will avoid being punished. Both of these theologies are incorrect.

We know this theology is mistaken, because Jesus refutes it through his actions found in the New Testament and God refutes it at the end of Job’s story. God shows up in a whirlwind to correct both Job and his friends in their versions regarding what has occurred. It is within these final chapters that the main point of the story is revealed. The point of this epic poem is for us to know that the universe is far too complex to fit the formula that says all blessings are rewards for righteousness and all troubles are punishment from sin.

As Christians, we should keep this framework in mind as we interact with the suffering. It is okay to admit that we do not know. Our job is not to understand all the answers about why bad things happen in the world. Our job is to focus our eyes on the cross and remember that our God is the kind of God willing to die for the very people who crucified him.

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Topics: God's Will, Pain & Suffering, Satan

Sermon Series: Twisted Scripture: Season 1


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19 thoughts on “Twisted Scripture: The Book of Job

    M85 says: Tuesday June 10, 2014 at 8:49 am

    I once had to lead a Bible study on Job in a calvinist church. It was one of the most frustrating experiences ever. They literally could not understand the meaning of the book and ended up siding with Elihu against Job, saying that Job was basically guilty!

    Reply
    Tzong-Huei Emily Li says: Wednesday June 11, 2014 at 8:00 am

    I don’t think that God necessarily did not know where Satan had been by asking him where he had come from (Job 1:7). He could have asked such question to confront Satan of his evil deeds or to make him confess. Correct? Could you please address this in the next sermon as I can imagine others having the same question.

    Reply
    Dave Pritchard says: Wednesday June 11, 2014 at 8:51 am

    Not to contradict in anyway what Greg has said here, it was an incredibly significant and applicable message! But when I think of verse 21, it’s that very last part that really stands out for me and then followed by verse 22 which summarizes the context.

    21……… “Blessed be the name of The Lord.”
    22 “And in all this Job did not sin or revile God.”

    The fact that he can say this in spite of the sea of crap that has just deluged his life is astonishing! It possibly could be interpreted as a “sarcastic invective” but it clearly shows where Job ultimately draws his strength and courage from – at least initially.

    Another verse that is mega-impressive and profoundly relevant is 19:25 –

    25 “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.”

    This reminds us that no matter how horrific things get, no matter what evil life serves up or takes away from us, we know that our Redeemer Lives! And on that glorious and magnificent day, He will return and make all things new!

    Praise God!!!

    Reply
    David W says: Thursday June 12, 2014 at 9:41 am

    Good read (I think) on the story of Job, looking at the similarities between Job and Jesus. Reminds me of “shadow activity” from Greg’s previous sermons (July 2012).

    http://www.kingdombiblestudies.org/Job/Job.htm

    Cut/paste from the article:
    Faith declares with Job, “Though God slay me, yet will I trust Him,” — and then after being slain — TRUSTS HIM! Job, stripped of all, tried by fire, tested in the furnace of affliction, found that the key to life is not some creed or doctrinal statement of what we believe about God, but that which we KNOW OF HIM by virtue of intimacy of fellowship and vital union with Him. Truly, “the trial of your faith is much more precious than gold that perishes” (I Pet. 1:7).

    …When we realize that Satan has fallen before the Christ within us, then we really will be set free!

    I want you to see Job today, tested — not to see whether he would curse God and die, but tested to prove and demonstrate that he was the perfect man God declared him to be! That is precisely what it was about. The secret of Job is not that he was self-righteous or that God was trying to teach him something. Nowhere does the record state or even infer that God was trying to teach Job anything. God was demonstrating the truth that already existed. The Job of God, the Son of God, the Christ of God IS THE PERFECT MAN AND WILL TRIUMPH! The Christ in you, precious friend of mine, is the Perfect Man.
    (end cut/paste)

    Where the author says “God was demonstrating the truth that already existed,” brought to memory Greg’s sermon “Waking From Oz” (4/14/13), where Greg explains that we have all we need. We just need to activate it through faith…Job kind of faith.

    Reply
    Jerry Hillyer says: Sunday June 15, 2014 at 9:02 am

    Just want to say thank you. This is the second sermon of yours I have listened to now and I cannot begin to express how meaningful and timely this word is/was. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    Reply
    Kathy D. says: Sunday June 15, 2014 at 11:28 am

    I have some questions today. First, thanks again, Greg, for your passionate following of Jesus – holy smokes again! Lots of note taking!

    1. In Romans 8:19, the “sons of God” are mentioned. In Job 1:6 the “sons of God” are mentioned as being the counsel of God. Are these the same sons of God, or, are we (humans) the sons of God in Romans? Or both? How is the creation waiting for this “revealing”?

    2. God promises us He will defeat Leviathan and Behemoth. In 2 Pet 3:12, we are told we can “speed His coming.”
    *How do we do this?
    *Since we have been given the authority to bind up Satan through Christ’s death/resurrection/power of the Holy Spirit, is this what Peter is talking about here? Rebuking Satan with healings/laying on of hands?
    *Is it about the whole picture of Who we are aspiring to be more like (Christ) that “speeds His coming”?
    *Is there a certain way we should pray into the war zone, like strategic prayer, that “speeds His coming”?

    Thanks!
    Blessings

    Reply
    Dave Pritchard says: Monday June 16, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    K-D,

    This kind of goes off on a side tangent explaining “The sons of God”, but it’s very interesting!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKjd3CV0MCs

    Reply
    Tania Harris says: Thursday June 19, 2014 at 11:53 pm

    I ask myself, how on earth did we get it so wrong? Thanks Greg for best sermon on Job I’ve ever heard.

    Reply
    Kathy D. says: Wednesday June 25, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    Thank you Dave!

    Reply
    Marcie says: Sunday June 29, 2014 at 9:07 am

    So, I agree with the truths that Greg stated here. I believe that we do not know the whole situation and that there is a lot more going on in the heavenly realm then we are aware of. I also agree that God does not cause or desire for us to have pain. The part I don’t understand and maybe this is another angle of faith but –why does God enter into this challenge with Satan in the first place? Does he really need to defend his character to Satan? And by lifting his hedge of protection didn’t he “allow” Satan to borage Job with pain? So maybe He isn’t “pulling the trigger” but it appears that He does allow it. To me this is what causes the fear or the doubt in God’s character.
    How would you explain this?

    Reply
    David W says: Tuesday July 1, 2014 at 11:34 am

    Marcie,

    check out the link I provided above (kingdombiblestudies) and see if that helps explain anything (or not).

    I think there’s a saying in the legal community that says, “never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to.” I’m not a lawyer, but I believe this pertains more during the process of cross-examination where lawyers ask questions – they already know the answers to – to validate what has already been proven to be true and factual. In the story of Job, God declares in the first chapter and the first verse that Job is “blameless and upright.” Then God later asks satan, “have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” This, I believe, is not only a question God already knows the answer to, but that He also knows the outcome based on what He already declared about the character of Job. Satan (and his pride) is up for the challenge, yet it’s really a no win situation for him. I wouldn’t say God is “defending” His character, but validating what is true/factual about Job’s character and his faith (that was being tried/perfected). Satan looks like a fool and God “restored the fortunes of Job” and “gave Job twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10).

    Reply
    Andy Bethke says: Tuesday July 1, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    Phenomenal message! God is the life-giver; satan is the crap dealer! Religion tries to convince us that what a child can tell is bad is actually good.

    I have a comment to add about the prologue to Job. Like Marcie, I am uncomfortable with the thought that God was somehow backed into a corner by satan’s challenge, as though he was concerned for his reputation before the heavenly council. That sounds a lot like Herod, who beheaded John because of his promises and his guests. The reason I don’t believe God would be bullied into that contest is the same reason the United States won’t be goaded into conflict by North Korea; our military power is such that it wouldn’t even be a fair fight.

    Rather, I think the key to the prologue has to do with covenant and authority. It is significant that Job likely lived before Abraham; he had no direct covenant with God and therefore lived under the general curse of sin pronounced after the Fall. Job worshiped God as best he knew how and God protected him by grace, but in a strictly legal sense, “death reigned from Adam to Moses” (Romans 5:14). Technically, Job was enslaved to sin and by nature a child of wrath. “But sin is not counted where there is no law” (Romans 5:13).

    When satan presented himself to the heavenly council and God asked him where he came from, I believe it was meant to humiliate satan by requiring him to recite the curse he was under. Whereas God and his council are free to roam the Universe, satan, by his rebellion, is banished and limited to this earth. I can almost hear the angels snicker as they hear him confess that all he can do is walk around on the earth!

    Nevertheless, when satan prompts God to afflict Job, verse 12 finds God responding, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand.” This isn’t necessarily God giving satan permission. Actually, if you read it carefully you’ll see that satan never asks for permission; he asks God to afflict Job. In response, God simply states the fact that Job was already under satan’s dominion because of the curse of the Fall. At this time in God’s redemptive story, there was no covenant to protect Job. Because God made Himself vulnerable by allowing true free will, He would have to break His word to protect Job from satan’s legal right to afflict him.

    So why did God put a hedge of protection around Job to begin with? Because He is gracious and kind and Job was seeking Him wholeheartedly. God has always been free to give anything to anyone. And satan has limited resources and probably hadn’t noticed Job or gotten around to attacking him yet. Satan can’t destroy as fast as God can build up. Who knows what incredible blessings God was distributing to hundreds of others while satan was busy afflicting Job–and ultimately all in vain!

    As I read it, the prologue is all about covenant and authority. Humans surrendered their spiritual authority to satan at the Fall. The Old Testament is the story of God working to bring about his Son, the God-Man, who came to win back the authority we lost in the Garden of Eden. Now, in the spirit realm, we who have been resurrected with Jesus have all that God ever wanted us to have from the foundation of the earth! Praise God!

    Reply
    John Schneider says: Tuesday July 8, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    Greg, so appreciated this message! I presented something very similar recently. See link above

    Reply
    John Schneider says: Thursday July 10, 2014 at 6:00 am

    Testing God or Teaching God

    Reply
    MIke Jones says: Friday July 11, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    Remember, too… in all of this, Satan has free will as well, and he COULD have chosen to do nothing to Job. God said do as you will, and Satan WILLED evil on Job. But because Satan is at war with God, and wanted to give God a black eye no matter the cost, Job was caught in the crossfire, as Greg said. It was never God’s will for Job’s suffering. Ever.

    BTW, seeing Jesus as a medic on the battlefield of war was a pretty good visual. I never considered it that way before, but his ministry makes a LOT of sense in that light.

    Reply
    Heather says: Tuesday August 12, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    If anyone else, like myself, believes (or is unsure) that the book of Job is more than just a narrative, but also an actual historical account and is curious as to the mention of the Leviathan and the Behemoth, I would suggest you look into resources at Answers in Genesis and check out “Dragons or Dinosaurs” (book or DVD) by Darek Isaacs.

    Very enlightening sermon on the book of Job. Thank you for helping us and reminding us to look at the big picture of what a book is trying to communicate because it is far too easy to “zero in” on one verse or to inherit bad theology from misunderstandings of others and that desire to figure stuff out on our own.

    Reply
    Karl says: Friday November 7, 2014 at 9:03 am

    The straightforward take on the Book of Job describes a God who so desires the approval of Satan that He knowingly, intentionally allows lots of people to get slaughtered just to prove a point. Just so He can say to Satan, “See? I TOLD you so” If any other entity had done this, that entity would be described as evil. This is not a God that deserves worship. I find it distressing the way people try to justify God’s actions here – no different than the way people justify the actions of the most abusive spouses.

    Reply
    Charlie Payne says: Monday January 19, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    So, here’s my question: The last verses of the book have God blessing Job with twice as much as he had before his trials. Where does that fit in with the point of Greg’s sermon. I’m not doubting Greg is right but he doesn’t explain these last verses/how they fit? They seem to be illustrate the opposite of his main points. Also, at the beginning he talks of the couple who lost their baby in childbirth. How did he answer her?

    Assuming the War Zone framework as Greg described, basically, I’m asking What does God’s protection look like in our lives? If bad things don’t happen to us, is that God stepping in to prevent them (that seems to assume a more determinist framework which is the opposite of what Greg was describing) but if He isn’t stepping in, does that mean we’re at the mercy/caprice of Satan and his demons who chose or not to mess with us at any particular time? That would make it seem like God is powerless. There are no clear cut answers on this but some way must better represent reality. I’m confused. Feel free to email me at cpdodger7@gmail.com.

    Reply
    Robert Winkler Burke says: Tuesday July 28, 2015 at 7:34 am

    Fighting Leviathan, With a Puny Wooden Sword!
    By Robert Winkler Burke
    Book #8 of In That Day Teachings
    Copyright 5/25/11 http://www.inthatdayteachings.com

    Notes from Nelson’s Quick Reference Bible Dictionary:

    “The book of Job is not only one of the most remarkable in the Bible, but in literature. As was said of Goliath’s sword, ‘There is none like it,’ none in ancient or in modern literature.” – Kitto. “A book which will one day, perhaps, be seen towering up alone far above all the poetry of the world.” – J. A. Froude. Nelson’s comments say that the true identity of who wrote Job has remained throughout time: a mystery.

    I must not hurt huge Leviathan,
    As it swoops down on me!
    Dragon’s flame kills and maims,
    I’ll soon be history!

    Oh, woe is me! Oh, woe is me!
    I have but a wooden sword!
    From the cross, that victory tree,
    Of Christ, my humble Lord!

    Yet, I must not hurt Leviathan,
    Its skin is tough and brittle!
    His pride is ridiculous big,
    And I am less than little!

    We fight for hours,
    Oh, we fight for days on end!
    Then, when it’s over,
    The beast gets up again!

    My puny wooden sword damages it not,
    I’m like a grasshopper against a giant!
    Then it lays down, coughs up its heart,
    Upon its tongue, now on me: reliant!

    Leviathan now relies on me,
    To treat its heart with care!
    No longer enemies, but fast friends,
    I approach on God’s dare!

    Oh, woe is me! Oh, woe is me!
    I have but a wooden sword!
    From the cross, that victory tree,
    Of Christ, my humble Lord!

    With my too-small wooden sword,
    I walk into the danger zone, such biting teeth of dread!
    To the heart, now on the tongue,
    I gently touch my sword, out gush bright drops of red!

    From the sword come good drops,
    Of God’s ancient-wisdom self-sacrifice,
    Then Beast wakes up changed,
    Swallows heart and renews its old vice!

    Cruelly taking advantage of my nearness,
    Leviathan scorches me in full-blown rage!
    I fight him off again with wooden sword,
    Behold! Beast doth weaken! says my Page.

    For my Page greatly knows what’s going on,
    Not long ago, HE was THE bad Leviathan!
    You see, we fought for years! Way too long!
    His dual was an excruciating marathon!

    But after a thousand drops from God’s cross,
    My Page was, of Beast, set free!
    Now he’s learning to be God’s Man-of-War,
    Who fights evil, just like me!

    Oh, woe is me! Oh, woe is me!
    I have but a wooden sword!
    From the cross, that victory tree,
    Of Christ, my humble Lord!

    After days and months and years,
    My Page and I have succeeded!
    Leviathan whom we fought,
    Is full humble now: defeated!

    My Page has become a Swordsman,
    That Leviathan: HIS own Page,
    I have left off sword for pen,
    That you understand this age!

    So then, pride of religion and its rigidness,
    Is killing man!
    Just as, humility and flexibility,
    Kills Leviathan!

    Job learned this In That Day,
    Of his: long ago!
    Now we must all learn the same!
    You do not know?

    Holy flexibility,
    Is where Christ-in-You is at!
    You’ll remember the fight,
    When the Rigid lose all that!

    You’ll remember the fight,
    When, as rigid Leviathan, you with great enmity: hated your betters!
    Who took your blows nobly,
    And with kind, wooden, bloody swords, removed your blind fetters.

    How you’ll hate that forgiving blood of Jesus,
    Applied drops at a time on your stony heart!
    Until you see it is not the end,
    But the Christ-in-You: Page-Warrior start!

    You’ll then, Rigid Ones, be on the,
    Other side of the sword!
    You’ll say, as Job did, I repent!
    In dust and ashes, Lord!

    And if you were particularly mean,
    And hurtful to your dear-brave Warrior-Savior,
    God will give you a willow-wimpy sword,
    To fight Leviathan, inside of your neighbor!

    Oh, woe is me! Oh, woe is me!
    I have but a wooden sword!
    From the cross, that victory tree,
    Of Christ, my humble Lord!

    You might say,
    Well, it serves me just about right!
    Rip me up,
    Leviathan! It’s time to fight!

    I shall not return evil for evil,
    From proud, religiously-rigid man,
    He may hurt me, but me never: him,
    He’ll get what I have in me: I AM!

    The great I AM,
    Wants to live in us all!
    In That Day it’s,
    A strange work: yet not small!

    It’s a BIG thing,
    When Leviathan pride dies!
    And Christ-in-You,
    Trumpets: loud victory cries!

    Yet and even much so,
    Your pride in all this will be choked: by your own reins,
    By the smallish sword,
    You’ll be given, to do the large work that remains!

    Oh, woe is me! Oh, woe is me!
    I have but a wooden sword!
    From the cross, that victory tree,
    Of Christ, my humble Lord!

    You might ask me, where did I learn all this?
    That it’s a pride-fight and that Leviathan isn’t a dinosaur true!
    I learned it by reading the Book of Job,
    From the Warrior-Prophet, not a Page, whose name is Elihu!

    This great, but young, Warrior-Prophet,
    Had heard so much talk of churchy-religious pride,
    Elihu wrote all of Job’s book,
    Yet pride in work: egoless, he did prodigious hide!

    Elihu hid his authorship,
    And prophetic voice with Job!
    That following Workmen,
    Would put this in their brain’s globe…

    Religious-Pride is Leviathan! (It’s a smallish issue with beginners!)
    Leviathan is Religious-godly-Pride! (Clericalism makes biggest sinners!)
    I write this, as your proud author,
    Oops! That beast is hard to hide!

    Where is my bent, old wooden sword?
    God, I lay my heart upon my swag tongue!
    Knowledge puffeth me up in pride,
    Touch me now, oh blood of God’s Son!

    Oh, woe is me! Oh, woe is me!
    I have but a wooden sword!
    From the cross, that victory tree,
    Of Christ, my humble Lord!

    Reply

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