“Understanding the Book of Job” by Tom Tompkins

Tom_Tompkins“If you’re suffering, you must have done something bad. God must be punishing you.” That must be one of the oldest lies in history. Here’s another. “God is using these hard times to teach you humility.” These lies can be traced back to one of the oldest and most misunderstood stories in the Bible – the story of Job. As I’m sure you know, Job was a man who lost everything. The Book of Job is not mainly about his loss, but how he tried to process his loss with the help of three religious friends.

When I wrote my Job post a year and a half ago I had no idea that so many Christians would get upset by me telling them that God does not take away his good gifts. (To be honest, I wasn’t the first to say that. I stole that revelation from Romans 11:29: “God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” So if it makes you angry, take it up with the other Paul.) If you missed that post, here’s the short version; God does not give and take away. The only thing He’ll take off you is your sin, shame, and sickness.

I also had no idea that Tom Tompkins was writing a little gem entitled Understanding the Book of Job. In his book, Tompkins places the blame for Job’s woes squarely at the feet of the Devil:

Much of what Job’s friends told him exactly what we hear to today… While Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar did not condemn God, they did accuse and condemn Job. They were wrong to do so as it was not God or Job’s fault that the terrible events had taken place. Let’s not forget that none of these men had a revelation of the Devil. If the name “Satan” had been mentioned to any of them, they probably would have responded with “Who?” (pp.86,95)

“How convenient to blame the Devil,” you may say. “Surely God could have stopped Satan. Surely God set Job up by boasting about him.” Actually neither is true. Read the Job account in a literal translation such as Young’s and you will see that Satan came gunning for him:

And Jehovah saith unto the Adversary, “Hast thou set thy heart against My servant Job because there is none like him in the land, a man perfect and upright, fearing God, and turning aside from evil?” (Job 1:8, YLT)

Satan had set his heart against Job. “So why didn’t God stop the Devil?” Good question. We might also ask, “Why doesn’t God stop earthquakes or famines or wars?” The answer is, not everything that happens is God’s responsibility. He left the planet in Adam’s control and Adam handed it to the Devil. Satan went for Job because he could. When God said, “All that he has is in thy power” (Job 1:12), He wasn’t handing Job over to Satan – God doesn’t do deals with the Devil! – He was simply stating a fact. The whole unredeemed “world is under the control of the evil one” (1 Joh 5:19).

You have it better than Job

Job wasn’t saved. He wasn’t filled with the Holy Spirit. He had some understanding of God but he was also a fearful and superstitious man filled with self pity and not a little self-righteousness (see Job 32:1).

Don’t ever compare yourself to Job! Jesus didn’t die on the cross to give you Job’s life but His life. It is Christ who lives in you, not Job. As Tompkins explains in his book, God does not inflict death and sickness on us to teach us stuff. God is more than capable of disciplining (i.e., training) us through His Word (2 Tim 3:16).

One of Job’s friends, Eliphaz, reasoned that Job was being afflicted on account of his sins. This same line is often heard today. When things go wrong we pray, “Lord search me and see if there be any wicked way in me.” When there are problems within the church, we hunt for “sin in the camp.” Do you realize how absurd this is? If God really judged us according to our sins, who could stand? If God was in the business of punishing sin in the camp, there wouldn’t be any camp!

Only a man ignorant of Jesus and His work on the cross would say that God punishes us for our sin. Eliphaz was such a man. God said of him, “You have not spoken concerning Me rightly” (Job 42:8). Anyone who says your hardships are God’s punishments is, like Eliphaz, not speaking of God rightly.

Later, Eliphaz suggested that Job would receive the blessings of God if he was worthy of them. Indeed, Job began to think exactly this way. “Look at all I’ve done.” This is equally absurd. God is not beholden to any of us. God blesses us in accordance with the riches of His grace, not the merits of our performance.

Why is Job’s story in the Bible? It is not there so we can look to him as a role model (we have Jesus!) but so that we might learn from his example. Those who don’t learn by example tend to learn by experience and experience is a harsh teacher. For those of you who would rather not learn the hard way, here’s the lesson: It is always Satan’s intention to harm us; it is always God’s intention to bless us. When you confuse the latter with the former, your reality will be defined by a lie making it virtually impossible to receive all that God has for you.

If you relate to God on the basis of obligation and performance, then you will falsely interpret life’s hardships and spiritual attacks as works of God. Instead of submitting in faith to the unconditional love of the Father and resisting the devil, your unbelief will lead you to submit to the devil and resist the One who loves you. It’s a recipe for disaster that is played out a thousand times every day by those who relate to God as Job did – with superstition and fear.

God does not desire your sacrifices

For as long as Job lived in fearful religion, trusting in the sacrifices of his own hands, he was setting himself up for disaster. “Those who cling to idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” But when he finally shut up and repented of his stupid theology, he opened the door to the blessings of God. The lesson we take from Job is worth repeating: the Devil is bad but our Father is good and He loves us and desires to bless us. This book will help you see that.
___
Related posts:
- Does God give and take away?
- The Christchurch Earthquake: 4 questions Christians can answer
- see all E2R’s book reviews here

Comments

  1. hey Paul, thank you for reminding me of God’s love for me.

  2. Hi Mr. Paul. Been reading here for a while and I’ve learned a lot from your posts (and I’m still learning). Thanks for them. Now my question is — What do you mean when you wrote “Job wasn’t Saved?” Sorry for this question. I’m new to Grace and I’m enjoying digging it. Thanks for your answer :)

    • I meant he neither knew Jesus as Lord nor had the Holy Spirit within (Rom 8:9, 10:9). I do not mean to say he went to hell, just that at the time of his story, he was much like Nicodemus in John 3 – very religious and in need of being born again.

  3. clement NG says:

    His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have SINNED and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s REGULAR custom. Job 1:4-5 NLT

    constant confession(s) of sins was & still is an open invitation for the devil to steal, kill, & destroy. God had to allow the devil access to Job – because it was Job who placed Job in satans jurisdiction by going back to self-justification that was above & beyond what was called for. similarly, are we trusting in the Perfect Work of Our Savior? or trusting in dead works to get right with God?

    • Many believe God had to allow Satan to attack Job, but man beat God to it.

      God gave man power over all the earth (Genesis 1:26). However, man wound up ignorantly giving his power over all the earth to the devil as noted in Genesis 1:26. It was not God who allowed the devil to attack Job, but rather man who allowed the devil to attack Job.

      God stated the obvious in Job 1:12 when he told Satan of the fact that Job was ‘already’ under his power.

  4. I met Tom Tompkins last year. What an awesome guy. Rensia has finished reading this book, I have started… just like I started about 15 other books…

  5. One of the few things I claim from the book of Job is the status of his (my) 3 daughters in 42:15–the most beautiful in the land!

  6. Jan gale says:

    This is beauty to my ears. Have just had a hip replacement & that stupid devil is trying to harm me. The encouragement is wonderful. Thank you Paul.

  7. I know that someone has already mentioned the ‘not saved’ bit, but please explain some more. I have always understood, that it was always by faith, even in the OT. Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. So…. if Job believed God, even tho he was busy doing works as well, would not his faith still have been credited to him as righteousness? Also, I also thought that they did have a knowledge of the Saviour to come…. and by putting their faith in the One to come, is no different in some ways as us putting out faith in the One who HAS come. i know we are in a different covenant etc etc… but since it has always been ‘by faith’ how could one assume that Job wasnt saved? Thanks Paul. Hope you can understand where I am coming from. :)

    • I guess we need to exercise a little care in judging the salvation of OT saints. I don’t want anyone to conclude from this that I am against Job. I am not. I just don’t follow Him.

      Job was a God-fearing man (Job 1:8) but so, we presume, was Nicodemus – yet Jesus told Nicodemus that he needed to be born again. Job was also “blameless” or “perfect”, but so was Lucifer at one time (Eze 28:14-15). If we define salvation on the basis of performance, then Job is surely saved. But if salvation comes by faith, he surely isn’t – at least not at the beginning of his book. Job is in a different class from Abraham entirely. Abraham believed and it was credited to him as righteousness. Job didn’t believe. How do I know? He lived in fear and made frequent sacrifices. Job did not have a reverential fear of a God who watched over him (not at first); he had a superstitious fear that said “I must act to save myself and my kids.” When his religion didn’t protect him, he said “that which I feared has come upon me” (Job 3:25). He didn’t rise up like David and fight back. He laid down in the ashes and pitied his poor self. In times of trouble our faith is revealed and Job’s faith was very much in himself and his religious activity. The only righteousness Job was acquainted with was his own. I encourage you to read Tom’s book for a deeper look.

      I might be wrong about all this, but I think it’s significant that every time OT saints are listed as righteous or faithful in the NT, Job is never mentioned.

      But things may have worked out in the end since Job’s very last words in the story are “I repent” (Job 42:6). Once Job had seen who God really is, his fleshly efforts became repulsive to himself and he changed his mind. “You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about” (Jas 5:11).

      • ok thanks for that. That makes more sense of it. i would love to get the book…. i have just ordered 3 books from fishpond the other day, so better behave myself. i shall put it on my birthday list for next month! Thanks again Paul.

  8. Job was righteous and wise, feared God and avoided evil, the very definition of biblical wisdom. Any contention that Job needed or deserved his suffering is absurd. Job said what was right his friends didn’t. God’s opinion, not mine. Read again what Job said from the point of view that his words are endorsed by God.

    • Well I’ll agree that Job was self-righteous. And perhaps the author of the Book of Job thought Job said or did nothing wrong. But Elihu, God, and even Job himself said otherwise. Elihu said to Job, “In this you are not right” (Job 33:12). God said that Job had spoken “words without knowledge” (38:2). And once he saw the true God – not the fearful god that he imagined needed to be appeased with sacrifices and religious duty – Job agreed. “Surely I spoke of things I do not understand” (42:3).

      God loves Job. I love Job. But I will not follow a man who, by his own admission, said he didn’t know what he was talking about. So many Christians are relating to a man who said I despise myself. Job is not a model of biblical wisdom by any stretch. True wisdom comes from heaven and has another Name.

  9. Hi, Paul. Why do you think it is that Elihu seems to have been spared the judgement the Lord doled? Personally I think it might have to do with his better understanding of the situation. In 36:5 he says, correctly, that “God is mighty, but does NOT despise man” (caps mine) and later in vs 11 states that the result of a right relationship with Him are ‘prosperity and contentment’ (NIV).
    When God speaks in 42:7 to Eliphaz, it is to rebuke only he and his two friends Bildad and Zophar; no mention at all of Elihu. No burnt sacrifice required from him.
    I never seem to read anything about the absence of Elihu here in this book; he’s the forgotten one of this polemic amongst Christians. Might he have been the only man who came close to the truth, but he’s excluded from the denouement because the purpose of this book is to address erroneous beliefs? Incidentally, I also like the fact that he’s the ‘young man’. It seems that many current ‘elders’ in the church are the ones who are trying to make scripture fit their experience rather than the other way around. And let’s not forget that youth can be restored (Ps 103:5)!
    Countless blessings to you in Jesus’ name, mate.
    Paul H

    • Hi Paul,
      Isn’t that significant – that God does not rebuke Elihu? This tells us that Elihu had his head screwed on properly. To all those who believe that God shares some responsibility for Job’s tragedies, Elihu’s words are relevant: “It is unthinkable that God would do wrong?” (Job 34:12). But Paul, people will say, God is on the throne. Ultimately the buck stops with Him. Ultimately everything that happens is His will. This was not Elihu saw it: “Who appointed him over the earth? Who put him in charge of the whole world?” (Job 34:13).

      People forget that God gave dominion to Adam and Adam gave it to Satan. At the time Job was written, Jesus hadn’t come yet. Satan was very much “the prince of this world.” To apportion any of the blame to God would have made Elihu mad and it makes me mad. This is why God shows his anger only to the three “wise guys” and not young Elihu. Elihu understood that God is good all the time.

  10. Gregg Scheibel says:

    Good word Paul, but I’d appreciate your thoughts on a related matter & NT Scripture that I’ve never seen addressed by folks teaching and discussing grace. In Revelation 2 & 3, Jesus is seen giving feedback to the early church in the form of specific letters which contain both encouragement and rebukes and admonitions. You would think that His grace would be evident and on display as this is the only recorded session where He “checks back” with the new church several decades after He ascended into heaven. This was His opportunity to see that they were pulled back to the things which really mattered to Him. What do we see? Those in Pergamos were told He’d “fight against them” if they didn’t repent from holding the teaching of the Nicolations (2:15-16). Those in Thyatira were reprimanded over tolerating the teaching and seduction given by Jezebel, a prophetess. Whether she was literal or a symbolic person seems irrelevant. The reprimand was severe and directed at her and those who joined her, as noted in 3:22-23. What puzzles me is that this is clearly post-resurrection Jesus speaking to those within His church.

    I want you to know that I believe that without grace we have no gospel. Jesus brought grace & truth, not law. But I am befuddled by Revelation 2-3 and wondered what you might think or may have received on these Scriptures. Thank you! I have benefited much from your many other posts and comments.

    • Hi Greg,
      I actually began this blog with a look at the different churches mentioned in Revelations 2-3. You can find these posts in the pull-down menu in the archives. On second thoughts, that may not be the best place to start searching because the menu has grown quite long. I suggest you start with the Laodicean series and look for the links under each post that will take you to the other churches. (I haven’t done all seven yet.)

  11. We might have misunderstand this book. The contents of the book of Job are the expressions of the sentiments of godly men, including Job, his three friends, and the young man Elihu. This book is the record of the speaking of these five parties plus the speaking of God. The book of Job, like the Psalms, consists of the expressions of the sentiments of the speakers according to the experiences of their godly life.

    Their expressions were uttered before the law was given, yet their sentiments were filled with the principle of good and evil. This is the principle of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Their logic was according to the line of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and, based on this, they considered very much God’s justice and righteous judgment. The debates between Job and his three friends were mainly concerning judgment. They reasoned that Job must have been wrong in some regard or aspect and that the things which happened to him were a judgment from God. They may also have thought that Job’s children were wrong and died because of God’s judgment. Thus, the contents of this book involve the matter of God’s judgment…

    In Job 42:5 Job said, “I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear,/But now my eye has seen You.” We may interpret Job’s seeing God as his gaining God. But what does it mean to gain God? In Job there is no further revelation concerning this, for the revelation in this book is not clear, complete, or perfect. The clear, complete, and perfect revelation is found in Paul’s writings, especially in Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, the four books that make up the heart of the New Testament. If we read these books, we will have a clear view of what it means to gain God.

  12. If you believe that sickness, proverty, death are God’s will then how could you ever pray for someone or yourself to be healed. After all you may be praying against His will.
    Adam had authority over the earth, God made it for man’s good pleasure. Adam ate of the fruit and struck up an ungodly relationship with the devil thereby surrending authority over the earth to the devil. When the devil tempted Jesus “IF thou be the son of God throw yourself down…” Jesus resisted keeping Himself without sin. At the cross Jesus took back the authority over the earth from satan and gaveit to us the believers. It’s our place as sons of the Almighty God our Father to take our rightful place on this earth to not only resist satan but to expose his lies to a lost world.
    When the disciples asked Jesus how they should pray ” thy will be done on EARTH as it is in heaven” How was the earth before the fall. It was a perfect place free from all sin. There was no death, no sickness, no poverty just like heaven. So that must be God’s perfect plan, God’s perfect will. Man messed it up not God.
    God is also a just God. I personally do not think He is allowing bad things to happen. Do I believe He is all powerful, yes, but the coarse was set in the garden by Adams choice not God’s. It’s up to us to change things by the authority given to us in the name of Jesus. By the way christians don’t die. Our spirit is the real us, that new creature in Christ, and our spirit goes to be with the Lord.

  13. sharin joseph says:

    could u please let me know how to get this book in India.or else please help me to get e-book if possible.thank you

  14. Hi Paul, Do you think since we have grace we don’t have to repent?

    • Yvette, I repent every day. Repentance is essential since it is the flip-side of faith. The problem is that many are confused by they word. They subscribe to a limited, or sin-focused definition of repentance which is faithless and fleshly and straight out of the old covenant. It is wholly unlike the type of repentance preached in the New Testament. I have written more about repentance here and you will find a picture of it here.

  15. Amazing, simply amazing. I agree completely. God is good!!

  16. Thank you for this! I received this revelation a few years ago and I still talk with my friends about it ..they can’t seem to understand how good God is. I am praying for God encountairs and revelations on this subject, because it’s clouding them to see how loving Pappa really is. Bless you!

  17. Paul, I guess am a little late to this thread..but had a qn

    How do we negate the view that God allows certain arrows of the devil (if I may call it that) in a person’s life? Because we see that the response of God in both Job 1 and 2 was different and Satan was able to exercise only as much suffering/pain as was permitted by God.
    Though in both Chs 1 and 2 God states that ‘all that he has is in your hand’ and ‘he is in your hand’ resp., Ch 1 also talks about Satan telling God that HE has placed a hedge around Job,his family & possessions…

    Is it wrong to conclude that the Godly hedge can be lifted off at certain times and how does that compare to 1 John 5:18 (which is a precious promise verse to me personally).

    Blessings

    • I don’t believe God “allows” the Devil – God gave the planet to us and we allowed the Devil. Job 1:8 should not be read as God giving permission to Satan but like this:

      And Jehovah saith unto the Adversary, “Hast thou set thy heart against My servant Job because there is none like him in the land, a man perfect and upright, fearing God, and turning aside from evil?” (Job 1:8, YLT)

      Satan went for Job because he could. When God said, “All that he has is in thy power” (Job 1:12), He wasn’t handing Job over to Satan – God doesn’t do deals with the Devil! – He was simply stating a fact. The whole unredeemed “world is under the control of the evil one” (1 Joh 5:19).

      This hedge idea is based on a mis-translation of Job. God doesn’t allow the devil to afflict us with cancer and what-have-you. Jesus said the devil is a thief (John 10:10). If a thief robbed you would you blame the mayor for giving him permission?

      1 John 5:18 says “whosoever is begotten of God sinneth not… and the evil one toucheth him not.” I need to think about this some more but I wonder if John isn’t remembering Jesus’ words in John 14:30: “The prince of the world cometh: and he hath nothing in me.” It’s not that Jesus had some divine hedge of protection. It’s that he was secure in his Father’s love and utterly free from sin’s power. But as I say, I need to think more about that one.

      • Paul, thank you for your reply. However could you be a little more specific as to why in Job 1:12 when God said ‘all that he has is in your power’, Satan didnt/couldnt(?) touch Job or his flesh.
        But in Job 2:6, God says ‘he is in your hand, but save his life’ (KJV). Now Satan was able to hurt Job with infirmities…

        Also why do you think the hedge idea is baseless…To me it seemed like a logical conclusion of the situation..

        I truly believe that God doesn’t do deals with the devil…The will of the devil is totally contradictory to the will of God for our lives…But I am not able to explain/teach this convincingly to others from this passage :( Help!!

        Thanks for offering to think and shed some light on the 1 Jn passage Paul…Blessings!

      • Abi, I encourage you to filter your understanding of the book of Job through Jesus, rather than vice versa. Job didn’t have perfect revelation of the Father; neither did the author of Job. Jesus is. Jesus never said anything about hedges. In fact, he called the devil a thief. As my friend Daniel Silva recently said, “If the devil had permission to rob, steal and destroy, he wouldn’t be called the thief.”

        I also encourage you to read Tom’s book. It will help.

      • hi,
        regarding 1Jn 5:18, if I’m not mistaken, Creflo Dollar dealt with this issue in a series entitled”Can Christians sin?”According to him, when our spirit is reborn,we become a new creation.and since our old man is dead, our spirit can never sin again.! However our soul/flesh is still subject to temptation,and so, we can,and do continue to sin.
        This was a revelation for me, although it may be something you already know.
        For me, it makes it easier to fight the accusations of satan, by seeing myself as FOREVER INNOCENT, however horrendous or multiple may be my sins.
        Hope this info is accurate, and hope it will be helpful in your study in relation to this issue

  18. Paul, I do believe that satan is a thief and Job’s loss is not from God. However, when you quoted Romans 11:29 I believe the apostle was refering to God’s grace and spiritual gifts. Your thoughts on this please.

  19. David T says:

    I’ve always agreed with your approach to this but the one thing that I can’t understand is why, after Job says “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away”, in the next verse it states “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” Job 1:22. Doesn’t that mean Job was correcy when he said God gives and takes away?

  20. You shouldn’t capitalize devil. It’s not a proper noun.

  21. Tim Brown says:

    I have a question. You made the comment, “God does not inflict death and sickness on us to teach us stuff. God is more than capable of disciplining (i.e., training) us through His Word (2 Tim 3:16).”

    What do you make of Paul’s comments about some in the Corinthians church who was weak, sick, and even dying, because of the sin of division in their church?

    28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.[g] 31 But if we judged[h] ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined[i] so that we may not be condemned along with the world. – I Cor. 11:28-32

  22. Also in Job 42:11 the writer of Job says:

    11 “Then all his brothers, sisters, and former friends came and feasted with him in his home. And they consoled him and comforted him because of all the trials the Lord had brought against him.”

    He states that it was the Lord Himself that brought the trials on Job. How do we reconcile that?

  23. There is a paradox one must grasp, that is that when sin abounds , grace even more , it is sin that brings man to God, or sin as we understand it. If God had to reveal himself , there would be no suffering, but the lost would remain dead or lost if you prefer.So your suffering saves !!

    • interesting picture… that our sins should bring man to God… because that is where all our sins went – 2000 years ago in Christ, on the cross. those who think they are without sin wont bother following their “loose threads” that would lead them to the cross – and a face to face encounter with the living God. the cross is the ultimate picture of “where sin abounds, grace abounds much more” – all the world’s sin was heaped upon Grace Himself… and now the gift of grace and righteousness are overflowing from heaven for all men to partake in by faith. :)

      • Self righteousness resulted in death and death results in sin, the denial of real death results in man continually trying to justify his life, or what he believes is life.It is not sin that brings man to God but the result of sin our mortality. Sickness , the need for preservation , having to work to survive.Jesus has overcome all of this for those that believe, but we are still a witness to the truth about life and death.Gods promise is life and there is no other source, even animals have the breath of life in them.

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