The problem with manmade religion is that it views the Bible in a distorted way that glorifies self and diminishes grace. This can be seen in the way religion portrays Job as a good guy and God as a bad guy who sends the devil to do his dirty work.
Contrary to popular opinion, Job was not a giant of faith but a superstitious and fearful whiner, and God certainly did not send Satan to make Job’s life miserable. (Before you write to tell me I don’t know the Bible, please click on those links and read the relevant posts.)
Why are so many confused about Job? Because they’ve only read the first chapter. They’ve read the bit where it says:
There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. (Job 1:1, KJV)
And the other bit where it says…
In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (Job 1:22)
If you only read chapter 1, you will conclude that Job was perfect, blameless, and an all-round saint. But keep reading and you will find that he was anything but perfect. But that’s okay because none of us is perfect and all of us need grace.
I’m not here to knock Job down – the devil already did that – but to lift God up. I want you to see that God is far greater than the devil and far better than religion makes him out to be.
So that you might appreciate the grace God gives to imperfect people, I want to look at three ways Job missed the mark. Job messed up. He got three things wrong about God and, if we are unacquainted with the gospel of Jesus, we will repeat his mistakes.
And because people sometimes write in and say “You’re adding to scripture” when I say things like “Job messed up,” we’re going to see how God responded to Job through his servant Elihu.
1. Job blamed God for his suffering
Job did not hesitate to attribute his suffering to a Lord who gives and takes away (Job 1:21), who gives both good and trouble (Job 2:10), and who had made his life bitter (Job 27:2). In Job’s understanding the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune come from the Lord’s bow:
Why do you shoot your arrows at me? (Job 7:20, NIrV)
The arrows of the Almighty are in me, my spirit drinks in their poison (Job 6:4)
When hard times come there is a temptation to point the finger at the Lord, but was Job correct in blaming God for his hardships? No. Near the end of the book he is confronted by a young man called Elihu. Elihu is the voice of wisdom and sanity and he says:
Far be it from God to do evil, from the Almighty to do wrong. (Job 34:10)
If you think God gives and takes away, stop listening to Job and listen to Elihu. God won’t kill your kids or steal your wealth or make you sick. God gives good gifts, not bad gifts like cancer, and his gifts are without revocation. God doesn’t give us sickness to teach us character and he doesn’t take away things we are enjoying.
2. Job thought God was hostile towards him
Like many people who are going through hard times, Job thought God was out to get him:
Why do you avoid me? Why do you treat me like an enemy? … You bind chains on my feet; (Job 13:24,27)
Have you ever been in so much hurt that you thought God was trying to kill you? Then you’re in good company, because that’s what Job thought (see Job 30:21-23). But Job was wrong. Elihu, who had a much better understanding of God’s good character, spoke up to correct his misperception:
You have said in my hearing–I heard the very words… “God has found fault with me; he considers me his enemy. He fastens my feet in shackles; he keeps close watch on all my paths.” But I tell you, in this you are not right, (Job 33:8, 10-12)
Religion says, “God is mad at you, God hates you, God is sick of you.” But the gospel of Elihu declares that God loves you and is for you:
He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food (Job 36:16)
God doesn’t give us pain and trouble but he delivers us in our suffering and speaks to us in our affliction (Job 36:15). He does this because he’s our Father who loves us and cares for us.
3. Job accused God of being unjust
As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made my life bitter (Job 27:2)
Read the Book of Job in one sitting and you’ll see Job’s descent into madness. At the beginning it’s all roses and religious soundbites, but by chapter 27 the mask has well and truly come off and Job is fed up.
God-Alive! He’s denied me justice! God Almighty! He’s ruined my life! (Job 27:2, MSG)
This is a serious accusation yet it is one we may be tempted to make. “God allowed this to happen. This is all his fault. IT’S NOT FAIR!”
What does Elihu say in response to this accusation?
Is there anyone like Job, who drinks scorn like water?… It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice. (Job 34:7,12)
God did not ruin Job’s life and he won’t ruin yours. Life is unjust. Life will beat you up. But God is never unjust.
If you are going through tough times, don’t follow Job down into the dunghill of self-pity and finger-pointing. Listen to Elihu:
Oh, [insert your name here], don’t you see how God’s wooing you from the jaws of danger? How he’s drawing you into wide-open places– inviting you to feast at a table laden with blessings? (Job 36:16, MSG)
Be like David who saw, in the presence of his enemies, a banquet table prepared by the Lord (Ps 23:5). Your heavenly Father is for you, not against you!
I hope you can see that Job was not the sweet-smelling saint that religion makes him out to be. Although we have this perception that Job said nothing wrong, Elihu said, “Job, you talk sheer nonsense–nonstop nonsense!” (Job 35:16, MSG).
And this brings me to the best and final part of our series. Even though Job got it wrong in so many ways, God was for him and God brought him through to a spacious place. How did that happen? We’ll find out in the next post.