Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Book of Job
Lesson 1. The End
Why must the Jobs of this world suffer a virtual (or real) death before someone comes to "console and comfort" them? Why must the Jobs of this world live and die as persons who are abandoned and ignored? Why must they cry out for comfort to "friends" who remain so oblivious to their pain? Why must their stand for justice and redemption be a post-mortem victory? Is this what God desires?
Sally and her husband took a vacation Europe. They visited a village where they happened upon a fresco of the resurrected Christ. Sally's husband stopped casually to look at the painting and then moved on to the next picture. Sally lingers behind, staring at the face of Christ. Despite the golden halo over Christ's head and the flag of victory in his hand, she sees that his eyes are staring into the foreground with a look that seems to be remembering the pain of crucifixion, as if to suggest that "if resurrection had taken place, it had not yet been comprehended." Sally's husband sees her staring at the painting, but he cannot at first figure out what has so captured her interest and imagination. He looks at her intently. She is standing there, propped up on the crutches she has needed to walk since a childhood bout with polio crippled her with a lasting lesson about what pain and loss means. His eyes return to the painting and gradually, but with increasing clarity, he sees what Sally sees in the eyes of this One who until moments ago had been horribly dead. The truth and the promise of resurrection, he now understands, is that "those who have been dead understand things that will never be understood by those who have only lived." I do not know of any statement that provides more profound explication of the last words in the biblical text of Job.
The final words concerning Job amount to an epitaph: "So Job died, being old and full of days" (Job 42:17). In Job, the expression "full of days" becomes an invitation to a larger understanding of what it means to live in fellowship with God.
It is fitting that the end of the book of Job effectively returns us once more to the beginnings of his story. When considering who belongs among the models of faith that best exemplify God's hopes and expectations, the journey begins with the question that God poses at the outset of this book: "Have you considered my servant Job?" (Job 1:8).
The epilogue clearly invites us to return to the prologue of this story in order to find its conclusion. "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). "So Job died, being old and full of days."
Job's restoration holds the promise that there is life on the other side of the ash heap. For that, we give thanks, even though we do not fully understand why he has been required to make this journey. Despite the promise of this all's-well-that-ends-well ending, we must wonder if Job or we can ever find the way back to that faraway place where life was once untroubled and God's blessings were unquestioned. Perhaps such wonderment is part of the journey with God that faith requires. Perhaps those who find themselves sitting with Job on the ash heap of suffering "for no reason" should know more about life in relation to God than they did before.
Suffering like Job's changes everything in heaven and on earth. What might have changed in heaven and on earth after Job prayed and the Lord accepted Job's prayer?
Central to the 1888 message is that "things"--houses, lands, cars, furniture, clothes--lose their appeal when we see the glory of the cross of Christ. So do sensual pleasure and love of ease. "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Gal. 6:14). When you see His cross, you grasp the reality of life. You sense that nothing is yours by right: "If one died for all, then were all dead" (2 Cor. 5:14). A new purpose for living took over: if you believed this self-propagating gospel, you just had to live "for Him who died" for you, and it wasn't fear or hope-of-reward that moved you. Materialism, sensuality, all self-centered motivations, were transcended by this phenomenal new reason for living. You saw yourself eternally in debt to the Son of God. What you see is yourself crucified instead of Christ. He died in place of you. Had He not died, you would be dead. It follows that your life is not your own; "And that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him" (vs. 15). Understanding this, no one can live selfishly if he believes Christ died in place of him. Henceforth, he is "crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20). In this way "the love of Christ constraineth us" (2 Cor. 5:14), and living for Him becomes a joy.
"I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:5, 6). "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). "Look to Me, and be saved," is what God asks us to do (Isa. 45:22).
Looking is a favorite pastime. News magazines capitalize on this desire to "look" at something new. Millions spend their idle hours just watching the parade of humanity passing by their doors or their TV screens, or poring through picture magazines. If there is an accident on the freeway or anything unusual, we have an urge to "behold." All have this built-in yearning to feast our eyes on some sight yet unseen. There is an unsatisfied longing to see something ultimate.
Upon that cross of Jesus my eye at times can see
I take O cross your shadow for my abiding place!
What we long to see is that cross of Jesus. No other sight can satisfy. And once we have seen it, like Paul, we will "glory" in nothing else. It will become our passion. If we "behold the Lamb of God," we will see a sight that has power to dissolve all idolatry into the nothingness that it is. Money, possessions, careers, fame, sensual pleasure, all lose their charm for the person who has seen what Calvary means. Life begins.
--Paul E. Penno
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