Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Book of Job
Lesson 3. "Doth Job Fear God For Nought?"
Does Job love God for nothing? asked Satan. God had raised the issue of Job's authenticity of character describing him as "perfect and ... upright" and God-fearing, hating "evil" (Job 1:8). God defended Job.
Satan accused Job of tainted motives for service. Job's love is corrupted because You bless him with prosperity at home and in his business as well. Remove that and see how Job will cuss You out.
It is absolutely the case that God has promised and does "bless" His people (Gen. 12:1-3). His blessings not only are spiritual but also material. But what happens when God's people fall upon hard times and experience suffering, financial reversals, and even family tragedy and death? Who do they blame?
It's the age-old question. It's the question raised by Satan in the controversy with Christ at the end-time in the mark of the beast issue. The people who proclaim the three angels' messages are described as those who "fear [love] God" for "the hour of His judgment is come" (Rev. 14:7). Finally, at the end of the history of the gospel, those "angel" messengers not only proclaim the clearest everlasting gospel, but their character thoroughly represents what they preach. As such, they "give glory to Him" and help God win His trial for "His judgment is come."
It is the essence of the 1888 message that Christ produces a corporate body from "every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" (vs. 6) who are motivated by a deeper appreciation of what led Jesus to die for them on His cross. Jesus was seemingly abandoned by His Father when He bore the sins of the world on the cross and experienced the fullest condemnation of God-forsaken death--in truth the second death. This was all because the faith of Jesus was motivated by His love for the Father in doing His will, and His love for a lost world of sinners who needed a Saviour.
Satan maintains that he has invented sin, which at its root is self-indulgence, rebellion, and enmity against God's person and law. He accuses God that it's impossible for sinners to truly serve God either by actions or for altruistic motives. And Satan points to observable facts on the ground as to the reality of continued rebellion in the lives of God's professed followers on earth.
The issue in the great controversy with Satan is not only could the Son of God endure the ultimate test of loyalty to His Father on the cross, but can Christ produce a victory over sin in the hearts and lives of a sample from earth's people groups. Anything less than this will mean a defeat for God and Christ in the great controversy with Satan, and a failure of our High Priest's ministry in the heavenly sanctuary.
Might does not make right. God could force His people to obey Him. Their service would then be out of fearing a tyrant or dictator. These are the very principles of Satan's government in which he uses fear, intimidation, coercion, and yes, even death threats.
Satan's accusation, "Doth Job fear God for nothing?" (1:9) is ultimately directed against God. His followers are bought and paid for by the "goodies" that He hands out. Satan accuses God, "put forth Thine hand ... [You] touch all that he hath" (vs. 11). Satan sets God up to take the blame for Job's catastrophic losses.
And it really does seem as though God is responsible. Does He not tell Satan, "all that he [Job] hath is in thy power"? (vs. 12). Why does not God continue His defense of Job? Why does God withdraw His protection and turn Job over to the whims of Satan? Doesn't this make God ultimately responsible for suffering? This is the way it seems. For Job this was his reality and theodicy. Why does God permit evil?
But what Job did not know is the "back story" we know from the Book of Job. It was "Satan [who] went forth" (vs. 12) to perpetrate all the suffering which befell Job. It was evil men, "the Sabeans," who rustled Job's cattle (vs. 15). It was the reporter's perception that the lightning which struck Job's sheep and shepherds (vs. 16) was an "act of God." It was bad "Chaldeans" who plundered Job's camels (vs. 17). It was a tornado (an act of nature) that destroyed Job's house and killed his children (vs. 19). Here Satan exhibits his fear tactics by using evil forces and "acts of nature" to coerce Job's will in disavowing God.
But God cannot resort to such measures. If He did so, He would be no better than Satan--a malevolent dictator.
So God demonstrates the principles of His government in the only way that is consistent with His character of agape. God's love is strength in weakness. God takes the blame for all Job's calamities--"thou [Satan] movedst Me against him [Job]" (2:3).
God even goes further. He demonstrates weakness by permitting Job to be exposed to Satan's maliciousness without divine protection (vs. 6). I say, without divine protection, but there is a limit. God will not permit Job to be tempted above that which he is able (1 Cor. 10:13). God sets the boundary sparing Job's life.
God spared Job's life, but He did not spare His Son's life. The experiences of Job may be a type of Christ's sufferings in prolepsis for the Old Testament church, but what Christ went through on His cross is far beyond what Job endured.
And this is what the 1888 message helps us to see. It resolves the problem of theodicy for us today,--why God permits suffering in our lives.
God is Sovereign and in control. He is Almighty and all powerful. But the God of the cross reveals His strength in weakness. This is the reason for the incarnation. The God of the whole universe had to become weak in order to defeat evil. Only with the frailties of humanity could He defeat Satan. On the cross of Calvary, the Creator God demonstrated His love, truth, and justice. The suffering God, hanging on the cross, is a victorious God! Only the Lamb can overcome the dragon in the book of Revelation. What a paradox! Sin started with pride, but was overcome by humility (Isa. 14:12-15; Phil. 2:5-11).
The cross reveals God as vulnerable. He opens Himself to experience ultimate pain and suffering. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself" (2 Cor. 5:19). "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:16). He is the suffering, crucified God.
And why? In order to win our hearts by such suffering love.
There are those who say that Christ defeated Satan in the great controversy at the cross. Yes, absolutely He did. But it would be an anti-law gospel of the cross to teach that the cross is a sufficient demonstration of the defeat of Satan before the world and the universe. For the fact is that sin has continued for 2000 years after the cross.
Christ's High Priestly ministry of the cross in the heavenly sanctuary must produce overcoming victory in the character of His professed followers. Anything less than this will be a victory for Satan with which he can accuse God of perpetuating evil unending with his lawless government.
But I am persuaded otherwise. God needs us in order for Him to win His case; just as He needed Job, when Satan accused God before "the sons of God" (Job 2:1).
Only Job himself, who is weaker than the devil, can refute Satan's argument, defeat him, and thus prove that God is right when He is justifying him and standing on his side. Job overcame the devil not because he was so good or strong (he knows he is a sinner--Job 7:21; 10:6; 14:17), but because of full confidence and faith in the God who gave him strength and victory (Job 13:15; 19:25-27; 42:5).
When Job was weak, he was strong. Paul says eloquently: "When I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Cor. 12:10). "... We can glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world, with its lusts, is crucified unto us, and we unto the world" (E. J. Waggoner, "The Power of Christ," The Present Truth, July 16, 1891).
The sanctuary in heaven will be cleansed when the hearts of God's people are cleansed on the earth. "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth"! (Rom. 1:16).
--Paul E. Penno
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