Friday, November 18, 2016

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Book of Job

Lesson 8. Innocent Blood


All of the arguments Job and his friends make to explain the misery Job is experiencing are based on a misunderstanding of the love of God. It is natural for us to project our own inclinations on to God. We think that when God pays attention to us, either negatively or positively, He is responding to something we have done or not done. It is a type of manipulation.

Essentially, Job's friends are reasoning that his troubles have been caused or allowed by God because of some sin Job either is cherishing or doesn't know about. Job argues that he knows of nothing and his actions and intentions have only been good. Both are wrong ways of thinking about God. The idea that God is justified in allowing innocents to suffer torture and death because all have sinned is a simplistic extension of the friends' argument that bad things happen to us because we are bad. To claim that God can torture or kill anyone He wants is to project sadistic and capricious intentions better suited to Satan.

God is love, agape. He loves His creation because that is who He is. His nature, not our actions, is why He loves us. The ultimate demonstration of the extent of His love was the cross where God, in Christ, reconciled His creation even while they were in rebellion against Him. This concept is fundamental to the 1888 message. The understanding that God loves us simply because we are His creation is the basis of the gospel.

In other words, because of the cross of Jesus the Father could "cause His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous [just] and the unrighteous [unjust]" (Matt 5:45). He was now free to treat "every man," believers and unbelievers alike as though they had never sinned.

Because He is love, God gave His rebellious creatures a way out of their woeful predicament in Eden. Unlike the heavenly "conference" with Job, Satan didn't even stay to hear God's plan to fix the mess he had led Adam and Eve into. We can look to the metaphor of the unwanted newborn baby girl in Ezekiel 16:6 to see what the evil one wanted to do with humans. "As for your birth, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water for cleansing; ... No eye looked with pity on you ... Rather you were thrown out into the open field, for you were abhorred on the day you were born" (Ezek. 16:4-5). But God came by and cleaned and nurtured her so she could live.

This is not a picture of a God who needs to make us suffer to satisfy some perverse pleasure like a cat plays with a mouse. We can see the imagery of a tender Father who supports and disciplines His lost child. No doubt the discipline was not fun for her, but it was required to make her character complete and mature. God didn't allow Satan to make Job miserable just for His own fun. He knew the strength of Job's character, and He allowed the suffering to mature him, and demonstrate to the watching universe the fact that God could do that for a willing human being.

If the reader would indulge a personal story, I think this illustration helps. When my sister and I were young, our parents took us to Disneyland. We were so excited we had trouble falling asleep in the motel the night before. Our dad became so exasperated that he warned that the next one to talk would get a spanking. I whispered something to my sister, but he thought she was talking and she got the spanking I deserved. I am sorry to admit, I didn't speak up.

Is this the image we have of God? Do we think that He makes mistakes about who deserves punishment, and capriciously dishes out discipline to satisfy His wrath? How can we "count it all joy" to accept discipline from God when we think He is like this?

As an adult, I can understand my dad's actions. An 8-hour drive with a 5- and 7-year old was probably not pleasant. We all needed sleep. Our parents wanted us to enjoy the next day, and being tired and cranky would have prevented our fun. His motivation for setting boundaries was really love for his children. At 5 years old, I certainly was not sufficiently mature to understand that.

God is our perfect Father and loves us much more than our earthly fathers. He chastises us because He loves us. He doesn't make mistakes. If we insist on misunderstanding His motives, He can never move us in to mature faith.

What does mature faith look like? "Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:1). Ellet J. Waggoner has written: "Most people have the idea that [peace] is a sort of ecstatic feeling. ... But peace with God means the same thing that it means with men: it means simply the absence of war. As sinners we are enemies of God. He is not our enemy, but we are His enemies. He is not fighting against us, but we are fighting against Him. How then may we have peace with Him? Simply by ceasing to fight, and laying down our arms. We may have peace whenever we are ready to stop fighting" (Waggoner on Romans, p. 5.93).

How did this happen with Job? Most of his defense was based on his integrity. In chapter 31 he lists his good intentions and his good deeds that supported them. By the end of the book, after God has spoken, Job has nothing to say. "Then Job answered the Lord and said, 'Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to Thee? I lay my hand on my mouth. Once I have spoken, and I will not answer; even twice, and I will add no more" (Job 40:3-5).

He stopped fighting, willing to let God be his judge. His friends' opinions didn't matter because he was at peace with God. "Note that when we have peace with God we are not simply at peace with Him, but we have His peace. This peace has been left on the earth for men; for the Lord has said, 'Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you' (John 14:27). He has given it to us. It is ours already. It has always been ours. The only trouble has been that we have not believed it. As soon as we believe the words of Christ, then we have in very deed the peace that He has given. And it is peace with God, because we find the peace in Christ, and Christ dwells in the bosom of the Father (John 1:18)" (Waggoner, ibid).

--Arlene Hill

Bible texts are from the New American Standard Bible.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

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