by Mike Ratliff
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” (John 15:18-20)
We are now in Job chapter 11. I have struggled for many days over this chapter. At first it seems as if it is a repeat of the previous chapters where Job’s friends accused him of egregious sin, which brought about his suffering via God’s law of retaliation. However, we know that that is not the case and so does Job. However, the spiritual attack on him is heavy as is his physical suffering. The waves of suffering are like cruel blows from a huge and talented boxer. They come one at a time or grouped together for maximum effect. Job is reeling.
I spent many days contemplating, reflecting, and meditating on chapter 11 and its possible parallels with our Christian walk. Also, over the last several days I have been falsely accused of some things. I have had people react to me as if I was some sort of horrible sinner when I was doing nothing at all. I have had people misunderstand me in ways that confused me to no end. I have not been able to write very much during this time. Why was this happening? Today, God made it clear to me what was going on. The message from this chapter as well as the overlaying message from most of the book is this—the Righteous who walk by faith will be persecuted when they come in contact with this lost and dying world.
It was interesting how God revealed this to me, but it was no fun. It was quite painful. I hate to be falsely accused, don’t you? It is probably the one thing that will drive me to despair quicker than just about anything. After many days of blow after blow I was beginning to feel like God was allowing the enemy to take me down. Then, this afternoon God opened my eyes. The realization came like a lightening bolt. Suffering is the natural by-product of Righteous living. Also, without suffering, we cannot witness to the sufferings of Christ. For the gospel message to be effectual the presenter will carry the marks of suffering for their faith. That is how God works. God had me listen to John Piper’s sermon called “Live to Die” again today. I have listened to it many times, but I could not rest until I listened to it again. All through that message God kept showing me why each event of my light momentary affliction happened and how I was to approach the rest of this study in Job using that as the overlaying theme of the book. Of course, I already knew this intellectually, but not spiritually. I think I have a grasp of that now.
Then Zophar the Naamathite answered and said: “Should a multitude of words go unanswered, and a man full of talk be judged right? Should your babble silence men, and when you mock, shall no one shame you? For you say, ‘My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in God’s eyes.’ But oh, that God would speak and open his lips to you, and that he would tell you the secrets of wisdom! For he is manifold in understanding. Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves. (Job 11:1-6)
Job’s third friend, Zophar, is indignant at Job’s constant protests of his innocence. In fact, as we see in this passage, he accuses Job of being just an empty talker. To Zophar this is compounding Job’s guilt. Like the other friends, Zophar cannot get past his misconception that suffering is the result of God retaliating against sinners. The claim that Job was innocent was, to Zophar, a direct attack on God’s character. God is Love. He loves everyone, but punishes sinners. Job must have chosen to sin and is, therefore, suffering his just deserts. Any other explanation would be a direct affront to God’s character and this makes Zophar indignant.
There is a parallel to this found throughout the Bible. There are accounts of God hardening the heart of Pharaoh for instance. Jesus taught in parables rather than in plain language so that those who had been spiritually blinded by God could not hear and believe. God hated Esau, but loved Jacob before either was born. (Romans 9) Don’t these acts by God appear to be disparaging? Certainly, we must be misinterpreting these passages. God is Love after all and loves everyone the same. Right? If that were true then why did Paul add the following passage?
So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory– even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? (Romans 9:18-24)
Is God behind Job’s suffering? Yes he is. He is allowing Satan to buffet him, but it is all by God’s will that his happens. So, this makes the accusations by Job’s friends to be nothing more than part of the suffering. Does God allow us to suffer? Yes! Is it to punish us? It could be the natural consequences of sin on our part, but it is more than likely God using the suffering in our lives to work His eternal purposes in our hearts and in those all around us who observe it.
Part of God’s process of opening my eyes over the last several days is the fact that when Christians are ashamed of the gospel they don’t take chances. They are afraid of the natural result of standing for truth in a hostile environment. The world hates for anyone to state absolute truth. Isn’t that what the gospel is? This relativistic world despises the gospel of righteousness. However, it loves the cheap grace gospel that never talks about repentance. A Christian who is not ashamed of the gospel tells the truth to the world despite the repercussions. Persecution will follow hard in the heels of standing for the truth of the gospel.
Look again at Romans 9:18-24. Do you think that God has blinded Job’s friends to the truth? I believe that is a distinct possibility. They don’t believe Job. They have embraced their false view of God over knowing Him as Job does. This is idolatry. Spiritual blindness always flows from idolatry. Listen to Zophar’s indignation at Job’s audacity of offending the straw god these three friends believe in.
“Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty? It is higher than heaven–what can you do? Deeper than Sheol–what can you know? Its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea. If he passes through and imprisons and summons the court, who can turn him back? For he knows worthless men; when he sees iniquity, will he not consider it? But a stupid man will get understanding when a wild donkey’s colt is born a man! “If you prepare your heart, you will stretch out your hands toward him. If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and let not injustice dwell in your tents. Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure and will not fear. You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away. And your life will be brighter than the noonday; its darkness will be like the morning. And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security. You will lie down, and none will make you afraid; many will court your favor. But the eyes of the wicked will fail; all way of escape will be lost to them, and their hope is to breathe their last.” (Job 11:7-20)
Can God’s people know God and know about God? Sure we can. We may not have a complete understanding of Him, but He has revealed Himself to us in His Son and in His Word. What I find interesting in Zophar’s diatribe here is that he says that no man can know the deep things of God, however, he insinuates that he does. Isn’t this just like the faulty logic we hear nowadays from those who attack every aspect of our faith? I really don’t like doing battle with self-avowed atheists. They tell me that there are no absolutes. Well, that is an absolute statement. That very statement disproves their contention. However, this is just the sort of stupid argumentation that all those who oppose God as He has revealed Himself to His people in His Word and in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, have to use. It even sounds right to our human reason. We spiritually regard Christ and our faith. Human reasoning, the ways of the flesh, cannot regard Christ or our faith correctly. Zophar and his friends are doing this very thing. Job is suffering for it and God is allowing it.
I believe that the Church in America is way overdue for suffering. The reason it isn’t suffering very much, physically, is that there are few who are really standing for the truth. Why? Most are ashamed of the genuine gospel. They may preach or teach a gospel, but it is the cheap grace gospel that the world has no problem with. God is separating those who have been sealed from the masses of disingenuous believers who are part of the counterfeit church of decisional regeneration. The few, the remnant, are being prepared for the suffering that is coming. He is opening their eyes to the truth. They see the counterfeit church and its false gospel for what it is. Those who buy into church by pragmatism are blind to the truth. I fear that many of those we have always felt sure about as being solid Christians are going full bore for the lies of the universal false church that is coming.
For now, look at Job’s suffering and the blindness of his accusers. That is a clear picture of what awaits all who walk the walk by faith in God’s light.
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