by Mike Ratliff
Samuel did what the LORD commanded and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling and said, “Do you come peaceably?” And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed is before him.” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:4-7)
In our study of God’s sovereignty in the suffering of His people from the book of Job, let’s look at Job and his family before affliction overtook them. However, before we look at that please look closely at the passage I placed at the top of this post. Samuel, by God’s direction, went to Bethlehem to anoint the next king of Israel from the sons of Jesse. When Samuel saw Jesse’s firstborn son, Eliab, he was sure that he must the one God sent him to anoint. However, what did God say? In our modern vernacular it would be something like this, “Don’t go by appearances.” “A man’s character is within and is not made up of what he looks like or what he has.” “I look on the heart of Man.”
Often we do as Samuel did and look at how rich or powerful or popular a person is and think that they must surely be in good with God to be so blessed. Conversely, we also look at some pastors and their families who labor long and hard in small churches in complete obscurity and think that they must be irrelevant in the Kingdom of God to be stuck in this backwater. In this study I hope to bring attention to the fact that appearances, the presence of suffering or the lack of suffering, wealth or poverty are not indications of God’s blessing or cursing in one’s life. In fact, the point of this study will be to cement into our consciousness the fact that God is sovereign. He can do as he pleases in the lives of his people to accomplish His purposes in their hearts.
There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. (Job 1:1)
The name of this book, Job, as well as the name of the main character in it, is a transliteration of the Hebrew name “Iyyov” which means “the hated or persecuted one.” The land of Uz was probably roughly equivalent to modern day Kuwait. The man Job is described in v1 as blameless and upright. The word translated “blameless” here is translated as “perfect” in the KJV. This word means complete, whole or upright in a moral sense. The word translated “upright: in v1 is often used in the Old Testament to describe the uprightness, justice and righteousness of God. Job was one who “feared” God. This Hebrew word is a close parallel to the Greek word from the New Testament which was used to describe “God-fearers.” This word attempts to describe one who lived with an active conviction that God was one to be feared and, in response, altered their way of life in order to be pleasing to Him. One of the ways Job did this was by turning away from evil. This describes a person who lives a life of repentance.
Believers who live lives of repentance do so by walking by faith. Their lives make no sense to the fleshly people all around them. They eschew evil and do good. They deny themselves sensuality because all that does is feed the flesh in an attempt to be fulfilled with that which cannot fulfill. They are honest and grateful. They are ready to help those in need and to share their wisdom in order to help others to live God fearing lives. This describes Job’s character. To me, he appears to be role model for each of us.
There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. (Job 1:2-3)
Job was blessed. God had given him seven sons and three daughters. In the Bible, a large family was always seen as a sign of God’s blessing. He also had a huge amount of livestock. In the patriarchal period, in which most biblical scholars place Job, wealth was measured in livestock and the number of servants one had. Job was very wealthy. He was considered to be the greatest of all the people of the east. How did Job handle his success?
His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually. (Job 1:4-5)
Job not only took care of his own spiritual needs, but also was the priest before God for his family. His focus was upward. It was on serving the living God. He feared God and turned away from evil. He stood in the gap for his family as well.
Job was a godly man whom God had blessed with a large family and much wealth. The natural inclination in us is to make the false assumption that Godliness will always produce material blessings. Ungodliness will always produce misery and suffering. If professing believers suffer then they must have sin in their life and they are being unrepentant.
One of the byproducts of this study will be to erase those false assumptions from our hearts. Yes, there are consequences to sin and there is suffering that comes from that, but is it automatic? Is it always manifest in this life? Don’t some wicked people suffer little in this life? Sure, that is so. There are also many very good people who seem to suffer continually. Therefore, let’s not make those assumptions that only the wicked suffer from God while the godly don’t.
We sin when we leave God’s sovereignty out of how we look at life. Humanism says that the end of all things is Man. Man is the highest form of life and it is right that things work out so that all can be happy–if they deserve it. If they don’t deserve it then they must suffer. Okay, that sounds good, but upon what criteria do we base this? When the happiness of Man is the ultimate goal then any force that enters the equation that changes things so that Man is not happy then that force must be bad. All effort to change that force or negate it is put into action. Suffering is bad, ease and comfort are good.
When Christians suffer there is usually a huge outcry and a plea for prayer to make the suffering stop. Is this how we should react to suffering. In this series we will look at these topics in greater detail and we will see that there is more to suffering than just the pain. When upstanding godly people like Job are suddenly cast into a bed of suffering, how should we react? How do we pray for those suffering like this?
I will leave you today with the following passage from the pen of the Apostle Paul. Meditate on it, asking God for wisdom and direction in your own pursuit of Him.
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. (Colossians 1:24-26)
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.
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