STUDY TWO: JOB, THE MAN OF FAITH

© Rosemary Bardsley 2020

The Book of Job contains an accurate report of how wise men of the day chewed over the problem of Job’s suffering. But that is not all it contains. It also contains God’s perspective on Job’s suffering, and it is God’s perspective that reveals the error of both human perspectives and the enemy’s perspective.

Obviously God wants us to understand how easily wrong conclusions can be drawn about suffering, and about the person who is suffering, and how these wrong conclusions actually add to the suffering. See Study 9 in the Suffering Revisited studies. God also wants us to understand that faith and suffering are not mutually exclusive. They can exist together. They do exist together. Indeed genuine faith has the potential to be the cause of suffering. See Study 8 in the Suffering Revisited studies. Importantly, the Book of Job teaches us that genuine faith endures and survives, indeed is enriched by, the experience of suffering.

In this study we look at the first, and very important question that confronts us: ‘Was Job a believer?’

In chapters one and two of the Book of Job the scene is set and the three key characters - Job, God and Satan - are introduced. The information given here is of utmost importance for an accurate understanding of the book. From this Prologue we gain the perspective which we must keep in mind throughout the entire book. Without the Prologue and the Epilogue (42:7ff) Job would appear to us, as he did to his three friends and to Elihu, to be obnoxiously self-righteous, and the opinions of his friends would seem completely valid. We would go away from the Book of Job convinced that God does indeed reward righteousness with prosperity and peace, and punish wickedness with suffering and calamity.

But here in the Prologue God himself introduces Job to us as he presents him to Satan:

‘Have you considered my servant Job?’ God asks, then presents him to Satan: ‘There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.’ (1:8, 2:3).

 

A. WHAT DOES THIS APPROBATION MEAN?

[1] It cannot mean that Job is sinless and has thereby merited God’s approval, because the Scripture denies the possibility of a sinless man, and Job himself lays no claim to sinlessness; rather, as we shall see later he freely admits himself to be a sinner.

What do these verses teach about our common human sinfulness?
Romans 1:18 – 20

Romans 3:9 – 18

Romans 3:23

Galatians 3:10

1John 1:8 – 10

 

[2] Satan immediately knew what God meant: ‘Does Job fear God for nothing?’ (1:9) However imperfect Satan’s understanding of the situation was, he has at least, without realizing the deep significance of what he is saying, pinpointed this: Job is a God-fearer. It is this to which God is drawing his attention; and it is this aspect of Job’s life against which all of Satan’s attacks are directed.

Remember what we saw in the previous study about the significance of ‘the fear of the Lord’. What do these verses teach?
Job 28:23

Proverbs 1:7

Proverbs 9:10

Proverbs 15:33

Ecclesiastes 12:9 – 23

 

The ‘fear of the Lord’ is obviously the starting point for wisdom and understanding, but where does this reverential ‘fear’ come from? How can anyone acquire it?

 

B. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ‘FEAR GOD’?

What is this quality, this characteristic in Job that elicits both the approval of God and the vicious antagonism of Satan? The Bible teaches:

[1] The fear of the Lord is a gift from God
Jeremiah 32:39-40 says ‘I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me ... I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me.’

God here promises to work in the hearts of his rebellious and unrepentant people, changing their hatred and mockery of him to reverential fear. The fear of the Lord was not in them, nor did they merit any favour from God. Yet God promises ‘I will inspire them to fear me’. This instructs us clearly that the fear of the Lord is a gift from God. We cannot create or produce it of ourselves. If a man fears the Lord he has been given it by God. All men stand before God in rebellion and antagonism until he puts his hand upon them and grants them this gift. This is verified in Romans 5:8 & 10 where Paul classifies us as sinners and God’s enemies at the very time when God was putting our salvation into effect in the death of Christ:

‘But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. … For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son …’

[2] The fear of the Lord is generated and motivated by God’s redeeming and forgiving actions
Moses, having by God’s powerful hand led the Hebrews to the frontiers of the promised land, charged them to fear the Lord.

Check out these verses. What is the connection between God’s powerful redemptive activity and human reverential fear before him?
Deuteronomy 10:12 – 22

 

Deuteronomy 13:4 – 5

 

Psalm 130: 3 – 4

 

The motivation is clear - the character and activity of God: ‘For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome ...’ (Deuteronomy 10:17). This God has chosen, loved and redeemed the people of Israel (10:12 – 22), therefore they are to fear him. This thought deepens in Psalm 130:3 – 4:

‘If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness;
therefore you are feared.’

Here the Psalmist attributes the fear of the Lord to his knowledge of God’s forgiveness. This is something deep, reaching down to the very roots of our being. This man is aware of his utter destitution before God (v3); he knows himself to be rightly condemned in the presence of the holy and almighty God. But he is aware also that his God is one who forgives iniquity, who removes our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west. He knows that this forgiving activity of God is utterly unexpected and undeserved. And so he stands amazed, awestruck, that such a holy One should forgive such a sinner: and he fears the Lord.

Let us progress further: there is a parable of Jesus in Matthew 18:21 – 25 where forgiveness did not produce this reverential, thankful fear. That man failed to appreciate the greatness and graciousness of his master’s forgiveness. He took it carelessly, thoughtlessly. He did not really receive it unto himself at all. And so he went out full of nothing but himself. No thankful heart; no reverential fear. And he lost out. This hard saying ties up the parable:

‘And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you, unless you each forgive your brother from your hearts.’ (Mat 18:35)

We may say then that the fear of the Lord is not only motivated by God’s redeeming and forgiving activity towards us, but is also the necessary consequence of it.

A person who has this reverential fear towards God is a person who knows he is the recipient of a totally undeserved and unexpected redeeming/forgiving action of God. This ‘fear’ of God, is not fearing his wrath, his judgment, his condemnation. Rather it arises from having, by his grace, escaped that wrath, judgment and condemnation, and now bows before God in utter thankfulness and praise.

[3] The fear of the Lord is accompanied by God’s pity and mercy.
Behind God’s forgiveness is his compassion. We see this in the parable mentioned above. We see it also in Psalm 103, in which God’s forgiveness and compassion are the focus of the Psalmist’s praise. Of particular note is this: God’s mercy, God’s pity, God’s compassion, God’s deep-seated tender-heartedness, call it what we will, has a specific direction: it is towards those who fear him.

Read verses 11, 13, and 17 of Psalm 103. What affirmation is made to those who fear the Lord?

 

 

 

 

There is yet an even closer connection between God’s compassion and the fear of the Lord. Psalm 147:11 reads:

‘The LORD delights in those who fear him,
who put their hope in his unfailing love.’

When we remember that Hebrew poetry expresses parallel thoughts we realize that we do not have here two different thoughts but two expressions of the one thought. From this verse we learn that those who fear the Lord are those who hope in his unfailing love (that is, his mercy). The Biblical meaning of hope is this: it is a sure and certain confidence; it is trust and dependence; it is a commitment of oneself to the sureness of the thing hoped in.

Those who fear the Lord are those who have committed themselves to his mercy. They are those who trust him, in the fullest and deepest sense of the word. Those who fear the Lord are those who believe him: they believe his promises; they believe his commands. They are men and women of true faith.

[4] The fear of the Lord is evidenced by obedience to God’s commands.

Study these passages to see how the Scripture affirms this:
Proverbs 8:13

Ecclesiastes 12:13

Deuteronomy 6:2

Deuteronomy 10:12 – 13

Deuteronomy 13:4

 

Again we see here the unity of the Bible’s teaching. These passages from the Old Testament affirm that the person who fears the Lord, that is, the person of faith, will be obedient to God’s commands. In the New Testament, James makes it clear that the person of true faith is one who can point to the evidence of that faith in his life. The Lord Jesus Christ also stressed that the man in a right relationship with God will be an obedient man. This is not to say the God-fearing man is a perfect man; perfection is not attainable in this life (1John 1:8, 10). Rather, the fear of the Lord, put in his heart by God himself, motives him to obedience; it produces in him a new mind with a built-in hunger to please God.

Check these texts:
James 2:14 – 26

John 14:15: 15:7 – 14

Jeremiah 32:39 – 40

Ezekiel 36:25 – 27

 

[5] The fear of the Lord and knowledge of the Lord go hand in hand (As we have already seen in Proverbs 1:7, 28, 29 and Job 28:28). Here again we are dipping right down to the bedrock of Biblical truth. We have seen that the fear of the Lord is a gift of God. Now we must acknowledge this also: that unless a man is a God-fearer he cannot know the Lord. It is impossible. If then the fear of the Lord is wisdom, then that wisdom, that knowledge of the Lord is also itself a gift from God. We can claim nothing ourselves: it is all of God.

Consider these Scriptures:
Jeremiah 31:34

Matthew 11:25 – 27

Matthew 16:17

Luke 8:9-10, 18

Romans 11:33 – 36

 

C. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE ‘BLAMELESS’ AND ‘UPRIGHT’?

Both the narrator and God refer to Job as ‘blameless and upright’ (NIV, NEB, NASB), ‘perfect and upright’ (KJV).

About these two descriptions various people have commented:

‘Not absolute or faultless perfection but integrity, sincerity, and consistency on the whole, in all relations of life’ – Jamieson-Fausett-Brown.

‘... the reality and purity of which is the fundamental assumption of the history... with the whole heart disposed towards God and what is good ...’ – Keil & Delitzsch.

‘... the meaning of the word (Hebrew tam) is “completeness” rather than “perfection” – Ellison.

‘The proper notion, therefore, is that of simplicity. sincerity, absence from guile or evil intention, and completeness of parts in his religion’ – Barnes.

But we need to ask the question: is this sincerity and integrity of heart and attitude all that is meant by these two terms? Are the words ‘blameless’ and ‘upright’ referring to some personal qualities in Job, or are they, like the fact that Job ‘fears God’ a gift from God? Are they speaking of Job’s personal innocence, or of that same legal innocence, that same ‘righteousness’ that was credited to Abraham in Genesis 15:6, and which is the blessing of Abraham promised to all with faith like Abraham? Are we looking here at a person whom God has acquitted – reckoned blameless – purely on the basis of faith?

Check these references to Old Testament believers who were reckoned ‘blameless’ or ‘righteous’ by God:
Genesis 4:4; Hebrews 11:4

Genesis 6:9; Hebrews 11:7

Genesis 15:6; Galatians 3:6 – 14

Now read these verses, in which Hebrew poetry parallels ‘righteous’ and ‘upright’:
Psalm 33:1

Psalm 64:10

And ‘upright’ and ‘innocent’:
Job 4:7

Job 17:8 (plus verse 9 ‘righteous’)

And these verses where the NASB has ‘guiltless’ instead of the NIV ‘blameless’:
Job 9:20, 21, 22

When Job is described as ‘blameless’ and ‘upright’ do these words come from human perceptions of Job, or are they God’s affirmations about Job? In Job 1:8 and 2:3 they are clearly God’s affirmation, spoken in the courts of heaven out of the hearing of humans. This is God’s declaration about Job. This is how God sees Job.

So we conclude that Job, the man of faith, stands acquitted, guilt-free, innocent, in God’s sight, not because of personal innocence, but because of a righteousness from God credited to him by faith. Job, like everyone who believes, was the recipient of this amazing grace:

Check these verses:
Exodus 34:6 – 7a

Psalm 32:1 – 2

Psalm 130:4 – 5

Romans 4:5

1Corinthians 1:30

Colossians 1:22

Hebrews 10:10, 14

 

D. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ‘SHUN EVIL’?

The word translated ‘shun’ in 1:1, 8 and 2:3 is elsewhere translated with words like ‘remove’, ‘take off’, ‘turn away’, ‘depart from’.

This turning away from evil goes hand in hand with genuine faith in God. To believe in God, to return to God, is to turn away from evil.

It is not just that Job shuns individual evil choices, but that these individual rejections of evil are expressions of his once-for-all choice to believe in God and to believe God. He has made the big, over-arching choice of faith in God, and out of that knowledge that God is for him, all other choices fall into place.

Study these verse to see how a genuine turning to God involves of necessity a turning from evil:
2Kings 17:12, 13

Jeremiah 25:4 – 6

Jeremiah 26:3

Ezekiel 33:11

Luke 3:8 – 9

 

We will see how this deliberate turning away from evil affected Job’s life in Study 8.

So this is Job.

Job, the God-fearer. That description says almost nothing about Job, and yet it says everything.

It tells us that this man has been blessed by God with a gift far surpassing his material and physical prosperity: the fear of the Lord. And along with that, yes part and parcel of that fear of the Lord, are knowledge of God’s forgiveness, confidence in God’s compassion, desire for God’s honour through obedience to his commands, and knowledge of God. This man of faith stands now before us. A remarkable man. A man of whom his God stated ‘there is no one on earth like him’ (1:8).

It is this godly man upon whom all the onslaughts of Satan are about to be unleashed in an attempt to prove his faith invalid. Will he still stand when all is done? Or will he turn and, as Satan predicts, curse God to his face?

In his response the nature of true faith, including our faith, stands or falls. Can true faith be undone? Or does true faith, God-given faith, endure, no matter what?

 

A note about the name ‘Job’
Some scholars point out that the name ‘Job’ is very closely related to the Hebrew word for enemy, and refers to a person who is hated, persecuted, treated like an enemy.

As we study the book of Job we will find the following:

God himself does not consider Job to be his enemy. At both the beginning and the end God affirms Job’s integrity and calls him ‘my servant Job’.

Satan treated Job like an enemy; and it is Satan who is the real enemy.

Job’s wife treated him as an enemy, and inferred that God was his enemy.

The three friends, and Elihu, spoke to Job as if he were God’s enemy.

To Job, in his unexplainable suffering, it felt like God was treating him as an enemy.