The Lord said to Job, “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?”
I come from the land of Uz, a large territory east of the Jordan, opposite what is now the Nation of Israel. The area was named after a son of Seir of the Horite people, who shared the land with Esau’s clans during the time Jacob and his family were returning to Canaan after their long stay in Paddan Aram. Today this land belongs partly to Jordan and partly to Syria.
While my story appears well into the first third of books in the Bible, it’s actually the first one ever published, done so by Joseph while he was Prime Minister of Egypt. In many ways our stories are similar, and I guess he thought that reading about my experiences would be helpful to others in times of trouble.
While not part of the people who would eventually come into a national covenant with God, I certainly was one of His followers, and always tried my best to obey His laws. You must remember that in the beginning, everyone alive knew the LORD and understood His requirements. It was only gradually that people began going off on their own, rebelling against Him and inventing false gods and counterfeit religions in their vain attempts to replace Him. No one can live without God so if you reject the real one, you have to come up with a false one. (It’s also important to remember that the truth always precedes the lie, or else how would you know the difference? Every successful false religion has always used a grain of truth to attract people, and then played on their ignorance to promote the lies that lead them astray.)
So I was one who had stayed with the Truth, obeying God’s laws and living in ways that were pleasing to Him. There was even a time when I believed I was doing a pretty good job of it, and it’s that kind of thinking that got me into trouble. As the LORD Himself would later reveal to me, it started like this.
One day in Heaven, God summoned all his angels to give their reports, and among them was the one we call Satan, the first to rebel against God. Satan had illegally gained possession of Earth by deceiving Adam and Eve, and has been actively engaged in stealing the rest of God’s creation, humanity, ever since. He’s the real source of all false religions, author of all their lies. If nothing else, my story will show you how ingenious his plans are for stealing us away from God, and how well they work.
When He asked Satan what he’d been doing and was told he’d been roaming around on Earth, God asked if he’d run across me. He told Satan I was the most righteous man on the whole planet.
Well this made me an enemy of Satan’s and so he told God that the only reason I obeyed Him was because of all the blessings I’d received. In truth I was a wealthy man, with a large and loving family, and huge herds of animals. In essence Satan said I was obedient because it was profitable. “Take away his possessions,” he said, “And then we’ll see how faithful he is.” And so God agreed, on the condition that I not be harmed.
Satan lost no time at all. In the span of one short day, all my herds and all my children were taken from me. I was devastated but intellectually at least, my faith in God wasn’t shaken. “I came into this world with nothing and that’s the way I’ll leave it. The LORD has given and the LORD has taken away,” I reasoned, “Blessed be the Name of the LORD.”
But how could God permit this? That’s always the first question people ask. And sadly they often conclude that either God loves us enough to keep us from harm but lacks the power, or else he has the power but doesn’t love us. I now know what an arrogant self-centered conclusion that is even though at the time I considered it myself.
As I was soon to learn, it’s not our righteousness that protects us from the forces of evil, but God’s Grace. Moreover, in my righteousness I had become self-righteous, a grievous sin made all the more so by my unwillingness to admit it. Had I been truly righteous (only one man has ever been so in all creation) God, who is neither arbitrary nor capricious, could not have permitted Satan to afflict me. As it was, even though by God’s account I was the most righteous man on Earth, my unconfessed sin left me exposed, and the LORD needed to take some drastic action to get my attention before I became totally insufferable. Satan was simply a convenient, if unknowing, tool in His hand.
When I adopted a philosophical response to my great loss, the LORD knew it would take another attack to force me into reality, and so He agreed to let Satan afflict me personally, requiring only that he stop short of taking my life. Now even my wife, seeing me in my agony said, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die.”
Please understand this. The LORD takes no pleasure in seeing us afflicted, but my sin gave Satan an opening the LORD was required by His own law to permit. He is absolutely just in these matters, as I was to learn in no uncertain terms, and any attempt to justify ourselves only serves to condemn Him. Another sin.
As the Apostle Paul would one day say, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” That’s not a New Testament idea by the way; he was quoting Isaiah 64:6. And John agrees. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). The only difference between you who live after the cross and we who lived before it, is that the penalty for your sins is already paid. This allows God’s Grace to flow ever more abundantly since the cross has reconciled us to Him (Col. 1:19-20). You have only to ask for forgiveness to receive it and be restored immediately to righteousness (I John 1:9).
Now don’t get me wrong. We’re all still responsible for our behavior and must expect to bear the physical and spiritual consequences of our actions. It’s just that consignment to Hell is no longer one of the consequences for any who accept the pardon He’s provided, and purification from all our unrighteousness is as easy as asking. For all who ask will receive, all who seek will find, and to all who knock the door will be opened. Praise the LORD.
As for me, the LORD still had much to teach me, and through me, you. Remember what one of your modern day humorists, Mark Twain, had to say. “The only time experience is the best teacher is when it was somebody else’s experience.” Please learn from mine. More next time.