What was Job’s deepest wound?


If I were Job, and I lost my family, home, and animals I would not think that eventually receiving more would replace what was lost. No no child can replace a deceased child. No household pet can replace a lost pet. And–while I am not the sentimental type–there is value in the memories that places, people, and possessions can spark in our lives.

dinosaurI was pondering this when I realized I was not properly recalling the setting of Job’s story. Job seems to be as close to “cave man” as the Bible exposes. It appears he was living with dinosaurs and fire-breathing dragons (Job 40-41); and so maybe losing family members and other beloved possessions was not so uncommon. When things are common, they might still be terrible, but the expectation is different; our responses are different.

Perhaps Job’s story is not so much about the loss of irreplaceables as it is about 1) every bad thing happening at once (i.e. way more than he can handle without the Spirit), and 2) the common expectation that good things happen to godly people, and that God is working everything out for His good–specifically in bringing retribution and carrying out judgement. (Theologians call this last thing the Retribution Principle: it’s the biblical version of “karma” except that it only really works from an eternal perspective.)

It would certainly have been difficult–even beyond difficult–for Job to endure so much. But I think his deepest grief came from the failure of his expectations in God. He heard God, and dialoged with God–God is ever-present with him. Yet God delays in intervening. And God allowed it all to happen. There had been a “hedge of protection” around Job (an angelic protection? a spiritual ‘bubble’? a season of blessing?) and God took it away (Job 1:10).

Job learns to trust God and let God set the expectations for his life. He cannot hold onto both his own expectation for his life to turn around and his full dependence on God at the same time (even though he was correct in believing that God wanted to bless him and that he did not deserve his circumstances). Sometimes we have to release God to heal our circumstances by accepting them, and worshiping God anyway. I am doing this in a couple areas of my own life. My husband calls it, “realistic optimism”: accepting that if things do not change it will be okay, while continuing to have hope and flexibility in actively anticipating God’s promises coming to pass–whatever the timing, and however it looks.

And that part about Job enduring way more than he could handle? Maybe God wanted Job to recognize that alone he could not handle much, but through the Holy Spirit he could pass through it all, so that nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37). He who can endure all things allows us to endure all things through Him–love is the key to this (1 Cor. 13:7: “love endures all things”). When Job is full of God’s love, he prays for his friends, and they too are redeemed. We, too, can choose to embrace God’s love in the anticipation that He knows what He is doing, and He will see us through. It is a joy through the release of our own expectations.


Thoughts on Job, God, and Retribution (Part 3 of 3)


In Part 1 I discuss Matitiahu Tsevat’s argument that, in the Book of Job, God and retribution cannot be simultaneous focal points; and in Part 2 that the retribution principle does not always work on our timeline, especially if we hinder God’s purposes. Is Job, then, a book teaching that our experiences are not a consequence of our deeds, or that we cannot expect God to act on our behalf? Absolutely not! It is a book about God’s amazing grace to remain with us amidst our struggles even when we cannot see Him. It is a book reminding us that the retribution principle is in effect–that justice is coming–but that God’s timing is not our timing, and justice belongs to Him alone.

We do not give up the theology of Torah, rather Torah is fulfilled–a new dimension is revealed. Without this bridge between Torah and the New Testament, the end time labor pains do not make sense. We must remember that “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward [us], not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). We cannot expect immediate results; we have to trust God: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mat 6:33). And we have to recognize that we have only a partial perspective: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Cor 13:12).

When we recognize these things, we can comfort those who mourn, using our love for them to re-open their broken hearts to receive the love and shalom of the Spirit. We can remind them that God is near, and that He is faithful in working everything out for our good.

Job is transformed within his story because God entered his place of suffering. He manifested Himself to Job in a personal way, which broke Job’s mechanical mindset of retribution. He reminded Job of His participation in creation and the earth from the very foundations of time. And He reminded Job that His perspective is so far beyond human comprehension, yet He still chooses to manifest Himself among us. In other words, Job remembers that he has every reason to trust God because of the strong relationship they have had in the past. Job can stop worrying about what will happen next. He no longer has to struggle to survive each day, or to defend himself in the cycle of repetitive introspection and defense. He can rest in God knowing in full confidence that God has this under control–regardless of the outcome or length of the trial.

This realization creates a change in Job, which is reflected in his response: “I know You can do everything; nothing You do can be foiled or frustrated” (Job 42:2 The Voice). He trusts God because he has experienced God personally: “Before I knew only what I had heard of You, but now I have seen You. Therefore I realize the truth” (Job 42:5-6 The Voice).

Job loved God fully when He was a transcendent sovereign God. Now he has encountered God. His theology had been solid, but one dimensional. Now he has experienced God as a personal and living being, and so his theology has likewise matured to a multidimensional understanding. Through Job’s suffering, he was able to meet God in this way, presumably for the first time at this level of intimacy. Perhaps this is why God chose Job: because He wanted to personally interact with Him so thoroughly? This is not to say that suffering is ever God’s purpose, but that in everything we can rejoice in God’s greater purposes, and the hope of that ultimate reconciliation with Him, which results in the restoration of all things. Even in Job we see that the Spirit of God is with him within his suffering (e.g. Job 27:3), and that God is compassionate and anxious for Job’s complete healing.

God is with us too, regardless of what we are going through or why we are going through it. Our job is to focus first on God, and it is in Him that we find peace (not in the reconciliation of our circumstances alone). Remember the formula I suggested in Part 2: Job <—> God —> Retribution? We cannot focus on both God and Retribution simultaneously; but if we truly give our burdens to God, we know that because of His great love for us He will carry out retribution at the first opportune moment. God’s purpose is the restoration and reconciliation of all things–He created the heavens and earth to be good, and wants that goodness restored. We have that to look forward to–both now, and in the coming days.


Thoughts on Job, God, and Retribution (Part 2 of 3)


In Part 1 I discuss the retribution principle, along with Matitiahu Tsevat‘s theory that in any given situation only two of the following elements: Job, God, and Retribution, can exist together at any single moment.

If the retribution principle is eliminated there is new freedom for a personal relationship between God and man.

But does this mean the retribution principle must be eliminated to understand the Book of Job? Only for Job–that is, for the suffering person. Job needed it removed from his primary focus so that God could move into that place. He needed to trust God’s methods without understanding them, and until he lets go near the end of the book he had been unintentionally fighting against the process in defending himself and God against his enemies (i.e. his “friends,” the spiritual battle, and even against a part of himself).

God, however, is not limited to this same time frame or struggle. From a heavenly perspective it is certainly possible for Job and Retribution to exist simultaneously. This, after all, is the nature of God: He both predestines, and changes His mind; He is transcendent above us, and immanent among us. God can interact with the sufferer, and be moved by compassion within the given moment, but He can also foresee the future, and develop plans accordingly.

God knew, from the beginning, that He would bless Job abundantly. Job considered this thought as well. But whereas Job’s focus was distracted by what should be and what is, God remained unflustered. He could see Job’s pain, recognize the necessary process for Job to fully surrender within his trial, and foresee the blessed outcome. The reader, too, should note God’s eternal mindset and patience. Neither the reader nor God needs to eliminate the retribution principle–Tsevat essentially advocates this, but I don’t think it is the best way to understand what God was doing. Rather, God put Himself in front of the retribution principle, so that Job could relax in the midst of his pain, trust God, and refresh himself in the refuge of the Lord.

The story begins with an equilateral triangular diagram as Tsevat claims, but by the end of the story it looks like this:

Job <——–> God ——–> Retribution

God is no longer transcendent from the situation, but places Himself at Job’s level, so that Retribution is no longer within Job’s view. God begins above the situation (the top of the triangle), then comes down into it. God can look both toward Job (us) and Retribution, which may take place now, or perhaps not until the “Day of the Lord” when our warrior King will punish the wicked, and reward the overcomers. Thus, the retribution principle is not removed, but realized in Kingdom perspective as Job comes into contact with the living God of eternity.

More to come in Part 3.


Thoughts on Job, God, and Retribution (Part 1 of 3)


I recently finished a seminary elective about God and Healing, and thought I would progressively share some of the richest moments of my studies. I’m going to start with some thoughts on the Book of Job, because this truly transformed my perspective.

Jewish scholar, Matitiahu Tsevat (now deceased) wrote a brilliance article, “The Meaning of Job,” in which he used a triangular paradigm to describe the relationship between people, God, and the retribution principle. (The retribution principle is the idea that good things happen to good people, and bad things to bad; God blesses the righteous, and punishes the wicked.)

Tsevat’s diagram is an equilateral triangle in which Job, God, and Retribution each take one point. The concept behind this is that we cannot look in two directions at once–we can look up at God, or across at our situation (or even backward, or in some other direction)–but we cannot face both directions simultaneously. Job’s friends understood God and Retribution to be true, therefore they believe Job must not be righteous as he says. Job perceives himself as righteous, so struggles between his relationship with God and expectation of retribution (nearly, but not quite, losing God in the process).

From Job’s perspective, Tsevat’s statement is true. Job’s attachment and forethought regarding the retribution principle (assumption of justice based on his relationship with God, including his own right-standing and knowledge of God’s mercy and graciousness) prevented him from resting in God within his sickness and dis-ease. From the perspective of the suffering person it is difficult to hold onto both God and Retribution, because they become contrary. Jesus himself speaks of this when he says:

You know that Hebrew Scripture sets this standard of justice and punishment: take an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say this, don’t fight against the one who is working evil against you. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, you are to turn and offer him your left cheek. If someone connives to get your shirt, give him your jacket as well. If someone forces you to walk with him for a mile, walk with him for two instead. If someone asks you for something, give it to him. If someone wants to borrow something from you, do not turn away. (Mat. 5:38-42 The Voice)

If we have retribution in mind, we naturally begin to put our hope in that–in justice, health, restoration–and it becomes difficult to “serve two masters” so to speak (Mat. 6:24). Our relationship with God lessons until our faith in Him is omitted, even if He was the intended source of the retribution. In this way the human yearning and expectation for retribution produces a mechanical faith, whereas resting in God is an organic, personal one.

God’s eternal perspective goes beyond this while also bringing cohesiveness to the retribution principle. This will be discussed further in Part 2.


An encouragement on facing long periods of rough times…


Julie Meyer (of IHOP-KC) spoke recently on how the wilderness often becomes a door of hope and divine encounters:

Hosea 2:14-15 says, “Therefore, behold, I will allure her / Bring her into the wilderness / And speak kindly to her. (15) Then I will give her her vineyards from there, / And the valley of Achor as a door of hope. / And she will sing there as in the days of her youth, / As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.”

Another example of this is when Moses was in the wilderness and then in doing his daily routine the Lord appeared to him in the burning bush–when he turned and looked, God opened the door to him…

She exhorted the church to therefore be clothed with humility (1 Peter 5:5-6), meaning to cheerfully submit to God’s plan even when He gives your dream to another–humility, she said, is the willingness to be ignored by men and serve the lowest of the positions for Jesus’ sake.  We have to find great Joy where He has us–even when it’s the back row.  When we truly humble ourselves, God brings opportunities we couldn’t imagine: 2 Chron 7:13-14, Prov 8:34-35.

I’ve heard and read John Bevere speak with a similar heart about how God transforms us from the wilderness to power in the Holy Spirit. He’s said, roughly, that the Lord is raising people up in the wilderness–training them in a powerful way through obstacles that others aren’t having to go through so that He can give them the Elijah anointing (which was also given as a partial fulfillment to John the Baptist).  The wilderness is like a special boot-camp to strengthen us in the Lord.  Then, we will proclaim the Truth (there will be a stress on repentance) without the fear of man because we have such a strong fear of God.  The fear of God is the beginning of all wisdom.

John the Baptist was trained for ministry in the wilderness, then, “Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him” (Mat 3:5).  We don’t have to worry about the details of our ministry if the Lord is behind us because “a man’s gift makes room for him…” (Prov 18:16).

The key is consecration to the Lord–it’s a spiritual wilderness (though sometimes with physical realities).

We are led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit, but come out of the wilderness in the Power of the Holy Spirit.  Think Jesus as He’s tempted in the desert… or Joseph… or Abraham… or Moses… or John the Baptist… and so on… most every powerful leader is trained in the desert before facing the giants–and supernaturally releasing the power and glory of the Lord.

When I asked the Lord why it would take a wilderness experience to find that door of hope and that power of the Holy Spirit, He immediately brought to my mind the following answers:

  • We have to be completely God-focused, submitting to Him entirely (willing to do God’s will even at the loss of jobs, friends, respect, material things, etc).  If God is not our number one love, the wilderness will help us to put that love back into focus.
  • We have to STRONGLY hear our Lord’s voice and be lead by Him alone.  Too often, we rely on crunches (other people’s faith/experiences, religious tradition, …) because they’re available, and we forget to inquire directly of the Lord.  There are so many ways He can speak to us.  Let’s not limit His voice.
  • We have to see the power/things He will give us from His perspective so that we are good stewards of them.  Everything we do must be filtered through a pure Love for Him; we can have no attachment to things (though of course we appreciate them) and Jesus Himself must have a higher place than any power/gift He gives us (though, of course, we are commanded to walk in power, which means first spending a lot of time at His feet).
  • We have to be purified from every encumbrance that is hindering us from running the race.  In this way, the wilderness becomes the place where baptism in fire occurs: it’s a chance for us to allow the dross (wicked/foolish/fleshly desires) to surface so we can ask the Lord to take them out once and for all.
  • We build endurance, maturity, and a rightful view of the Lord’s character despite what others are saying (or not saying) of Him (assuming, of course, we’re pursuing righteousness in the midst of the wilderness experience like Job).  In other words, because there are no physical pleasures to dull our spirits in the wilderness (over-indulgence of the flesh dulls the spirit–which is one reason why we fast), we are able to deeply align our spirit to the Father’s and gain His wisdom, thus maturing, and strengthening us.  Job received a rightful view of the Lord through His trial; His friends (though some of their statements to us may seem ‘logical’) didn’t have it!
  • We connect so strongly to the heart of God that we desire to extend that Love to others.  In this way, we learn how to fulfill the first commandment (to our best ability) and it begins to overflow into obedience.
  • We build Faith that if He can sustain us in the wilderness, He can continue to sustain us no matter what.  We can also encourage others with our testimony.  Faith helps us to walk worthy and confident in our callings.