Job, Wisdom, and Satan’s Strategy, Part 1

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“For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.” (Job 19:25-27)

“But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

When I teach a college class in “Wisdom Literature,” I explain that Biblical wisdom is invariably found among a group of “friends” introduced in Proverbs 1:2-9. These are identified as training, understanding, insight, knowledge, discretion, prudence, righteousness, justice, integrity, and an openness to counsel.

A Definition of Biblical Wisdom

In class I use this definition: “Biblical wisdom is the skill or ability to view life and all of its components from God’s perspective, as revealed in Scripture, and as a result make God-honoring choices and keep the proper focus.”

Biblical wisdom is the skill or ability to view life and all of its components from God’s perspective, as revealed in Scripture, and as a result make God-honoring choices and keep the proper focus.

There are basically four elements in this definition. The first is the concept that Biblical wisdom is a skill or ability, and as such, may be sought, learned, and increased. The basis for this is found in statements that equate wisdom with a specific skill. For example, Scripture describes skilled artisans like weavers (Exod. 28:3; 35:26), architects, and builders (Exod. 31:3; 36:1) as people to whom God gave the “wisdom” or skillful ability to excel.

The second element of biblical wisdom is the ability to view life and all of its components from God’s perspective, as revealed in Scripture. This is derived from Scriptures that address the ultimate meaning of our life. For example, Romans 8:28-29 teaches that God will work in the midst of everything that happens to a Christian for “good.” The contextual meaning of “good” is given in Romans 8:29: to be “conformed to the image of His Son.” In other words, God’s ultimate “good” for your life is for you to become like Jesus in all your attitudes, thoughts, reactions, behavior, and words.

The third and fourth elements in our definition of Biblical wisdom, once we understand that Christlikeness is God’s ultimate goal for our life, is to be sure that we make God-honoring choices and that we keep the proper focus. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of our definition is the last element, which is to keep the proper focus. Focus is your “self-talk,” the way you mentally process the things that happen to you. Focus is controlled by the questions one asks. The proper focus asks and seeks answers to the following questions:

  • “What is God wishing to teach me in this situation?”
  • “How can this situation make me more Christlike in my thoughts, attitudes, and actions?”
  • “What can I be thankful for in this situation?”
  • “How can I show Christ to others in this situation?”
  • “What would Jesus think about, do, or say in this situation?”

The wrong focus is also controlled by the questions one asks, such as

  • “Why me?”
  • “Why this?”
  • “Why now?”
  • “Why won’t God answer my prayer or at least help me to make sense out of what has happened?”

Unless we are able to figure out a satisfying answer to these “wrong focus” questions, they lead to frustration, discouragement, depression, and even a crisis of faith.

A Wrong Focus is Prompted by Unbiblical Presuppositions

A wrong focus is prompted by at least three unbiblical presuppositions.

The first of these unbiblical presuppositions is a belief that we are owners rather than managers of the material things God allows us to acquire. This is revealed when we become upset when God allows something we “own” to be damaged, stolen, or destroyed. We feel that we have been diminished or robbed. If we have been responsible managers, the Biblical view is to say, “The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Such a response is possible only when we view our possessions, family, friends, health, etc., as belonging to God and only loaned to us for a short period of time during which we manage or have responsibility for them. The more possessions (blessings) we have means the greater our responsibility to God as a manager.

Job teaches us how to be a manager rather than an owner. When he lost all of his wealth and heard of the death of his ten children (Job 1:1-19), he “arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped.” He said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:20-21). If Job had adopted the unbiblical presupposition of being an “owner,” he, like so many people who have suffered tragedy, would have been angry with God for allowing such things to happen to him. He probably would have struggled with bitterness and disappointment with God. Instead, we read that “in all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly” (Job 1:22). Are you an “owner” or a “manager”?

The second unbiblical presupposition that prompts “wrong focus questions” such as, “Why me?” is the belief that when tragic things happen to us we deserve better than we have received. A person who asserts his “self-rights” has misread Scripture. To believe that God has promised physical protection from all harm and danger to those who love and serve Him is to ignore many passages that speak of Christians who have experienced horrible persecution and evil (read Heb. 11:36-39). For the more sophisticated Christian, the self-rights concept is modified to the belief that if we have at least “mustard-grain” faith, we can claim the promises, defeat the devil, and enjoy the blessings of health, protection from evil, and material blessings in this life. This unbiblical view presupposes that God has promised to protect us from all harm. It fails to realize the only thing God owes any human being is wrath and damnation (Rom. 6:23) in hell, because we have all sinned (Rom. 3:23) against Him.

Indeed, if any of us receives “good” in this life, it is a manifestation of God’s grace, love, and mercy. Until a person understands this and surrenders to God all his imagined “self-rights,” he will never be able to progress in wisdom as he should. The surrender of “self-rights,” with a corresponding focus on our God-given “responsibilities” will enable us to become thankful for every blessing He does bring into our lives and to remain thankful when in His sovereignty and wisdom He chooses to remove them. Again, Job faced the test of “self-rights” when he lost his health. According to God, there was nobody like Job in the earth. He was a perfect and upright man, one who feared God and hated evil and who maintained his faithfulness to God even though He allowed bad things to happen to him without a cause (Job 2:3).

The third unbiblical presupposition is that God owes me an explanation for why He allowed tragedy into my life. This was Job’s problem. As a result of the wrong focus, he asked questions that no finite, mortal human could possibly answer and so grew weary of living and longed for death (Job 3:1-11; 10:1). He had embraced the prevalent wisdom that taught that if a person loved God, hated evil, and loved his neighbor, God would protect him from all harm and danger.

God’s Response to Job’s Demand for an Explanation

God wanted to teach Job, and through him, to teach all readers of Scripture, that the real problem was not a lack of answers but a wrong focus. For Job wrongly assumed that God owed him an answer to his questions. To help Job change his focus, God asked him 60 questions (see Job 38-42). When Job saw that he could not answer a single one, he finally realized that he had no right to demand any answers to his own questions. So he responded, “I know that thou canst do everything, and that no thought can be withholden from thee…. I have uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not…. Wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:2-3, 6).

When Job saw that he could not answer a single one of God’s 60 questions, he finally realized that he had no right to demand any answers to his own questions.

Thus, the Book of Job teaches us that God does not owe us explanations (see Deut. 29:29 – the secret things belong to the Lord). If you can figure out why certain things happened, fine. But often it is impossible to figure out exactly why God let certain “bad” or “evil” things happen to us or to our loved ones.

What God does want His children to know is that He has promised to be with us in the midst of everything that happens to us (Rom. 8:28). Further, He has promised to enable us, if we will make the right choices and keep the proper focus, to become more like Jesus in the midst of the worst things that could ever happen to us (Rom. 8:29). So we should stop asking the wrong focus questions.

Instead ask the questions that Biblical wisdom teaches us to ask:

  • “What is God wishing to teach me in this situation?”
  • “How can this situation make me more Christlike in my thoughts, attitudes, and actions?”
  • “What can I be thankful for in this situation?”
  • “How can I show Christ to others in this situation?”
  • “What would Jesus think about, do, or say in this situation?”

 


 

Originally published in God’s Revivalist. Used by permission.

Allan Brown
Dr. Allan Brown is Professor and Chair of the Division of Ministerial Education at God's Bible School & College. He holds his PhD in Old Testament Interpretation from Bob Jones University and is the author of several books and articles.