The following is an excerpt from Pain, Perplexity and Promotion.
As the first book of the Bible written, Job becomes a precedent-setting book. When the Holy Spirit prepared to inspire Holy Scripture, He calculated very purposefully how He would direct its formation. It’s not an accident or mere happenstance that the Holy Spirit started the whole thing off with Job.
Cornerstone Of Scripture
Job is an incredibly strategic book. As the first building block of all Scripture, it serves as the initial cornerstone of all inspired revelation. If the cornerstone is in place correctly, the rest of the building can rise in perfect alignment and symmetry. If the cornerstone is awry, the entire building will be planted on a skewed foundation and will eventually crumble.
Under “the law of first mention” (discussed in Chapter Three) the entire book of Job takes on a special significance as the first Bible book written. Thus, Job is a ground-breaking, foundation-laying, pioneering, apostolic book that becomes the cornerstone of all theology. It is the beginning basis for our understanding of God and His ways.
If your foundation is wrong, the whole building is weak. When the Lord visited me personally with calamity, I felt like He took the foundation of all my theological understandings, swept them out from under my feet, tenderly watched me crash, and then He slowly began to remove the rubble and start the rebuilding process. And He said, “We’re going to rebuild this whole thing on the book of Job.”
A Primer On Spiritual Warfare
As the first Bible book written, the book of Job constitutes a primer on spiritual warfare, charting the perplexing territory between God’s sovereign purposes, Satan’s harassments, and people’s opinions.
Job had the hand of God on him, the hand of Satan on him, and the hand of man on him—and he couldn’t distinguish between them. He became dizzy with trying to sort through the whole tangled mess, because he couldn’t really identify clearly from which direction things were hitting him.
The Job crucible is a place of great perplexity. When you’re in the fire, you don’t know where the heat is coming from, or why. Your head begins to swim as you’re caught in the swirl of trying discern cause and effect.
Job is apostolic in that he pioneered the whole arena of spiritual warfare. He was the first one to ever document in Scripture his woundings on the perplexing battleground of spiritual warfare. Job is in the battle of his life, warring with God’s sovereign purposes, Satan’s evil incitements, people’s carnal reproaches, and the imperfect realities of a fallen world—all elements involved in spiritual warfare. Thus, even though Job is rarely mentioned at spiritual warfare conferences, the book of Job is a primer on spiritual warfare.
Job is sailing in uncharted waters. He is going where no man has gone before. He’s drawing the first map we have of spiritual warfare’s battleground. Map-makers always pay a great personal price for bearing the distinguishing honor of being the first to traverse virgin territory. The early explorers laid down maps of America literally at the price of human lives (disease, shipwreck, starvation, deprivation, hardship, etc.). As the Scriptures unfold, the map of spiritual warfare will gain greater clarity, but Job is to be honored for the toll he took in giving us the first primitive map of spiritual warfare’s hazards. Forerunners always pay a price.
Job is stepping on landmines, and they’re exploding in his face because no one else had ever stepped there before! To explain, I’ll use the example of what he says in 19:11, “‘He has also kindled His wrath against me, and He counts me as one of His enemies.’” Job thought God was treating him like an enemy, but in fact God was counting Job as one of His friends! “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6). Job didn’t realize God had wounded him in His kindness, and so Job accuses God of treating him like an enemy. This is one reason God later says to Job, “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (38:2). Job will learn this lesson (and many others) by the time the battle is over, but he’ll have triggered many landmines in the process.
So here’s Job, all bloody from the latest bomb that has exploded in his face, and he hoarsely whispers to us, “Don’t step there, that thing will blow your leg off.” And then contemporary readers will stand back in the safety of their comfortable perch and criticize him. “Job shouldn’t have spoken like that,” they say. “He had a lot of bad attitudes!” In one sense that’s true, but I just want to say this about Job: Give the guy a break! He had no Scriptures, no map, no prophetic word, no witness from someone else who had walked this way before. He was the first one! So rather than being critical of him, I think we should be extremely grateful for a godly man who was faithful to God through the greatest maze of perplexity that any man had ever encountered up to that point in human history.
The Most Misunderstood Book
The book of Job is one of the most misunderstood books in the Bible. Until you’ve lived a little bit of it, it’s virtually impossible to understand it properly. I realize this book is unique from many other commentaries on Job. I would read commentaries on Job, look at their analysis, and say to myself, “This author has never lived this thing.” It wasn’t until I began to live through some hard things that the book of Job began to open to me.
I know some people wish Job wasn’t in the Bible. Because I was once one of them. I had the experience in my early years of ministry of preparing a sermon, and being very impressed with it. “This thing slices; it dices; it pops; it sizzles.” I could see it: this sermon will have Satan’s hordes cowering at the gates of hell, and it will have the saints on their feet, cheering. The sermon was perfect, a well-fashioned arrow, except for one little “fly in the ointment”: the book of Job. Everything else in the Bible seemed to support my beautifully crafted sermon, but the book of Job was the one book that seemed to contradict it. What about Job? Can I just preach my sermon and forget about the fact that the book of Job exists?
No I can’t, not any longer. Now I see it. If it doesn’t line up with the book of Job, it’s got to go, because the book of Job establishes the theological framework against which all other theological understandings must be measured. If you get Job wrong, then nothing else can be fully right.
As the endtime storms hit this planet, everything that can be shaken will be shaken (Hebrews 12:27-28). The only theological framework that will not be totally shaken in the last hour will be one that is firmly fixed in a true knowledge of the God of Job.
So now the question becomes one of paramount importance: what is the book of Job all about?
The Book’s Theme
I want to express in one broad, general sentence what I believe is happening in the book. To uncover this understanding was a very long and painful journey personally, and it carries great implications that I will articulate in the rest of this book. So here it is: In broad strokes, the life of Job is a pattern for all believers of how God takes a blameless, godly man, with a life of personal purity and a yes in his spirit, and brings him through the fire to a higher inheritance.
Job came out of the crucible with a life message that has spoken to God’s people ever since. Here are some of the poignant truths Job’s life declares:
• Sometimes God is totally perplexing.
• There are things going on in the spirit dimension that you don’t see.
• If you’ve been walking blamelessly and faithfully before God, and something incredibly mystifying and even traumatic happens to you which seems to have no reasonable cause, then heighten your spiritual alertness—God might be in the process of bringing you into spiritual promotion.
• If you will guard your purity, increase your pursuit of God, and commit yourself to unquestioning obedience, He will eventually unfold His purposes to you.
• Realize that God loves to glorify Himself by salvaging the calamities of his saints, producing the superlative out of the impossible.
A Pattern To Get Your Bearings
Job’s life message serves as a model or a pattern against which others can measure God’s disciplines in their lives. When you have a grid for measuring what is happening in your life, you’re able to cooperate with God’s purposes. But without that grid or pattern you’re very likely to partner with the accuser, cop an attitude toward God, and end up aborting the process. Without any prototype for understanding God’s dealings, it’s very difficult to say, “You have dealt well with Your servant, O LORD, according to Your word” (Psalm 119:65). Instead, it’s easy to echo the accusation of the Israelites, “‘It is useless to serve God’” (Malachi 3:14). God wants us to steer clear of that pitfall so He has given us the pattern of Job.
Job, then, was a pioneer, a pathfinder, a forerunner whom God baptized into “the School of the Spirit,” in order that he might serve as a living parable to all generations after him. His life serves as a compass, enabling us to get our bearings when we’re under the disciplines of God.
Sometimes we think we know who God is. God says, “None of you know who I am! Unless I show you.” So God devastated every understanding Job thought he had of God and began to rebuild Job’s theology on the truth of Isaiah 55:9, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways.” So Paul cried, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33).
God operates in a dimension that totally surpasses our human analysis. And here’s a signature of God’s ways: He loves to redeem impossible messes. He loves entangled imbroglios that have no human solution, that are hopeless catastrophes apart from divine intervention.
Sometimes God allows the saint to be reduced to seeming defeat, filled with anguish and reproach, with Satan gleefully savoring his upper hand. Or sometimes the saint is trapped by crushing circumstances beyond his control. When it appears that God has abandoned you, Job would cry out: “Don’t quit! Trust God! It’s never too late! This is the kind of situation God loves!”
In some situations, God steps back and says, “Too easy. If I step in now, they won’t glorify My name for the answer.” Thus He waits things out a bit, and lets the situation become even more critical so that there will be no question about the source when He intervenes with His sovereign deliverance. He loves to do the impossible!
Job Helped Abraham
Earlier, I emphasized the fact that Job pre-dated Abraham. Here’s why: It’s very likely that Job served as a forerunner for Abraham, helping Abraham interpret God’s hand in his life.
God had said to Abraham, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Genesis 22:2). Basically God said, “Kill your son.”
But Abraham also knew what God had said to Noah, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed” (Genesis 9:6). So Abraham faced a crossroads: “Do I follow my theology, or do I follow the voice?” In that moment of critical decision, it’s very possible that Abraham thought to himself, “Job! I’m in a Job situation! God is vaporizing my theology. If I’m faithful like Job was, God will lead me to a higher place.” Part of the reason Abraham was able to cooperate with God’s purposes was because he had Job.
Redemption’s Greatest Crossroads
In fact, I want to suggest that Job became a forerunner for the most eminent of saints, helping them navigate the greatest crisis points of redemptive history. At the crucial crossroads of God’s redemptive plan, when everything was at stake, Job’s life served as a pattern enabling them to make the right choice.
Joseph didn’t realize that he stood at a vital juncture of God’s purposes. Everything was in the balance. Would Joseph respond properly to his enslavement and imprisonment? If he would blow it, there would be no sovereign provision for Jacob’s family during the seven years of terrible famine. Thankfully, Joseph had Job! Job provided Joseph with a grid for understanding the pain of his prison, empowering him to persevere successfully to the completion of God’s purposes.
Moses also stood at a critical crossroads of God’s redemptive plan. Would Moses respond properly to the shattered dreams, to the unfulfilled promises, to the seeming abandonment by God? If he would pass the test, God would have a man to lead His people forth from Egypt. Thankfully, Moses had Job! Job’s journey became a model that enabled Moses to walk forward into God’s highest and best.
David was another man at a critical crossroads. He was anointed as king, but was running for his life from Saul. Every promise of God seemed to be violated. If David would respond properly in this crucible, he would emerge with the promise of an eternal throne. If he would give up, how could we call Jesus the Son of David? Thankfully, David had Job! Job’s example gave David the courage to persevere unto God’s highest and best.
We are now facing another critical moment in God’s plan: the return of Christ. In preparation for Christ’s coming, God is taking many of His servants through the Job crucible. A fire has been kindled in the earth to awaken the bride with passion for her Bridegroom. Will she persevere to the end, or will she abort God’s purposes? Thankfully, she has Job!
Everybody had Job for an example, except for one man: Job! This is why Job is so admirable. He persevered through the crucible with no predecessor, no forerunner, no pattern from which to gain comfort. Job had nobody. He was charting virgin territory, going where no man had gone before. He was making an unprecedented foray onto the swirling battleground of spiritual warfare, where God’s purposes and Satan’s incitements and people’s opinions combine to season the soul.
As a result of Job’s faithfulness, God decided to use his example to comfort every generation, providing them with a compass to help them interpret their pathway. We enjoy the same benefit today. Instead of aborting His purposes in our lives, we are now able to cooperate with His grace and enter into our highest inheritance.