The Book of Job - Part 1
Series: My Preaching Bucket List
August 27, 2017
The book of Job is a story if there ever was one. And everyone knows a good story has five parts: the characters, the setting, the plot, the conflict, and the resolution.
We also know the characters in a good story must include…Protagonist - The protagonist is the central person in a story, and is often referred to as the story's main character. He or she (or they) is faced with a conflict that must be resolved.
Antagonist - The antagonist is the character(s) (or situation) that represents the opposition against which the protagonist must contend. In other words, the antagonist is an obstacle that the protagonist must overcome.
In the first five verses of Job, we discover the setting and the protagonist of this amazing true story.
Job 1:1–5 (ESV) — 1 There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.
The story starts off simply enough, straight to the point. There was a man in the land of Uz, or Edom in the East, and his name was Job.
The setting is the life of a man in ancient times. The main character, or protagonist, is Job.
If you remember, I shared last week that Job wasn't an Israelite because the events of this story most likely took place before or around the time of Abraham, and Abraham you know was the father of the Jews. And if Job had been of Jewish descent, his lineage almost certainly would have been included.
This non-Jew named Job was extremely unique, though. Verse 1 reveals the kind of man he was, which is critical to the story.
The kind of man Job was
1. blameless and upright
Blameless is translated from a Hebrew word whose root is often used to designate a sacrificial animal. It had to be “spotless, without blemish.”
Numbers 6:14 (ESV) — 14 and he shall bring his gift to the Lord, one male lamb a year old without blemish for a burnt offering, and one ewe lamb a year old without blemish as a sin offering, and one ram without blemish as a peace offering,
You know, the closest to perfection a person ever comes is when he fills out a job application. When it says Job was blameless, it does not mean sinless perfection but integrity.
Upright means straight as in a straight line. Job’s ways were straight in regards to God. He followed the straight and sure path of righteousness. You see this word numerous times in Proverbs and Psalms such as…
Psalm 11:7 (ESV) — 7 For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.
Proverbs 21:8 (ESV) — 8 The way of the guilty is crooked, but the conduct of the pure is upright.
One commentator writes…
"The blameless person is one who walks in close fellowship with God (Gen. 17:1) and who delights in obeying the law (Ps. 119:1). He serves God wholeheartedly. The word upright depicts faithful adherence to God’s statutes (cf. 1 K. 14:8; 15:5) and an honest, compassionate manner in relating to others."
The reason he was blameless and upright was because he…
2. Feared God and turned away from evil
Fearing God is a major theme of the Bible, particularly the OT and even more so in the Wisdom books of the Bible which are Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon.
Fear here does not mean afraid like we think of it but more a healthy respect or reverence.
One fellow describes fearing God this way…
"It stands for a solid trust in God. One who fears God loves him devoutly. Therefore he approaches God reverently, filled with awe and deeply conscious of God’s contagious love. In daily life he expresses his fear by striving to please God in faithful obedience inspired by love. The Wisdom literature places the highest value on fearing Yahweh, asserting that it is the very foundation for true wisdom (Job 28:28; Prov. 1:7; 9:10)."
Proverbs 1:7 (ESV) — 7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Ecclesiastes 12:13 (ESV) — 13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
If a healthy fear of God makes you wise, then it follows you’ll shun evil. Turning away from wickedness is the ultimate expression of wisdom.
It is safe to say Job was an exemplary man in God’s eyes (you’ll see how much so next time). Job is mentioned on two occasions in the Bible outside his book, and both extoll his special standing…
Ezekiel 14:12–14 (ESV) — 12 And the word of the Lord came to me: 13 “Son of man, when a land sins against me by acting faithlessly, and I stretch out my hand against it and break its supply of bread and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast, 14 even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord God.
James 5:11 (ESV) — 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
Verse 1 tells us the kind of man Job was, and verses 2-5 tell us…
The kind of life Job enjoyed
He enjoyed a great family
2 There were born to him seven sons and three daughters.
The numbers seven and three are associated with completion or perfection in the Bible. Having seven sons and three daughters was the perfect family form an ancient middle Eastern point of view.
He enjoyed great wealth
3 He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east.
I’ve recently added a number of Jewish resources to my book collection. One in particular is a multi-volume work called Legends of the Jews. Its a compilation of stories associated with Jewish culture and particularly the Jewish scriptures. Many of them are ancient and have been handed down from rabbi to rabbi for centuries.
Not surprisingly a number of those legends have to do with old Job. The Jews were and are fascinated by him. They tell stories of his extravagant wealth but they also tell stories of his extravagant benevolence. Here’s an excerpt from the Legends of the Jews…
"All these possessions were not used for self-indulgent pleasures, but for the good of the poor and the needy, whom he clothed, and fed, and provided with all things necessary. To do all this, he even had to employ ships that carried supplies to all the cities and the dwelling-places of the destitute. His house was furnished with doors on all its four sides, that the poor and the wayfarer might enter, no matter from what direction they approached. At all times there were thirty tables laden with [food] in his house, and twelve besides for widows only, so that all who came found what they desired. Job’s consideration for the poor was so delicate that he kept servants to wait upon them constantly. His guests, enraptured by his charitableness, frequently offered themselves as attendants to minister to the poor in his house, but Job always insisted upon paying them for their services. If he was asked for a loan of money, to be used for business purposes, and the borrower promised to give a part of his profits to the poor, he would demand no security beyond a mere signature. And if it happened that by some mischance or other the debtor was not able to discharge his obligation, Job would return the note to him, or tear it into bits in his presence."
Job’s wealth was legendary. But so was his generosity. That’s important. Because he was upright and blameless, because he feared God and shunned evil, he used his wealth to bless those less fortunate than himself. For the Jews, the pinnacle of piety is giving to the poor.
As it has been said, he owned his possessions; they did not own him. But Job’s prosperity did not consist of just stuff. Surprisingly with all that great wealth…
He enjoyed great relationships
4 His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.
His relationships with family and those around him were good, the kind of good we all dream of. All his children got along with each other and their parents. Extravagant wealth and healthy relationships don’t usually go together.
Psalm 133:1 (ESV) — 1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
All in all, Job was a very happy and content man. We read these first five verses and probably think, “Man, if I had great wealth, a great family, and great relationships, I’d be happy too.” Or maybe if we were brutally honest we’d say, “If I just had the great wealth, I’d be happy.” Think about all the brouhaha surrounding the recent $700 million dollar jackpot. Anyone ever played that game with God where you promise if he lets you win, you’ll give a bunch to the church or some charity?
Studies show that a year later people who won the lottery aren’t really all that happier than those who didn’t. Studies by Stanford and Harvard Universities show that once you meet a threshold covering your basic needs, more money will not make you any happier.
Verses 1-5 tell us the reason Job enjoyed great wealth and a great family and great relationships was his walk with God. The writer wants us to make that connection. In fact, the heart of the story hinges on that connection. But it would be a mistake to make a formula out of it.
A close walk with God doesn’t guarantee you’ll have all these things. The same book of wisdom that contrasts the blessings of the upright and wise and against the ultimate poverty and destruction of the wicked includes this snippet of truth.
Proverbs 15:16 (ESV) — 16 Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.
We like to try and find or make formulas out of everything, even the Christian life: If I do this then this and this will happen.
That’s why folks trip over the wisdom books like Proverbs. They try to make formulas out of it all. It wasn't intended for that. The wisdom books are general observations on life, not promises to claim.
You will see as we progress through Job that he and his friends try making formulas out of God’s ways and it doesn’t work.
Conclusion: Now we have a pretty good picture of who Job was and what his life was like. And what a life it was.
He was a great man, with a great walk with God. Consequently, he enjoyed great treasure, a great family, and great relationships.
That gives us the setting and the protagonist in the story, but what about the plot and the antagonist? They are discovered in the following verses, but here in these first five verses we get a subtle hint of what’s coming. Kind of like in a mystery novel when you get a glimpse of who the villain is before he’s revealed, and when you finish the book you look backwards and see it where you didn't at first.
5 And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.
Job was very concerned about his children’s hearts towards God. He feared that they might have sinned against him and cursed him unknowingly.
Could a man like Job curse the Source of all his blessings?
Job will unfold as a life changing story, but the greatest story ever told is the story of how a man who truly was perfect in all his ways lived the life we should have live and died the death we should have died?
Have you become part of his story?
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