Can We Trust God?
Over the last few months as friends and family members have offered their condolences on the loss of my mom, a number have quoted the Scripture verse from Job 1:21 – which is the well-known response of Job on hearing the terrible news that his servants, his children, his wealth had all been destroyed. This is what Job’s response was:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall depart. The Lord gave and Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”
This completely unsettled me as it conjured up a picture of a God who played games with people lives and this was not the picture of God we spend our lives sharing about throughout Micah Network. For example, when I read Jesus’ words spoken in John 10:10
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Coupled to this, we read in Hebrews 1:3 that “Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word...”
Seeing the character of God through the life and testimony of Jesus challenges the way we have been using this quote from Job and demands we re-read Job in the light this knowledge.
In Micah we always insist that theology and practice belong together and that the whole of the Bible needs to be re-read using the lens that our God is a missionary God, whose heart and mission is to redeem his world. The framework we use as we come to study God’s Word is that:
1. We need to re-read Scripture through the eyes and knowledge that Jesus is the exact representation of God. This shows us that God is a God of love, willing to sacrifice himself for us to take away our pain and suffering. Christ’s life and his death on the cross are what we test Scripture with.
2. We need to always contextualise the passage we read and try and understand what was happening at both the big picture level and the detailed events level.
3. We need to read Scripture in the light of what it says throughout its pages and look for consistency. It is amazing how we normally find a summary or conclusion of what lessons are being highlighted at the end of each section.
4. We need to recognise the various genres that the passages are written in and look for analogies in both the Old and New Testaments and see how we can apply this to our own contexts.
Taking this framework to re-look at Job 1:21 – we see a very different understanding arising.
The style and prose suggests Job is a sort of poetic styled parable. This means that before we get down to the details of verses we need to understand the main point of story. Why was this story being told, and what was the bigger picture meaning behind it? For me the bigger picture of Job is an insight into the spiritual battle that is going on all around our world; how we respond to it theologically and practically; how we engage with God in and through the crisis and what we believe about him.
Satan is using bad theological reasoning – he says believers will naturally praise and worship God because he protects them and gives them everything they want. He implies that we are not really free to choose God because God coerces us into following him. Satan is challenging the very nature of God, the purpose of His creation and His redemptive mission. God’s response is important. God is not the one who destroys or takes away – it is Satan. God simply states that Satan is wrong in his accusations, and indicates that Satan has also freedom to do what he chooses. Satan is the one who then goes and tests and destroys.
The responses we read from Job and his friends are on how they begin to theologically and practically deal with the events. We know from the conclusion that Job also had to repent for his poor theological reasoning, but he is commended because he never loses faith in God. Job’s friends are reprimanded because their guidance and poor theological defence was wrong and actually supported Satan’s theory of cause and effect.
If you want to explore this further, Greg Boyd has done a session on this and you can listen to the teaching here.
Reflecting on all of this I come to the conclusion that when we go through suffering, when we see others go through suffering, we cannot always know the reasons behind it all. We know that there is a spiritual battle going on around us. We need to hold on and deeply immerse ourselves in the truth about who God is as seen in Jesus, that he comes to seek and save and longs for all of us to have life in all its fullness. We need to therefore hold true to God and be wise and loving friends to one another and to all who are going through pain and suffering. We need to - with all our energy, capacity and in a united effort - respond to the disasters our world is going through; knowing that the author of these disasters is not Jesus.
As we pray together this month, may we speak truth and love to one another. May we join in our united intercession against the devastation Ebola has brought, the destruction that the Syria and Iraq crisis is bringing and the loss other crises we know of bring - trusting that Jesus came to bring life. This is our aim too in our work.
International Director, Micah Network