Paragon, Pariah, Persuaded

Feb 17, 2023 | Articles, by Guest Writers, Marrow Ministries Free Content

Frame of reference is a key concept: the apprehension and appreciation of which is of practical help both in the science classroom and in daily life. When I ask my Earth Science students why the geocentric view of our planetary system endured for so long, with some prodding they usually admit that—from our vantage point on Earth—it certainly appears that we are stationary observers and that everything in space seems to be moving around us. But appearances can be deceiving, as Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo eventually demonstrated with ever-increasing clarity. Copernicus’ breakthrough was rightly deemed revolutionary, but even more revolutionary is the perspective on frame of reference offered by the book of Job.

Chapters 1 and 2 of Job make clear that Job himself was a paragon of virtue. In both chapters, as God responded to Job he said, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8, 2:3). Job weathered two God-permitted satanic attacks, initially to his fortune and family, and subsequently to his own health. After the former, the text says that “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” (Job 1:22), and after the latter, in spite of his wife’s incendiary urgings, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10). Even though Job didn’t have a vantage point that would allow him to understand why calamity had befallen him, he still held fast to his integrity, to his wife’s great chagrin (Job 2:9).

When Job’s friends came “to show him sympathy and to comfort him,” they didn’t even recognize him (Job 2:11-12). Satan had really done a number on Job; the paragon was now a pariah. As the story unfolds, Job and his visitors sat in silence together for a week before Job lamented his very birth; his lament opened a floodgate of “friendly” counsel, but that counsel took the form of not-so-veiled aspersions and accusations. Not surprisingly, Job rightly labeled them as “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2) who attempted to comfort him with “empty nothings” (Job 21:34). He repeatedly attempted to defend his character but, in the end, their doubts gave rise to Job’s own questions about God’s purposes and a desire for divine vindication. The satisfying ending to this heart-wrenching tale is that God spoke and worked in ways that left no doubt about His character and His providential purposes (chapters 38-42).  Job was persuaded that the Almighty truly was in control, even through the darkest, most painful days.

Answers are not always forthcoming, nor is relief always timely. Click To Tweet

What is the significance of this teaching for the types of communities in which we live and serve? Consider parenting. It seems that a chief goal of many of today’s parents is to keep their children happy and to buffer them from all things that might undermine their happiness. But as Job’s life shows so poignantly, and as our own adult experiences confirm, at some time in our lives we will almost certainly face Jobian injustice or false accusations that will be hard to endure. Moreover, those closest to us may be of little help in the fray. Are we equipping our children for this eventuality? Do we allow them to learn hard lessons? Do we prepare them to face pain? Do we train them to trust God with His peerless character and track record in the face of loss, bewilderment, and suffering?

Consider a friend whose job may have been abruptly terminated, with little or no explanation, and perhaps with no severance package. How can we help that friend make sense of such a painful loss of position and remuneration? Doesn’t an explanation of what’s really real, as laid out in Job, provide a framework for pushing forward in hope and trust? A basic understanding that God’s frame of reference is the full picture of what’s really real, even though we glimpse only a few pixels of the whole, is vital in a pain-wracked world.

Whatever may come, we must not give in to a warped theology that either tacitly (or vociferously!) claims that what happens to us is bigger than what has been accomplished on our behalf in Christ, or that our suffering is beyond God’s purview or concern. The ESV Study Bible rightly points out that “Though God is intensely concerned about humans, he does not always answer their most agonizing questions” (870). Answers are not always forthcoming, nor is relief always timely. But His frame of reference is through the ultimate wide-angle lens, and His heart is as vast as his view. Just ask Job the persuaded.

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