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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Smith :: Portraits of Christ

Don Smith :: Job 2; The Goodness of God

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Portraits of Christ
“The Goodness of God” — Job 2

C.S. Lewis likened every child of God as a portrait in process.

  • The Lord is the Master Artist and we are the canvas upon which He creates His pleasure.
  • Our portraits are a statement of His eternal intent.
  • He begins by stretching us like canvas over our frames.
  • The tension must be just right.
  • He is careful not to stretch us too tight, lest we break.
  • Then He takes out His brush and pallet.
  • The picture He has in mind is known only to Him.
  • Every stroke of the brush is an expression of His love and grace.
  • Sometimes He scrapes and rubs the paint with his trowel firmly into the fabric to get the desired effect He wants.
  • Because there will be one and only one portrait of His beloved subjects, He attends to it throughout our appointed years with the love a man for his wife or a mother for her child.
  • One can imagine the canvas, wishing the artist wouldn’t be so dedicated to His task.
  • The canvas would gladly settle to be a quick thumbnail sketch rather than a masterpiece.
  • Then Lewis concluded, “In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had destined us for a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more but for less.” —C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
  • God will not settle for less glory with a hasty thumbnail sketch of our life.
  • Instead, He is determined to present every child of God as a beautiful and perfect portrait, painted in the likeness of His beloved Son.
  • Sadly, all too often we would gladly settle for temporal and spiritual mediocrity.
  • To produce a most excellent portrait, God often uses the instruments of pain and suffering to awaken us to our destiny—that which is most worthwhile and enduring.
  • God never settles for less than what is good and glorious, for Him and us.

In his day, C.S. Lewis was considered the premier apologist for the goodness of God.

  • However, he saw his sound theological construct severely tested, when he watched his beloved wife slowly and painfully suffer and die with bone cancer.
  • He said, “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life or death.”
  • During this time of extreme hurt, he coined the phrase, “Pain is God’s megaphone.”
  • By this he meant God uses physical, emotional and relational pain to awaken us to His love and grace.
  • Sometimes personal affliction teaches lessons that never can be learned in prosperity.
  • It can have the effect of driving us into or away from His arms.
  • In God’s good providence, He uses every test and trial to create in us an intimacy with Him that can be learned in no other way.
  • This is where our sense of God’s goodness is tested and tried.

That is why it is essential to have an adequate and appropriate understanding of what the Bible means when it says, “God is good.”

  • Let’s clarify a few basic doctrinal truths about God’s goodness before we return to Job.
  • Providence is God’s continual and perfect guidance and provision for all His creation by which He accomplishes His good pleasure by the power of His sovereign will.
  • God’s providential plan is good because God is always intrinsically good.
  • Man cannot adequately define the goodness of God because we are inclined to explain our notion of His goodness by what seems good to us.
  • For example, we praise God when we see answers to our prayers.
  • But is He still good if He doesn’t answer them the way we asked?
  • Those with a faith in the goodness of God answer “yes” because they believe there is a greater good being worked by Him that we may not know or understand.
  • Their faith is in God and not in their capacity to comprehend the reason why for everything.
  • His goodness never changes for His kindness is the same yesterday, today and forever.
  • Fortunately for us, His kindness is rooted in Himself and not in our goodness or merit.
  • He is tenderhearted, sympathetic and unfailing in His attitude toward the righteous.
  • Sometimes His goodness comes to us with severe mercy, adversity, heartbreak and pain.
  • That is why we must have an adequate theology of the goodness of God to better understand how He uses suffering, loss and pain for His good and ours.
  • With this brief theological sidebar, we return now to Job.

So far in Job we have learned God is holy and sovereign.

  1. The curtain of the first scene in Job opens on the earth.
    • In His good providence, God blessed Job with unparalleled years of prosperity.
    • The curtain closed with Job offering sacrifices for his beloved sons and daughters.
  2. The second scene opens in heaven.
    • On an appointed day unbeknownst to Job, while he was living a blameless, upright, God-fearing life, events took place in heaven that would dramatically and painfully alter his life forever.
    • Satan came amongst the sons of God to present himself to the Lord.
    • This “Slanderer” came to test God and Job.
    • Satan argued the righteous obey and worship God only because of their self-centered interest in what they get from God.
    • He asked, “Why wouldn’t Job love God after He had been so good to him.
    • Therefore, he wagered with the Lord, “Now stretch out your hand and strike down all the works of Job’s hands and he will surely curse you face to face!”
    • He predicted Job would curse God when his world crashed down around him.
    • The Lord agreed to the test and granted Satan the power to strike everything in Job’s life except Job himself.
    • As the curtain closed on the second scene in heaven, God was sovereignly ruling from His eternal dwelling, allowing both evil men and fallen angels to bring about His greater good and glory through their acts of enmity against the righteous.
  3. The third scene opened on the earth.
    • On an appointed day, Satan struck at Job with a rapid display of power.
    • He made Job penniless and childless.
    • In spite of overwhelming grief, Job knelt down and worshiped the Lord.
    • Job was convinced that God, and not himself, is the very definition of goodness.
    • He said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
    • Through all his trials and tribulations, Job did not sin or curse God.
    • God’s work in Job had prevailed.
    • The curtain closed on Scene 3 with Job’s faith steadfast in God’s goodness.
    • His story didn’t end with the epitaph, “And Job lived happily ever after.”
    • The saga had only just begun; there were still more good purposes awaiting Job.
    • The Divine Artist once again stretched out the canvas of Job’s life and prepared to paint.
  4. The curtain of the fourth scene opens in heaven, unbeknownst to Job, in chapter Job 2:1-6.

In God’s providence even Satan serves God’s holy purposes and our good.

  1. In poetic symmetry, we see God is supreme over all created things. (Job 2:1-2)
    • The curtain opens on another appointed day like that mentioned in Job 1:13, when “the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord.” (Job 1:6)
    • They were required to report their activities and duties on the earth to the Lord.
    • This time notice the text says, “Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord.”
    • He came to give a damage report on Job.
    • There is no sense of sorrow, regret or repentance for striking Job and failing.
    • The Lord knew before He asked Satan that he had been considering Job again.
    • Satan wouldn’t admit his evil intent.
    • He was back again to prove man’s faith in God was based only upon what man gets out of the relationship and not a true love for God Himself.
  2. Again the Lord reaffirmed His pleasure in the righteous, as he did in Job 1:8. (Job 2:3)
    • Like an artist who proudly displays his artwork in an art studio, the Lord takes infinite pleasure in each and every portrait He paints of His righteous children. (Psalm 5:12; 34:15; 37:25; 55:22)
    • He upholds and sustains them with His invisible hands.
    • He is near to the brokenhearted, even if they do not sense His presence.
    • His eyes and ears are always open to their cry for deliverance.
    • He never forsakes them because He sees them as He sees the beauty of His Son.
    • The righteous are tempted to question God’s goodness in troubled times, yet He remains unchangeable in His goodness.
    • Satan had struck Job by using the intent of evil men and the forces of nature to work his ill.
    • Yet Job’s integrity held fast, even though he suffered without cause.
    • The paint God used on Job’s portrait did not peel or fade.
    • His portrait of Job, however, was not complete.
  3. With poetic symmetry God again heard Satan’s complaint. (Job 2:4-6)
    • He still couldn’t comprehend why the righteous would retain their integrity, when God in His providence dealt them like low-numbered spades.
    • He argued like a stubborn attorney—“Skin for skin.”
    • He borrowed this phrase from the market place of the day.
    • Job, who more than likely had sold animal hides for a living, learned to barter.
    • In the same way, Satan believed Job would barter off or trade away his faith if his skin or health were touched.
    • He believed the righteous will trade away their integrity and faith when they are faced with pain and death in an emergency room, a chemo ward or a trash landfill.
    • Like before, he asked the Lord to strike Job.
    • Remember Job in our story had no knowledge of these scenes in heaven.
    • All he had was a faith in the goodness of God; the same as is available to us today.
    • How do any of us know what has been agreed upon in heaven?
    • Will Satan be granted power to take our possessions, our loved ones or our health?
    • Only God knows.

Without any argumentation, the Lord confidently agreed to let Satan test Job’s faith by touching his skin and bones.

  • But He would not permit him to take Job’s life.
  • It is fascinating to see that Satan knows just how far he can go to inflict sickness and pain upon the righteous without causing their death.
  • The Lord wasn’t through with the portrait of Job’s life. (Hebrews 2:14; Colossians 2:15; 1 John 3:8)
  • The Bible tells us God will not allow Satan or anything to even touch us, unless it serves His holy purposes and our ultimate good.
  • That is why Christ entered time and space, to destroy the power of death and to release men who have been in bondage all their lives to the fear of death.
  • He disarmed the principalities and powers of darkness when He publicly died on the cross.
  • That was a day of triumph every child of God can look back to.
  • As never before, the goodness of God was demonstrated and defined that day in a way words alone could not express.
  • The cross was a living portrait of God’s love and goodness displayed for all to see.
  • That day Satan’s head was severely crushed, but his appointed day of death had not come yet.
  • A wounded serpent is still very dangerous.
  • He still shakes his rattles and bears his fangs in a pitiful attempt to thwart God’s pleasure and purpose.
  • The curtain of scene four closes with God still on the throne, and Satan hurrying off once again to inflict his painful venom in Job’s body.

The curtain of scene five rises on earth and we see, in God’s providence, even sickness can serve God’s holy purposes and our good. (Job 2:7-10)

  1. Satan struck Job with boils over every inch of his body.
    • The symptoms of his disease resemble leprosy or elephantiasis. (Job 2:7-8)
    • Throughout the book, we are given numerous gruesome details of Job’s disease:inflamed ulcerous sores and tumors over all his body, as well as inside.
    • His skin turned black and became swollen and infected with worms.
    • His legs and face became deformed, making him unrecognizable even to his friends.
    • He was covered with oozing sores, flaking itching scabs, loss of appetite and weight, weak and listless, restlessness, shortness of breath, foul breath evident of decay, depression, fever and of course continual pain. (Job 2:7-8, 12; 3:24-25; 6:11; 7:5; 9:18; 16:16; 19:17,20; 30:17, 27, 30)
    • The volume of God’s megaphone was turned to the highest decibels.
    • If that wasn’t bad enough his condition made him a contagious social outcast.
    • People would run and hide from his presence.
    • He had to cry out when others approached, “unclean, unclean!”
    • His only refuge was in the shadows of rocks, in the tombs of cemeteries or in the trash dump outside the gates of the city.
    • He sat in ashes, garbage and dung.
    • It was the worst environment for healing open wounds.
    • To make his crisis even more embarrassing, leprosy was considered God’s curse on sinners. (Deuteronomy 28:27, 35-37)
    • So not only did he experience physical pain and social isolation, but public condemnation—not unlike what those with Aids suffer today.
    • As Job sat in the midst of ashes, he tried to relieve his pain and discomfort by scraping his sores with broken pottery and glass.
    • As he did, he only further inflamed his skin and caused greater infection.
    • Job was in a living hell—death would have been a welcomed gift from God.
  2. Still not satisfied, Satan also struck Job through the frustration of his wife. (Job 2:9)
    • She questioned her husband why he would still hold on to his integrity.
    • She reasoned it would be better to curse God and die than face this painful fate.
    • Her words were spoken as if Satan were speaking through her. (Job 1:5, 11, 22; 2:5)
    • Understandably, Mrs. Job hasn’t been treated very well by Bible commentators.
    • One commentator said, “Job lost his children, but God retained his wife, for he needed not be tried by losing her; he was proved sufficiently by having her.”
    • I will briefly come to her defense. She had just lost her home, her children, as well as any income to sustain herself and her husband, while watching him suffer with a hideous disease.
    • In grief people will say many things they may later regret.
    • Let’s lighten up on the lady, for in the end she will also see the goodness of God.
    • But that is a story for another day.
  3. Job responded with acceptance of God’s good providence. (Job 2:10)
    • He rebuked his wife for her folly, “You speak as a foolish woman.”
    • But notice he reminded her of the many good years they previously enjoyed together under God’s good providence with their ten children, untold riches and a vital marriage.
    • He asked her, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and shall we not accept adversity?”
    • This was an affirmation of his faith in God’s good providence.
    • Job believed he was no more deserving of the former years of prosperity any more than the days of adversity he was now experiencing.
    • Regardless of his pain, he was grateful for God’s goodness in his life.
    • His theology conviction that God was by nature good brought him comfort when nothing else did. (Exodus 34:6-7; Psalm 52:1; Romans 11:22-23)
    • He was satisfied in knowing God is especially good to the righteous. (Exodus 33:19-20; Psalm 31:19-24)
    • He also believed God works all things together for the good of the righteous. (Romans 8:28)
    • He later will affirm his hope that God’s goodness follows the righteous forever. (Psalm 23:6)
    • The curtain goes down on one of the darkest days in any man’s life.
    • But through it all Job’s faith held true when tested by Satan.
    • God’s sustaining hand had proven sufficient.

The record of Job’s sufferings awakens in all of us a sense of fear as well as hope.

  • Only the Lord knows what any of us will face in the future.
  • Will it be bankruptcy or prosperity?
  • Will it bring sickness, dementia, paralysis or years of good health?
  • Will we soon lose the most precious people in our lives?
  • Or will we live to enjoy many more years with our family and friends?
  • These uncertainties remind us that “the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)
  • As we face an uncertain future, we who trust in God through faith in Christ, know God is good and His providence is good regardless of what He allows to enter our lives.
  • He will remain good no matter how dark the night and how great the pain.
  • Everything serves God’s holy and perfect purposes.

So much can be learned from those whose faith is like that of Job.

  • I am amazed at the faith of a woman by the name of “Jan.”
  • She has been living with the effects of paralysis for many years.
  • Attendants are needed to watch over her twenty-four seven.
  • Virtually the only control she has on her body is with her eyes.
  • She speaks through the movement of her eyes.
  • When she arrives at my mid-week Bible study, I am so in awe of her faith—there is no bitterness—only a mind seeking to know her Savior better.
  • Her life is a constant personal reminder of the goodness of God in my own life.
  • Would any of us think Him otherwise if we suffered such adversity?
  • I see others with this same kind of faith.
  • There is “Lisa” who has endured almost ten years with a cancerous brain tumor.
  • She, her husband and children have endured hardships I can only imagine.
  • They make any of my frustrations and difficulties pale in comparison to theirs.
  • Then there is Lavilla who called me and her family to her death bed three weeks ago after suffering with years of radiation and chemo.
  • I called her this week to see how things were going.
  • From her bed she was attempting by phone to help her husband move into an assisted care facility, as well as clear the way for medical insurance and serving her family.
  • In the midst of recounting for me her many efforts she added, “By the way I didn’t die!” “Really,” I added.
  • All of these people have one thing in common, a conviction that God is good in spite of the suffering and adversity they endure.
  • Their hope is that God’s goodness will follow them all the days of their lives.
  • They would agree with T.S. Elliot, “I had far rather walk, as I do, in daily terror of eternity, than feel that this was only a children’s game, in which all the contestants would get equally worthless prizes in the end.”

May we remember that every child of God is a portrait in process.

  • The Lord is the Master Artist and we are the canvas upon which He creates His pleasure.
  • Our portraits are a statement of His eternal intent.
  • His work is not finished until His good providence is complete for each of us.
  • Until then, we must be convinced in God’s goodness and the goodness of His providence.

“Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)

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