Job and Joel Osteen
James C. Denison
Joel Osteen’s new book, Become A Better You, was released this past Monday. Joel has become the pastor of America’s largest church, and is a bestselling author and international figure. He has been interviewed this week on 60 Minutes, Good Morning America, and talk shows across the country.
In the first chapter of his new book he writes, “Don’t be weighed down by the distractions and disappointments in life; instead, keep stretching to the n ext level, reaching for your highest potential. If you do that, I can tell you with confidence your best days are in front of you. God is going to show you more of His blessings and favor, and you will become a better you, better than you ever dreamed possible” (p. 18).
I have no doubt that this message of positive thinking is helping many people. But what do we do when prosperity doesn’t come to us? When innocent suffering is the reality of our lives? Peter’s future led to a crucifixion, upside down; Paul’s to a beheading; John’s to an exile on Patmos. God’s faithful servants are not always rewarded on earth for their obedience. Of all the people who deserve to be battling leukemia in the hospital today, Dr. Gary Cook is last on the list. But that’s where he is, and I am hurting with him and grieving for his family.
Here’s the fact for today: no matter how our world changes, God doesn’t. Today we’ll see why that fact is so crucial to the help and hope of God, wherever we need it most.
When life caves in
The Book of Job centers on a character who likely predated the Hebrew race and faith.
Job never refers to Abraham, the patriarchs, or the law of Moses. He makes no mention of the Promised Land or the covenant of God with the nation of Israel. The book refers to peoples who thrived before Abraham was born.
But Job was a very real person, not a literary figure; he is described in Ezekiel 14:14 as a righteous man and is commended in James 5:11 for his perseverance.
He lived in Uz, an area east of Israel, encompassing Edom to the south and Aram in the north. Depending on its size, the area could include parts of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Iraq today.
Our text describes him as “blameless and upright.” The two terms go together in the Hebrew syntax, for they are two sides of the same character.
“Blameless” means “complete, mature, lacking nothing,” a man of complete integrity and righteousness in his personal character. “Upright” means “standing straight,” a person who is unwilling to compromise morally, someone who is always honest in his relations with others.
At the same time, “blameless” does not mean sinless. All of us have sinned and come short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8). Job was “blameless and upright” in that he sought to live by God’s law in every dimension of his life.
In addition, Job “feared God and shunned evil,” words which also go together in the original grammar. To “fear God” is to reverence him, to respect him deeply. To “shun evil” is to avoid it every time, at all costs. Job was a man of enormous integrity and spirituality, as our text will soon demonstrate.
It was just this character which Satan would attack.
Soon his oxen, donkeys, sheep and camels were stolen and his servants killed (vs. 13-17). Most devastating of all, a “mighty wind” (probably a tornado) from the Arabian Desert then killed all of Job’s children (vs. 18-19). In a single day, “the greatest man among all the people of the East” (v. 3) was reduced to horrific despair and poverty.
Then his health was taken from him. The Bible does not name Job’s disease (if it even had a medical name or description). We know that it caused him to endure “painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head” (Job 2:7). These sores or boils would break and fester over his entire body (Job 7:5); he would endure nightmares (7:14), scabs which became black (30:28, 30), a disfigured and revolting appearance (2:12; 19:19), bad breath (19:17), weight loss (17:7; 19:20), fever (30:30), and pain all day and night (30:17).
A disease known as “hypogammaglobulinemia” matches most of Job’s symptoms. This is an autoimmune deficiency which leads to respiratory infections, chronic diarrhea, weight loss, rheumatoid arthritis, and pneumonia. The patient often experiences bacterial infections which produce skin reactions and boils. Whatever afflicted Job, it was horrific.
It is impossible for us to imagine Job’s torment. His physical response was consistent with Oriental mourning: “Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head” (Job 1:20a). But his spiritual response was unique and astounding: “Then he fell to the ground in worship” (v. 20b).
Admitting that he had nothing at birth and would have nothing at death (v. 21a), he concluded: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised (v. 21b). And so, “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (v. 22). How can we do the same?
How to trust the God you cannot see
This fall we’ve been exploring the nature of God Almighty. We’ve learned that he is awesome, to be feared and reverenced.
At the same time, we’ve discovered that he is intimately interested in every one of us. He knows everything about us and cares about every part of our lives.
God Almighty is love almighty. He didn’t have to make a single one of us–the planet had enough people before we were born. He wanted to make us. He loves us and likes us and cherishes us as a Father cherishes his children.
But he is Judge Almighty as well. His holiness requires him to condemn sin and judge sinners.