February 27, 2019
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian church, he was in prison because of the work of his ministry. Preaching the Gospel had gotten him into great trouble. Yet still, it was to the Philippian church that Paul wrote, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” This he wrote while in prison! Paul felt that life on this earth was all about living like Jesus Christ, who surrendered Himself totally to the eternal and spiritually-centered purposes of the Father. Jesus came into the world, not to seek pleasures and comforts, but to die to Himself for the spiritual benefit of others. Jesus was a Man acquainted with sorrow and grief. He came into the world and the world did not recognize Him. He came to His own and His own rejected Him. He was despised because of His purpose, but stuck to the plan until the point of death. It was Jesus’ purpose that brought about His death. In fact, the scriptures teach that Jesus came into the world specifically to die for the sins of the world in order that those who believe could be forgiven by the grace of the Father. Paul sought to model his life in the same fashion as a bondservant of Jesus Christ. Thus, Paul knew that he would suffer. Paul knew there would be pain. His imprisonment was not a surprise to him, nor did it discourage him, because he knew that this was the same manner of life that the Son of God lived Himself.
Though there is pain associated with doing the will of God in this life, Paul also wrote that death brings gain. It is hard to think this way. This is a quality of thinking and conviction and faith that only the Holy Spirit can provide. Paul knew that this life was all about the labor of the Gospel and enduring the difficulties of it. To die, meant rest from that labor: the striving against his own flesh, the contention with opposing people, and the discomforts of the worldly environments that surrounded him. So long as we live in this life, there is sin and the effects of it. God cursed the world with labor because of sin. Sin brings corruption, decay, and death, which requires people to strive and grind continually. Paul, knowing what awaited him in eternity according to the hope of the Gospel, knew it was better to die and be in the presence of his Savior in heaven, than to go on in this planet. It is in death that we receive the full benefits and rewards of God’s eternally unconditional promises and goodness. While we are here, we can expect difficulty. When we are greeted by our Savior in His kingdom in heaven, we can expect peace and rest. Hence, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
This was a principle that Job didn’t quite understand. Though Job was considered a blameless and upright man in the eyes of God, his responses to his suffering are a dramatic contrast to the responses of Paul and his suffering. It is true that their manner of suffering was much different. Each man had a different attitude, not because of the quality of suffering, but because of where their focus and hope was. Paul’s hope was clearly on the eternal facet of God’s purposes and promises. Job struggled to remember God’s eternal nature and was dependent on seeing God’s grace in more tangible and material ways. These differences are likely on account of the extent of revelation each man received. While we don’t know how Job was able to know God and to what extent, we do know that he was not a witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the magnitude that Paul was. Therefore, we can see that, the better understanding of the Gospel and of Jesus that we have, the more likely we are to have our minds focused on the eternal principles of God unto His glory.
The weakness of Job’s understanding is revealed in the testimony of Job 10:14-22. After Job exalted the Lord as his Maker and as the Creator of all things, he proceeded to state his opinion about God’s purposes as the Creator. Job still felt like God had created him just to abuse him. Though Job had just marveled and rejoiced in the glory of God’s power as Creator, he also expressed a certain amount of discontentment for God’s sovereignty and purpose in creation. This is a common human weakness. We often marvel at the power of God, but many times disagree with the manner in which God uses it if it doesn’t immediately benefit our personal desires and expectations. This is not right, and this is where Job was in great error.
In Job 10:14-22 Job first acknowledged the omniscience of God. Job understood that God knows everything and is always aware of what’s going on. Job knew that if he sinned, God would be on top of it. God knows even when others don’t. In fact, God knows, even when we don’t! Job knew that God would mark him as a sinner at that very moment of sin. God accounts for sin. Though God freely forgives, He doesn’t simply ignore sin as if it isn’t a factor. How could the blood of Jesus Christ, which paid the total cost of all sin, be considered so supremely valuable if God was not accounting for the debt in which His blood paid? Job understood that God doesn’t just acquit sinners. God doesn’t just excuse sin like it’s not a big deal. Sin is a big deal and it is highly offensive to God, regardless of how we might downplay certain transgressions. God sees sin, accounts for sin, and is righteous to ensure that the debt of sin is paid in some way, shape, or form: either by the blood of Jesus through faith according to His grace, or in eternal condemnation in the second death.
Job understood that if he were considered a wicked man, woe to him! To sin is one thing. Even the righteous fall seven times. Job was considered blameless and upright, but stated some things about God with an attitude that was definitely offensive to Him. Yet, the Bible never describes Job as a wicked man. All people sin and fall short of the glory of God. To be wicked is to continue in that sin as if God will not judge or cannot judge. Job was right. Those who live in such a manner – woe unto them! Job recognized that his suffering was horrific; possibly beyond his limits. Yet that suffering was nothing compared to the suffering he feared if God considered him to be wicked. The loss and pain that Job experienced is nothing compared to the loss and suffering that comes upon those who are declared wicked by the Almighty Creator of all things!
These things that Job remarked about God were true, but he wasn’t seeking to make trivial statements about God. Job was emphasizing the power of God’s wisdom and strength to impress his point that his life was hopeless on account of the suffering he was enduring. Job went on to state that, even if he were righteous before God, he would not be able to lift up his head because he was full of disgrace. Once again, Job shows how he was overly focused on his physical condition as if it had a bearing on the condition he would be in while in the presence of the Lord. It is true, Job’s sores and boils likely made him look like a physical disgrace. It is possible that his pain was such that he couldn’t physically lift his head. Still, if Job were considered righteous by God, then would a merciful, gracious, righteous, holy, and loving God allow His people to remain in such a condition while in the eternal presence of His glory? Wouldn’t the One who created the heavens and the earth also be able to heal the body, if not create a totally new one, fully restored and equipped to dwell in the glory of His presence? It is true that even those that God deems as righteous are only declared righteous because of faith, and cannot stand proudly before God. The scriptures show that all of God’s people fall on their faces before His presence. In a spiritual sense, it is true that none are able to lift the head to God because He is so superior in glory, majesty, holiness, power, wisdom, and so forth. Still, the thought of being bowed in the presence of God should far exceed our desire to lift our heads physically.
Job felt that if he were to somehow heal, God would hunt him down like a lion to bring him down again. This sentiment is just silly. God is not the one described as the lion, seeking whom He may devour. God is described as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, who uses His power and strength to take authority back from sin, death, and hell so that He can fulfill His eternally unconditional promises to Israel and the world. God is not a hunter of the weak to bury them. God does not take joy in the pain of His people. If God were to further inflict pain on Job, it would only be to cause greater spiritual benefit. God is okay with destroying the body if it produces profit for the soul as exemplified by the work He did Himself in the form of Jesus Christ. He came into the world for the purpose of suffering unto death, knowing the extent of spiritual benefits that work would provide. This shows that God doesn’t require any of His people to endure anything that He Himself hasn’t also endured. So, when it feels like God is just provoking pain, it is critical to remember that God’s purpose is to produce spiritual profit unto His glory.
It is at that moment where Job questions why God formed him again. Job again expresses his desire that he had never been born. Job felt that if he had never been born, he would have never experienced his pain and been so pitiful before others. While this might be true, there are other factors to consider. If Job had not been born, he would not have had the opportunity to be used as an instrument of God’s righteousness. He would not have experienced the mercy and grace of God in the manner that he would learn in the end. He would not have been used as a very unique and special tool that God used to prove the devil weak and wrong. While Job felt that his suffering was to his shame, the full context of scripture shows that Job’s suffering was unto his glory because God was glorified by his life and the way it was used to thwart the works of the devil. Did the devil cause Job to ever curse God? He did not! This means that, even in the extent of Job’s weakness, God made Job strong to overcome the vicious attacks of Satan himself, proving that when we are weak, He is strong!
In the end, Job just wanted a little relief. After his irreverent complaining, he figured that his life was coming to an end soon. He was wrong. Still, he hoped that his pain would relent just a bit, figuring that the only benefits to be had were limited to the circumstances of this life. He described death as the shadow of darkness. He felt that death would take him to a land of darkness where even the light is darkness. How morbid life would be if those considered blameless and upright by God had this to look forward to! Once again, Job did not see as Paul saw. To live is Christ – life is HARD! Nevertheless, to die is gain, not to go into a deep dark pit and abyss of hopelessness. In fact, in death, we finally get to see light in its purest and brightest form with eyes that will be fashioned for us to behold the splendor of our Savior in His true form! How can we despise that hope and promise?