In the 6th century BC, God said to Ezekiel:
“Son of man, if a country sins against Me by committing unfaithfulness, and I stretch out My hand against it, destroy its supply of bread, send famine against it and cut off from it both man and beast, even though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job were in its midst, by their own righteousness they could only deliver themselves,”
Out of the millions of people who had walked the earth by that point in history, God singled out three men for special mention as being righteous: Noah, Daniel, and Job. If these men were especially righteous, and they were, and if we desire to be righteous and to please God, then perhaps we should study these men and learn what it was about their lives that made them stand out as being righteous, so that we can apply their behavior to our lives. Well, that’s what we’re going to do today.
Today’s episode is the beginning of a series of studies on the book of Job called “Why Do People Suffer”. Most of Job is a study on suffering: what causes it, how to deal with it, and how to be encouraged while suffering. However, there are some other lessons that can be learned from Job, such as how to live an exceptional life, and that is what we are going to focus on today. Now before we start reading the text, let’s establish some context.
When you open a Bible and look at the table of contents, it will look something like this. The Bible is divided into the Old Testament, and the New Testament. There are 39 books in the Old Testament, and 27 books in the New Testament. Job is the 18th book of the Old Testament. The books of the Old Testament can be subdivided into five groups: Law, History, Poetry, Major Prophets, and Minor Prophets. Job is the first of the poetry books.
Now let’s put the Bible on a timeline. On the left we have the beginning of time, and on the right we have the century we live in. The Old Testament covers about 3,600 years of history, starting with the beginning of time and going up to about 400 BC. The New Testament covers only about 100 years of history, the first century AD. The first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, also known as The Law, cover the first 2,500 years of history, and the History books cover the next 1,000 years. This would be the books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. The books of Poetry were written between 2000 BC and 400 BC. The poetical books are Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and The Song of Solomon. The Major Prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel. They were written between 800 BC and 400 BC. And The Minor Prophets were written during the same time period. The Minor Prophets are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habbakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
Now let’s add some famous names to this timeline. Adam was the first man. Noah lived approximately 2500 BC. Abraham lived approx. 2000 BC. Moses lived about 1500 BC. David lived around 1000 BC. Daniel lived approximately 500 BC. And Jesus obviously lived in the first century AD.
As far as Job, we don’t know exactly when he lived. There are not enough historical references in the book of Job to connect him to any particular time in history; however, the consensus, based on the lifestyle of Job, is that Job lived around the same time as Abraham. That would put Job’s life somewhere around 2000 BC.
Let’s look at the structure of the book. The first five verses introduce us to Job, telling us about his character, family, and wealth. These are the verses we will look at today. The next 26 verses tell us about a dialogue that took place between Satan and God. Then there are three verses introducing us to Job’s friends: Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. The next 28 chapters are a dialogue that took place between Job and his three friends. Job spoke first. Then, Eliphaz spoke. Then Job responded. Then Bildad spoke. Then Job responded. Then Zophar spoke. And Job responded again. Then they went through this whole cycle again. Then they went through this cycle a third time, except Zophar did not participate in the third round. When Job’s friends were done speaking, Job spoke for a long time, then a man named Elihu spoke a long time, and then Yahweh spoke. Job had a short response to Yahweh, then Yahweh spoke again, Job had another short response to Yahweh, and then the whole story is brought to a conclusion. So that is the overall structure of the book of Job.
With that as an overview, let’s read the first five verses and learn how to live an exceptional life.
There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.
First, notice Job was from the land of Uz. I am not going to spend much time talking about maps during this series on Job because the book of Job has very few geographical references, but I want to briefly set the geographical context.
This is a map of the middle east, showing the nations of the middle east as they exist today. The Old Testament took place inside this area, and the New Testament took place inside this area. Notice the shift towards the west. Now let’s remove the modern borders, and this is what the topography looks like. The green areas are close to sea level, the brown areas are the hills above sea level, and the white areas are the high mountain regions. During the Old Testament time period, the dominant empires were found in the Mesopotamian Valley, which featured the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and the land of Egypt which featured the Nile River. We don’t know exactly where the land of Uz was, but in a couple minutes we’ll get to verse 3 and read that Job lived in the East, so Uz was probably in this area somewhere. Just for some context, it is about 2,700 miles from the left of this map to the right of this map and it is about 3,000 miles from New York City to Los Angeles, so what you see here is about the size of the United States.
Now let’s look at verse 1 again. The author described Job as being blameless. The word blameless is a translation of the hebrew word tam. Sometimes tam is translated guiltless as in this verse from Job chapter 9. Blameless and/or guiltless indicates the absence of any wrong doing. In other words, Job did not do the wrong thing.
The author also described Job as upright. Upright is a translation of the hebrew word yashar and has the positive connotation of deliberately doing the right thing. In this verse from Deuteronomy, yashar is translated right.
“You shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD,
So Job not only avoided doing the wrong thing, he also proactively did the right thing.
Next, we are told Job feared God. Let’s start with the meaning of the word fear. The word fearing is a translation of the Hebrew word yare. Yare is used in Job 5:21.
And you will not be afraid of violence when it comes.
It is used in verse 22.
And you will not be afraid of wild beasts.
It is used in Job 6:21.
You see a terror and are afraid.
And it is used in Job 32:6.
I am young in years and you are old; Therefore I was shy and afraid to tell you what I think.
Yare is clearly a negative word and yare is clearly something you do not want to experience; however, when Job is described as fearing God, it is obviously intended as a compliment. Why is it good that Job had this negative emotion towards God?
Well, the reality is fear is not always a bad thing. Think about fire. We humans know that fire can cause a lot of damage, so we are afraid to let fires get out of control. Our knowledge about fire makes us afraid of fire, and that fear is good because it makes us do things that keep us safe from fire. The same is true of hurricanes. When a hurricane is coming, we are afraid because we know hurricanes are dangerous. Again, knowledge about hurricanes makes fear hurricanes and that keeps us safe from hurricanes. Now think about the police. Police officers inspire some fear because we know they have the power and authority to arrest people. This fear is good because it causes us and others to obey the law, thus keeping us out of trouble and creating a safe environment for all of us to live in. And now think about God. God has given us rules to obey, He has the power and authority to enforce His rules, and He has told us there will be consequences for disobeying His rules. People who know the truth about God know we should be afraid to disobey God. Those who don’t fear God, don’t know God. Job knew God, thus he was afraid of God, and he was complimented for fearing God.
At the end of this verse, we are told Job turned away from evil. Think about the image of turning away. Job did not even look at evil lest he be tempted by it.
So verse one tells us about Job’s character, now let’s look at verse two and learn about his family. Job 1 verse 2.
Seven sons and three daughters were born to him.
In order to understand the significance of this, we need to look at Psalm 127.
Behold, children are a gift of the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
They will not be ashamed
When they speak with their enemies in the gate.
Notice this line: The man with a full quiver of children is blessed.
Job 1 verse 2 is here to tell us Job was blessed.
We have read about Job’s character and family, now let’s look at verse 3 and learn about his wealth. Job 1 verse 3
His possessions also were 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and very many servants; and that man was the greatest of all the men of the east.
First of all, let’s talk about the numbers. I grew up on a typical dairy farm in central Pennsylvania and we had about 100 animals. That was enough animals to support our family. Job had over 11,000 animals. In other words, Job was very wealthy. This verse also says Job had very many servants. Well, he needed a lot of servants to take care of all those animals. This verse says Job was the greatest of all the men of the east. The word greatest indicates Job was one of the wealthiest and most influential men of his time. Finally, notice the word east; I had mentioned this earlier. East would have referred to the east end of the known world at that time. This was the known world at that time, so the word east placed Job’s home somewhere on the right of this map, which would have been somewhere in modern day Iraq or Iran.
We’ve read about Job’s character, family, and wealth, Now let’s look at verses 4 and 5 and learn about Job’s diligence. Verse 4:
His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them.
When the days of feasting had completed their cycle, Job would send and consecrate them, rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, “Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.
It says Job consecrated them and offered up burnt offerings. Before we talk about what that means, let’s talk about why. Notice Job’s fear. Job said, “Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Notice the word perhaps, and notice the phrase in their hearts. Job understood the severity of sin so he not only offered sacrifices for the sins he knew about, he also offered sacrifices for sins that may or may not have happened, just in case.
So what does consecrate mean? The word consecrate is a translation of the hebrew word qadash. Sometimes qadash is translated sanctify as in Genesis 2:3.
Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
Sometimes qadash is translated holy as in Exodus 20:8.
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
God intended for the seventh day to be different than the other days. The seventh day was special. The word consecrate is this idea of making something different and special. Qadash also appears in Leviticus 20:7.
You shall consecrate yourselves therefore and be holy, for I am the LORD your God.
And it appears in Leviticus 27.
Now if a man consecrates his house as holy to the LORD, then the priest shall value it
Again, the word consecrate is this idea of making something different, special, and set apart. So when Job consecrated his children, he was offering burnt offerings to cover any sins they may have committed, so that they were set apart and holy.
So how do we live an exceptional life? We need to follow Job’s example. We need to avoid doing the wrong thing, proactively do the right thing, fear God, which means knowing enough about God to know we should fear God, turn away from evil, and diligently confess each and every possible sin. This is how Job set himself apart, and this is how we can set ourselves apart.
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