Today: [Job Twenty-Three] Is Fear a Sin or a Symptom? In this chapter Job continues to complain and mourn that God (in his view) is tormenting him so viciously. Is God tormenting Job? In reality we will see through properly studying Job that it was fear that opened the door and created the portal of access through which Satan came with his assault against this man. What about our own lives? If the fear of the Lord is clean does that mean that fear arises from an unclean spirit? Do we need to repent of fear, or get delivered from fear or both?
[Job 23:1-17 KJV] 1 Then Job answered and said, 2 Even to day [is] my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning. 3 Oh that I knew where I might find him! [that] I might come [even] to his seat! 4 I would order [my] cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. 5 I would know the words [which] he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me. 6 Will he plead against me with [his] great power? No; but he would put [strength] in me. 7 There the righteous might dispute with him; so should I be delivered for ever from my judge.
We have now heard from Zophar and Elipaz for the last time. Bildad will manage to speak once more as Job continues to reply and counter the accusations of his so-called friends. Elipaz in the previous chapter accuses Job of being high minded and speaking blasphemously and presumptuously against God. In this chapter Job’s response is “au contraire!” He insists that he has actually understated his case – that the depth of his groaning is not commensurate or comparative with his suffering.
It is human nature to amplify our suffering in order to justify our self focus. I remember years ago an incident with one of the leaders in a church I was a part of. The man and wife came in early to the Sunday morning service and there was an obvious look of shock and dismay on their faces. They lived only a short distance from the church and I couldn’t imagine what could have gone wrong in their lives to cause such a deep consternation in them. Wondering if perhaps a loved one had died or some other catastrophe I approached them and they began sobbing with despair. With gentle coaxing and soothing words of comfort they finally came out with it:
“We looked at the roof line on our house on the way out of the driveway this morning and we have a shingle coming loose!” they cried, bursting into spasms of grief.
I was stunned. There had been storms the night before and I was certain there were probably many in the area with limbs down and shingles blown loose in the night. This couple was so focused upon themselves and their own lives that this minor inconvenience had totally devastated them. As the small congregation gathered that morning this comedy of errors continued as a surreal atmosphere set by a congregation going to great lengths to comfort this inexplicably bereaved couple. The entire service was derailed and the proceedings, the worship service, the preaching of the word was almost totally coopted by this couples’ immature response to a minor situation.
How many times would we be in our best interest to gain some perspective in our own suffering? Job’s response to his suffering is totally out of perspective. Yes, he has suffered loss but not to the point where his all out attack on the character of God be justified. He is utterly entrenched in his insistence on how righteous he is and how unfair all of this upheaval in his life is. He accuses God and rails against God and is angry that God would ever do such horrible things to such a good man as himself.
What can we learn from Job’s folly? We can learn that:
1. Suffering skews our understanding of God. We must resist the temptation to extrapolate some estimation of the character of God based on difficult circumstances we go through. Suffering comes but if we believe the balance of God’s representation of himself in the scriptures we have to conclude that God is in the earth to alleviate and not impose suffering on us for any reason.
2. We can learn that in the multitude of words there wanteth not sin (Proverbs 10:19). Sometimes we just need to be quiet. The German hymnist Edmund S. Lorenz penned these words that would serve us well at times that we want to voice our complaint to those around us who in truth (as in Job’s case) are not going to be sympathetic hearers:
Are you weary, are you heavy hearted?
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.
Are you grieving over joys departed?
Tell it to Jesus alone.
3. The question “why God” is the demand of the mind to usurp the authority of Christ in your heart. In the information age as a people raised with the almost inviolate and ingrained presumption in our culture that we “have a right to know” – it is very difficult to set our demand for an explanation from God as to why we are going through something. Isa. 55:12 says you will go forth with joy and be led forth with peace. Understanding and knowledge have their place but when it comes to escaping the rigors of difficult situations in life knowledge and understanding may inform us but they will not open to us the way of escape out from under the fiery trial you may be experiencing. Surely there are answers and there is understanding but God often withholds them lest they heap upon us burdens of self recrimination that we could not bear.
8 Behold, I go forward, but he [is] not [there]; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: 9 On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold [him]: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see [him]: 10 But he knoweth the way that I take: [when] he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. 11 My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined. 12 Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary [food]. 13 But he [is] in one [mind], and who can turn him? and [what] his soul desireth, even [that] he doeth. 14 For he performeth [the thing that is] appointed for me: and many such [things are] with him. 15 Therefore am I troubled at his presence: when I consider, I am afraid of him. 16 For God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me: 17 Because I was not cut off before the darkness, [neither] hath he covered the darkness from my face.
Here again we find an often quoted verse that is misapplied. “when he has tried me I shall come forth as pure gold…” This sounds very poetic and it would be hard to gainsay the person that would declare this in the midst of the magnitude of suffering that Job is enduring. However is God trying Job? In Job 1:11-12 Satan provokes God to “put forth his hand” against Job and God refuses. God’s reply to Satan is that all that Job had was already in his hand because (we find out later) in Job 3:25 that it was Job’s fear and not any action on God’s part that opened him up for the assault of the enemy.
The only thing we see God doing in the matter of Job’s trial was putting a hedge around him for a time to give Job space to repent of his wrong thinking and fearfulness. Rev. 21:8 tells us that fear is a sin – not an unchangeable defect in man’s character. Why is fear a sin? Are we not victims of fear? When someone is fearful should we not comfort them and gather around them and help nurse them back to a place of courage and confidence in God? Do we treat fear as a symptom needing to be treated in the life of a believer or do we treat it as a sin from which we call the fearful up out of fear to a place of disciplined trust in God?
We see that along with fear in Job’s life was an deep-rooted self pity and a deep misunderstanding of God’s character. If we belong to God and struggle with fear it is an indicator of a misunderstanding of God’s nature that only a prolonged and extended immersion in God’s word properly taught will deliver the fearful from the sin of fear. This is a hard saying for modern seeker sensitive Christians. In our culture we don’t become Christians in order to be discipled by fellow believers into a place of maturity. We don’t generally see people becoming Christians so they can lay down their lives and take up their cross and follow Jesus. Therefore we have many who become Christians yet struggle their whole lives with self focus, fear, insecurity and doubt because the Christian community into which they have been inducted does not have the wherewithal to disciple them to maturity. As leaders it is up to you and I to change this.
Another word about fear: when you find yourself dealing with people who have unreasoning fear or phobias in their lives – exercise wisdom. Minister to them. Lift them up. Disciple them. Give them the love of God that drives out fear – but know this that fear is an unclean spirit. Psa. 19:9 tells us that the fear of the Lord is clean. Every other fear is unclean. 2 Tim. 1:7 tells us that God has not given us a spirit of fear. Therefore putting those two verses together we see that fear is an unclean spirit. A person bound by fear or given over to fear is under the influence of an unclean spirit. If that person is given a place of influence or position of authority in your life or ministry the outcome will not be good. We don’t reject people suffering from fear but we must see it as it is: 1.) a condition defined as sin in the bible. 2.) an indication of a deep misunderstanding of the nature of God. 3.) a indication of the presence of an unclean spirit that will defile any that come in contact with it where there is failure to expose and expel it’s presence in the life of the victim/perpetrator.
We look at these words of Job in this chapter and he says that he cannot find God in his situation. He rages and demands an audience with God so he can convince God himself of just how righteous (Job) is and how unfair it all is. Job is utterly convinced that it is God tormenting him as Job’s friends are likewise of that conviction. The difference is that Job’s friends think God is tormenting Job because of his sinfulness. Job thinks God is tormenting him for His own capricious reasons. They are both wrong. God isn’t tormenting Job. He isn’t punishing Job. He isn’t ignoring Job. Job’s fear has opened the door to his trial and we in our own lives would do well to realize how powerful an influence fear is and do whatever is necessary to expunge it from our lives.
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