Have you noticed that our world seems to be fascinated with conspiracy theories? We read about big pharma plots, political schemes to oust leaders, Hollywood machinations to get us to watch sequels, and media conspiracies, for “fake” news. Conspiracies have at their foundation a lack of belief in God’s providence since they seek to explain events or situations as humanly contrived, to implicate people for a perceived difficulty. Even Wikipedia agrees that a conspiracy involves “…an unconscious affirmation that man is responsible for his own destiny.” (1) We Christians, however, trust God for our circumstances, while taking responsibility for the effect of our sinfulness or the sins of others. The Bible has numerous accounts of conspiracies in the Old Testament Israel’s enemies opposing them at every turn and the Jews conspiracy against Christ in the New Testament is the ultimate conspiracy. But few schemes involve God’s people scheming against each other, although there are few where his people gang up to bully someone. Aaron and Miriam conspired against Moses, and Joseph’s brothers carried out a plot against him. Here is another—Job’s friends’ together accused Job of causing his suffering by his refusal to confess his sins. He was suffering in the most horrendous conditions, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. His children were dead, and his wife seems to have deserted him emotionally and spiritually (Job 1:9). Job lost all of his people and property and was afflicted physically, with sores from his feet to his head (2:7). Good intentions or not, even Job’s friends were against him when he desperately needed their compassion and trust.
What happened to Job and his family was a mystery to him and everyone else at that time. In spite of this, after the first wave of Satanic attacks, “Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’ In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” (Job 1:20-22) Then God permitted the devil to strike Job personally, but he said, “‘ Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (2:10) Later, Job’s friends conspired together with a theory about Job’s suffering, as if he could control it suffering by confessing some sin, but wouldn’t. Were they in agreement with God’s plan for Job? No. However, do they offer sound advice for Job and us? Yes! For example, take this incongruous advice from Eliphaz: “Agree with God, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you. Receive instruction from his mouth, and lay up his words in your heart.” (Job 22:21-22) Great advice for us all, including Job. Unfortunately, Eliphaz thinks his presumptive analysis of Job’s situation is right and that it should compel Job to confess some hidden sin.
But Eliphaz is the one out of sync with God, while Job was in such “agreement” with God that the Lord trusted him to successfully glorify Him when attacked by Satan. Treasuring and agreeing with God’s Word supplies us with heart sanctification, goodness, and peace. Some Christians, unfortunately, conspire against God or God’s people in churches and fellowships. But many of us decide to disagree with the Lord independently, plotting only with ourselves. “Acquaintance with God begins at conversion, when he is made known and it is carried on by prayer…and by attendance on his worship and ordinances, in…fellowship with him: this is sometimes interrupted and dropped for a while, through temptation or sin;…when prayer before him is restrained;…and when saints forsake the assembling of themselves together, or neglect public worship, or grow indifferent to it.” (2) We also disagree with God by choosing to doubt Scripture intellectually and spiritually, with our minds and hearts. Agreeing with God includes receiving his instruction, rebukes, correction, conviction, and accountability by applying his Word personally. I can study the Bible every day without ever considering how a specific passage, verse, or even a phrase might relate to me. When I do this (and I do not doubt that I do it), I neglect my heart transformation and renewal of my mind (Romans 12:2). If I don’t “agree with God,” or desire to “receive instruction,” I most probably won’t “lay up his words” for any future help. Job himself will agree, receive, and lay up God’s words at the end when the Lord calls even him to a higher degree of worship and faith. But until then, Job has no peace. Until we also agree with, receive from, and lay up his words, God’s voice will lie dormant in us, and we will forfeit our peace with him. Without peace with God, it is impossible to have lasting peace with others.
Job’s wife is an example of one who did not agree with God and is fed up with Job’s submission to Him. “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” (2:9) I wonder if she mistook Job’s faith for personal ethics. Did she think that Job would endure and persevere these overwhelming tragedies by his strength of character or determination to survive? Do we believe we can navigate our trials and crises solely with resolve? Are we going to have peace by merely surviving until the danger is past? If Job had the strength, could he have taught his friends about the sovereign, goodness of God even when they did not understand His purposes? Could he teach them, with words as well as his actions about sincerely questioning God’s tests of faith without giving up on Him? It is so hard to love others with our loving confrontation when we are hurting. As Jesus was reviled and hung dying on the cross, he asked his Father to forgive the people who participated in his execution, giving us an example to follow (Luke 23:34). “…only Job’s living Redeemer could [make peace with him], and he has done it;…inward peace of mind, which comes from God, and through an acquaintance with him, and from Christ, his blood, righteousness, and sacrifice, by whom the acquaintance with God is opened and maintained…and also eternal peace hereafter, when acquaintance with God will be no more dropped, nor interrupted, but continue forever [are his].” (3) Job may not have uttered the words, Lord forgive my friends their false accusations, but he did try to confront their allegations. “Have mercy on me, have mercy on me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has touched me! Why do you, like God, pursue me? Why are you not satisfied with my flesh?…For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.'” (Job 19:21-27)
When you read the Bible, do you ask God to help you love what you read, to agree with him? What passages or instructions have you quickly scanned or skipped lately because you are bothered by them? Will you revisit them, praying for help from God? The gospel of Jesus Christ doesn’t promise us a life of ease, convenience, or comfort, but does promise us that Christ has good plans for us. What prevents you from enjoying the peace and goodness of Christ in full submission to him? What will you do about it? “This would be my comfort; I would even exult in pain unsparing, for I have not denied the words of the Holy One.” (Job 6:10)
(1) Wikipedia, “conspiracy,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conspiracy_theory
(2) Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Job 22:21, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/job-22.html
September 27, 2019