What Are The Characteristics of A Righteous Person in the Book of Job, in Times of Adversity? (Part 2 of 2)

When wicked people suffer, most people would be thrilled because they deserved it. However, when righteous people are suffering, one would wonder: Why would a sovereign and a lovely God allow His beloved to undergo suffering and pain?

What were Job’s characteristics in adversity?

  1. Reverent awe before God

In the prologue, after losing his wealth and all of his children, Job “did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:22). He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21). Job understood that everything he had come from God alone and God rightly had every right to remove them from him as He saw fit. Job also understood that he could not take his riches with him when he dies.  

God was pleased and boasted to the Accuser that Job “still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason” (Job 2:3). In his loss, Job maintained his reverent awe and fear before God. 

He was confident in who God was—that God was faithful and righteous in all His ways. When Job was struck with the next disaster, painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head, he cursed God not. He rebuked his wife, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10). Job “did not sin in what he said” (Job 2:10). In the prologue, Job did not do or say anything that jeopardised his relationship with God.

2.Wondered if God loved Him

Job’s 3 friends came and they sat with him. They then accused Job and said the reason Job was suffering was that he had sinned.

Job defended himself by saying that he was righteous. God could not possibly punish a righteous man. Job defended that he did not deserve these ‘punishments’ he was inflicted with, which should have been reserved for the unrighteous.

Job accused that God had shattering their relationship by tormenting him. He wondered if God loved him anymore. He accused God of waging a battle against him (Job 3:23), gnashing his teeth at him (Job 16:9). He said God has turned him over to the ungodly and thrown him into the clutches of the wicked (Job 16:11). God had crushed him (Job 16:12). He felt God was like an archer who was using him as target practice; or a warrior that has slashed open Job’s kidneys and spilt his gall on the ground (Job 16:12-13).

Isn’t it us today too? When something unexpectedly happened to us, we think that God does not love us anymore. We accused God of not loving, and that He is far away. But God is always near, as we see from the book of Job.

3. Lament but faithful

Job lamented. His relatives and closest friends had forsaken him (19:14). His guests and servants considered him as a foreigner (19:15). His own family too, turned away from him: his wife found him repulsive, his family loathed him and young children despised him (19:17-18). Those he loved had turned from him (19:19). But still, he had faith in who God was. He said, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God” (19:25-26). Though his loved ones left him, he remained steadfast and full of faith in God. He said, “I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:27). He held on to God although he did not understand God’s purpose for him.

In his adversity, he still remembered who he was. He did not ask for his wealth to be restored, or threatened God to give him another 10 children. He only asked that God would remember him (14:13). There was nothing he wanted more than being in a restored relationship with God once again. Despite losing everything, the righteous would not demand God for their properties to be restored but they would yield themselves to God in humble submission. 

Above all else, he longed to restore his relationship with God.   In his pain and suffering, Job did not forsake God. He wanted to be in a relationship with God again.

4. Teachable

Finally, when God spoke to Job in the whirlwind, Job realised that he had a narrow view of God and believed that God functioned in a way that rewarded the righteous and punished the wicked. He finally understood that God’s purposes for this world (and even universe) are far bigger than just punishing wicked and blessing the righteous. God as the sovereign Creator had a purpose for all of His created beings which we human beings are incapable of understanding (Job 39). 

The book of Job is not about suffering. It is about God—His character, sovereignty, justice, faithfulness, goodness and love. There is always a bigger picture which is the perfect plan of the Almighty God. After God had spoken to Job, Job realised who he was—a created being who had no right to question his Creator. Instead of demanding answers from God for his pain, Job’s response was to humble himself before God (Job 28), acknowledging that there was so much that he did not know and understand. “The fear of the Lord — that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding” (Job 28:28).

In times of adversity, the righteous person showed us that we should not act as though we could run the world better than God, because we as created beings never will. We are horrified by the helplessness of humanity in the face of natural disasters or outraged by the ruthless exploitation of the weak, or hopeless with the choice of the national leaders that we think we will do a better job than God in running the universe.

God’s ways are higher than our ways and He rules the universe with wisdom. Job realised that. He sets an example for us to remain humble before our Creator. Out of his suffering, he met God in a fresh way and re-established the Creator-created relationship. Suffering does not necessarily mean punishment from God but one thing for certain that God is with us every day. Let us remain steadfast in our faith, trust and love to our God like Job did. 

May the Lord be praised!

What are the characteristics of a righteous person in the book of Job, in situations prosperity? (Part 1 of 2)

The book of Job begins by telling us who Job was. He was described as a man of “righteousness” — he was “blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” (1:1, NIV). Even prophet Ezekiel described Job as a wise and godly man (Ezekiel 14:14, 20).

The concept of righteousness in the book of Job is introduced in the prologue (1:1-2:13) and once again in the epilogue — the final chapter of the book (42:7-17). In the prologue, Job was ‘blameless and upright’ who loved the Lord and feared the Lord.

In the epilogue, when God had spoken to him, he humbled himself before God and worshipped Him, confessing that he had sinned against God. And in the chapters in between, Job demonstrated faith in God despite not understanding why he was inflicted with such sufferings.  

Job lived in the land of Uz. He was not an Israelite and therefore, his faith in God was purely based on his human faith, and not bounded by God’s covenantal relationship with the Israelites. God was so confident in Job’s righteous character that He boasted to the Accuser that there was no one as righteous as he (Job 1:8). The Accuser challenged God that perhaps his righteousness was because God had been blessing him. If family and wealth were removed from him, would Job still remain righteous? (Job 1:9-11). “Is Job righteous because he is blessed or is he blessed because he is righteous?” the Accuser asked. To prove that He was right, God allowed Job to be tested, including taking away from him all the things that the Accuser thought characterised his righteousness: his wealth, his family and his health.

Gladly do right

Righteousness in the Old Testament

Righteousness is being in a right relationship with God

In the Old Testament, righteousness has a relational concept. God was the One who initiate this love relationship with mankind when He created Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:4-3:24). When they disobeyed God, God provided a way: He said an offspring from the woman would crush the head of the evil one (Genesis 3:15), that was, referring to Jesus Christ. In the New Testament, we have a clearer picture of God establishing a relationship with us through the salvation offered by His Son, Jesus Christ.  

A righteous man is in a right relationship with God. A righteous person would know what are the things that displeased God and avoid doing them, for example, the righteous person would love holiness, help those in need and hate corruption, abuse and injustice. 

Righteousness are actions that pleases God 

Both the Old and New Testaments describe a righteous person as one who trusts in God (Psalm 31:17-19; 33:18; Micah 7:7-9), humbles himself in the presence of God and His judgement (Psalm 143:1,2), repents of his sins and asks God for forgiveness as well as expecting deliverance (Psalm 32; 103:10-13; 118:18-21). A righteous person acts in accordance to what he says.

Some Old Testament passages which connect righteous behaviour with actions:

  1. Deuteronomy 6:25, “and if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”
  2. Ezekiel 3:20 connects a righteous person with righteous actions.
  3. Isaiah 64:5 says that the righteous are those who “gladly do right”.
  4. Habakkuk says that “the righteous person will live by his faithfulness” (Habakkuk 2:4).

In short, righteousness is actions that pleases God and living by faith (Romans 1:17).

Righteousness as communal

In the prophetic and psalmic literature, righteousness and justice are often paired together. It is a communal thing. It involves the community. Righteousness involves ethical relations between an individual and the community (e.g. Isaiah 1:21). The righteous person shows loyalty to the community.    

Job was the greatest man among all the people of the East (Job 1:3b). Yet, he kept himself morally pure. He kept himself pure from the effects of power, wealth and fame. Job lived with a clean conscience before God and before others in his community. He blessed others with loving deeds and is blessed in return with the respect and honour in the community from the young to the old.

1. Righteous

A righteous person does not mean he is without sins. Rather, righteousness means that a person’s heart is honest and his intentions are pure. Job, although he was a righteous man, admitted to sinning (Job 6:24; 10:14, 7:20,21; 14:4; 14:16,17; 21:16). He knew it would be impossible not to sin before God (Job 14:4) but he was righteous because he confessed his sins and repented before the Lord. 

2. Righteousness in the family

Job functioned as a priest for his family which was a typical role in the patriarchal days. Not only did he embody righteousness, his whole household too, were moving in the same direction towards righteousness. Job had rituals to purify his 10 children, lest they had inadvertently sinned and cursed God in their hearts (Job 1:5).

He was righteous not only in the society, but also in his family as well. We can be busy with the things in the community and in the workplace but let us not forget to teach our children and lead them to the path of righteousness.

3. A heart of Thankfulness

With the abundance of wealth and all that he had, and then they were suddenly gone, Job still acknowledged that these blessings came from God. They were God’s goodness and grace in his life. Job said of God, “You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit” (Job 10:12). This is something remarkable for someone to say in the midst of utmost suffering and pain.

4. Communal 

Despite having his abundance, Job lived righteously in the society and the community commended him for his righteous living. 

“11 When the ear heard, it commended me, and when the eye saw, it approved; 12 because I delivered the poor who cried, and the orphan who had no helper. 13 The blessing of the wretched came upon me, and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy. 14 I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban. 15 I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame. 16 I was a father to the needy, and I championed the cause of the stranger” (Job 29:11-16, NRSV)

In his wealth, he remained humble. He had compassion for the weak in the society and extended his helping hand to them.

Job lived in a right way with other people and it was not because he was required to follow certain laws or keep certain commandments in the Torah. He lived in a patriarchal age[2], which was a long time before Moses receiving the 10 Commandments from God at Mount Sinai. Job must not have been taught the Torah.

Righteousness and justice were so important to Job that he clothed himself with them.  Job’s righteous can be seen in his behaviour towards those who were oppressed in the society. He fought against social injustice. He came to the help of the poor who were crying for help, extended his hand to the orphans, blessed the widows, cared for those in need and defended the weak. Job did not close his eyes to the needy or shut his heart to the cries of the oppressed. Rather, he reaches out to the underprivileged and strived to improve the quality of their lives and livelihood.  He defended the weak. He despised and wrestled with unrighteousness, He said of himself, “I broke the fangs of the unrighteous, and made them drop their prey from their teeth.” (Job 29:17, NRSV).

5. Respectable

Job was a respectable man. He kept his eyes pure, and made a covenant with his eyes not to lust after a young woman (31:1). He was faithful in marriage and guarded his heart so that he would not be enticed by another woman (31:9). He knew God was watching his every step so he was careful not to do wrong (31:2-4).

His heart too, was pure towards God. He did not practice falsehood or deceit (31:5), nor did he commit crimes or corruption or practise bribery (31:7).

His hands too, were pure towards God. He treated his servants well, knowing that they were created by the same Creator (31:13, 15). Job shared his food with the poor (31:16-17), helped the needy (31:18) and clothed the poor (31:19).

He put his trust in God, and not in his wealth, knowing that his wealth was from God, not just from his work (Job 31:24). He did not worship other idols but his heart was set on God (31:26-28). He walked in humility by not allowing himself to rejoice over his enemy’s misfortune or let his mouth sin (31:29-30).  

God noticed how rare this righteous person was and said to the Accuser, “There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.”  (Job 1:8).

Job showed us the example of living a life of righteousness during times of prosperity. Let us not forget God when we are enjoying good times.

John Wesley and Physical Health

Recently, I was reading articles and exchanging thoughts on John Wesley’s theology with a fellow pastor. Then I came across an interesting article online which talked about John Wesley’s teachings on physical health. As someone desperately wanting to be in a better physical shape, this article was indeed useful. You can read more at https://www.resourceumc.org/en/content/wesley-and-physical-health-practicing-what-he-preached

Apparently, John Wesley was not just passionate about preaching God’s Word and to see people accepting Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour. He was also passionate about teaching others to be in good physical condition.

In Wesley’s home, he had a chair with several cushions stacked on top of each other. It was an exercise equipment used in the 1700s. By sitting on the cushions, one would bounce up and down to mimic the movements of riding on a horse. As a frequent horse rider who travelled long distance, John Wesley used this exercise equipment to stay in shape. May be that was why he was still very much an active circuit traveller in his 80s.  

In a letter to his niece, Sarah Wesley, John Wesley wrote that she should take as much exercise every day as she could. He even advised her to use this exercise chair for half an hour at least daily.

There was also another equipment, an electrical machine, in his house that was made of wood, glass and metal. Turning the handle would create a low-level electric current that could aid in healing benefits.

Wesley was also believed to have given tips for healthy living as follows:

  1. “Water is the wholesomest of all drinks; quickens the appetite, and strengthens the digestion most.”
  2. “A due degree of exercise is indispensably necessary to health and long life.”
  3. “Those who read or write much should learn to do it standing; otherwise it will impair their health.”

Wesley believed that our spiritual health and physical health go hand in hand. Let us be mindful of our physical health and take care of it just as we put in effort on our spiritual health.

For now, I shall start with daily exercise of 30 minutes to an hour of brisk walking, or playing sports that I enjoy in. It is a baby step, but I am sure one that will reap benefits that will last for a long time. 

How are you taking care of your physical health?