Understandably, the Book of Job is not usually mentioned as anyone’s favorite book in the Bible. While the overall theme of redemption and promotion following loss and destruction is thoroughly Biblical, we typically desire a less challenging route towards God’s blessings. However, I believe that vital lessons from the Book of Job are more than relevant for many Christian leaders at this precise moment of Church history! I think that the last several chapters of Job reveal some vital keys necessary for us to bring forth ‘beauty from ashes’ at this season.
Suffice it to say, the first 37 chapters of Job firstly relate Job’s significant losses and, secondly, the not so helpful counsel of his three friends. Job’s loss was exceedingly great. His sons and daughters all perished, he was enduring great physical pain, and he lost all of his wealth. And seemingly, he could not find any real comfort from his good friends. In short, Job had abruptly found himself in great grief, great physical pain, poverty, and loneliness.
Then in chapter 38, we read these vital words ‘then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind’. Whole books could (and maybe should) be written concerning the Biblical pattern of God meeting us and releasing life and clarity in times of devastating trouble instead of times of peace and strength. The Bible’s very first picture of God illustrates this very point. Genesis, chapter one, relates in the first few verses that while there was chaos and confusion upon the world, the Spirit of God was hovering over the situation. And into that chaos, God spoke order, life, and fruitfulness. In a similar vein, Jesus heard the voice of the Father in His most troubling challenge. John 12.27-28 reads, ‘Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
Whirlwinds are times of confusion. The Hebrew word used for whirlwind in the Bible is ‘sa‘ar’. It could also be translated as storm, hurricane, or tornado. Hurricanes are frightening things. Things typically secure and solid become violently and chaotically moved during a hurricane. And so it can seem when we experience the upheaval of the norms in our lives. Healthy and expected patterns in our lives are suddenly displaced leaving us with many questions concerning our future security and well-being. Just so, the repercussions of Covid-19 have been profoundly challenging with many for almost two years now. As patterns and habits have been thrown to the wind, so have the expectations and vision of many Christian leaders. Personally speaking, after almost 40 years of ministering some 140 days per year to the church at large, I have experienced these same whirlwinds on several fronts- especially considering that some 70% of my ministry has involved international travel!
The great I AM versus the great ‘we’re not’!
As God began to speak to Job, out of the whirlwind, He essentially rebuked Job. Job had fallen into the trap of pride in thinking his wisdom allowed fault finding with God. And so it can go in our own lives. At least subconsciously, we sometimes tend to believe our supposed maturity and wisdom entitles us to think we can fully understand God and grasp His ways and dealings with us. Like Job, we often need vital reality reminders that God is the great I Am, and we are the great ‘we’re not!
Again, two chapters later, we read these words ‘Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind’. So amid God and Job dialoguing, the whirlwind of chaos and loss is still prevalent. What has changed, however, is Job’s heart posture. He has repented for his pride before God. He responds to God, in verses 4 and 5 ‘Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.”’ Essentially, Job intentionally made himself small before God. Humility is one of the great keys in journeying from breakdown to breakthrough- humbling ourselves before God no matter how wise and successful we think we may have become. Both James 4.6 and 1 Peter 5.5 tell us that God is against the proud but gives grace to the humble.
Chapters 40 and 41 continue with God schooling Job regarding who is God and who is not. And then in chapter 42, we read these very profound words;
‘Then Job answered the LORD and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”’
For the sake of brevity, I will simply point out four critical truths, which Job now realizes on a deeper level. When God takes us through a Job type of process, what He desires to reveal to us is usually not new, but it is a more in-depth or fuller understanding. In this sense, He wants to take us from ‘glory to glory’ in the knowledge of Him. While these four keys of walking with God are not new to most, I believe God wants to lead us into a more profound experiential knowledge of them.
Nothing is impossible for God- no purpose of His can be thwarted!
The ways and wisdom of God demand that we live by faith in Him, not by our limited understanding and perspectives of Him.
We absolutely must take time to listen to God and not merely make our requests known to Him.
God desires that we not only hear about Him but that we gaze upon Him, so to speak, in a very personal way.
Because these four aspects of knowing God are well known to us (at least theologically), I will not comment on them except for number four. The apostle Paul prayed a Holy Spirit-inspired prayer for the church of Ephesus which reflects God’s heart that we focus the eyes of our heart on Him. Ephesians 1.16-20 read;
‘I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might’.
Good ideas versus God ideas!
All the specifics of this prayer are vital for the church today if we are genuinely going to extend the Kingdom of God to the cultures around us. I want to single out Paul’s key to the blessings of that prayer- ‘that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened’. The church of Ephesus was, obviously, comprised of followers of Christ- Christians, born again by the Spirit of God. So, we understand Paul was not praying for them to receive the Holy Spirit, as that had already happened in their lives. He was praying for a specific prophetic type of anointing to come upon them, which would render a greater intimacy with God. He prayed that ‘the eyes of their hearts’ would be enlightened. By this, we can surmise that He was calling them to know and experience what Job professed to have come into- ‘I have heard of you with my ears, but now my eyes see you’.
We can not operate as Church leaders simply out of what we have been taught about God. We need fresh input from the Holy Spirit, and more importantly, a fresh revelation as to the wonder of who God is! Not new doctrine, obviously, but fresh strategies and direction pertaining to God’s leading and purposes at this hour. We must become like the good scribe who brings forth things both ‘new and old’! As Solomon so powerfully put it- we must lean not to our own understanding but live and lead out of a heart knowledge of God. Am I saying we will all gaze on the very throne and person of God the Father in this realm? Not, necessarily. I am saying, however, that Job and the apostle Paul challenge us to experientially realize the leading, power, and glory of the person of God in our lives and ministries. As David sang ‘Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually’!
If we are going to see our generations touched by the gospel in a greater measure, we must learn to discern the difference between our good ideas and God’s ideas! And, even more importantly, it is essential that we not merely know of God, but know Him! As Jesus so profoundly warned us, there will be some on the day of judgment who will claim to have been His servant, but He will state, ‘I never knew you’!
Blessed are the peacemakers!
The final key, which brought about breakthrough and redemption in Job’s story, can be found in verse 10, of Job 42. It reads, ‘And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends.’ There is no room in the Kingdom of God for us to hang onto offenses, unforgiveness, and bitterroots of judgment. It was only after Job prayed blessings on his three friends, who had condemned him, that God released His redemptive plans for Job.
Jesus stated, ‘blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’. If we are going to lead people into the peace and restoration of God’s love, we must lead by example. Even as Jesus hung on the cross, in absolute agony, forgiving those who sinned against Him, so must our hearts be a place where the peace and love of God reign. Before God and man, we must learn to watch over our hearts with all diligence as that is where God reigns, speaks, and releases His redemptive and restorative wisdom!
Whirlwinds of Promotion!
In conclusion, allow me to state that while whirlwinds are chaotic and troubling, they can also indicate God is bringing us into breakthrough and promotion for greater fruitfulness. When Elisha beheld the whirlwind of heaven taking up his spiritual father figure, Elijah, two powerful upgrades occurred. First, Elijah graduated to heaven, and secondly, Elisha powerfully stepped into his ministry, calling, and destiny. And the prerequisite for that promotion was Elisha having ‘eyes to see’. (2 Kings 2.10) Could it be that God, in His limitless mercy and wisdom, possibly allowed the whirlwinds of the last few years due to His great love for us? Perhaps, we needed these whirlwinds in order to help us transcend from yesterday’s good to tomorrows great!
One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.
Ps. The picture of the storm clouds over the ocean was taken off the coast of Israel. The very day I wrote this blog Israel was experiencing major winds!
Breakthrough in a Time of Breakdown
The Bible contains some 3000 promises of blessing. And according to the Apostle Paul they are all ‘Yes, and Amen” for those in Christ Jesus. One of those promises is “the righteous shall prosper even during a time of famine”. (Psalm 37.19) As Moses prayed, however, it’s not enough that we merely know the promises of God- we must also know “the ways of God” in order to walk in the promises of God.