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Joe's Story

A simply version of the Bible book of Job

by

R Ainslie


I thought you would be interested in the following story, because God's behaviour is still so misunderstood, and I like the way Chris explained His actions.

It is the true story of a man whom we will call Joe Smith but it could apply to many others. Joe was a practising Christian, and was well-liked among his community because of his good works. A happily married man with several children, he was also blessed with many material goods. In fact, he was what is known as "well-off." His practical Christianity touched the hearts as well as the bodies of all with whom he came in contact, and he stood out as a leading figure in his district. He eventually became a magistrate and established a position where he had many friends all over the world.

After many years of a full and satisfying Christian life he passed through a period of economic recession and lost all his money which naturally upset him, but it did not cause him to lose faith in his God. This was more severely tried when, soon after, all his children were killed in an accident, which some well-meaning people described as "an act of God." He began to question his circumstances, but his love for Jesus Christ was strong, and he did not blame Him in any way. He rested in what he called "the will of God."

Of course, it was a great blow when Joe later lost his position as magistrate, but the worst affliction of all was when he contracted a particularly nasty form of cancer and his wife threatened to leave him. Then it was that he really began to have second thoughts and commenced to search his life for a reason for such happenings. But try as he might, he could not see why God should allow these things to come upon him.

He lived under these miserable conditions for many months, during which time his friends heard about his problems. Under the guidance of God some of his closest Christian brothers came from Africa, Germany, United States and New Zealand to visit him. However, when they saw his wasted frame, they were shocked and didn't know how to comfort him. They grouped around his bedside and prayed for help. Jacob Mgombe felt impressed to speak first as he listened to Joe complaining bitterly over the fact that he had ever been born, and wishing that he were dead, for by now he was really down to it!

Jacob told Joe that he should remember how he had helped many others in the past through their times of misfortune, and that now he should act the Christian man and accept his lot. "Don't be so upset, God only punishes sinful men," he said, "for they reap what they sow. You certainly don't think that you're perfect and should be passed over, do you? That's not possible! No man can be pure before God. We must all expect our turn of affliction and grin and bear it. Just ask God to show you your sins so that you may confess them, be forgiven, and your punishment will cease."

Well, at that Joe retorted, "You think that I'm too passionate? Why, if my sufferings were weighed against my life the balance would find me way up in the air! I'm getting far more than I deserve. You shouldn't speak to me this way. Friends are supposed to comfort and help a man, not kick him when he's down. If you really think that it's my fault, show me where I have erred, then I'll hold my tongue. But you can't prove anything against me, and I've suffered all these months until I've reached the point where I loathe my life and wish that I were dead. I would even complain to God if He were here! Why don't You help me, I'd say, instead of punishing me every day? What difference does my suffering make to You anyway?"

At these words, another of his friends, Horst Wagner, broke in and reproved Joe quite sternly. "Hang on, Joe, God knows what He is doing. He doesn't make mistakes. I think you ought to seek Him out more earnestly in prayer, and then if you are so pure and upright He will alter everything for you. God doesn't help wrong-doers, but He does help the blameless man. He'll look after you, Joe, if you just trust Him!"

"That's true," Joe replied, "but how can I put my case to Him? He's too clever for me. His punishments are driving me out of my mind, and I can't even think straight. What a trial! How unfair, for I can't match His strength. I am blameless and I hold to it! I should give up and let Him kill me, because He obviously destroys good and bad alike. 'He doesn't you say!' Well, who is doing it then? He is judging me as guilty and condemning me without a fair trial. I need a lawyer to speak for me! I am sick - yes, sick of life - and if I had the chance I'd complain to God, and demand that He tell me what He has against me, for I'm innocent I say. If I were guilty I would accept it, but I'm not!"

At this outburst his third friend, Bob Newman, shocked at what he'd just heard, interrupted and said, "Now you're blaspheming, Joe. How can you say that you are pure and clean in God's eyes? I do wish that God would answer you, then you'd find out that you're getting less than you deserve. God knows who are sinners and marks them. If you set your heart right and put sin out of your hand, then you'll be able to lift up your face to Him and He will hear."

Joe replied, "I'm sure that you three think that you're the only wise men in Christendom, but I have some understanding also. I'm NOT inferior to you! Yet you treat me like a fool. A man whose prayers were once answered by God is now a laughing stock to his friends. I'm not going to argue with you any more. I'll appeal to the Almighty and argue and reason my case with Him. Maybe He can explain the conflict between what I believe of Him, and what I see of Him. I think that you're just trying to curry favour with Him by putting me down. Sure, I'll trust Him - but I'll maintain and argue my ways before Him - even to His face. When He shows up, that is! He knows that a sinful man would be too scared to do that. I'll ask two things of Him first - Withdraw Your hand from me, and then, Don't scare me with Your majesty. Then I'll say to Him, 'Tell me what I've done wrong. Let me know what sins I'm guilty of. You won't! Why then do You treat me as Your enemy? You're not fair to do so. I haven't a great deal of time left to live, and men don't live for very long anyway, so let me have some peace, please'."

At this point, Jacob broke in again by saying, "Joe, don't be such a windbag! Your words are empty of sense. It's no good to rant and rave against the God of heaven. He knows best. Your own mouth is condemning you and confirming our charges. You are a great sinner indeed! We are certainly your equals, but in this case we can see better than you! No one, not even you, CAN be pure and innocent in the eyes of God. It is an impossibility. The wicked do not prosper - God sees to that. This has been established by ancient/ men, therefore you MUST be a grievous sinner!"

"You call me windy," said Joe, "but so are you. If I were in your place and you in mine I would comfort you. God is wearing me out in His rage. He shows His teeth at me and uses me as a target for His arrows of misfortune. I was living at ease but now I have no rest day or night, although there is no guilt or violence in me, and my prayer is pure. My face is flushed with tears, my eyes are dimmed, although I have done no wrong, although my life is innocent. I call on God for justice! I wish there was someone to plead for me. I am ready to die, but would like to be vindicated to you beforehand. I look forward to rest in death!"

Right then his friend Horst told him to keep quiet because he was horrifying good men and showing a bad example of Christian fortitude. "It's no good tearing yourself to pieces," he said, "the upright don't falter, they grow even stronger. But the wicked do get their just deserts. It is the wicked who are afraid all the time."

Joe replied with another passionate outburst, "If it were true that I had sinned then I should be conscious of it! Time and again you have taunted and wronged me. It is God that has put me in the wrong! I cry out against Him, Murder! but no one listens to me. I call for help but He ignores me. It is He that has done all this to me. My relations have abandoned me, even my own servants despise me. No one listens to me any more. Have pity on me, my friends, for the hand of God has struck me down. Don't treat me as He does! I do know that I have a Redeemer and that I will see Him at the last trump, at His second coming, but I want comfort NOW, not in the resurrection. If you continue to persecute me with the claim that the root cause of all my punishment is my own behaviour, then beware of the wrath of God against yourselves for such lies."

This stung Bob into a savage reply. "My heart is stirred listening to your insults and excuses. Don't you believe that the sinner never sings for long? Punishment is swift and certain. God's wrath falls on such a one with a great weight and severity."

Poor Joe couldn't take that and answered, "What nonsense you speak. That isn't true at all! The wicked often enjoy great length of life with peace and prosperity. When I think of it I'm all aghast! Men who reject God are filled with prosperity by Him! 'God', you say, 'punishes that man's children for his sins!' Better He punish the man himself!!! The evil man should see his own ruin. I don't think that God draws any distinction between good and bad at all! Some don't get anything good at any time in their whole life, while others never suffer in the slightest at all. The greatest criminals are often mourned by the greatest number when they're dead."

Jacob had been hard put to keep quiet while this was being said, but now he exploded. "You say that God doesn't care whether you are good or bad," he snapped, "What possible difference can it make to Him, the Almighty? Joe, you are indeed a terrible sinner and deserve to be punished. It is obvious now that you have swindled many men, acted the hypocrite, and helped evil-doers in their plans. God in heaven knows. Do you think He doesn't notice? The men who lived before the flood thought that, but where are they now? Give in to God, submit your wilful way to His will, accept His orders. Humble yourself into the dust and He may listen to you."

"A lot of good it is to say that," said Joe. "I can't find Him! If I could I would argue with Him. Yet He knows how I live. When He has finished testing me I shall prove sterling gold. But in the meantime, He frightens me. Why don't we see His works more often? Sinners get away with anything today. He doesn't attempt to stop them. God pays no heed to crime. He lets the wicked flourish."

Horst had time for only a few words before Joe interrupted again. All he could say was that no man, not even Joe, could claim sinlessness before God. "We are like maggots or worms to Him," he said.

But Joe answered, "God is great, I don't deny it. But He has wronged me. I swear I speak the truth, I tell you no lie when I say that you're wrong. I'm sane and sound. I hold unflinchingly to my innocence. Not for one hour have I any need to reproach myself. Nor will I as long as I live!"

Horst broke in again. "It's really true that the godless come to a bad end eventually - you know that. Men do wonderful things in this world and seek desperately after money, but wisdom is what they should seek if they wish to be satisfied."

Joe agreed with that, and said that he remembered when he was treated with great respect because of his wisdom, but now even young folk ignored, or worse still, insulted him as "smitten of God." He continued that he had cried out to God but had received no answer, and this was his real problem. "When I looked for good, all I got was evil at His hand. I repeat, if God would take the scales of justice to my life, He would own that I am innocent. If I WERE guilty I would willingly pay the price. But I'm not! I have kept the commandments of God. Oh, for a hearing! Oh, for an answer from God! I wish that he would write out His charges and put His vague suggestions into a tangible form, in a book, for instance. I would hold it proudly aloft and disprove every point."

This last statement floored his three friends. They could think of nothing that would help this self-righteous, wilful man who was so sure that he was innocent, and who believed that God was wrong to punish him thus.

The whole group surrounding Joe sat in silence for a while with the exception of one young man who fidgeted, and became increasingly disturbed when no one showed any sign of continuing the debate. He was only a youth in the presence of elders, and had known that he should remain quiet. But at last the Spirit of Inspiration within him broke through and he declared, "Not one of you has made satisfactory replies to Joe to repudiate his words. He is too clever for all of you, but not too clever for God. In fact, God has sent me, a mere child, to do what you cannot."

Chris Eccles, for that was his name, then spoke directly to Joe. "I am here in response to your wish - a fellow man in the place of God - and I shall not frighten you! Answer me, if you can! Stand up and argue with me. You argued, in my hearing, for I heard you claim it, that you are 'pure and sinless, innocent and guiltless'. And also, 'God picks a quarrel with me, He treats me as His enemy'. You further complain of Him for never answering your cry. Behold, in this you are not just. God does reveal His will. He speaks not only once, but more than once, even though most men don't regard His voice, including you, Joe."

"God speaks first of all in dreams, in visions during the night. [Not all men have Bibles, but all may SEE the word of God. Read Daniel 2:1-49 Ed.] In this way God can reveal things to men and women and send them awful warnings, to draw them back from evil, and if possible persuade them to give up their pride, that He may be able to save them from death, from rushing on to their doom."

"But if they will not heed such warnings, then He has a second method. God's voice may be heard by a man when he is being chastened on a bed of pain; when his life is on the verge of extinction; when he is being ministered to by the destroying angels who follow Satan. [Read Daniel 4:27-36 Ed.] God doesn't cause such afflictions, but He has to stop protecting the sinner from the consequences of his own, or some one else's, actions because He MUST respect each person's choice, and that individual's decision to reject His loving warning."

"But if one is brought to the place where he will listen, then God sends a messenger to tell that one of his faults, and in pity continues to intercede for him that he may be saved from death. That person may now know that God has provided a Ransom for him. Anyone who receives this forgiveness will find his flesh restored, himself happy to pray to God, and he'll soon be telling others of how God has saved him. [See Daniel 4:37]. He'll sing aloud to those who will hear, 'I sinned, I went astray, but He has not punished me. He has saved me from death and enabled me to see the clear light of the living."

"Now, God does this over and over again," continued Chris. "He uses the first, the second, and the third way to bring men back from death into the sunshine of real living. Listen, all you men who think you have wisdom, Joe claims that he is innocent, that God has wronged him. 'Though I am upright', he says, 'God makes me out to be liar'. Was there ever a man like Joe, who gulps down blasphemy like water? Listen, you men of sense, far be it from God to do evil, far be it from Him to do wrong! Sure, He says that a man must answer for his own deeds, and to fare exactly as he deserves, for He rewards according to the deeds done in the flesh."

"But He does not punish for them!"

"Each person reaps as they have sown UNLESS God can save him from the destruction. God doesn't set before men an appointed time for judgment - they do that to themselves - some sooner than others, when they turn away from His protecting Commandments and are reckless of His rules. But all will be judged in the last day."

"All God does is leave you to your choice and its results."

"He is not indifferent, He really loves with a love that is past human understanding, only experiencing."

Amid a stunned silence Chris went on, "Joe, it's time you said to God, 'Now that I've woken up, I'll offend no more. Please show me what I've been blind to, and where I've sinned. I'll not sin again. Leave Him to deal with you as He may choose and you'll be happy. This I promise, Joe, for you've been speaking thoughtlessly, with words lacking wisdom. Don't ask for your "rights" before God as if He were your Adversary! Thank Him for His kindness because He's trying to save you from yourself. Not punishing, as Jacob, Horst and Bob have been telling you. They presume to know and to judge His motives although in reality they are ignorant of them. But He has revealed His character to those who love their fellow-men. God cannot listen to an idle outcry, or one of accusation against Him. He can only respond to a heartfelt desire to see and abolish sin from your life because you now know that it is evil. You need to realise that you have been kept waiting because He is waiting for you! For you to pray the right prayer! Trust in Him correctly. And of course, the righteous do have enormous advantages over the wicked. They know and experience God's way in their lives, and should continue in this forever."

"Often God has to save the sinner through suffering, and by troubles get men to listen to Him. However, he didn't want this to happen to you. But your peaceful life had beguiled you, and His protection had allowed you to settle comfortably on your lees, therefore it was necessary for your sake to expose you to yourself. You were actually preferring sin to suffering, even though it was 'unknown' sin, for this is the area that has caused your problems. But in your self-righteous defence you wouldn't let God reveal it to you. Indeed, God would have coaxed you long ago out of the mouth of distress but you wouldn't listen. He wanted to take you into a broad place where there is no perplexity or privation, and if you will allow Him, He still wants to do it."

oooOooo

At this point in the discussion the LORD Himself relieved His agent and spoke to Joe with horrifying conviction.

Then Joe's attitude changed dramatically. He spoke aloud to his LORD and said, "Behold, I'm of small account and vile. What shall I answer You? I lay my hand upon my mouth. I've spoken before, but now it's different. I've been confusing the issues, I've spoken without intelligence. I was saying to You what You are now saying to me, 'Listen to Me, please'! Before this, I'd only heard You with my physical senses, but now my spiritual eyes see You as well. You are a loving Saviour indeed. No punisher are You! These afflictions were not Your fault in any way."

Now Joe began to pray, not just for himself, but also for his three friends because he saw their desperate need as well. This was the action of a loving, humble, and contrite heart, and God was able to hear his prayer this time. And, of course, in answering it He could bless Joe again. He gave him many material goods, but more importantly, He was able to restore the affection of his wife and relations and friends. He was given new children and lived long and enjoyably with them, never forgetting the lesson he had learnt.

He now knew that:-

God does not hurt

God does not punish

God does not condemn

God does not destroy

at any time

in any place

in any way

for any reason

 

Sin does all of these!

 

He also knew that God does not "allow" these things for ours, or someone else's benefit. We do this to ourselves by our perverse wills, when we move out of His protecting care. He cannot force us to remain in it; however, when this happens He uses our contrariness and tries to show us how to profit from it.

 

oooOooo

 

Now that you have read of Joe's experience what do you think of it? It is recorded in the Bible as the book of Job. Isn't Jesus lovely to treat us as He does? What a pity that most of us are like Joe and his friends, not willing to listen to the first voice of God. Needing to experience the second, and even the third, before we will take heed. Actually basing our belief on a "second-hand" experience, even if it's a "Daniel's"! But God tells us in His word that His church will eventually hear Him directly and do His will the first time.

Fancy believing that God wants us to suffer and die, when all He wants is to save our lives, and that "more abundantly" than we seem able to comprehend. John 10:10. After all, His name is "Saviour." Matthew 1:21 margin.

Fancy believing that God would front up to Satan when he gate-crashed a heavenly council and take a bet with him that His saint on earth could stand anything!

Fancy believing that Jesus Christ would deliberately give His permission for Joe's children, his servants, and his animals to be killed so that Joe could give a lesson in righteousness!

Fancy believing that a man could add anything to God's perfect plan of salvation!

Thankfully, we can test the three ways of God's communication against His standard, the Bible, for there are many false prophets gone out into the world today with their counterfeits. But God still uses these ways and He would like to use them in their order.

It is time for us to rightly divide the word of God and see Him as He really is - as His Son has portrayed Him for us in the New Testament. He said, "He that has seen Me has seen the Father," and, "If you have known Me, you should have known My Father also." John 14:9,7.

Maybe we ought to carefully enquire of the LORD as to whether we are "Joe" or "Chris."

Do we really know Him?

 


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