Do you know why it’s called a “job”? The word “job” is short for “jobble”, which about a thousand years ago meant “a little”. So it’s a unit of measure. We misuse it; jobs are what you do at work, not your work itself. I think we misuse the name Job, too.
Did you know that the name Job means “persecuted” or “hated”? Seems fitting, right? How do you grow up with that name and not see misery coming? In fact, that very question is what initially led early biblical scholars to conclude that the names given in the Old Testament are largely just representative of an archetype rather than the person’s actual name. It’s all fables in other words; that belief carries forward today. Abraham wasn’t really named “father of a multitude”, Esther wasn’t really named “star”, etc. From one view I can see that; maybe the names we read are just a way of describing for us who that person was in God’s purpose rather than their actual name. I don’t know that I buy that; too many of them have verifiable names from history. But it shows a thing that’s incredibly subtle and unimaginably important: our ability to be duped, even by ourselves.
It’s incredibly easy to fall into a lie from both sides. Look at Job: he fell into the lie that God was persecuting him. His friends fell into the lie that Job’s righteousness had been fake the whole time. We are so creative and fluid with the truth that it is an accepted part of our lingo: stretching the truth, exaggeration, personal truth, big fish stories, half-truths, fantasies, acts, white lies, pillow talk, fibs, truthiness, campaign promises, and so forth. Entire swaths of our language are devoted to describing lies, liars, and the act of lying. We lie to our kids about Santa or the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy. We lie to our friends about experiences. We lie to those who ask how we’re doing by using the pat “I’m good” or “I’m fine” rather than to slow the conversation with “I’m trying to keep a positive outlook but I’m going through some stuff” or “I’m really excited because I think I’m in Love.” We lie about our age or our resume. We lie about our quality and duration of sleep or work. We lie about our feelings and our vulnerabilities, our weaknesses and our strengths. Why is it so commonplace?
It’s partly because we accept these lies from each other. Yes, we want our lies to be accepted so we accept the lies of others. We’ve gotten comfortable with the idea that truth is fluid, that we are allowed to see whatever we wish without fear of reproach. We form a socially-bonded wink of the eye that says “I won’t tell if you won’t.” But cross the unwritten line and get caught in the lie and we’ll stone you. Not because of the lie, but because you got caught. We punish you socially for allowing your lie to be found out and thereby jeopardizing the whole fluid truth enterprise. We need people to be good liars so we can feel better, safer, in our generated reality. If I want to say I’m a pretty, pretty princess you must believe the lie, because if you question it the whole thing falls apart. So we permit lying to protect ourselves and others, and I can’t think of a more absurd dichotomy than that: we punish found-out liars and yet we lie for the good of others. They even had a Jim Carrey movie about that quandary and the destructive power of the truth called Liar, Liar.
If we see someone is hurting and we offer a hug and a “you doing ok?” then they respond with “yeah, I’m good” we just let it go because we say pressing may anger or hurt that person. And while that’s true, let’s really look at why that’s true. It’s because a wounded animal always seeks isolation. Why? Anthropologically speaking it’s because in isolation you are safe from both predators who want to eat you and from pack mates who might see your weakness and put you out of your misery. How, though, do we explain the human penchant for self-pity? Well, any good science-thumping atheist will tell you: an unfortunate holdover from our monkey days. See, because we have pity on sickly other monkeys and are willing to put them out of their misery, we know when we are hurting that we should put ourselves out of our misery. It’s all a very clean, scientific process. Survival of the fittest; law of the jungle.
But it implies that our social instincts are greater than our survival instincts. Right? If you’d rather sacrifice your life to prevent risk to the group it means you care more about them. But not them individually, because you’ll attack any who become sick. No, it’s instead a loyalty to the family unit. That sounds an awful lot like the cells of the body, right? We generally operate in balance, but a sickness introduced must be rejected to preserve the body. This, then, is why Job is named “persecuted” or “hated”: it wasn’t God or Satan persecuting him, it was us. It was his friends, his onlookers. They berated him not because they knew or cared about his sins, but because he was now sickly and needed to be purged. Ever thought of it that way?
See, there is indeed a primary message in Job about active versus passive faith. But I contend that isn’t what the book is about, and that’s not where his name came from. The real theme of the book is that it doesn’t matter how highly regarded you are: if you fall we will eat you alive. It’s a story warning about the lack of mercy and neighborly Love, about watching where you base your self-worth and the value of others. It points out that we very much function as a unit, a body, a pack that obeys the law of the jungle.
But who wrote that law? Not all species exile the sick; some protect them. Some bodies are able to heal an illness non-destructively. So where did that animal kingdom practice of sacrificing the weak come from? You know what I’m going to say, but you’re thinking it’s a stretch. Let me see if I can mitigate that.
Paul called Satan the prince of the power of the air, and John called him the prince of this world. Now isn’t that interesting? Adam was given dominion over all the earth and the air and the living creatures, so why would Satan be the prince? I think the answer lies in reading the story behind the story of the fall of man. When Adam and Eve are cursed for their rebellion there is a third party punished as well: Satan is told that he shall eat dust forever, forever battle man, and ultimately die at the hands of Jesus (that part is another story). Why do all three “children” get punished?
We know from Ezekiel that Satan made his rebellion and was cast down with his angels when the world was dark prior to Genesis 1:1. His rebellion caused him to be forcibly rejected by God, as the Lord cannot abide sin. Satan was vomited out, but God still Loved him. I know that because He didn’t kill him, and because he isn’t sentenced to death until he stirs rebellion in the freshly-minted humans. So there was a time between his fall and the fall of man in which he was happily operating in this world as its ruler. Ruler of a dark, formless waste. Then the Creator brings forth His work and Satan is still here watching, operating. Man is the last creature made, so again I say there was a period where all of creation was made but man wasn’t here and Satan was. Isn’t it just possible that man was created because God saw that Satan wasn’t capable of tending the creatures properly and, in fact, was corrupting them?
He was in rebellion against God and he had a span of time in which to affect creation. Means, motive, and opportunity. I contend that he wrote the law of the jungle, that the difference between the protector and the rejector species is in whether they followed his training or not. Just as the difference between the saved and the unsaved is whether they let go of his training or not. Our Father made us to take control, to keep the world in line. When Satan tainted us as he had the animals it drove God to a point where He had to confront the demon. The remaining thousands of years of our timeline is to see if we are willing to purge the little lion’s influence. I’m not saying that’s the sole reason, but ask yourself: why is Satan still here? Why is it that his final death does not come until after his thousand-year imprisonment?
I’m going to say a thing I have no biblical backup for, but this has been echoed to me again and again, and I don’t think it’s the demon. I say that because I want you to know I’m not saying I know this to be true, only that I see how it can be. I think Satan is being held in court, essentially. I think God wants desperately not to destroy Satan. Lucifer was His closest friend and a creature of immense beauty to Him. We are given, through Christ, another chance to understand Satan’s effect in our lives and purge it. If we can do that, if we can accept our position of power over the demon’s influence, then there is no need to kill him. Angels have no path to salvation, but perhaps they have hope of not being destroyed.
But what of that even if it is true? Are we to take the responsibility of not only ourselves and our brothers and sisters, but also the demon who chases us? Well, no. But Sun Tzu’s Art of War tells us that the only sure path to success is to know yourself and know your enemy. Know your enemy and not yourself and you will surely lose. Know yourself and not your enemy and you might lose. We have got to understand who we are to God, who He is to us, who Satan is, who he is to us, and who he is to God. I know; it’s a lot. But in those fundamentals is inexhaustible hope found. Knowing that Satan loses in the end of Revelation doesn’t really help you right now. What helps you right now is understanding why Revelation plays out how it does.
The truth is harder than a lie, both literally and figuratively. It is harder for us to tell the truth because it isn’t malleable. It is a rigid thing, and we fear that rigidity. It is the sword that divides flesh from spirit. We fear that the truth will hurt us. So we have made a niche in our lives for truth, and we then surround it with lies to protect us from it, and we tell ourselves it’s to protect it from us. Because that is how you twist a view from life to death, from Father of All to father of lies. It is how the devil trains us to behave. He has trained us to tell lies and to accept them because he still wants what he always wanted: glorification. To make his candle burn brighter by tearing down the flame of God. Everything we see in this world has his stain upon it; we are constantly bombarded with his messages, his ads. He brainwashes us, or attempts to, every second of every day. We must reject it, we must turn from him.
We have got to come to grips with the truth. We have got to truly understand that there is not an appropriate place for lies or half truths. We have to stop ceding ground to him. We have got to stop hurting each other either by cruelty or by enablement. This is the meaning of Job, this is the message of his experience. It is not our job to stretch the truth. It is our job to defend it and spotlight it.
Father, thank You. I can’t recall a message that I so thoroughly agree with and yet find myself more completely guilty of violating. I don’t know if it helps a single person other than me, but Father I admit freely that to this very day I am a liar and I want to change, am working to change and I need Your help. Help me, and help any like me, Lord. I know this world needs more Truth, more You. I ask for it in the name of Your Word, and my brother, Jesus. Amen.