After the Obey

Job 41:10 – “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes”

That verse jumped out at me last night. Job had gone through immense hardship at Satan’s hand, worse than most of us will ever experience, and on top of all that he had three friends who were nothing but “miserable comforters” in his time of need. (Job 16:2.) As Job wrestled with understanding why God was allowing him to suffer so, these friends were heaping misery upon misery with their empty counsel and false accusations against Job. Job cried out time and again for them to stop, and he cried out time and again for the opportunity to interrogate God on what he did to be treated this way.

God finally answered Job by becoming the great Interrogator. Through this divine rhetoric, Job realized that God is to be worshipped at all times as the One who acts rightly at all times:

Then Job replied to the Lord:

“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.

“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1-6.)

God then spoke to Job’s companions and told them that he was angry with them because they did not speak “the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” (Job 42:7.)

There. Job finally had what he’d been waiting for. Vindication. But God wasn’t done with him. God told Job that he needed to accept his friends’ sacrifices and pray to God for them in order to keep them from suffering God’s righteous judgment against them. So Job did. And then it happened:

After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes.

These friends, the miserable comforters who only added to Job’s afflictions, were the subject of his prayers to God on their behalf. Did you notice that Job did not come up with this idea on his own? God told him to do it. God told him to pray for these people who had made his life even more miserable than Satan had, and God made no promises of what Job would experience afterward.

Job obeyed, but I wonder how he felt about it.

You see, for me the idea of blessing those who have hurt me sounds great in concept but grates on me in practice. “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse,” says Paul in Romans 12:14. I’m not too good at it.

Here’s what gets me. Why are we even told that God blessed Job a bunch after he prayed for his friends. Is it some kind of promise that if we do the same, God will provide us with a ton of blessings? Because here’s what God did in restoring Job’s fortunes:

The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters. The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.

After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. And so Job died, an old man and full of years. (Job 42:12-17.)

I don’t think the lesson here is that if we obey, we will get money and possessions and a wonderful family and long life. The Bible is full of  examples of people who obeyed God and still suffered mightily. Read about Jeremiah. Or Jesus.

Here’s one lesson I did get, though: Obey God even when you don’t know what will happen.

Here’s another: Getting right with God, then getting right with others, leads to getting right with God. I’m not talking about salvation or pleasing God. God is eternally pleased with those who belong to him, those he has saved, and Job’s story – if nothing else – is a story about a man who belongs to God. I’m talking about obedience as multiple steps in a relationship with God. It’s God growing us into the people he wants us to be. It’s him working in us so that we can work through our faith in him. (Philippians 2:12-13.)

What happens after the Obey? God knows. That’s enough for me.

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17 Responses to After the Obey

  1. The concept of praying for my enemies is one of the things that I think makes Christianity so radical. I mean, who would naturally be inclined to do that? Not me. I am absolutely, utterly incapable of such an action on my own! Left to myself, I would tear my enemies to shreds.

    This is one of the areas of life that I think constitutes a private miracle. It begins with that moment when I humble myself, give the reins back to God and let Him use me as a channel for his grace, mercy and love. That first step feels SO HARD (and sometimes it gets put off for a while). But once done, moving forward through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit is EXHILARATING!

    Excellent post. I pray your words will help someone who is struggling with this right now.

    • Tim says:

      Good point, Adriana, this is a radical concept. Helping those who hurt us does not come naturally at all. The Holy Spirit does a bunch of unnatural stuff in us though, doesn’t he?


      • Yes. Loving my enemies doesn’t make any sense at all. But praise God, His ways are higher than my ways! I never can say what will happen after I obey, but I know whatever comes will be better in the long run than anything I can dream up.

  2. Linda Fern says:

    Tim, you’ve done it again!!! Here is my story (and I’m sticking to it!)

    Your blog today “After the Obey” is a “second witness” to a speech given by my long time friend and pastor at our Tabernacles conference in St. Louis, MO on the weekend of Oct. 5-7, 2012. You can read his full report at the link below, but the part that is a second witness to your blog on Job is where he speaks of the “Law of Victim’s Rights”. I could go on with a lengthy explanation, but my time is short (as usual) and I am fighting (as Jane would say) a trifling cold. So here is a link to his blog:

    I am doing the best I can to keep up with your blog, but not as well as I wish. It is wonderful indeed and I pass it on every chance I get.

    Yrs aff’ly,
    Linda – your Jane Austen friend

    • Tim says:

      The idea that victims control the prosecution is typical of many cultures, Linda, although we don’t follow it in the US judicial system. Personal forgiveness and societal law enforcement often take different paths!

      • Linda Fern says:

        “take different paths” – Exactly! However, I am not knowledgable enough to know about other cultures. I still have some research to do. Tim, you are so very good!

        Yrs aff’ly,

      • Katie says:

        My husband’s an assistant district attorney and he talks with victims *all the time* who don’t want to press charges or think that they can decide whether or not someone is prosecuted (he’s in the juvenile department, so there’s a lot of moms who called the cops on their kids because the kids were threatening violence but now that the immediate situation is diffused they don’t want the kids to actually get in Real Trouble), and he always has to tell them that’s not the way it works. You can forgive someone all you want, but it’s still his job to make sure that criminals are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law!

        So many topics have weird dual paths when you’re involved in law enforcement….

      • Tim says:

        Katie, I was sentencing a defendant once who insisted that because he and I were both Christians then I was required to forgive him and let him go free. I don’t think he understood my explanation of why biblical forgiveness didn’t work that way.

  3. Mary Anne says:

    Well, this is a sore spot for me, because I REALLY don’t like the book of Job. AT ALL. Especially now when my troubles are heaped very, very high. I mean, really? All that trouble just because the devil wanted to gripe about something? Really?! And it’s not as if the devil was going to admit afterwards that he’d been wrong.

    As for restoring Job’s fortunes: did he get his dead children back? I’d like to see what Mrs. Job thought about that part of it. And it’s a good thing his new daughters were beautiful, because with those names they’d be teased to death otherwise. Then again, maybe Keren-Happuch was the “Tiffany” of those times. 😉

    Sorry to be a crabcake, but I’ve just always been really bothered by this story, and now more than ever.

    Trying to stay afloat,

    • Tim says:

      Nothing crabby about it, MA. Praying for you.


      P.S. Another thing about that book: did you ever wonder why the daughters are named while the sons go unidentified?

      • Mary Anne says:

        They must’ve been REALLY beautiful girls, and maybe the sons were nothing much to look at? ;-D

        I also think of Shiphrah and Puah in Exodus, who wouldn’t follow Pharaoh’s instructions
        to murder the Hebrew babies—it said that because they feared the Lord, he rewarded them with families of their own. And we still know their names after all this time. Two common women who would never have been known otherwise, who were probably afraid they’d be killed for not following orders, but they did the right thing anyway. Wish I had a tenth of their courage.


      • Katie says:

        I always wondered that, since it’s the opposite of the usual record–usually we get the sons’ names and then a “oh and also he had three daughters or whatever.” Do you have a theory why that is here?

        And I’m with you, MA. Those dead kids didn’t come back to life. I’m not sure all the donkeys were much of a consolation prize.

      • Tim says:

        Those dead kids may not have come back to life, but if they had a relationship with the living God then their true eternal life began the moment that roof fell on their heads. I’m sure Job missed them and grieved their loss, but I’m also sure he rejoiced at their being in the presence of his God.

        My only theory on why they gave us the daughters’ names is that these names must have meant something to the original audience. Other than that, I got nothing!

  4. Aimee Byrd says:

    Lovely post. I never took notice of that line! This is encouraging to me, because I lost a dear friend when I begged her not to divorce her husband. It’s a long story, but I didn’t ever want to lose my friend. She just cut me off after her divorce. We had been friends for almost 30 years. I think about her all the time, and continue to pray that our friendship will be restored. I don’t know what her spiritual life is like now, but of course I pray for that most of all. In some ways, she’s like my greatest enemy because she clearly wants no friendship with me. But I am still her friend, and pray for her joy in the Lord.

    • Tim says:

      To pray for someone who has rejected you is tough, Aimee. You never know how God will use the prayers, whether you’ll see reconciliation and restoration one day or not, or if anything at all will happen. I am praying that she will come to realize that you are still around, and that God is working in her life.

  5. Ohh man- this post is so good in so many ways! Thank you for sharing your insights!

    Job is one of those books of the Bible that I am constantly thankful for. Every time I read it or about it, I learn something transformative.

    • Tim says:

      Me too. I love the chapters where God describes all he does in creation, but it saddens me that so many people miss seeing what is all around them. The heavens declare God’s handiwork in large part because his hand works in them constantly.

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