What would you personally understand about God if there were no Bible anywhere in the world? By the way, I mean no Bible in any language, and no portion of the Bible… not even one verse.
In a world like that, would you even think about God? If so, what would your viewpoint of Him really be like?
Two men come to mind, and they had very different perspectives on what God is like.
The first was Job, and the second was Abraham. Most Bible scholars believe that Genesis was not the first book of the Bible that the Holy Spirit inspired. Genesis is ABOUT the earliest things, of course … creation and the first man and woman, the flood, and then the introduction of Abraham and his family.
But Moses obviously wasn’t an eyewitness of these things. He wrote about them long after they actually happened.
Interestingly there is increasingly more evidence that before Moses ever lived, an unknown person (inspired by the Holy Spirit) wrote the book that we call “Job.” In fact, recent archeological finds make it clear that the language used in Job is consistent with the language usage from the earliest periods of written human language.
Additional evidence that the Book of Job was probably the first Bible book written includes things like this: Job never mentions any Scripture or shows any knowledge of Abraham, Isaac, or the nation of Israel. It seems from all the evidence that Job himself knew nothing about anyone in the book of Genesis.
So here are two ancient witnesses to a relationship with God that literally took place before the first word of Scripture was written.
Let’s look first at Job. We don’t know very much about him. He lived in the land of Uz. Uz was the great-grandson of Noah through Noah’s son Shem (I Chron. 1:17). Uz settled in the area between modern-day Israel and Egypt where the people of Edom lived (Lamentations 4:21).
God considered Job to be very righteous; he was God-fearing and avoided doing evil.
The Book of Job considers how Job responded when God permitted suffering in his life. His response was this: “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God, and never anything bad?” (Job 2:10).
Job shows a fatalistic acceptance of all the things that happened to him. He believed in God, but he thought that meant he should accept the bad things in his life since he had accepted the good things.
The Lord said that this response was not a sin. And yet… Did you ever notice that with all of the suffering that Job endured, he never once asked God to heal him? Job’s view of God seemed to be that God is way up there somewhere doing whatever He wants, and that our job is to accept it and endure it.
Is that like you? There are many people today —even faithful Christians!—who, like Job, think only in fatalistic terms. Their attitude is, “Well, I guess nothing can be done about this situation but to assume it is God’s will.” They can be heard using the phrase, “Whatcha gonna do?” They live their lives with SHRUGGED SHOULDERS! The apostle Thomas displayed this worldview when he was told that Jesus was heading into dangerous territory, and he responded, “Well, let’s go die with him, then” (John 11:16).
If Job were the only book in the Bible, we would put our heads down and trudge on through whatever we must endure with a fatalistic attitude. There is something admirable about that, sometimes.
But Job wasn’t the last book in the Bible ever written. It was the first. So it is not the last word on God.
Enter Abraham. Abraham (originally named Abram) was also a descendant of Shem, Noah’s son. The genealogies of Genesis make it clear that he lived several generations after Job did.
He grew up in Iraq, thousands of miles away from where Job lived.
God spoke to him and said, “Come with me. Leave your home country and come to a land that I will show you.” And Abraham—like JOB—said, “This is how it must be. God has spoken!” And he obeyed God without a single word of complaint.
God came to Abraham one day after Abraham had moved and said, “I plan to destroy that evil city called Sodom,” and Abraham thought to himself with horror, “My nephew Lot lives there! I raised him like a son!” And then he did something that would have astonished Job.
Instead of fatalistically saying (as Job said), “Well, I’ve accepted blessing from God … who am I not to accept this hardship?” … Abraham (with fear and trembling) dared to try to change the rules.
He thought to himself, “What if God isn’t like that? How would He react if I were to … try to make a deal with Him?”
Of course, we humans are deal makers. We trade with each other. We negotiate. That is our nature. But no one had dared to try that with God!
We know the story. Abraham asked God, “Would you really destroy the righteous with the wicked? If there are 50 righteous people in the city, will you spare it?” And so began one of the most astonishing bargaining sessions that the world has ever known.
- We know the rest of that story so well that we can easily overlook the clues God had given Abraham.God said to Abraham, “I’m going down to see that city.” But God didn’t need to travel to see the city. GOD IS EVERYWHERE!
- On His way, he stopped by Abraham’s place and had a meal. BUT HE DOESN’T NEED TO EAT EITHER!
- God said, “I’m going to find out if it is as bad as they say.” But He didn’t need to “find out” because HE ALREADY KNOWS EVERYTHING!
- God implied that if things were as bad as they seemed in Sodom, then He was going to do something about it. But He didn’t need to run this decision past Abraham. GOD NEEDS NO ONE’S PERMISSION TO ACT!
Do you see what is happening in this amazing Scripture? Very quietly, under an oak tree in Mamre after a nice roast beef dinner together, God sat down at the negotiating table and nudged the other chair out for Abraham to sit down. Something was taking place between God and a man that changed the course of history.
Even though no one noticed but God, a man moved from fatalistic acceptance of their “lot” in life (pun intended) to being granted permission to change the outcome of things. THAT WAS ONLY POSSIBLE because Abraham was living in a trust relationship with God. But it changed literally everything.
Job and Abraham.
How does the New Testament express the outcome of these two lives? Job is mentioned once in the New Testament; and he is not commended for his faith, but just for his perseverance.
Abraham is brought up dozens of times and is regarded as our example of faith. Job was clearly God’s servant, but Abraham became known as God’s friend! (James 2:23)
Like Job, many Christians today live as God’s servants, and that is not a bad thing. It is not a sin. But there are a smaller number of Christians today who live as Abraham did, sitting down at the bargaining table with God because they believe that God Himself has called them there and pulled the chair out for them to sit down.
And IT IS ONLY THIS GROUP that has accepted God’s gracious offer… the PRIVILEGE of negotiating with Him to change outcomes.
We call these people “prayer warriors.”
This is why we in the Missionary Church do not embrace the fatalistic idea that God created some people just to be sent to hell and “It’s BAD LUCK FOR THEM, but God is sovereign, so what can you do?”
That view of salvation is how Job would have approached the subject, but not Abraham!
God has given us the privilege of LITERALLY working alongside of Him to alter the outcome of the eternal destiny of many, many people!
This is why we need the Church! You can live “the Job life,” living as a godly person who looks fatalistically at everything that happens in this life. You could endure suffering bravely and never even ask God for your own healing!
But since we have the REST of the Bible, that life is no longer a good option for us. We will take God up on His gracious offer and begin to change the world. We will affect the outcome of things because He has invited us to do so. And that requires coming into partnership with all of your brothers and sisters as allies in the struggle … interceding together for the doomed people living all around us, working together to reach them while there is still time!
Above all, never give up, because GOD invited us to take the role of mediators between lost people and God.