God Is Not A Cow; Neither Is He The Ice Cream Man
There are several important observations we should make before wading into the story of Job. First, it might help to think of there being two different locations in the first couple of chapters of Job. There's what we could call an Upper Stage and a Lower Stage. The Upper Stage is heaven; the Lower Stage is earth.
Second, there's tremendous irony used in the telling of this story. For example, what we usually think of as the plot of the story -- isn't really the plot. And the person we usually think is on trial -- isn't really the person on trial.
See, what we usually think of as the plot -- a good man who suffers terribly -- that's only the plot on the Lower Stage. There's a whole other plot that explains all that. It just plays out on the Upper Stage, and we forget about it.
And the person we usually think is on trial -- a good God who allows suffering -- that's only true if we forget about what we've learned on that Upper Stage.
The actual plot (according to what we learn from chapters 1 and 2) goes something like this: A man who loves God suffers terribly. Will he continue to love God even if it doesn't pay off?
God's not on trial; Job is.
Now, for those of you who have thought of yourselves as being in Job's shoes -- think that through a little. Job thinks this play is a whodunit. But we already know all that. What we want to know is how Job is going to respond to his suffering. Is Job just interested in God the way a farmer is interested in his cow? Is it just about the milk and the cheese?
That's what Satan says to God. He says, "Job loves you like kids love the Ice Cream Man."
Is that true? Do we just love God for the stuff he provides? If so, what happens if the stuff stops coming? What happens when the cow goes dry and the Ice Cream Man's truck breaks down?