Lessons from the Abyss
Job and Leviathan
*All scripture taken from the New King James Version.
“Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, and whom God has hedged in?” (Job 3:23).
Throughout my long journey through scripture to date, I’ve found few passages in the bible that pose a question as penetrating and unsearchable as this one from Job. Throughout chapter three, Job considers the day of his birth, and how well it would have been, had he never seen the light of day.
Without fully understanding the gravity of such, we often times speak rather glibly about the lives of various personalities within scripture, not comprehending the dark chasms they had to navigate, often in the midst of great suffering.
Some years ago, and as I was drawn unusually to this passage, I was stricken by its mystery. I was unable at the time to fully see-into the depths of what I was reading. As I ponder such scriptures, I conclude that even the greatest minds are often unable to illuminate on such boundless and infinite mysteries. For most of our personal studies or formal training will at best render but a superficial understanding of such mysterious scriptures.
I wish not to demean formal training or conferences, for we do need to “study to show ourselves approved” (2 Tim. 2:15). Often however, and as I have endeavored to identify with men of old as in the example of Job, I have been unable to find a point of identity until being led personally into places of deep suffering, not unlike many central figures in scripture have bore before me. It is while we are in the trenches of crushing difficulties in our lives, that such passages begin to make sense.
For those who would choose to dig deep into understanding the depths of God’s purposes for their lives, there often awaits a deep pit, chasm or gulf which has been divinely fashioned to purify those who would accept the cup of their ultimate calling—resulting in an authentic preparedness for carrying-out great Kingdom exploits.
Joseph spent years in a dungeon (Gen. 40:15); Jeremiah was cast into a miry pit (Jer. 38:6); and Daniel was thrown into a lion’s den (Dan. 6:16). Throughout the course of biblical history we see a pattern of men and women swathing through severe testing’s, and ultimately overcoming unspeakable trials (see Heb. 11:23-40). Quite often, some of the greatest trauma that people have experienced is that which is psychological, as opposed to the physical. In either case, such trauma, on the other side of a fiery trek, ultimately ushers one into a state of great clarity of understanding in the spiritual realm.
The process of which I speak is not unlike the element of the extreme heat required to sift dross from silver or gold. There is gold and silver to be forged and ultimately redeemed in each of us, as we forfeit our lives in submission to the Refiner’s fire.
While being hedged-into a seeming inescapable pit of suffering, one often finds a narrow shaft of light penetrating through the walls of despair—a “ray of hope.” It is quite often, here in this very place, that we begin to learn of the inexhaustible love of God. Our restricted and limited minds then begin to expand. We begin hearing the undertones of the Father’s voice. We see the boundless and unlimited sufficiency of the CROSS.
We can see in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus is sweating blood in His intense agony, and as Heaven and earth hang in the balance, that He ultimately submits to the cup of suffering, to in turn release redemption to a lost world.
There was a day when I was on my face, when the burden of divinely imposed agony had reached a breaking-point within me. It seemed I could no longer live, but neither could I die. At this moment, I received an unexpected incoming phone call, wherein the caller began relating to me a prophetic vision: In the vision, I was sitting in a quiet and serene place of no sound. There was neither joy nor sadness in this place. The willow trees that were in this place were shrouded in a mist. There was an occasional drop of water falling off of the leaves, created by the mist. As the caller observed this scene, she was told by the Lord: “This is a place of safety, found by those who choose to follow Me, without regard to what it may cost.”
It is at the very epicenter of trouble, turbulence and suffering, and this contrary to the preferred fringes of our comfort-zones, that God will deliver us, reveal His purposes, and ultimately revive and restore us. He will never ever forsake us as we step into the center of our afflictions, while trusting in Him. It is in this place and in this posture, that His mercy and compassion knows no end, and where His perfect work will have its way in us (see Ps. 138:7-8).
Our salvation was attained at the expense of Christ Himself. He suffered and died, that we might find freedom in Him. Likewise, we as His ambassadors will often be required to be expended for others. For example, there are those who seek to build their ministries at our expense. It may be that God will at times allow our ministries to be shattered by those who seek to use us, as well as those who seek to destroy our ministries. In such cases, God has a much greater purpose for our lives—a purpose which we cannot attain through any other means. For most of us, this process exceeds the reaches of our imagination. For quite often in the midst of apparent ruins, we will meet with the first signs of new life, in the form of a small sprout of new growth.
One day as I was out walking, I was bitterly complaining to the Lord concerning those who had forsaken me in times past. His response stopped me in my tracks, as He said: “Ben, without betrayal from within, redemption could not have come. Redemption always requires the willingness that someone lay down their lives, allowing others the advantage over them, as in the example of your Savior.”
This is a mystery, but this allows the Lord to perform healing and restoration rather than destruction, as in His own example of submitting to the Cross. To be betrayed by your inner circle will leave something in you that formal training, seminary, conferences and seminars will not teach you, and cannot teach you.
Job was sorely hedged-in by God, it was not enough that he had lost his family, his extreme wealth, and his health; God also sent three of his contemporaries to try and test him for many days. These took their turns at hurdling gnawing insults at him, daily.
As I was recently meditating on Job’s desperate situation, and seeing that in all this he never forsook the Lord, but blessed Him despite such, I became undone. Aware of my own limitations during seasons of suffering, it caused me to cry out for mercy.
There is likely not a personality in the whole bible (the only exception being that of Christ’s suffering on the cross) that suffered to the extent that Job did. Within the story of his suffering, we find, interestingly enough, that God has devoted an entire chapter to a mysterious entity named “Leviathan” (chapter 41). God Himself is the one speaking in this chapter.
Who is “Leviathan”? What is his function? Why did God Himself go to such length to describe him?
I believe it of utmost importance for us today, to have some understanding concerning him, especially for those who are making their way through the wilderness of what we might call: preparatory suffering. For on this journey, you will meet Leviathan.
There are two striking things God says about him. Number one: we are no match for him, he cannot be overcome by human devices no matter how well defined our strategies may be (Job 41:9). Number two: he stands as the controlling head of all those who seek notoriety, or who seek to be greatly esteemed among men—the result of pride (Job 41:34). Job, in his discourse with his three contemporaries, tried to do just that—overcome him by professing not only his innocence, but his righteousness as well. All this may have been true, despite such however, he failed his mission. Finally, it was God Himself who came upon the scene to impart understanding. He began posing questions Job was unable to answer or comprehend (chapters 38-41). This placed Job on his face, in dust and ashes.
It is a cardinal mistake for us to contend with those who try to show us up as being incapable or unqualified to carry-out our ministries (in our natural strength, most certainly we are not capable). It is the core objective of the Leviathan spirit to undermine, discredit, and destroy our covenant relationship with the Father, through which the apostolic ministry is established. This includes covenant relationships in marriages as well. It has the potential to spin its tail in the form of the most subtle lies imaginable, often leaving its victims in a state of shock, disorientation and total confusion and ultimate resignation. This onslaught is often carried-out with such convincing and overwhelming deception that many well-meaning brothers or sisters will often fall for these lies and cast them abroad as being the whole truth.
When Leviathan attacks in this fashion, there is no escaping its deadly assaults. The end-result is, very often, shattered relationships. In such times, there remains but one option for escaping total annihilation. This option is reflected in Job’s deep contrition and humility (Job 42:1-6). Once he found this place, redemption and restoration could come. To overcome on this level, and that only through contrition and humility, means that healing and restoration of past and present relationships may come about, when every other attempt has failed.
God’s purposes in releasing Leviathan among His most favored subjects as reflected in the example of Job, is that solely for the purposes of refining and purifying them from any hidden, soulish agendas and ambitions. As ministers of the gospel seeking to walk-out the depth and breadth of our callings, it is this brand of positioning, posturing and parading ourselves that hinders us from coming into a covenant relationship with the Father, through the Son. For judgment was given to the Son, through which we establish a lasting and unbreakable covenant relationship with the Father (II Cor. 5:10). Man will otherwise corrupt and cheapen such a calling, if left to his own devises. God will not covenant with those who persist in attaining their goals apart from His conditions or principles. For a true covenant to be established, or to be legitimate, it must by necessity come with a heavy price. We often attempt to attain these goals in our own strength, or at the expense of others. The greatest shame I carry, is to have tried doing just that. I never cease to be amazed at the Father’s great mercy, longsuffering and grace. It is unlimited, for those who bathe in His precepts.
The apostolic call, like the marriage covenant, must by necessity be sanctified, to perform its ultimate place in the Kingdom. Perhaps this may be the greatest reason we have not been more effective in discipling the nations.
Job’s only recourse for escaping Leviathan’s clutches was that to open himself up in a posture of total transparency before God (Job 42:1-6). This, in essence, is where the apostolic call is consummated—in the resolve to walk in complete contrition.
You may well be shunned and disgraced by your contemporaries or close friends, but through this, you will have discovered the greatest secret of all—that of being received and accepted into the very presence of the Father’s heart and favor. To claim an apostolic ministry without the presence of these essential ingredients, will invariably equate to defeat, agony and regret.
Job’s contemporaries were, in the end, also restored, but it came through the very one they attempted to discredit and malign. In the same way, I believe the time of the restoration of all things is at hand, a period where relationships will be restored in unprecedented fashion. This will be the reward for those who, with Job, have overcome through deep contrition and a willingness to make sacrifices on behalf of others. Job’s latter end, which was double the blessing of his former state, leaves a shining example of what perseverance will accomplish. The key lies in not losing hope during the course of the race, when things can look dark and hopeless. These seasons cause many to give-in to despair—the very intent of Leviathan, to crush his subjects, something that key men of old never allowed themselves to succumb to.
It is said of Enoch that he walked with the Lord for three hundred years before he was translated. Think of this, three hundred years (Gen. 5: 21-24). One of my favorite promises is found in John 15:7, which reads: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” After claiming this promise for many years, some of the petitions I have made remain unanswered, yet I rest in confidence, that as long as I abide in Him, I have access to His unlimited and eternal provisions. The key is that to abide and remain anchored in the promise (John 15:1-8).
For more information about Ben’s ministry, as well as directions for obtaining a copy of Ben’s book, Baptized by Fire—the Gethsemane Way, you may view the following web address: www.anabaptistconnections.org. You may read Ben’s previous articles at: www.RestoreTheHouse.com. You may contact Ben personally via the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org