Job is considered a classic story presenting to us the suffering of the perceived innocent person. Additionally, it draws illustrations for how to handle trials. These are not daily difficulties we all share in experience as humanity like sitting in traffic or having some terrible day. No. These were full on catastrophic, life altering trials like the news of a child discovered to have cancer, or a massive accident that cripples a person for life, or unexpectedly takes a loved one in death.
In my last study, we were introduced to Job. From the first chapter, I noted a few important things to consider about Job as a person.
– He was a real person living in a real time in history in an historical location.
– He was a wealthy man with a close-knit family with children who loved each other.
– He was declared a righteous man who feared God, his creator, and turned away from evil.
– He lived out his faith by praying for his family and worshiping the Lord on a regular basis.
With this study, we turn our attention heavenward. Job 1:6-12 is one of the only places in scripture that presents a rare insight to the heavenly realm. We would know nothing about this scene in heaven if it were not revealed to us.
I. The Scene
Beginning in 1:6, the “Sons of God,” what is understood to be the angelic hosts, present themselves before the Lord. Commentators are unsure what this “presenting” is exactly, but it could be them giving account of their activities upon the earth and elsewhere.
Satan was also among them. This could mean that all the angelic hosts, both evil and elect, are to present themselves before the Lord, or that Satan was there among them like a wolf among the sheep. What ever the case, he recognizes and submits to the sovereign authority of his creator.
God asks Satan from where he comes to which Satan responds similar to what Peter wrote in his first epistle, 1 Peter 5:8, “from going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”
The Lord then draws the devil’s attention to Job (Job 1:8). There are some truths to consider with this:
1) God was the one who initiated the trials. It was the Lord’s doing as to what happened to Job. He called Satan’s attention to Job.
2) The Lord calls Job “his servant” and speaks highly of his integrity. That means our Lord takes notice of us just as He took notice of Job. Just as Job holds a special place before God as “his servant,” all those who are his servants occupy a similar uniqueness before God.
3) If it is God who initiates trials and notices us, we then should have confident trust in the Lord during difficult times because He is in charge.
II. The Challenge
In response to God’s praise of Job (1:9-11), the Devil, living up to his name of “Adversary,” mockingly claims that Job is a “fair weather” servant. In other words, as long as everything is going good in his life he’ll serve God. In a manner of speaking,
The challenge is two-fold:
It is against Job’s salvation – his saving faith, and
It is against God’s character, that He has to earn the love and devotion of His creatures.
Remove the blessing, charges the devil, and he will fall away from his salvation by cursing God his creator.
III. The Trial
In order to demonstrate the power of saving faith, God allows the Devil’s challenge. The only limitation was that he could not hurt Job physically.
Beginning in 1:13, the scene shifts back to the earth and to Job’s life. We are unsure as to how much time passed. We only know “there was a day.” There was nothing special about this day. It was ordinary, like every other day when Job’s family got together. Nothing was expected to happen. Job did not wake up that morning knowing he would loose his livelihood and dearly beloved children by day’s end. That is the nature of trials. They will come and they will be often times unexpected and unannounced.
The First Round (Job 1:13-19)
In rapid fire, machine gun fashion, with each horrible event being announced by a lone servant, Satan unleashes a volley of trials against Job designed to destroy his means of making a living and what brings joy into his life:
– First, his servants were killed and his live stock of donkeys and oxen were taken by the Sabeans, a band of terroristic robbers. Basically, his farming business was destroyed.
– Second, and around the same time, “fire from God,” what could had been a severe lightening storm, destroyed his sheep and the shepherds tending them. This put an end to Job’s wool textile business.
– Third, also around the same time, a second group of murdering robbers, the Chaldeans, took all of Job’s camels as well as killed all the servants watching after them. This act put an end to Job’s trucking business, as it were, that allowed him to trade and sell through out the area.
– Fourth, and the worst blow of all, one lone servant who had escaped the disaster, tells Job how his beloved children were all killed in the oldest brother’s home when a wind storm collapsed the house around them.
The Second Round (2:1-8)
After these horrific events in Job’s life take place, we are not told how long, the angelic hosts once again presented themselves before the Lord and the devil once again comes with them. God directs the Devil’s attention toward Job and proclaims how Job, in spite of the terrible trials he experienced, still maintained his integrity and did not sin against God. Satan, always the accuser, said that if his physical health was touched he will curse God. The Lord allows Satan to touch him, not to take his life.
The scriptures describe how Job was smitten by boils from his head down to his toes. It was quite a loathsome disease. Some modern day individuals describe it as Pemphigus Foliaceus, a disease that results in boil like blisters all over a person’s body. There have certainly been strange medical cases involving individuals with rare disorders, so nothing may have been truly unusual with Job’s condition. However, we do know it was brought on in a supernatural fashion at a moment when Job was at his lowest emotionally due to the previous trials.
IV. The Response
Chapter 1:20-22 records for us Job’s response to these calamities:
– He worshiped. He turned his thoughts toward God.
– He did not sin. Not once did he charge God foolishly or with any folly against him.
– He recognized God’s sovereignty. The Lord alone is the one who brings blessing and takes away blessing.
I believe these are three crucial responses Christians should have when faced with catastrophic trials. I realize it is hard when in the midst of suffering to remember Job in this instance, but let us saturate our thinking with his response. When experiencing extreme trials is your first response to worship your God? To keep back your tongue from bitterness and complaint and your fist from shaking at the heavens? To acknowledge God’s sovereignty in spite of the fact things are not happening in the way you had anticipated? What a sobering reminder.