Summary: A God's-eye view on the struggles of life.

THE TRIALS OF JOB

Job 1:1; Job 2:1-10

Job was an upright man. There was none so righteous in the entire East. No doubt, like Lot, he vexed his righteous soul with the wickedness of those around him. He worried lest his sons might not follow him in his righteousness: lest perhaps they might have sinned in their days of feasting. We should likewise be concerned for our young people, and pray for generations yet unborn.

God had blessed Job with children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord… Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them!” (Psalm 127:3-5).

God had also blessed Job with riches.

Satan was found amongst the sons of God. “We war not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:12). Satan’s remit is to test God’s people: but notice it is God who issues the challenge. This is not a contest of equals - it is God who is Sovereign. It is God who sets the limits to Satan’s maliciousness. The Son of God knows that cruelty first hand, and is found at the right hand of God interceding on our behalf. We have a compassionate Saviour, tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin.

In the secret councils of heaven, into which the early part of the Book of Job gives us a privileged glance, we twice see Satan suggesting to God that Job's piety is because God has pampered him.

“Destroy his wealth and see if he will not curse God,” says Satan (Job 1:11). This God permitted, limiting Satan at first not to harm his health. Nothing happens without God's permission.

God does permit His people to suffer. Suffering, we are told, does improve the character. It is for us, however, not only to persevere in adversity, but to seek to improve our sufferings. Temptation is not sin: Jesus was tempted, but He didn’t sin. We might reverently and cautiously say that God is behind our temptations, tests and trials: and God always does what is best.

Job was tested. His prosperity disappeared in a day. We must learn to hold the things of this world with a loose hand. Worse still, he lost all his children in a horrific series of tragedies.

Job passed this first test, with the famous words so often recalled by believers at funerals, “Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there: the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).

In a second meeting, God reminded the accuser of the brethren that “still Job held fast his integrity, even though you move me against him, to destroy him without cause” (Job 2:3).

Okay, said Satan, he's passed the test on wealth, but let me attack his health and then he will curse God. This God now permitted, but again setting a limit. Spare his life!

Our enemy never gives up. The more we hold on to our faith, the more he attacks us. But however much Satan, like a wild animal, is let loose against us, he can still go no further than the chain which God keeps around his neck.

Job was taken ill with a plague of boils. This is when we first hear of Job's wife, her words echoing both God's judgment concerning Job, and Satan's challenge against him. “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God, and die” (Job 2:9).

Satan had destroyed all they owned, and killed all their sons and daughters. Job’s wife was suffering too! Job’s health was undermined, and the apparent loss of the support of his wife must have increased his sorrow.

It is God who sends sun, rain, and storm in this physical world, according to His set purposes and plans. Likewise in our lives, no matter what happens, it comes from God. "Shall we receive good at the hand of God and not evil?" asks Job (Job 2:10).

Job, who had so often counselled others in their distress, did not understand why he was now suffering. Neither did his friends. His “comforters” failed to understand the unequal ratio of sin and suffering. Together they grappled with the problem at length, and to no avail.

With the best will in the world, we cannot understand another's suffering from their standpoint. There is no formula to meet the felt needs of those who have endured hardship, pain and loss. Neither the sufferer nor the would-be comforter sees the whole picture as God sees it. And with that we must be content.

For an awful moment it seemed that God had fallen silent. Job cursed the day of his birth, but nevertheless persevered in his faith. We come so close to giving up, but God upholds us nevertheless. When God did at last speak, it was to call Job to account for his words. Oh friends, be careful what you say about God‘s ways, however sorely you may think you are provoked!

The Book of Job is not dealing primarily with the problem of suffering in the world, but with the problem of keeping faith with God even in the face of suffering.

The reason that both Job, and later God, rejected the theological answers offered by Job's friends is that they were answering the wrong question. One suggested that since all men sin, so Job must deserve his suffering. The second suggested that Job might even be suffering for the sins of his children of whom he had so recently been bereaved. This is cruel, because of Job's constant concern to guard his children from the consequences of any sin they may have committed. The third equated the level of Job's suffering with the level of Job's supposed guilt and hypocrisy! The young man who spoke last offered the idea that suffering is meant to teach us something.

Relations and friends can sometimes thus be reduced to mere moralists, offering nothing more than clever words when faced with incomprehensible suffering.

Yet Job held on to his integrity, despite all. The struggles within himself; between his world view and his friends' world view; and between himself and God: drew out of him the most enlightened pre-historic confession of faith:

“Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes--I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:23-27).

The patriarch Job was able to reach through the pain and grief of which he was so aware, towards a better day that was also very real to him.

The speeches of God in Job 38-41 don't address the question of suffering at all, but the question as to the reality of God! With this Job is satisfied: everything else pales into insignificance in the light of a personal encounter with God. We have to go down in order to go up, to be humbled before we can be exalted. It's a long journey, but with God's help we get there.

Job’s success in this trial, ultimately, lay in the fact that he was as surely justified by faith “and that not of himself, it was the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8) as any of Abraham’s spiritual seed. Even in the midst of his greatest darkness, he had wonderful flashes of faith. His repentance was true, and complete. He succeeded in disentangling his love and service of God from the purely material and physical blessings of this life.

Job got back double for all he had lost, including a new family - and in heaven he receives back even the family he lost.

Not every sufferer is restored physically; but Job’s restoration, which was physical, stands as a type of the spiritual. Even in our darkest moments, let us remember Jesus who said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).