Summary: A God's-eye view on the struggles of life.
THE TRIALS OF JOB
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!