Summary: God urges us to persevere in our faith, even as Job did.
Finish this sentence. “If you don’t succeed at first…try, try again.” Do you know who besides God best exemplifies that kind of perseverance? Satan. If there is one thing I admire about Satan, and I know that’s a shocking thing to say, but if there is something we can learn from him, it’s perseverance. Satan doesn’t give up easily. Last week we heard how he was given permission to test Job for the purpose of getting Job to curse God. Although Satan engineered the loss of Job’s oxen and donkeys, then his sheep, then his camels and most of his servants, and then although he killed Job’s ten children all at once, he could not get that believer to curse God. Instead, Job praised God!
Job seemed unbreakable. But Satan wasn’t deterred. In our sermon text this morning, we see how Satan returned to God’s presence. This time he received permission to afflict Job himself with terrible sores. Even then Job did not curse God. But there was collateral damage: Job’s wife. She cried out to her husband as he sat in dust and ashes with a broken piece of pottery to scrape his sores: “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9) How do you find peace on life’s already unpredictable path when even your own family can turn against you? That’s what we want to consider together this morning—we want to find out how faith should interact with family.
Job’s wife has been treated rather harshly. She’s been called a traitor to Job and the devil’s ally. No, what she said to her husband was not God pleasing. But before we talk about that, let’s consider what she had been through. When Job learned about the loss of his wealth—the news hitting him like the quick punches from a championship boxer, Job’s wife was clobbered too. The wealth she had known, the comforts that she had enjoyed—that was all gone before she could even ask her husband, “Honey, what’s happening?” And then add to that the shock of the death of her ten children. No, it wasn’t just Job who suffered, so did his wife.
Although we don’t hear Job’s wife praising God like Job did in the midst of their calamity at the end of chapter one, consider how some time must have elapsed between Satan’s first and second visits with God. Chapter two begins, “On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came…” (Job 2:1). It doesn’t say, “the next day” Satan came back, but “on another day.” It could have been days, maybe even weeks between Satan’s first and second visits with God. What’s my point? My point is that Job’s wife had stood with her husband through the first calamity. She hadn’t left him. She was still there at his side during the second round of trials. She too had persevered as Job had.
It’s only after her dear husband himself is afflicted that she “loses it.” Job was plagued with swollen joints and festering sores from head to toe. He burned with fever. An irritating itching moved him to scrape himself with a piece of broken pottery. He withered away to nothing more than skin and bones, and a rancid odor emanated from his tortured body, for Job said: “My breath is offensive to my wife” (Job 19:17).
It’s in this context that Job’s wife speaks, and in the original Hebrew she says six words—the only words of hers recorded in the book of Job. How would you like to be judged on the basis of six words? I suppose I wouldn’t mind if you remembered me based on six words from a sermon I preached or a Bible study I taught, but not from six words that went through my mind when I drove in Phoenix for the first time. I would not want my daughters to remember me for the six words (and more!) that I have spoken to them in anger. And there are no doubt more than six words you have spoken that you wish could be expunged from your life’s record! Don’t you think we should cut Job’s wife some slack?
Here’s the thing though, Job doesn’t! He points out that his wife is talking like a “foolish” woman. We don’t know if that’s the only thing Job said to his wife, or in what tone of voice he said it. I hope he did so in the most loving way he could, and I hope he spoke other words of encouragement to her. But here’s what we need to take to heart: Job was illustrating what God thinks about our “foolish” words, every one of them. Jesus himself once declared: “I tell you that people will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37). Oh boy. I’m in trouble. And so are you. Just as many think that Job’s wife is the devil’s ally for her six words, that’s what God should think about me for any number of careless, sinful words I have spoken!