Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. - James 5:11
There are many things that come to mind when considering the book of Job, most of which are not centered upon God's compassion and mercy. I believe the narrative of Job's suffering is a narrative of mercy and compassion of a frequent kind. I have heard many people say that the book of Job brings into question the goodness of God. I have also heard it said that Job is not where we draw our theology from and that Jesus is. On the contrary the gospel of John tells us that Jesus is in every letter of Job when it says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...the Word became flesh and dwelt among us"(John 1:1, 14).
I read the book of Job and I cannot help but to see the glory of Jesus, His death, and resurrection. I don't need to stretch the story of Job to make it cruciform. It is extraordinary good news granted we have the proper perspective. Paul said, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."(2 Tim 3:16) Through the lens of the New Testament I begin to see Job's suffering as the exhibition of God's compassion and mercy, as the manifestation of Christ, and as inspired by God, profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. It is unavoidable. It is in the Canon of scripture on purpose, to crucify our foolish man-centered views of God. We are incomplete as men of God if we will not wrestle with the implications of this marvelous book.
Most scholars believe this was the earliest book written in our Bibles. I would say that it is written first because if we wrestle with the topics of God that are most uncomfortable then we can manage to see and appreciate those which would be naturally apprehended in their proper light. Psalm 9:16 says, "The LORD is known by the judgment He executes" and I propose to all that God is most revealed in those subjects which we naturally cannot comprehend. May God give grace then to the writer and the reader to set as our end "the praise of His glorious grace". Amen.
Job chapter 1 introduces us to Job, the man who was "blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil"(1:1). The entire narrative will be misunderstood without this understanding of who Job is. The entire setting of the story is not a wicked man suffering, but a profoundly righteous one. Verses 2-3 tell us he had 7 boys and 3 girls, 11,000 livestock, servants, and that he was the greatest man of the East. Verses 4-5 describe his children to be feasting often and Job to be continually aware and conscious of making sure to cover his children's potential sin. Job is a good man by God's own testimony(1:8). Here is the subject matter that I want to deal with and I believe it raises some questions worthy of our wrestling.
Job 1:6-12 "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. 7 The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 8 And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” 9 Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD." This is the part of the narrative where western trust in the inspiration of scripture begins to break down. We read in verse 6 that "there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them." "Sons of God" is understood to be those fallen angels of other ambiguous biblical passages. We also read that "Satan also came among(in the midst of) them" and before he can say a word God addresses him in verse 7 saying, "From where have you come from?" After Satan answers Him we read the fundamental question concerning the origin of Job's suffering in verse 8: "Have you considered my servant Job?" Here God directs Satan's attention to Job, saying of him that "there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil".
God does not wait for Satan to speak first, but thrusts forth to question Satan and his finite knowledge of a righteous man named Job. The origin of Job's suffering is first and foremost the hand of God for His purposes of eternal glory, compassion, and mercy. This causes me to believe that perhaps Satan had been summoned by God rather than approaching Him as a rogue entity. How many of us are unaware that much of our present suffering originates from a similar question being asked in the heavenlies? Would we not be benefited to believe that those things which God has done so gloriously in the past He presently does with perfectly intact purposes? Likewise I urge us to believe that this same God who had turned Satan's attention to Job likewise turns Satan's attention to modern saints for His purposes of mercy and compassion.How much more gloriously would we endure suffering if we could comprehend that perhaps God had summoned Satan and said of us, "have you considered my servant?"
Verse 9 says, "Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.”" Satan's accusation of Job before God is precisely this, "Of course Job fears you! He has all that he could ever want, protection, possessions, and prosperity. He does not love You for You, rather for what You have given him." How often this accusation is found true of us, that we love God for that which He so benevolently gives to us rather than for God Himself. The victory of God in the story of Job is that God is proven worthy of worship without the benefits of worldly pleasure. This is precisely the value of God that Satan doubts and makes him to be the source of all accusation. God's response to Satan is astonishing in verse 12, "And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD." Job's affliction was by the ordination of God through the agency of Satan. Satan was not able to touch what God had not placed in his hands to touch. Can we see this for Job's situation and not for Adam's in the Garden of Eden? Can we see this for Job and not for our own affliction and suffering? We must have God's ends in sight and we must also know that His ends are so glorious that He uses extraordinary means to ensure that they are accomplished and appreciated. God could whistle and have the obedience of the nations, but in order to have their fullest satisfaction in Him He first shows them what He is not.
The plainest teaching of verse 12 is that God gives Satan rights over specific portions of our lives for His divine ends, namely His glory and our satisfaction in Him as we read further in Job and throughout the whole of scripture. This is how James can point to the compassion and mercy of God seen in the book of Job. God is ensuring that Job sees Him as the only satisfaction in this life and the next.
Verses 13-19 describe the loss of oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, servants, sons, and daughters by the sword, fire from God, raids, and a great wind. Job loses all his possessions and children in a moment, yet he possesses the health of his own life and his wife is still living. Verses 20-21 say, "Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”"
Upon hearing the news of his loss we read that Job tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell to the ground... to worship. His worship is so foreign to our worship, His worship is so centered on God that we barely recognize it or even credit Job as a worshiper of God. Perhaps he is the greatest worshiper in the Bible for most of the others characters in scripture at least have some claim to material blessing to which they could point to for their satisfaction. Job was stripped of nearly all relational pleasures and of all material pleasures and at this point could almost only thank God that He is God by saying, "The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." Before we assume that Job has sinned or erred by saying that God is the one who has taken away from him let us not forsake the 22nd verse of this marvelous chapter which says: "In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong."
Job 2 follows the same pattern as Job 1 with of the sons of God presenting themselves to God with Satan in their midst. The dialogue is the same until we get partway through verse 4 and God says something profoundly important to our understanding of God and His sovereignty over evil.
"Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. 2 And the LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 3 And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” 4 Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. 5 But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” 6 And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” "He still holds fast his integrity although you incited me against him to destroy him without reasons.""
We are assured that the seeming synonymity of God's hand and Satan's in the midst of saintly suffering is not nearly as ambiguous as we had formerly believed. It was God who came against Job using the agency of Satan for God's purposes and not Satan's. The purposes of Satan are death, theft, and destruction, but God's purposes are resurrection and joy unspeakable.
We read further in verses 7-8 that Job's body is struck and afflicted with boils: "So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8 And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes." We read also in verse 9 that Job's wife is also undone in these circumstances for it says, "Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” Now we can conclude that Job has lost all of his relational pleasures and worldly means. If his wife had been reasonable before she certainly isn't now, his 7 sons and 3 daughters are dead, his livestock, servants, and health are all brought to nothing. There is absolutely no worldly claim to Job's worship, no one can say that Job worships God because God has given great things to Him. Reality is now known, the disposition of Job's heart is now seen, he loves God for God.
This section of chapter 2 closes with Job's words in response to his wife, " But he said to her in verse 10, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips." Most other English translations say "accept evil" instead of "receive evil", the meaning is intact in both renderings, but there is something in the word "accept" that I believe pertains to worship. Whatever God sees as wise and benevolent to give to us we agree with Him by our acceptance of it. Whether good or evil, if it comes from His hand it is acceptable and beneficial. Job's acceptance of all that proceeds from God's hand IS worship of the highest kind, it is typical of the future church that suffers joyfully accepting that there is "one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."
My main thesis is that good should be seen as that which proceeds from God regardless of whether we understand it or not. This is proper rather than our moral measurements that determine what is or is not good based on a finite human perspective.
How does God prove Himself glorious? By stripping away all that would be counted as the source of Job's worship until nothing could undermine the credit due to God. How does Job glorify God? By acknowledging God's supremacy and excellence even in absolute nakedness and peril. All of Job's responses are impossible without perspective into God's glory and grace. How great a compassion and mercy for God to strip away carnal faculties and crutches before that great judgement day and to prove us and prepare us for eternal joy. All of this life is merely the pitch-black backdrop upon which the bright white mercies will be eternally displayed. “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. - Romans 11:34-36