So in my normal Bible reading once again I’ve started a read about the life of Job. It’s been awhile since I looked at this ancient biblical text so now it comes to me with new force as I contemplate what’s really happening in this scene. I am impressed with the clarity and relevance of the spiritual principles that are illustrated there.
Job is introduced to us as a man of complete integrity. Since he feared God and stayed away from evil we can only conclude that he had come to faith based on what had been revealed from God up to that time. Since a man is justified before God by faith in what God has revealed we might conclude that he was judged as being righteous in God’s sight. Like Abraham, of a similar time, his faith was counted to him for righteousness in anticipation of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Romans 4:9). We gain further insight into the nature of Job’s righteousness by his attention to his spiritual concern for his children and by God’s commendation of Job before Satan when he says of him that he is the finest man in all the earth (Job 1:8).
It turns out that, in addition to his spiritual standing, he has also been blessed in having great riches as well as many sons and daughters but not necessarily because of his righteous standing. This latter conclusion is evident by the fact that God allows Satan to test Job since God wishes to prove to Satan that Job trusts him implicitly and absolutely, not merely because he has been blessed materially.
As the story goes, Job loses all of his oxen, all of his sheep, all of his camels (as well as his employees that work with these animals), and all of his children in one day. Still he trusts God, so Satan goes one step further and suggests that if Job would lose his health, his faith would no longer hold. So Job contracts an unbelievably painful case of skin infection over his whole body but even then he maintains his trust in the Lord. Evidently the losses were finally too much for his wife who gives up on God and suggests that he should do the same. So he also lost her spiritual and emotional support! But his faith continues because he knows that God sometimes can also be the source of that which isn’t circumstantially good.
When Job’s friends come to visit him in his grief they don’t say a word for seven days because the situation concerning their friend is so overwhelming. Sometimes in periods of overwhelming suffering words are not appropriate; deep tragedy renders the human heart speechless. But in chapter 3 of Job, he finally speaks, yet only to express deep sorrow and regret about the fact that he had ever been born or had seen the light of day.
In response, Eliphaz makes a fine speech in which he moralizes in the way people typically think about life — that if we are truly good we will experience blessing and if we are not, we can expect sorrow and trouble. There is some truth to what Eliphaz says, but Job knows it’s not that simple. What Job doesn’t know, but what we know, is that there is another dimension to Job’s experience for which pure moralizing is not appropriate; that Satan has caused Job’s grief by God’s permission. We know in fact that Job’s difficulties have absolutely nothing to do with sin or moral failure in his life; in fact the situation is quite the opposite: it is because of his righteousness that he is experiencing this terrible suffering.
Not surprisingly, and also to his credit, Job doesn’t buy his friends arguement — because he knows he is good before God. Job is so secure in his sense of well-being with God — that his faith and soul will not be threatened by this kind of moralizing. This is astounding considering what he is going through. And it encourages every true believer to rest assured in God’s grace even though the worst things imaginable might be happening. My own troubles are nothing compared to Job’s, and in some cases I’m sure God uses discipline in my life to bring correction for wayward thoughts and deeds, but on the other hand it is reassuring to know that not all difficulties can be attributed to failure. The Christian faith is not moralistic. It asserts that a man is righteous because of faith — declared to be righteous because of the righteousness of another, that is Jesus. Bad things are sure to happen, but Job’s life teaches us that this may be nothing more than the result of God’s contest with Satan, in which God is seeking to demonstrate the effectiveness of His saving grace in our lives.