Job was a godly man. This book of God’s wisdom, written within the context of tremendous human suffering, begins with this important point. Here was a man of moral integrity, a worshiper of God, who turned away from all evil. This man would suffer greatly, and it would be tempting for others to conclude that the reason for his suffering was his own secret guilt. This wrong opinion has to be denied in the very first verse of the book.
Not only was Job morally upright, he was also greatly blessed by God until the time of his disaster. He had a big family and much livestock, so in terms of his possessions, there was no one in his place and time greater than he. Job did not take any of this for granted, but was aware of the danger of sin in his family. He sought to come before God in appropriate ways to address the possibility of even secret sins among his sons and daughters. We might imagine a modern-day Job, a very godly man, known by the Lord alone to be faithful in his life of prayer on behalf of his adult sons and daughters. We are told that Job did this continually. There was no action or secret sin on Job’s part that triggered all the misfortune that came to him.
God Himself spoke glowingly about Job in the heavenly council, when all the angels appeared before Him. It was God who brought up the matter of Job to His adversary Satan. He must have had some good purpose in doing this. God boasted of Job to an enemy, a deceiver and accuser. What Satan would do with malice, God must have meant for good. This was not a divine accident, nor can we conclude that God was maliciously toying with his beloved servant Job.
Whatever might have gone into the plan of our good and powerful God, we know something from these opening verses that Job never knew: Job’s trouble proceeded from a contest between God and Satan. Satan was only able to operate within the bounds established by the First Cause of all things. This angelic enemy would not yet be permitted to touch Job personally.
Satan’s challenge against Job before the face of God was very formidable. His accusation was that Job was not faithful and obedient for nothing. Job, he claimed, was just like everyone else. He was not motivated by love for God, or by the recognition that good is better than evil. He did what he did in order to get what he wanted. If he lost God’s protection and the substantial blessing of God over his life, then he would curse God to His face. This was what the accuser contended, and this was the test that was approved of in heaven.
We are left to understand that all of the disasters that follow in the remainder of this chapter were somehow accomplished through the agency of Satan. They occurred through the work of ruthless raiding parties, through fire from heaven, and through a great wind, but we know that Satan’s fingerprints were on everything, as a workman might leave his mark on his tools. Yet above all of these other beings and forces, and above this accusing angel, there is one God who is over all. The tragedy was unfathomably terrible, as if the Lord and all secondary agents and causes brought together in one moment a concerted attack of power against this great man. His property was gone, his servants were dead, and finally, far worse than anything else, all of his descendants were consumed in one great disaster. The only survivors were those who arrived at the same moment from all directions to tell this great man the awful news.
The response of Job was real. He grieved with signs that fit his place and time: tearing his robe and shaving his head. Then he bowed down before God in worship. His words were simple and true. He knew he came into this world with nothing, and that he would one day leave this world with nothing. “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord.” He refused to charge the Almighty with any wrong, and he did not sin against God.
This was an awful test brought upon a godly man. Yet what could Job do? He could not change anything. He could not bring his children back. He could not restore all of his possessions. He could not get his hands on any man or angel for retribution. Centuries later, there came a man far more righteous than Job, and He too was tested, but His test was more severe. When He was nailed to a cross, He could have changed everything. Job could not reverse His troubles. Jesus could have come down from the cross and destroyed His adversaries. He did not do this. If He had, we would have been lost, and God’s honor would have been attacked by His own Son.
How is it that God works His purposes of grace through the hands of evil men and angels, and even through the horror of His own Son’s death? Think of the greatness of the one who suffered for you. He came from heaven, not from Uz. He always did what was right in the fullest possible way, and He continually ordered His life according to His Father’s good pleasure. He saved His children from destruction at the cost of His own life. He did not suffer because He was evil, but because we were. His great losses were full of meaning; the way of our salvation, through the humiliation of the Son of God, has somehow become for us a thing in which we glory. Through the willing loss of the richest life ever known among men, our poverty has been erased, and we have been granted an incomparable gift of the greatest worth. God’s adversary has now been defeated, though we still feel his anger for a brief time. There were evil hands raised against the most righteous Man of all time in order that we might be saved, and God, who is the First Cause of all things, meant it all for good.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Glorious God, You show us the way of wisdom by Your Word. Throughout the centuries of Your dealings with us You raise up godly men who hear Your voice, who fear You, and who follow You. Thank You for the gift of men like Job who are upright and blameless among their generation. Even the best of the sons of Adam face horrible tests. Help us, O Lord, in the day when we lose our possessions and our livelihood. Help us when children die before their parents. How can we understand Your providence? Naked we came into this world, and naked we shall leave it. Blessed be Your Name. We worship You even as we mourn. You alone are God. Strengthen us in the truth.