We have come again to the heavenly council of God and to a second encounter between the Lord and Satan concerning righteous Job. Once again it was the Lord who brought up the name of His beloved servant who had suffered so deeply, losing all his possessions and his sons and daughters. Still, this righteous man would not turn against God, and the Lord brought this matter to the attention of Satan. We wonder why. We are in a poor position to ask this question. We have not entered into the heavenly council. We do not understand the things that matter most there. We would be foolish to judge God. The Lord is above all. We should listen and learn.
Satan was in that council, and he did dare to speak. He claimed that the test had not been severe enough to examine the true heart of Job. He challenged the Lord with these words: “Skin for skin!” We imagine that we would give up our life and our health for many noble purposes. Many parents suppose that they would gladly suffer great physical pain so that their children will be spared discomfort, and I suppose that there may be some truth in these assertions. Yet it was the attack against Job’s body that Satan claimed would be the worst challenge. It would finally reveal the truth about him, a truth that was not unearthed even when his children were killed. The second round of the testing of Job was thus commenced. Job’s health would be in Satan’s hands, with the one condition that the man’s life would be spared.
Satan went out from the presence of God and set to work against Job, and the great man was filled with sores all over his body, sores so bad that he used a broken piece of pottery to scrape his skin. Here was a man who was the picture of greatness brought low. Full of disease from a demonic source, he sits in ashes, in deep humility before the God he continues to know, and even to defend. It must have seemed to others that it would have been better for Job if he had died. This was his wife’s suggestion to him, maybe even through some foolish sense of care for her husband. “Curse God and die,” she said.
Job did not take this awful bait. Like Jesus when Peter tried to turn Him away from the cross, Job utterly rejected the evil suggestion. It would have been the way of foolishness to turn against the Almighty. Job accepted his life as coming from God. The experience of living might at one moment feel good and at the next moment feel very bad. It all came from the Lord and it all needed to be received with faithful patience. Thus Job accepted even great physical pain and still maintained his integrity. He would not curse God. He would not sin with his lips.
What followed then set the stage for the remainder of the book. Job had passed the awful test of the loss of his possessions and his progeny. He had remained faithful despite the marring of his flesh. But now his friends came to show sympathy, and this would be the challenge that would require the most patience. In this chapter there was no obvious sign that Job’s friends would be anything but a comfort to him. When they saw him, they had trouble recognizing him in all of his misery. They wept. They tore their robes and placed the dust of mourning on their heads for their friend. They sat on the ground with him. They didn’t say a word. Apparently he did not say a word either. They were all made silent by this spectacle of great suffering.
The problem would come when Job spoke, as we will see. They were not prepared for the depth of his emotions and his suffering. They could not take the cry of a man who called out to God: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Job had been a man who was above them, but now he appeared to be below them. Suddenly they presumed to be his judges.
Jesus came very low when He was born. He left behind all of His heavenly riches and the society of another world where He was visibly and obviously God. This was a great trial, but He also faced all the physical suffering leading up to His crucifixion. In the story of Job, the Lord placed a limit on what could be done to that righteous man. He could not have his life taken from him, but there was no such limit upon the sufferings of Jesus. His death was required for our life, even the shameful death of the cross.
At various points along the road that He walked to atone for our sins, He had many friends and the admiration of large crowds. But when the end came, one of His friends had betrayed Him, another denied Him, and all of them scattered like sheep when their Shepherd was struck. He had friends that seemed to sympathize with Him, but who could not understand what He alone had to face, the guilt and penalty of our sins. This Savior had more than the patience of Job. He knew what was in a man. He persevered to the end. He did this for our salvation, and He has accomplished our full redemption. In Him our sins are forgiven.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
O God, we have faced such devastating trials, and we have been given grace sufficient for every need. We have feared You and have continued to turn away from evil. But what will we do if You stretch out Your hand against our flesh and our bones? What will we do when we face physical pain that is more than the worst grief? What is the limit that we can take? Surely every man has a limit. What suffering would be too much for us? Only You know the answer. There is no comparing trial with trial. When we are brought through one, the scar still remains. The next one adds to the grief. Are we stronger now or weaker? We cannot tell. Will we be finally overtaken by a small matter that was one test too much, or will we be given more grace from You to face the new stone thrown on the pile of rubble that was already on top of us? Will we rise above it all? Teach us, O Lord! Give us wisdom and a heavenly perspective, so that we will not curse You and die. You are God.