The day we’ve been anxiously anticipating finally arrived after the throne-room scene of Job 1. Unfortunately for our hero and his family, they had no clue it was coming. It was a day no amount of planning could have prepared them for. Job was squarely in Satan’s crosshairs and his children, the same young men and women he loved enough to “rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings” for in case they had sinned were about to pay a steep price for belonging to their father. Satan was after Job and his reaction to suffering was all the evidence Satan needed to prove his point. He knew he was right, and he did not care who got in the way to prove it. Job 1:13-2:8 paints a picture of devastation, but also one of hope. Please take time to pour over it before you read further with us.
The relationships and possessions that defined Job in the early part of chapter one were at the center of Satan’s attack. No one likes to give up their identity. Who we are matters more than anything and much of our identity is defined by our relationship with God or our relationship with this world?
Satan assumed Job’s relationship with God was a result of being shown favor by God with immense material blessings. So, he attacked Job’s children and Job’s wealth. In the ancient near east, children meant everything; that was especially true for someone like Job who possessed “a quiver full of male arrows.” That quiver drew Satan’s attention and after he killed every son and daughter, Job’s linage and legacy was erased. That should have been enough, yet, Satan also took away his wealth as well.
By the end of the day, there was nothing left for him to leave behind and no one to leave it to.
As a side note, don’t overlook the fact that Satan destroyed his wealth first. Perhaps, Satan thought those things meant more to Job than his family. An authentic relationship between God and His believers is a gratuitous one. However, if one is truly committed to God like our hero, taking those things away will not ruin the relationship. Satan did not know this.
One of the most positive speeches out of this event is recorded in Job 1:21. We will never know what all Job was thinking or feeling, but one thing is for certain and that is he knew of God’s sovereignty. He did not cry out that “The Lord gave and the Chaldeans took away,” or “The Lord gave and the whirlwind took away.”1 Instead, Job said:
Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Centuries later King David, who knew about God giving and taking, cried out in praise to God about willingly giving back all the things that was giving to David and God’s people.2 It says in First Chronicles 29:14:
But who am I, and who are my people,
That we should be able to offer so willingly as this?
For all things come from You,
And of Your own we have given You.
It should be obvious to all who read the story that Job’s soul was thrown into a state of utter confusion and heartbreak. Satan assumed that Job, in the midst of his enormous grief, would blame God and throw away his faith. Then, and only then, would he be able to collect the satisfying reward of “I told you so” and move on to the next day’s work.
Thankfully, Satan was denied that opportunity that day.
Let’s pause for a minute and ask a serious question, would you blame Job if he abandoned God in that moment? He did not know why any of it was happening. He could have easily lashed out, blamed God, and turned on his Creator and very few people would have blamed him. After all, what more could God expect? He knows us and our breaking points, surely He would understand if Job gave up.
I often wonder, how would I have reacted? How would you? At the death of a child would we react like Job or David (see Second Samuel 12) and praise God? Would we pay God respect or disdain?
Even though Job followed traditional Ancient Near Eastern customs of mourning, he also did something that caught Satan off guard – he worshiped his Creator.
The Epistle of James says Job suffered because of God’s compassion and mercy (see 5:11). In other words, God used those circumstances to reveal His compassion and mercy so Job would in turn, praise Him (and turn to Him). While I’m sure Job was unaware of the deep theological reasons God had used to ordain his suffering, his authentic faith led him to do the only thing he knew to do – worship God in the face of them.
If you happen to find yourself in moments like those and you are not able to worship, let me suggest you turn and read Psalm 40-43. In those passages, the Psalmist (in his own pain and suffering) remembers how he use to go worship God and asks to be brought before the altar again. In your worst moments, remember that God is there to be praised at all times. Moments like that remind me of a quote from John Flavel who once said “a cross without Christ never did good to any man.”3
Since Job didn’t give Satan the reaction he was looking for, he went back for a second audience before the throne of God concerning Job. Since the devastation of his wealth and family did not break our hero, the one thing he had left was his health. With that response, Satan must have thought bringing him to the point of death would drive Job to curse God. Notice, that when Satan was ready to unleash his final assault, God once again set the condition – do not kill him. With those words, Satan left God’s presence to inflict more pain upon the troubled soul of our hero.
While we may not face the same extreme persecution and opposition our brothers and sisters did in the late First Century or as many of our brethren do around the world, whatever suffering we are called to bear it makes the words of Revelation 21:4 even more sweeter:
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
There is coming a day when we will no longer hunger or thirst because of poverty. There is coming a day when we will never say goodbye to love ones and grieve with hope. There is coming a day when our lives will not be devastated by weather patterns and disasters. There is coming a day when we will no longer feel pain from our diseases or from the treatments that are used to make us better. There is coming a day when tears will no longer stain our pillows from worry, anxiety, or pain. But that day is coming only for those who remain faithful through their current storms.
Sometimes, life chews us up and spits us out. How we react to those moments says everything about our trust in God and our faith in His deliverance. You might say, it sets us apart from everyone else. That’s why there is sanctity in our suffering.
1 Stephen M. Hooks, Job, The College Press NIV Commentary. Old Testament Series (Joplin, Miss.: College Press Pub., 2006), 70.
2 Gustavo Gutiérrez, On Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1987), 53-54.
3 Derek Thomas, The Storm Breaks: Job Simply Explained, Welwyn Commentary Series (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 1995), 46-49.
All Scripture is taken from the New King James Version (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Zack Martin is the Pulpit Minister for the Cedar Springs Church of Christ in Louisville, Kentucky and a graduate of both Freed-Hardeman University and the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville.