Reverent in Suffering (Job 1:1 - 2:10)
A Perspective on Suffering
Job: Reverent in Suffering
Job 1:1; 2:10
One of the more frustrating aspects of being a pastor is seeing people struggle when they are going through a difficulty in their life. It is frustrating, not because we have to deal with it or be there for them, but frustrating because so many don't find in their relationship with God and His church what they need in that time.
And not finding what they need, many turn away from God. It may be that they just get mad and leave the church. Or they may stick around and just play it cool by coming semi-regularly, sitting quietly and politely, but pull away from any more involvement than that. Ask they how they are doing, and they will say, "Fine", but it's easy to tell it's not fine.
That is frustrating as a pastor because at least a part of my responsibility as your pastor is to preach and teach and pray for you in such a way that you are prepared in mind and heart not to turn away from God, but in fact, to draw even closer to God through that tragedy or difficulty that you are experiencing, and in fact, worship and bless God no matter how intense the grief or deep the pain He allows into your life.
With that in mind, it occurs to me that if we will be prepared to deal with tragedy and calamity and be victorious in and through it, we should probably be familiar with the book of Job.
So for the next five Sundays evenings I would like for us to try to understand the message of that book, and be changed and prepared by it.
I think it is an important study because chances are high that most everyone in this room will experience a deep and bitter tragedy sooner or later. It may be a family tragedy or a financial crisis. It might be a health concern or sudden death. But you can mark it down ahead of time: it will almost certainly seem absurd and meaningless and undeserved when it comes.
You may be shaving and singing a hymn when you feel the lump on your neck. You may be buying supper for the family at McDonalds when all of a sudden you realize one of your children is missing.
You may be quietly and faithfully doing your job when the phone rings with the news of a car accident. In a thousand different ways, every day, Christians who are faithful to God are upended by the sudden tragedies that affect their lives.
And when they come, they will seem ridiculous, and and you will cry out, “Why?” a hundred times before the cloud passes over. Most of our grief and pain does not come with a clear connection to some decision or sin. Most of it comes out of nowhere and defies us to make any sense out of it.
And that’s why the book of Job is so relevant. Job’s suffering seems to come out of nowhere and have no connection to his character.
His story is recorded for us so that we will have some help in living through these calamities, and not just surviving them or keeping a stiff upper lip, but actually growing closer to God and bowing reverently and trustingly before Him.
This evening, I want to concentrate on the section of Job that extends through Job 2:10. Let’s walk through it first to get an overview, and then we'll take a step back and draw out some truths for our lives. Let's begin with
- Job’s Character
Job 1:1 introduces to us the man Job and his character.
Job 1:1
Immediately the theology of many is challenged because if you believe suffering is intended as a punishment for evil, Job is not a very likely candidate. He turns away from evil because he fears God. He pursues right and avoids evil. His reputation is blameless. His reverence for God governs all he does.
Verses 2–3
If he doesn't make a good argument for problems coming because of sin, he certainly does offer a substantial argument that good things come to Godly people. He has been blessed by God in a number of ways include family and finances. In fact, in verse 10, Satan indicates that God was providing divine protection to his family and all his possession.
And both family and possessions were massive. He had seven sons and three daughters and huge numbers of sheep, camels, oxen, and servants. He was the greatest of all the people of the east.
In fact, in verses 4–5 we find a specific instance of Job’s fear of God and how his relationship with God affected his children.
verses 4-5
So every time his sons and daughters gathered for a feast, Job would get up early the next morning and offer burnt offerings for each one just in case any of them had sinned or cursed God. There are two things at work there.
Obviously, He is concerned for the well-being of his children and doesn't want any of them to destroy their lives.
But maybe even more significant is his concern for protecting the honor of God. He did not want the name or reputation of God to be profaned, and especially not by his kids. There is no argument about it, according to God, he was a good man.
But the calamity came.
- Job’s Calamity
Job 1:13-15
The lens of Scripture focuses in on one of those feast days when all ten of his children were gathered in the home of the oldest brother.
And suddenly, a messenger shows up at Job's door to tell him that the Sabeans have attacked and stolen all his oxen and all of his donkeys and killed all of his servants.
He is still reeling from that news when another messenger shows up.
verse 16
Whatever "the fire of God" is, it falls out of the sky and destroys all of his sheep and the servants that are tending them.
Then in verse 17, another messenger comes and says that the Chaldeans had raided the camel herd and taken them all and killed the servants. And finally in verses 18–19, the message comes that all of his children were crushed to death when a tornado caused the house to collapse.
Notice that two of the calamities were caused by evil men: Sabaens (verse 15) and Chaldeans (verse 17). And two were caused by, what insurance adjusters would call “acts of God,” probably lighting and fire in verse 16 and a tornado in verse 19.
And in the course of one average, ordinary afternoon, Job is reduced to a wife and four servants. All of his prosperity is gone, his herds and flocks are gone and worst of all, all his children are gone.
So what's going on? Didn't we just read that Job was a man that was blameless and upright and feared God and shunned evil and prayed and sacrificed to God so his children would be protected? What in the world is going on here? Well, to understand what is going on we have to look, not in the world, but somewhere else because the world never has the answers to the great questions of life. The answer is found in heaven.
So in between what we read about Job in the first few verses and what happened to Job in verses 13 through 19, the writer gives us a glimpse into heaven to understand better what is happening on earth.
- Heaven's Conversation
Job 1:6–12, we have some of the minutes from a meeting that took place in heaven between God and Satan.
By the way, just so you realize it, Satan is not in hell. He is not confined physically. He is limited in activity, but not confined. He will be some day, but not yet. In fact, notice
verse 7
Satan says that he spends his time going to and fro on the earth.
Then God does a very interesting thing. In so many words, He says, "Well if you've spent any time on earth, you are probably aware of one of my servants whose name is Job.
verse 8
Our first response is to say, "Why would God do something like that?"
Didn't Jesus teach us to pray that God would protect us from the evil one? Why would God intentionally bring Job to Satan's mind?
I'll tell you why: God loves to put His trophies on display! He is absolutely tickled with Job and what a good man He is. He is impressed with Job's faithfulness and uprightness and blamelessness. He is a testimony to what it means to serve God.
So He says, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is nobody like him on the earth!"
It’s like a diamond thief that encounters the owner of a jewelry story late at night while he's trying to break in and the owner says, “What are you doing?” And the thief answers, “Just walking around in your store.” And then the owner says, “Did you see our most precious diamond up there at the front?”
So what is God up to? Obviously we rule out the possibility that God messed up. God never says, “Oops" or "I should have kept my mouth shut.”
So that just leaves us with one possibility: He is intentionally setting Job up for trouble. He is inexpressibly proud of Job. Job’s reverence and fear of God has drawn God to Job in a very deep and profound way.
But Satan is not impressed.
verse 9
Satan does what he always does and that is he questions the truth of what God has spoken, and this time he does it to His face!
he insinuates that, in spite of what God says, Job is not such a great example of reverence for God. In fact, he says, "The only reason Job fears God is pad his pockets and get rich.
Will he serve you for nothing? I doubt it! I think Job fears You because it will mean health, wealth and prosperity. Prophetically, he is accusing Job of going to Joel Osteen's church!
So Satan says to God,
verse 11
Now God could have said, “I don’t need to prove anything to you or anybody else. I know the heart of my servant Job and that is enough for me.” He could have, but in this case he didn’t.
Instead, God chooses to get an open victory over Satan for his own glory. A test will reveal the real heart of job and everyone will know just what he thinks about God.
So God says,
verse 12
And that's what led up to the calamities that we discussed a few moments ago. Job loses all his wealth and his children. What on earth is happening? The answer is that something of immense heavenly significance is happening. God is in the process of demonstrating to the heavenly hosts, and to any others who have eyes to see, and to all who read his story in the Bible that the most important thing in the world to Job is God.
- Job's Confession
The commitment that Job made to God and the reason He shows such reverence for God is not because of what he can get out of God, but rather because of Who God is.
And that being known is so important to God that He is willing to subject his prize servant to grief and poverty and intense pain in order to make it known.
verses 20–21
Once again, Satan is proved to be wrong. Job did not curse God when he lost his wealth and his children. Instead, he worshiped and blessed God. And everyone who reads the story or observed what happened understand that Job valued God more than he valued what God could give him.
And if we ended the story there, we could, in fairy-tale fashion say, "and everyone lived happily ever after". But the story doesn't end there.
Chapter 2 tells us that just as Job was recovering from the shock of losing his wealth and his children, he contracts a dreaded disease.
Job 2:7–8
Now according to Job 7:5, Job was covered with boil-like sores that opened and ran with puss and then got clogged with dirt and infested with worms. It was not a mild case of measles. It was a horrid thing from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet.
So is this how God rewards those who are faithful? How much does one man have to do to convince God that he loves and serves him more than anything else? Again we ask, “What in the world is going on here?”
And again the answer is not given in the world but in heaven.
In Job 2:1–6, the Lord again puts Job on display before Satan. Pay particular attention to
verse 3:
Again, Satan challenges the authenticity of Job’s reverence. He says that Job is only reverent because God preserves his health.
verse 4
So again, the challenge is, "God, how much does Job really value You? Is it God himself that Job cherishes or is it the earthly pleasures of family and possessions and health? Job has shown that God is more valuable to him than family and possessions. But what about health?
So to show that he alone is Job’s treasure, God gives his servant into the hand of Satan for the destruction of his flesh.
verse 6
In other words, behind these apparently absurd earthly tragedies, there are heavenly transactions of infinite importance.
From time to time, the earthly powers that be will meet to discuss the important business of the world. it might be a nuclear treaty or disarmament or global terrorism that is being discussed, and the whole world will be watching because they know such a conference must be about important matters.
But how much more important must be the matter at stake when God himself meets to confer with his archenemy Satan!
We sometimes lose sight of the fact that the most important thing in the world is not what we're doing. It's not our happiness or well-being that is the most important agenda on God's calendar. We'd like to think it is! We'd like to think that God exists and everyone around us exists just to make us happy.
But the truth is, the most important business in the universe is the God is given glory and reverence and honored as the God that He is! That He is worthy of glory and honor and power and dominion forever and ever is demonstrated through His people is the most important matter in the world.
So Satan goes back to work to destroy Job's testimony to that fact, and when his health fails, it proves to be too much for his wife. She had endured with him the loss of her children and wealth. But now with the life of her husband draining away leaving her utterly destitute, her faith collapses.
Job 2:9
When she said that, it must have made a hopeful smile come across the face of Satan.
But the smile turns to a snarl when he hears Job's response:
verse 10
What a tremendous insight! Job says, "Both comforts and calamities come from the same hand of God
Picture Satan in heaven surrounded by ten thousand angels awaiting Job’s response. When Job answers, unknown to him, twenty thousand angelic arms are raised and ten thousand mighty voices shout, “Worthy is the Lord God of Job!”
And what does Satan do? He flees from the presence of the praise of God. Did you ever wonder what Peter meant when he said in 1 Peter 5:8:
"Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Resist him firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world?"
He means that when you suffer, the way to resist Satan is to be like Job! Don't lose your confidence in the goodness of God. Just understand that God allows some bad with the good so He will know we will praise Him regardless! Don't curse God; bless Him and know that when you do, all of heaven joins your chorus of praise and Satan is defeated.
“Let those who suffer according to God’s will do right and entrust their souls to a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19).
Now, in that time we have left, let’s stand back and draw out from the text some things that will help us. Let's begins with some theological truths that emerge from this study. I want to call them "conclusions", and there are four of them.
- Theological Conclusions
First, from what I read in these first two chapters, I conclude that,
1. Satan’s aim is to destroy our trust in God
He uses to two weapons to accomplish his goal. One of them is pain and the other is pleasure. He uses pain to make us feel that God is powerless or doesn't love us. He uses pleasure to convince us we don't need God.
When taking away the pleasure and prosperity of Job didn't turn Job away from God, he brought personal pain into his life.
No he failed in both attacks, but there is no doubt what Satan is after in our life: his aim is to destroy our trust in God and to replace the treasure of God with the earthly treasures of wealth or family or health. I also conclude that
2. God's aim is to bring glory to Himself through the lives of his people
He uses two means to accomplish His goal also. One of those is creation. Read the psalms and you will hear the psalmist say, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands."
In revelation 4, we find ourselves in the very throne room of heaven:
Revelation 4:6-11
6 Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. 7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. 8 The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:
“Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!”
9 Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:
11 “You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.”
The second tool is Redemption. The very next chapter, Revelation 5 contains the song that gives glory to God for Redemption:
Revelation 5:8-14
8 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
10 And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.”
11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice:
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
To receive power and riches and wisdom,
And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”
13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:
“Blessing and honor and glory and power
Be to Him who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”
14 Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.
The great aim of God in both creation and redemption is to preserve and display the infinite worth of his glory. The stars and the beauty of the earth and the magnificence of creation gives God glory, and a redeemed people who love him and cleave to him and cherish him above all earthly treasures and pleasures brings Him glory.
The mirror God has chosen for the reflection of His worth is the indestructible joy of his people. They will not trade him for anything this world can offer.
Conclusion #3:
3. God grants to Satan limited power to cause pain
Two times in the verses we've studied tonight, we find God giving limited power to Satan. The first on is Job 1:12 where God says to Satan: “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person."
The other is Job 2:6 where God says, “Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life,"
God sets the limits of Satan’s power to cause pain. Our God is not frustrated by the power and activity of Satan. Satan cannot make a move without the permission of God Almighty. Satan may be a lion, but he is a lion on a leash. And God reins him in or gives him slack according to God’s own sovereign purposes.
Remember that when you are in the thick of your own personal tragedy. And fourth, I conclude that
4. Satan’s work is ultimately the work of God.
Let me repeat that because that is a weighty statement. Satan's work is ultimately the work of God. What do I mean by that? I thought they were working for opposite goals, one to destroy God and the other to glorify God.
We looked at two episodes of tragedy in the life of Job tonight, one involving his possessions and children, and the other his health.
I want you to see how Job assessed all that had happened. His response to the first one is found in
Job 1:21
Job says that it was ultimately the Lord Himself who took away His family and wealth. Then the inspired writer of the book inserts a note of commentary, just in case someone misunderstands that statement.
Just in case someone says that Job should not have attributed Satan’s work to God, he writes,
verse 22
In other words, it is not sin to say that what Satan did, God ultimately did, because God rules Satan.
Then, in the second heavenly scene, God says to Satan in Job 2:6, “Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life”. And verse 7 makes it very clear that Satan went away from the presence of the Lord and covered Job with those terrible sores we talked about.
But notice,
verse 10
In other words, Job again goes all the way up to the sovereignty of God over Satan and says that his sickness is from God. Satan may have been the nearer cause, but ultimately it is from God.
And again the inspired writer warns us not to criticize Job here. He writes at the end of verse 10, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”
It is not a sin to say that a sickness that Satan causes is “from the Lord.” What firmly rooted and established Job life when everything else around him was crumbling was his unshakable confidence in the sovereignty of God.
All this leads me to some
- Personal Commitments
I'll share them and we'll be through. First,
1. No matter what, remember, God is in control.
Take your stand on the unchanging nature and character of God and don't move. If we will not just survive, but come out the other side of our tragedies praising God, we must first resolve that we believe in the sovereignty of God.
2. When you're hurting, cry.
Job 1:20
Listen: just because you're hurting and grieving and crying doesn't mean you don't believe! Job never teaches us to just suck it up and put on an artificial smile and “Praise God anyhow”. To me, the magnificence of his worship is that he worshipped while he was grieving! Let your tears flow freely when tragedy strikes. And let the rest of us weep with those who weep.
3. Trust in the goodness of God
Later in the book, in chapter 13, we will hear Job say, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust Him".
Even if God had let Satan take Job’s life, I believe he would have died quoting Psalm 63:3:
“The steadfast love of the Lord is better than life.”
When your suffer, when tragedy strikes and calamity comes, may the Lord give us the grace to remember that He is in control, and even as the tears flow, to trust in the goodness and care of God so that He will be glorified in us.
Let's pray.
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