Job 1:1-22.
Responding to Disaster

American Journal of Biblical Theology, www.biblicaltheology.com
Copyright © 2013, John W. (Jack) Carter     Scripture quotes from KJV


What is a true tragedy?  We repeatedly read and hear news of disasters happening around the world, circumstances and events that result in the loss of life and property.  In a frenzy to sell advertising, the news media converges on every opportunity to immerse us in images and sounds of disasters as they happen.  People are murdered by the hundreds of thousands in Africa.  People are killed by the thousands by earthquakes in southern Asia.  People are subjected to the consequences of floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and sin. Americans watched in horror as the twin towers of the trade center fell to terrorist attack, killing almost three thousand people.  For most of us, disasters are something that happen to someone else.  They are news events that bombard social media and are fed into our homes every night.  We have become almost desensitized by all of the death and murder that takes place around the world.  Such desensitization can result in our caring less for those who are actually experiencing the tragedy.  It can also lead us to think that terrible things only happen to others.

For some people, the tragedy has hit home.  If you have not experienced the throes of tragedy, pause for a moment and think about the unthinkable.  What event could happen in your life that would cause such a horrific loss that you cannot even fully think about it.  For example, in my own life, I cannot give much thought to the prospect of losing one of my own children, or one of my four grandchildren.  This is one area where I cannot even comprehend the loss.  I would give my own life without a moment's thought if it would save the life of one of these. 

For some people, this exercise might bring up visions of the loss of all of their possessions in a fire or flood.  For some, the loss may be associated with a loss of a relationship with a close loved one.  There are many things in this life that bring about the grief that is associated with tragedy and loss.   Circumstances that bring about loss are a constant threat to all people as we live in a world that is filled with risk, with pestilence, and with sin.  No person is immune to the potential of having to experience a sudden and unthinkable loss.  What defines a person is not so much what happens to them in such circumstances, but how they respond to those circumstances.  Those who have placed their faith and trust in the LORD have a unique, faithful, and capable resource to help them through such events as the Spirit of God can serve to strengthen and guide the individual in their response, rather than leave them to the vagaries of their reaction.

In what is probably the most classic story of tragic loss, the Biblical scriptures narrate the events surrounding the life of an honorable and faithful man by the name of Job.  This long and complex book of the Old Testament is often overlooked because of its deep messages and its theological complexity.  This is one of those biblical texts that can be read from beginning to end without continually stopping to pick out the theological details of a single verse.  This book is meant to be read from the first word to the last, a task that will take some quality time to accomplish.  As one reads the book of Job, the larger themes of the text will come out and one can see how Job, a man of faith, responded to deep, personal tragedy.

Over the years many have questioned the source and subject of the text.  We do not find a mention of Job in other texts except for citations from the text itself.  Because of this, some argue that the man, Job, never actually existed, and this text is simply a wonderful story of faithfulness and restoration; a complete theodicy that deals with human suffering and God's compassion and justice.  Presumably written between 700 B.C. and 200 B.C. due to the Hebrew grammar, the text of Job is quite similar in structure, poetic form, and content matter to many other non-biblical writings, including those of pagan origin.  Both the Sumerians and Babylonians had a fully developed "Job" story that describes a faithful servant who experiences great loss, cries out to his personal gods, and finds restoration.[1] 

However, the book of Job stands alone in its consistency with the context of both Old and New Testament theology.  It draws directly from Old Testament doctrine, though it seems to ignore the import of the Jewish Law that developed in later years.  It also ignores the impact of later historical events, bringing the date of its origination more seemingly towards the earlier limits.  The internal language also indicates the possibility that it was written by more than one author, with sections added at different times.  The book carries through its entirety a beautiful and full illustration of true, godly faith as it is expressed in the life of a person who exhibits the traits of a real person.  Rather than stand as an undaunted stalwart, Job suffers with doubts, depression, anger, frustration, confusion, .... the list goes on.  Job responds to the situations in his life as a real person would respond, and from the depths of his true humanity, we can draw strength in appropriating for ourselves an understanding of how his faith in God carried him through such devastating times.  This understanding can become a tremendous source of strength when we find ourselves facing the unthinkable. 

Job 1:1.  There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.

As the Hebrew writer begins the story he refers to Job, not as a contemporary, but as a historical figure from the "land of Uz," identifying Job as a pre-Mosaic patriarch, one in the same genre as Noah, Enoch, and others who lived extraordinary long lives.  Job lived to the age of 140 years.  The word translated "perfect" refers to one who is mature in the faith, who has a heart that is not blemished by a sin nature.  "Upright" refers to Job's character, one that exhibits integrity both in his deeds and in his heart.  We see a man who's faith is worth emulating.  He is a man of integrity, one who has spent many years submitted to the LORD he loves, growing in spiritual maturity.

The words, "feared God" and "eschewed evil" should not be bypassed too quickly, as they describe how Job's faithfulness has brought him the wisdom that only comes from the LORD.  Fear of the LORD refers not to outward fear, but rather to the product of a profound faith, respect, and love for the LORD that recognizes who He is, His awesome power, and His grace.  True wisdom comes from this form of godly fear of the LORD.[2]  The shunning of that which is evil is a product of Godly wisdom.[3]  Job's choice to live a life of integrity demands that he choose to turn away from evil thoughts and actions, seeking God's forgiveness when such efforts fail. 

Job was simply a man of sound integrity who loved the LORD.  His faith was not a show for others to see.  His faith was personal and deep.  It may also be instructive to remember that Job was a man of faith when faith was not common.  Job also lived prior to the writing of Mosaic Law, further exemplifying the saving power of faith over the condemning power of the law. 

 

Job is best known for being one who suffered great loss, but few actually take the time to examine how Job responded to that loss.  We may be comfortable with the cultural cliché, "the patience of Job," but actually Job suffered spells of impatience.  Job did experience the emotions that accompany tremendous grief, and fell to the point of questioning God, and expressing anger towards God Himself.  When we suffer great loss, there is a process of grief that must be completed, and we will find that even Job went through that process.  However, the example we will see in Job is how he completed that process without utter defeat.  Though his faith was severely challenged it was not defeated.  Though his hopes were utterly dashed, God's plan never changed, and Job found his hope restored.  This is what we find in one who demonstrates true spiritual and emotional integrity in the LORD.

Job 1:2-3.  And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters. 3His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.

Job's integrity was matched by the blessings he had received in his life.  Hebrew culture specifically recognized the blessing of seven sons, recognizing the seventh son as a particular blessing from God.  Having seven sons was a sign that the blessing came from God alone,[4] and it was often impressed that a seventh son would serve God as a priest.  If that priest had a seventh son, that grandson was even more revered, sometimes to the point of veneration.  Furthermore, the number three that is attributed to the number of daughters also refers to completeness.  Hebrew culture held that if a statement was repeated three times it becomes inviolable, and we see many examples of this in scripture.  The numerology utilized in this narrative indicates simply that Job's family was complete, and clearly a blessing from God.

Job's great possessions took the form of a huge number of sheep, camels, oxen, donkeys, and the people to tend to them.  This form of attributing wealth also places Job in the time period of the patriarchs.  Ancient culture was not as mathematically developed as this modern one and the number "thousand" was the largest value that was commonly understood.  When one would refer to a "thousand" of something, it often referred to an innumerable quantity, a number so large that it is difficult to comprehend.  When it comes to possessions, a similar number today might be a billion.  Note how numerology, the use of the terms seven and three, are repeated here.  This again serves to communicate to Hebrew readers that this vast wealth was a blessing from God.

Numerology notwithstanding, Job would have been among the richest men known, and today the richest think in terms of billions, truly a number that is harder for us to grasp than a thousand.[5]  Having so great a collection of possessions would give Job great power and influence in the community and would warrant his record in history.  Power was given to those who had the resources to do great things, to make large commercial deals, etc.  Job would have been such a man, and scripture describes the state of Job as "the greatest" or literally, the richest man in the region.

Job’s character was considered by the author to be untouchable.  His integrity and the blessing of his riches served as a breastplate[6] that protected him from accusation.  Together they would imply that Job was indeed a man of uncompromised righteousness.   Recall that this book was written during a time when the Jews erroneously held that righteousness comes solely from the keeping of the Mosaic Law, independent of any relationship with God.  However, this was the traditional and cultural view only.  Biblical writers never vary from the teaching that salvation comes from faith in God, whether the faithful are in the genre of Abraham, Moses, or Paul.  God's plan of salvation never changes, and God's blessing upon those who place their faith and trust in Him has never changed.  Free from the law, we see in Job a man of admirable faith and integrity.

Job 1:4.  And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.

The ancient feast that the writer describes is a celebratory religious occasion, similar in concept to the Sabbath meal shared by the Hebrew culture.  It was a time to thank God for the blessings He has given to all.  We would be in error to think that the sons of Job were having raucous parties.  These were events that were sanctified by their faith as they shared fellowship with one another and expressed their shared faith in God.  This demonstrates how Job's faith was not only expressed personally, but was also shared with his family, passed on to his children.  He brought up his children to know God.  He did not keep his faith to himself, letting his children "find their own way" as one holding to a secular or false religion might choose.  He taught his children his understanding of the Word of God (though none was written) and nurtured them in their faith so that they too would love the LORD and live lives of integrity, an integrity demonstrated by these regular acts of worship that included each of their families. 

Job 1:5.  And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.

Job also recognized his responsibility as the patriarch of the family to serve as the faith leader of the household.  Job served as the family priest, lifting up those in his family in prayer, and offering sacrifices on their behalf.  The pattern of their life is clear. His sons and daughters gathered together regularly (weekly?) to have a time of fellowship and share in a sanctified meal.  Early on the morning of these events, Job would rise to offer sacrifices for each of his children.  Though he knew of the integrity of his children, he offered sacrifices "just in case" one of his children may have sinned.  It is important to note that the writer includes a specific sin in this setting: cursing God in one's heart.  This is a specific and important sin to consider as we continue in our study of Job.

Cursing God is often one of the first things we do when we suffer a tremendous loss or witness the dramatic loss of another, and the cursing of God was a sensitive subject with Job.  Job understood that God is to be honored, revered, and loved, and He is fully capable of our complete trust.  Job cannot conceive of holding any lack of trust in God, yet he is aware that we can still sin by failing to trust Him and then express this sin by blaming God for the nature of our circumstances. 

The importance of this cannot be understated.  If we enter a period of grief by cursing God, we are letting go of the One who is there to carry us through.  When one attempts to go through a crisis without God one is limiting their resources to their own strengths and weaknesses.  Few people have the strength of character to fully survive a horrific loss, hence our world is replete with defeated and angry people.  As a member of the body of faith, one should remember this one truth in the life of Job:  despite the nature of our circumstances God is never one to be cursed, but rather the One to be praised.  He is the Rock of Salvation and the Source of our strength. 

Job's faithfulness was a pattern of his life.  The description of Job indicates that his prayers, supplications, and sacrifices for his family were a continual part of his lifestyle.  They defined who he was.   As we look at the first five verses of the book of Job we see a wonderful example of integrity, a man of faith, and a father of honor.  We could leave the study of Job at this point and come away blessed as we see in him a man who is worthy of emulation as we look at our own lives and compare them to his.  We often miss this when we only think of Job as one who suffered great loss.  Job was a man who lived a righteous and blessed life.  Job was the archetype of uncompromised spiritual integrity.

Job 1:6.  Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.

The book of Job is organized into what may be called a series of vignettes, or segments that are like acts in a play.  We can almost see the curtain close on one scene and open on another.  In the prologue of the story, Chapters 1 and 2, the scenes take place in two locations:  Job's home and the LORD’s heaven.  The first scene introduces us to Job and his character.  The next scene moves to heaven.  It may be instructive to remember that, though this story was written down at some time in the centuries before the birth of Christ, it had been handed down in Hebrew families for generations.  Consequently, it is appropriate that we concentrate on the basic ideas and morals presented in the story, and that we do not get bogged down in the technical details of a particular verse or word.  An example of this is the reference to the "sons of God" or "angels," depending upon the translation of the words used here.  The story is presenting a heavenly council where a dialogue with the LORD is made possible.  The identity of those present in the council is not the point of this story, but rather establishes the context of the discussion that is presented.  This “heavenly council” will serve as the basis for a dialogue between the LORD and satan.

Though the word, "day" is very vague in ancient Hebrew literature, its context often offers us added understanding.  "Days of their feasting" refers to the regular participation in sanctified meals by the sons of Job.  When this form of "day" is used, it refers to something that repeats on a regular schedule, though the period between those events is less relevant and rarely well defined.  The point is that the event is one in a series.  This lays the groundwork for viewing this heavenly council as an event that is repeated regularly.  Hence, we should not be surprised when this council "reconvenes."

Job 1:7.  And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.

It is apparent that this meeting of the "heavenly council" has an interloper, one who was not particularly invited.  God's first question of satan is literally, "what are you doing here?"  This is not meant to infer any lack of knowledge on God's part, but it is certainly a command for satan to explain his presence.  Satan's answer is in the form of an ancient Hebrew idiom that is well-understood.  Satan has taken upon himself the task of scouring the earth, seeking to devour the spirit of man.[7]  Consequently, the segue into God's next question of satan makes sense.  Satan is searching the earth seeking to steal and destroy the seeds of faith, turning men against God, resulting in a world of sin and unfaithfulness.  By so doing, satan maintains his position as the evil prince of this world, the lord of darkness.

Job 1:8.  And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?

God's question exposes satan’s lack of omniscience, and by his utter failure when it comes to destroying the spirit of one who is faithful to the LORD, his lack of omnipotence.  The challenge we are about to witness in the coming chapters is not one between satan and Job, it is between satan and God.  It is not about Job's ability to overcome, it is about God's ability to save.  It is not about satan’s strength, but about his utter impotence when confronted by the Holy Spirit of God.  God's challenge is not about breaking down and testing Job, it is about breaking down and exposing the powerlessness of satan.  This truth is often missed when we only focus on Job’s experience and pay little attention to the interaction between God and satan, and the theological messages that this book presents.

Though God is using Job as the example, the LORD’s question can be considered to be a broader one when we consider that He is referring to a faithful man.  It is the LORD’s desire that all who place their trust in Him are also faithful, and are as immune to destruction by satan as Job was.  Because of this, the book can be intensely personal when a person of faith reads this book and inserts him/herself into it in the place of Job.  When we do this we may find some of our own strengths and weaknesses demonstrated in the testimonies and responses of Job.  This can be very encouraging as we consider how we might actually respond to disastrous circumstances in our own lives.

Job 1:9-11.  Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? 10Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.  11But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.

Job has certainly been blessed by God, and God’s contribution to Job’s welfare is clearly stated in the opening verses of the book.  God's promise to Abraham is the same promise He has made to all who place their faith and trust in Him:  He will provide for them (a land) and protect them, and through them a mighty nation will be formed.  Consequently, the "hedge" that satan refers to is a faithful product of God's promise.  The work of Job's hands is not a work of evil that will destroy himself and those around him.  The work of Job's hands is godly, honorable, and characterized by integrity.  God can and does bless this form of effort.  It is no surprise that Job's substance increases.  Certainly, there may be another rich man in another region who built his empire through greed and evil.  However, this does not characterize Job's large family. 

One can already see how satan does not, and cannot, understand the nature of true faith.  He states that if all is taken away from Job, he will be no different than those under his own evil influence who so easily curse God.  Satan implies that Job's faith is based upon his great possessions, and without these he would be faithless.  Note that the power to touch Job is held firmly in the hands of God.  Satan has no power to touch Job because of the integrity of Job's faith.  Satan is empowered to interfere in our lives only when we allow it through our own lack of sincere faith in God.  As satan roams the earth searching for those whom he can destroy, those who have placed their faith and trust in God become satan's enemy and are resistant, only through the power of the Holy Spirit, to his efforts to turn them away from their faith.  However, not all of us have the integrity of faith that is demonstrated in the life of Job, and many of us will allow sin a foothold in our own lives and we suffer the consequences.  Some of the faithful will be heard blaming and cursing God when they find themselves in crisis.  However, we see in Job an example of spiritual integrity that overwhelms the influence of personal possessions on our lives.  Satan uses a spirit of lust towards personal possessions to keep people from faith, and his assumption is that he can do the same in the life of Job. 

Job 1:12.  And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD. 

The battle line is drawn.  Can faith alone sustain the faithful against satan's attack?  Or, is the power of satan to destroy more powerful than that of faith to sustain?  This is a question that defines a major theme of this book.  In order to illustrate the power of true faith, God does something that we see nowhere in scripture except in this book:  God removes his hand of protection from the faithful Job, though not fully.  He allows satan to have the same power over Job's possessions and those that Job loves that he has over the possessions and loves of all of those who do not place their trust in God.  When satan has control of that which we hold dear in our lives, things can get ugly quite quickly. For Job, things got really ugly, really, really, quickly. 

Job 1:13.  And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house:

The events to follow did not take place on any random day.  They came on the day of feasting, when the family was gathered together.  The day started with Job's faithful and priestly acts of prayer and sacrifice to the LORD. The entire family then met together in a time of celebration and sanctification, doing so in the home of the eldest son, the one who would be passed the mantle of spiritual leadership in the family when Job would pass on.  They were not "out in the world" where their immersion on this sinful world could be considered part of their destruction.  They were engaged in their culture of faithfulness, illustrating their innocence of any blame for what would be taking place.

Job 1:14-19.  And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them: 15And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. 16While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. 17While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. 18While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house: 19And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

What are some of the tools that satan has with which he can exercise his own purposes of destruction?  Job’s beasts of burden were taken away by murdering thieves, his pasture animals and servants were destroyed by a grass fire, and his children and their families were killed in a windstorm.  Again, when satan takes hold of that which we hold dear, things can get really ugly, really fast.  Satan did not have the power to do this to the faithful Job because God's hand of protection was upon him.  It was not until that protection was removed was satan himself “empowered.”

We should be careful not to draw unintended inferences from this event.  One could, by ignoring the purpose and context of this narrative, misapply the circumstances and argue that all destruction that comes upon man is the result of the LORD’s removal of His hand of protection.  Such a position would defend one’s blaming God for the trials of their lives.  The scriptures are replete with the LORD’s promise of protection for the faithful, and again, this is the only place in scripture where the LORD is described as removing His hand of protection from one who is faithful.  This event had a specific purpose: to present this narrative to all who would read these words.  The experience of Job is better known than any other disaster in history, and Job’s responses throughout the event demonstrate the very nature of faith.  In this way, the LORD had a very special purpose behind the Job narrative.

How would you respond to such a cataclysmic disaster in your life?  That is probably a question that is very difficult to honestly answer when most of us simply do not know.  Job probably would not have been able to answer that question himself. 

The first wave of news that Job received was that of the loss of all of his possessions.

Several years ago our family had a glimpse of what it might be like to lose all of our possessions when our woodstove sparked a fire in an exterior wall of our Clinton, NY home.  We called the fire department, and neighbors who were listening to a radio scanner burst into the house with ready hands and a fire extinguisher.  We set about trying to put out the fire.  We turned the task over to the fire department when what seemed to be an entire county of emergency vehicles laid siege to our little home.  As we handed the task over to the professionals, the chief quickly commented, "you people are weird" (it was a small town.)  Rather than witnessing a state of panic, we were smiling and cracking jokes, even teasing the firemen that we had the task largely done when it took them so long to arrive (about 2 to 3 minutes).  I came to realize that our failure to panic was simple:  the house and its contents are not that important.  Our thought was, "that is less junk we have to move when we take to the road again."  Of course, our children were safe in a neighbor's home.  Again, this was only a glimpse. 

The second wave of news that Job received was of the violent loss of his children and their families.  Some who have experienced the power of a large, concentrated tornado can understand what it would be like for something like this to happen.

Had we lost our children in that fire, this would have been an entirely different story, an event of indescribable grief.  If my wife and I had responded in typical fashion, we could have each blamed each other for the event, blamed God for allowing it to happen, and the marriage could have been destroyed.  We do not know how we would have responded, and we are simply thankful that this is an event that we have never had to seriously consider.

Job 1:21-22.  Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, 21And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. 22In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly. 

What was Job's response?  First, we see his grief.  The ancients may have been better at grieving than we are in today's stoic cultures.  Rather than process the situation by expressing grief, we tend to hold it all inside until the grief bursts out in an unfortunate and often destructive manner.  Unresolved grief spurs emotional illnesses such as long-term bitterness and anger, and serves to exacerbate a wide array of physical illnesses.  Job expressed his grief publicly by the rending of his clothes,[8] the shaving of his head, and falling prostrate on the ground.

We are given the impression that Job responded to the tragedy by turning his attention to the LORD, and because of his faith and trust in God, Job was able to converse with the LORD out of the true feelings of his heart.  The statements in his prayer are instructive of his understanding of God’s blessings.

Naked came I…  Job realizes that all that has ever come under his authority was a gift from the LORD.  Every blessing that he has enjoyed over all of the years of his life are just that: blessings.  Often we take these blessings for granted.  It is apparent that Job did not.  Job realizes that he came into this world with nothing, and will leave it with nothing.  Everything else in between is a blessing from the LORD for which God is to be praised.

The LORD gave…  In the same breath, repeating the same idea, Job states his understanding that all of those blessings from the cradle to the grave come from the LORD.  The LORD, as LORD, has the authority to give, and the authority to take, as each action will always serve some eternal purpose that God intends. 

Blessed be the name…  Despite the extent of his loss, Job's faith was not destroyed.  Job’s recognition of the true nature of God empowered him to understand the heart of God, and in that understanding, Job could only continue to praise Him in difficult times just as he had praised God in the good times.  God is worthy to be praised by us because of who He is, not because of any circumstances that should come our way.  When our love of possessions stands in the way of our love for the LORD, those possessions have become an idol.  Job’s understanding of the nature of God, and his implementing that understanding in faith, protected him from this sin of idolatry.  This was the greatest of satan’s miscalculations. 

We will find in this book that Job’s faith was certainly put to the test, and at times his faith seems to be hanging on by a thread, but faith still remained.   Faith is not a commodity, it is a choice.  Whether one has "little faith" or "great faith," one has faith, and it is faith that pleases God. It is we who grade one another on the depth of our faith, a behavior that is contrary to the truth of the gospel.  Jesus proclaimed that even the faith of the tiny speck of a "mustard seed" is saving faith.[9]  Job's faith inspired him to fall in worship to the LORD, and his integrity kept him from cursing God.  It was not in Job’s nature to blame God for his circumstances; he simply trusted God to carry him through.  "Charged God foolishly" is literally the same thing as cursing God.  

Job did not understand why this was happening to him, and certainly for all these things to happen at once is remarkable.  However, when difficult events enter our lives, how often do they seem to come at once?  We might ask, “why is this happening to me?”  We may not be aware that events that serve to distract and discourage us may be related to satan's attack, as it was in the life of Job.  We sometimes observe this type of circumstance when a person of faith is involved in some faith-strengthening exercise.  However, God is not going to use us as a cosmic example for all mankind as he did with Job... if we are under satan's attack, those attacks only take place in the chinks in our armor, in those areas of our life that we have not fully entrusted to God.  God can use those experiences to strengthen our armor and to empower us to help others who experience similar stress.  Not all of the tragedies of life are a direct, personal attack of satan, but may also come from the consequences of his influence in our lives and the lives of others as we, and they, act in sinful ways. 

The following is a case study from a true experience:  A young mother grieved the tragic and violent loss of her child to the irresponsible actions of a drunk driver.  Her immediate response was to blame God for allowing this to happen.   Did God do this?  Did God fail to protect her child?  God was not to blame for the incident:  the drunk driver was fully responsible for the death of the child.  The loss was the direct result of the self-centered, thoughtless, and sinful act of an irresponsible driver.  We are touched by the consequences of sinful choices every day and sometimes that touch can be dramatic.  The young mother has a choice:  she can blame God and continue in her lonely suffering, or she can turn to the God who loves her, who will help her through this tragedy, and will even demonstrate how His plan and purpose for her life can be revealed in this tragic loss. 

Job 2:1-10.  Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD. 2And the LORD said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. 3And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause. 4And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. 5But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face. 6And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life.  7So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown. 8And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes.

In the second chapter of the book of Job, satan's utter failure in defeating Job brings a second request by the evil one to continue his attack on Job by bringing disease to Job's body.  Satan’s argument is simply this: if Job will not curse God upon losing all his possessions and all of his children and their families, he will certainly curse God if he also loses his health.  The same cycle repeats, and upon losing that health Job continues to grieve, and continues to worship God. 

Job 2:9-10.  Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. 10But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.

Job’s losses are not over.  Another round comes at the hands of his wife who, rather than support him, declares that he should simply curse God and die.  We should remember that the losses that Job experienced were experienced by his wife, also.  She lost all of her possessions and all of her children and their families.  However, hers is a testimony of one who lacks a strong faith in God, and her response is more consistent with what we would expect from a faithless person.  However, this is yet another loss for Job, as now he has lost his possessions, his children and his wife.  Her presence will remain, but not as a helpmeet, but as a bitter and angry critic.

God is now all that Job has left, and Job shows that he fully depends upon God for either his restoration or his own demise.  Despite the outcome, Job continues to honor God, refusing to curse Him or bring Him to shame.

Job 2:11-13.  Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him. 12And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven. 13So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great. 

We are then introduced to three men who may be understood to be Job’s closest friends.  It is these who came to Job in his time of need.  It is evident that their initial intent was honorable, as each left his own home and his place of responsibility to come to Job and comfort him.  It may be interesting to note that they sat on the ground with Job, sharing in his mourning, and meeting Job at his point of need.  They remained silent for the first week that they stayed with Job.  It is possible that Job spoke to them, unloading much of the grief as they shared it with him.  However, in the verses to follow, when the friends finally speak, their words serve to separate them too from Job.

 

The experience of Job, even in these first two chapters that form the prologue of the book, illustrates how one of faith responds to disaster and grief.  Tragic events do not need to destroy us, nor do they need to destroy the relationships we have with one another or with the LORD.  Oftentimes, rather than respond to the situation in faith, we react to the situation without seeking God.  We can learn from Job to respond rather than to react.  We may also learn from Job that our own faith may be more like the mustard seed, one that can be easily shaken by life's experiences.  Paul describes faith like a shield that absorbs and deflects the fiery darts of the devil.[10]  A larger shield protects us better than a small one.  Job's faith was mature enough that his shield of faith had few openings for satan's deadly darts to breach.  However, in the remainder of the book we do find that Job is more like us than we might expect as he deals with the issues of his grief and loss and tries to bring some reason into the circumstances. We will find from Job's experience that we can lean on God in the tough times and He will be there to hold us up.  Let us never throw away our faith and trust in God when difficult times come, for it is through those difficult times that God brings us closer to him and He strengthens our faith.[11]


[1] Smick, Elmer B. (1988). Job.  The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol 4.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.  pp. 843 - 870.

[2] Job 28:28, Psalm 111.10, Prov. 1:7, 9:10, 15:33, Isaiah 11:2, 33:6.

[3] 1. Thess 5:22.

[4] e.g. Ruth 4:15.

[5] A stack of 1,000 American dollar bills would stand 4.3 inches tall.  A stack of one billion American dollar bills would stand 68.9 miles high.  (An American dollar bill is 0.0043 inches thick.)

[6]  Eph. 6:14.

[7] 1 Peter 5:8.

[8] An ancient near-Eastern cultural expression of mourning.

[9] Matt. 17:20.

[10] Eph. 6:14.

[11] James 1.