Job deals with the timeless questions of suffering and loss. Even though the story is 4000 years old, it could have been written yesterday. The book abounds with mysteries: Who wrote it? When? Where? Why? But the greatest mystery is found in the subject matter itself - the mystery of undeserved suffering. Why do bad things happen to good people? For centuries thoughtful people have pondered that question. Why do babies die? Why are innocent people held hostage by madmen? Why are the righteous passed over for promotion while the wicked cheat and lie their way to the top? The book does not answer those questions with a theory. It answers them with a story. We examine one man whose life tumbled in. Why did that happen and what did he do about it?
The Man Who Had It All
The book of Job has a direct, simple beginning. It unfolds likes film running at hyperspeed. The frames zip by one after the other as an entire life is squeezed into a handful of sentences. The first 5 verses tell us 3 things about Job.
A. He Was a Righteous Man v. 1 You could talk for hours about those 4 phrases: blameless, upright, fearing God, shunning evil. But suffice it to say that Job was as good a man as you will find in the entire Bible.
B. He Was a Rich Man v. 2, 3 It is hard to translate this sentence into today’s terms. I thought of Warren Buffet or Donald Trump or Bill Gates, but they don’t fit the image. By spelling out the details about the sheep and camels and oxen and donkeys, our text is telling us that if a list of the world’s richest people had been printed 4000 years ago, Job would have been at the top.
C. He Was a Religious Man v. 4, 5 Here is that rarest of all rare creatures: A truly wealthy man who loves God more than he loves his money. Not only that, but a father who takes responsibility for the spiritual welfare of his own family. The point is very clear: By the world’s standards, Job was successful; by God’s standards, he was righteous. Here is a man who truly had it all. He was wealthy and godly and popular. You couldn’t find a person who would say a bad word about Job. That fact is absolutely crucial to understanding his story. What happened to him happened because he was a good man! Nothing in Job makes sense unless that is true. Job is a case study in the suffering of the righteous. As hard as it is to understand, it was his righteousness and prosperity that brought on his suffering. Yet the suffering was undeserved in the truest sense of the word.
The story suddenly shifts to Job’s first test. The scene changes from earth to heaven. Job apparently never knew about this part of the story. While he was on the earth tending to his vast holdings, Satan was having a conversation with God: v. 6, 7.
If you ask the average Christian, “Where is Satan today?” most will say that Satan is in hell. But the Bible does not teach that. If Satan were in hell today, we would have no problems at all. “Satan is alive and well on planet earth.” In this age the earth is under his power and domination. Thank God, the day will come when Satan and all his hordes will be cast into the lake of fire forever. But that won’t happen until Jesus returns to the earth. Between now and then, Satan roams about on the earth like a roaring lion, seeking men and women he can devour.
The Bible teaches that there is a personal being called Satan who once was an angel of God but who rebelled and fell from heaven to earth. In that rebellion he led one-third of the angels with him. Those fallen angels became the demons. From the day of his fall until now, Satan has had but one purpose: to frustrate God’s plan by seeking to destroy men and women on the earth. After all these thousands of years, Satan is still at it. Satan was behind what happened to Job. Job never knew that and God never told him.
Satan Is Not the Issue
That brings us to the key passage. v. 8 - God brings Job’s name up. Satan was behind Job’s trials, but God was behind Satan. It’s not Satan who brings Job up. It’s God. It is as if God were saying, “All right, Satan, you’re looking for a good man. Let me tell you about Job. He’s the best man I’ve got. I don’t think you can break him down.” What an insight that is. Behind the suffering is Satan, and behind Satan is God. That is why, as you read the book, you find that Job is complaining bitterly against God. He never brings up Satan. Satan is not the issue; God is.
Even though Satan was the one who caused the calamity, he did so with God’s permission. If God had not given his permission, Satan could not have touched a hair of Job’s head.
Does Job Serve God for Nothing?
v. 9 - key question - “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan is accusing God of bribing Job into worshiping him. Job has it all: a huge, loving family, enormous wealth, a great reputation, everything in this world a man could want. No wonder he worships God. Who wouldn’t? That’s what Satan means – v. 10a -“You gave him all of that and then you protect him from anything that could harm him. He’s living on easy street; he doesn’t have a worry in the world. Of course he’s your best man. He’s also your richest man. You do take care of your own, don’t you?”
Satan is attacking Job’s motive and God’s integrity. Here is the real question of the book of Job: Will anyone serve God for no personal gain? Satan says the answer is no. Job will worship God only when things are going his way – v. 11.
Satan’s question is the supreme question of life. You served God in the sunshine; will you now serve him in the shadows? You believed him in the light of day; will you still believe him at midnight? You sang his praises when all was going well; will you still sing through your tears? You declared, “The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want.” Is he still your shepherd in the valley of the shadow of death? He was good enough for you when you had money in the bank. Is he good enough for you when you have no money at all? He was good enough for you when you had your health. Is he good enough when the doctor says, “You have 6 months to live"? He was good enough when you were married. Is he good enough when the one you love walks out on you? He was good enough when your family was all together. Is he good enough when you stand around an open grave? It’s not hard to believe in God when everything is going your way. Anyone can do that. But when life tumbles in, what then?
Four Messengers of Misfortune
Now the scene shifts from heaven to earth. Satan has received God’s permission to put Job to the test. v. 13 - In a moment of great happiness, at a family reunion, when you would least expect it, Satan strikes – v. 14 - 19. In the space of a few minutes, Job lost everything that was dear to him. His vast wealth: vanished. His empire: crumbled. His workers: murdered. His children: killed. When tragedy strikes, it often comes again and again. We think, “This must be the worst of it.” Then comes another knock at the door. Just when it seems that things can’t get any more terrible, the bottom falls out again. Tragedy is no respecter of persons. You can be on top of the world and lose it all in the twinkling of an eye. Tragedy can come to the same house again and again, and there is nothing we can do to stop it.
From Weeping to Worship
The only thing that is left is to see Job’s response.
A. There Is Genuine Sorrow v. 20a These are the actions of a man whose heart has been torn apart. They are public symbols of inner pain, much like wearing black to a funeral. Some Christians think it is wrong to grieve over a great loss. They believe that tears somehow show a lack of faith in God. Even in a great loss, they believe it is somehow holy to put up a good front and never show pain. Jesus knows what we’re going through because he was here with us. If our Lord was not ashamed of his tears, we shouldn’t be ashamed of ours.
B. There is Heartfelt Worship v. 20b Here is the ultimate response of the man of faith in the face of unexplainable tragedy. He weeps and then he worships. This is what makes the Christian different from the rest of the world. They weep; we weep. They get angry; we worship. Our sorrow is just as real as theirs, but their sorrow leads to despair, ours leads to worship.
C. There is Profound Faith v. 21 Job’s great statement of faith. He says 3 things. All babies are born naked. We say that a naked person is wearing his “birthday suit.” But it’s just as true at the end of life. We leave the way we enter. We bring nothing with us, and we take nothing with us.
“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.” This is the man of faith speaking. This statement rises above the first one. It is true that we leave it all behind. But the man of faith understands that all we have we never owned in the first place. All that we have was given to us by God. He can take what is rightfully his any time he wants. Because he is God, he doesn’t have to ask our permission before he takes it back, nor does he have to explain himself afterward.
“May the name of the Lord be praised.” Job’s faith now rises to its highest level. He has lost it all: his wealth, his workers, his children. All that he counted dear in life has been ripped from his grasp. Yet in the midst of his pain, Job praises God. Here is the great point: Job draws his argument for praise from the bitterness of suffering. His loss drives him back to the goodness of God. Every pain is a reminder of how good God has been to him.
Four Simple Conclusions
v. 22 - He didn’t ask why, he didn’t accuse God of not loving him, he didn’t claim his rights, he didn’t curse God, and he didn’t give up his faith. He said, “If God takes something away from me, I will thank him that I had it to enjoy for just a little while.”
1. Undeserved suffering often comes to righteous men and women. 3 times the text emphasizes that Job was a righteous man. What happened to him did not happen because of any moral fault or hidden sin in his life. It is a human tendency when tragedy strikes to believe that if we had only lived a better life the tragedy would never have happened. Sometimes that is true, but more often it is not. If the story of Job teaches us anything, it is that sometimes godly people sometimes suffer unexplainable losses. Terrible things sometimes happen to God’s people.
2. God is the source and owner of all you have. God is the ultimate source of all that you have, and he has the absolute right to take that which belongs to him. Your house? It is his. Your job? It is his. Your future? It is his. Your health? It is his. Your children? Yes, even your children are his. They belonged to him before they ever belonged to you. Your husband or your wife? Yes, even your husband or your wife. All that you have belongs to God. In the end, you will give it all back to him. Sometimes he will take back something sooner than you would like to give it. But that is his absolute right, for he is God.
3. Your personal trials relate to God’s purpose for your life.
Your personal trials can never be caused by blind fate or bad luck. They all somehow relate to God’s purpose for your life. If you don’t come to believe this, you will eventually give up your faith. When tragedy strikes, the tendency is to search for a cause, a reason, an explanation, a chain of events stretching back into the past that would explain the catastrophe you now face. But as you search for causes, you will go back, and back, and back, until at last you come to God. If you do not eventually conclude that what happens to you somehow flows from God’s loving purpose for your life, you will sooner or later give up your faith altogether.
4. Trials are designed to draw you nearer to God. The question is not, “Why did this happen to me?” The deeper question is, “Now that this has happened, will I remain loyal to God?” If we turn away from our faith in times of trouble, what shall we turn to? Have we not lost enough without losing that too? When life crashes in against us and all that we value most is taken from us, if we then give up our faith, where will we go and what will we do?
We do not gain if we turn away from God in the time of trouble. If we turn away from God, we lose our only ground of hope. As the apostle Paul puts it at the end of Romans 8, What can separate us from the love of God? Nothing at all. Not life, nor death, nor tragedy, nor heartbreak, nor suffering. We are forever connected to his love with cords a thousand times stronger than steel. Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. The question remains. When life tumbles in, what then? Through our tears, we rest our confidence in one great truth. He who brought us this far will take us safely home.