Dear Radio Friends,
Many of us have had some bitter experiences in our lives, but none as bitter as those of Job. In one day Job lost his wealth and his family—his flocks, his herds, his houses, and his ten children. Because of this, many have turned to this book of Job in their distress and have received comfort. They have read the passage that we are considering today and learned what their reaction must be to adversity and loss in their own lives.
The passage we are to consider is Job 1:20-22: “Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, and 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. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.”
In the person of Job we find, perhaps, the most concrete and down-to-earth example of quiet, brave endurance and patience. Even the New Testament Scriptures recognize this virtue in Job. James 5:11 records that patience of Job.
But today we are going to look beyond the patience of Job and the example he leaves us and consider the ways of God with us, too. Within this confession of Job is found an admission of some fundamental truths of the Bible. It is these truths that we are going to be considering today. We do so, I pray, in faith. It is a matter of faith that we can accept the fact that Job actually lived. It is a matter of faith to believe that this actually happened to Job. And it is also a matter of faith that we accept and follow what he says in this confession. By faith Job’s confession must become ours.
Job was rich. Verse 3 of this chapter tells us that he had a very great household, so that this man was the greatest of all of the men of the east. Of course, in the age and culture in which Job dwelt, wealth was not measured in terms of money and gold. It was measured in the amount of land one owned as well as in the abundance of animals that belonged to him. We are told in verse 3 of chapter 1 that his substance was seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she-asses, and a very great household. He was rich!
But besides this earthly wealth, Job also was given another blessing, the blessing of a large, covenant family. God gave to him and his wife seven sons and three daughters. And, like every godly father, Job loved his children. Every day Job rose up early in order to sacrifice and pray for these children.
This fact also reveals to us another important characteristic of Job: he was perfect and upright. No, not in himself. What is meant here is this, that Job loved God. He was a deeply spiritual man who lived close to the Lord and walked a sanctified life, fleeing evil and doing good.
Now, we know the discussion that took place in heaven between God and Satan. This story of Job is well known to those who read the Bible. Satan made the claim to God that the only reason Job loved and feared God was that God had given everything to Job on a silver platter, so to speak. I mean, what man would not claim to love God if God were to give him everything his heart desired?
Although Satan said this out of an evil motive and said it in order that he might have opportunity to tempt Job into sin, nevertheless, his point is well taken. For this is indeed true of many. It is easy to say that we love God when we have all the riches and all the conveniences and all the money and all the comforts that life can afford us. When all seems to be going well in our families, it is easy to say, “I love God.” We can go along sometimes with paying outward homage to God, going through all the motions of worship: praying, going to church, reading the Bible; and we can feel pretty good about all of this as well. In other words, all these things are not a burden to us when all is on the up-side. And Satan’s point was: Take all of this away from Job, take away his riches and his family; make Job’s life miserable in one way or another, and Job will curse God in his heart. That is to say, he will complain and he would murmur against God. He would carry a chip on his shoulder. He would view everyone else enviously. In short, he would curse God.
What would we do if all of this happened to us? Oh, the point of Satan is well taken.
And it was for this reason that God allowed Satan to send the horrible hurt upon this child of His that is recorded for us in this chapter and in the second chapter. God meant it, of course, to test His faithful son and to purify his faith. Satan meant it to tempt him.
In one and the selfsame day, four events occurred that left Job an instant pauper. First of all, the Sabeans, a ruthless band of barbarians, fell upon the fields of Job and destroyed his crops and his fields and slew his servants as well as the oxen and the asses that were laboring there. No sooner had this servant reported this catastrophe, than another one appeared and said that fire from heaven fell upon the flocks and herds of Job and slew all of them with the servants taking care of them. So now Job had lost his fields, his means of income, and all of his flocks and herds.
Not long after this, another servant appeared in Job’s presence to inform him that the Chaldeans made out three bands and ambushed the camels, that is, the caravans that carried Job’s wealth. They had fallen upon the camels and upon his servants, carried them away, and slew them. And then, right after that, the final blow came, a blow that absolutely beat Job into the ground. He heard news concerning his children. A servant arrived with the worst of all news. Job’s children had gathered together to eat, as was their custom, in the eldest brother’s house. And while they were there, a great wind, probably a tornado of sorts, came and smote the house, toppling it upon Job’s children and killing every one of them.
In one fell swoop, God took away from Job almost everything that he had. Imagine once, if you can, losing everything you possessed in one day—not slowly, over a period of time, but in one day. Imagine losing your job, your house, your bank accounts in one day and being left with next to nothing. And then, on top of this all, imagine losing that which is the most precious possession of all to believing parents: your very own children. Not one of them, which is painful enough in itself, but all of them at one time!
You know, the Bible tells us that God will never give us a burden so great that we cannot bear it. But if we were to look at any kind of a burden that would be almost impossible to bear, we would say that was true of Job. And then in the next chapter he was robbed of his health as well. He was smitten with a painful disease. Surely, if anyone had a reason to curse God and die, Job did. Neither can you and I imagine how much this hurt Job.
Now, I am not trying to sensationalize the story that the Scripture tells us here of Job. But we must realize that Job was a man like you and me. Sometimes it is hard for us fully to appreciate the hardships that another is going through. It is hard to empathize with them. There are those of us, of course, who have suffered in a smaller way and can understand a bit the extreme bitterness of heart and soul that this loss had on Job. But the news came as a great shock to him. It left him feeling utterly empty, totally helpless, numb. I mean, it twisted his emotions and left him in a daze. “Where do I go from here?”
That sorrow is revealed to us, too, in the passage that we consider today, verse 20: “Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground.”
The rending of clothes and the shaving of one’s head were both ancient customs that indicated great shame and sorrow. And when grieved, oftentimes, a person would tear his clothes and even, at times, dress in burlap—sackcloth. Likewise, when one felt totally abandoned and sorrowful, he would often shave off his beard and even the hair on top of his head. Job did both. And then, having done these, he just threw himself upon the ground and lay prostrate there. I mean, where does one go when he is hurt so badly? Is it not the easiest thing to say: “Cursed is God.” And, “I want to die!”
Job threw himself upon the ground. He expressed his sorrow and pain. And, there is no doubt about it, he felt in his heart that he had no way to escape all of this. He was not a stoic, after all. But his sorrow and grief were far from cursing God and speaking out against Him. It was far from rebellion and anger with the way in which God had led him. Neither is it a sin for a child of God to grieve when God seriously wounds him with a loss. But we ought to notice what Job did while he was grieving so badly. While he lay upon the ground, probably almost hoping that he would die, nevertheless, he still worshiped God. He paid homage unto God. He lifted up his voice and acknowledged the hand of his God in what had now taken place in his life. That is worship, after all. It is rendering unto God honor and humble submission. It is an acknowledgment of what God has done in our lives.
This is what Job did, as becomes evident from the confession that he made in the words that we are considering. This confession he was able to make because of the work of God’s grace in his heart. Remember, Job may have been perfect and upright, but this was true only because he was a child of God who was saved in the blood of that Savior who was to come. The Spirit of God worked in his heart and applied to him by faith the work of salvation. Job recognized that he was covered over in the blood of that Messiah who was to come and that, therefore, he was one of God’s children whom God loved and cherished, one whom God, in His great love and mercy, gave all things as a blessing to him. As a child of God, he had experienced the forgiveness of sins and, therefore, the friendship of God. This friendship was not tied to his earthly riches and possessions, but was his at all times. In riches, but now also in poverty, God was his God, his sovereign friend, who would not forsake him.
Job believed that God would send him only that which he needed, as one for whom God cared. With faith in his heart, he fell upon the ground and humbled himself before God Almighty and worshiped Him.
Is that grace of God evident in you? Is it evident in your own heart and life? Does God work in you the faith of Job? Would you worship God if He in His almighty control over all things were to take from you something or someone you cherish most? Could we honor Him if He were to take away from us our house, our job? Could we pay homage to Him if He were to take from us suddenly (or maybe not so suddenly) that loved one? Are we content, even if God leads us through sickness, pain, or suffering? If that is true of us, if that is true of you, it is so only because God has worked in you through the redeeming work of the cross of Jesus Christ.
But our worship of God, even in affliction, comes only when we keep before our hearts a number of fundamental truths of God’s Word. Job expressed them in this confession: “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.”
The first truth we learn in this confession concerns God Himself. Job expresses that in the second phrase of his confession: “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away.” That confession is based upon the premise that all things in this world and in our lives belong to God. They are His possessions. Job viewed, and we must also view, everything in this life, everything, as God’s—not ours, but God’s—something that He lends to us for a time, but something that really belongs to Him. If we do not, and if Job had not believed this to be true, this confession would never be found on our lips as it was on his. Especially when it is taken away from us. Everything that we have actually belongs to God. That includes our children too. The psalmist speaks of that in Psalm 127, that our children are a gift of God in very truth. And that this is true is clear from Scripture elsewhere as well. Is not God the almighty Creator and Sustainer of all things? Has not He called all things into existence? Does not God continue to uphold and preserve them by His power? And is this not true even with our children, who are fearfully and wonderfully made, just as we are? The psalmist speaks of that in Psalm 50 as well. “If I were hungry,” God says, “I would not ask you for anything. The cattle on a thousand hills are Mine.” God possesses all things. The wealth of this world is His to give and it is His to take away as He pleases.
That leads us to a second truth that is implied in Job’s confession. Job acknowledges that God has the power and the right not only to give, but to take away. God opens His hands wide and His creatures are fed ( Ps. 104). He takes away their spirit, and they die. God distributes His possessions to whom He wills, and He takes them as He wills as well. The same is true even of our very life. God gives life. He has the right and the power to take it from us. Why? He is God. How necessary that we recognize this to be true! If we do not, we could never make this kind of confession in our lives.
And that is the last premise that is contained in this confession of Job. We really do not deserve anything that we receive from God in this life. “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither.” Job acknowledges that he came into this world with nothing and he will carry nothing out of it again when he dies and returns to the dust from whence he came.
How contrary such a confession is to our flesh. Our sinful flesh is quick to boast in itself, in its strength, in its ability to achieve wealth and possessions in this life. There is a little, or even a lot of, pride that can come with what we have gained in this world. It is easy to look at our lucrative or our influential job and boast of our accomplishments. We sit back and assess our properties, our houses, our earthly comforts and what-have-you, and we are quite proud of our accomplishments. We have done quite well for ourselves, have we not? That is the way we reason as far as our flesh is concerned. We forget that we came into this world with nothing and that everything that we have received along the way from our childhood up—our health, our ability, our jobs, the money that we earn, our houses, our properties, our position, our rank in life—all of it is from the hand of God. He gives it to us. And when it is time to leave this life, and sometimes even before, God will take it all away from us again.
Everything that we are, and everything that we will be, is a gift of God. All that I am I owe to Thee.
It truly takes faith, you see, the faith of Job, to see and understand that. And it is that faith that will bring such a confession upon our lips as it did the lips of Job himself.
Was it wrong for God to take away that which He had only lent to Job? Not at all. Instead, honor and homage ought always to be rendered to God because God is the God of His people—Jehovah, the sovereign Friend and Redeemer. As that, God had given to Job the greatest gift of all—the forgiveness of sin and life everlasting. That is something we can never lose as God’s children. We can lose everything else, but we have eternal life. That is ours.
God took everything else away from Job in his life, but He never took that away, did He? That Job believed that this was true of him is evident from his confession: “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Are we one of God’s children? Then we can make this confession, too. And I have heard that confession from the lips of many a saint. I have heard it from one on a sickbed, with cancer eating away at him, and that person saying to me, “God is good.” And I heard a man sing on his deathbed. I have heard saints sing in the times of greatest sorrow and grief. God’s people say in faith: “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Satan does not have his way with that child of God who is held in the palm of God’s almighty hand. Oh, Satan is there. His temptations are real. But when put to the test, God’s people are held by God and confess His name. Even in the darkest of hours. And Satan, we realize, is only a pawn in the hands of our almighty God. Saints have been thrown into dungeons; saints have been persecuted for the sake of the gospel and have gone to their deaths smiling because they could not be robbed of that eternal possession that is theirs for the sake of Jesus Christ.
And then there is the result of it. “In all this,” we are told in verse 22, “Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” God held the heart of Job in His almighty hand. And although, when you read the rest of the book, Job did raise his complaint before God, never did Job deny God. As James says, “Happy is he that endureth.” God healed the wounds of Job. God gave him a peace of heart and soul that eventually overcame his pain and grief. Then God gave back to Job tenfold more than what He had taken away.
And in it all, Job learned the more that God upholds the faltering feet, and makes the weak securely stand; the burdened ones, bowed down with grief are held by His most gracious hand. We must testify to that with Job. In childlike trust in God, it is good that we should both wait and hope in our God. He knows our hurt. He knows our grief and sorrow. He is aware of our burdens. He will give us joy; He will give us joy here in this life. And He will give us a hundredfold more in that life that is to come.
God gives and God takes away in this life. But God will give again in heaven. And then it will never be taken away from us. Blessed be the name of the Lord!
Let us pray.
Father in heaven, we are thankful unto Thee for Thy wonderful, comforting word. May we, too, like Job, acknowledge Thy hand in all things. May we bow before Thee and may we confess, too, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Guide us in our lives with that assurance and with that comfort. For Jesus’ sake we pray, Amen.