Read Job 1:1-22.
We look today especially at those last two verses of Job 1. “And (Job) 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” (1:21, 22).
The book of Job addresses a vexing question: Why do afflictions after afflictions fall upon the righteous? Why is it that God’s children must suffer so intensely in the midst of this world?
We must see a fundamental principle in the book of Job. This book teaches us that the suffering of the righteous is not a manifestation of God’s wrath and anger but of His love. God is sovereign over everything, including the trials and temptations which we experience. And in the midst of these trials we experience the joy of living in a covenant relationship to God-a God who preserves and keeps His children in the midst of all of the temptations and trials of this life. The Christian does not suppose, therefore, that all things will go smoothly after he has been converted. But he knows that the suffering which he experiences and faces is necessary. It is not an expression of God’s wrath, but an expression of God’s love and a means to purify him and prepare him for heaven.
Afflictions, therefore, have a purpose. Afflictions are for our profit. Job shows humble devotion to God as he acknowledges by faith that his afflictions are for his own profit, as he rejoices in his adversities.
He first of all acknowledges here a great blessing that God had given him. God had blessed Job physically with much. According to this first chapter, there was not a man found throughout the entire eastern country who was more prosperous than Job. If we for a moment focus on that prosperity (vv. 3ff.), we see that God had blessed Job with 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 she-asses, and a very, very great household. Job had many servants to take care of all of his possessions. He lived in a house, a fixed dwelling. His wealth is thought by commentators to be 10-20 times greater than that of the princes of his day. He was one who had indeed been richly blessed by God with much material abundance.
Even more than that, God had blessed Job with a wife and with 10 children (7 sons and 3 daughters). Job was blessed with family peace and happiness. His children all got together on a daily basis to have meals. There was no strife. Spiritually they were one, in one faith. Few of us, perhaps, know the joy which Job experienced in his unity and harmony with his children.
But those blessings were not only physical. They were also spiritual. In all of his prosperity, Job had not forgotten God. He was one who had a heart disposed toward God. We have no record of how Job came to know God. But obviously God had made Himself known to Job as a covenant God of his family.
Job lived in the region of Arabia, near Chaldea, not very far from Ur of the Chaldees, from which Abraham was called. But Arabia was a place of darkness and wickedness. In the midst of this darkness and wickedness we have Job, a perfect, upright man who hated evil. He was not sinless, but in every aspect of his living he was completely subservient to God, striving to walk and to live before God’s face in holiness. And he was one who feared God, experiencing the beginning of wisdom.
Job’s piety was noted not only by God and by man, but also by the devil. The devil saw Job and he saw that Job was richly blessed and that his spiritual piety was evident in his activities. He was an example of piety to his children, according to verses 4, 5. He cleansed himself and his family every week through sacrifices. And Job, through that activity, showed that he was concerned not merely about external obedience, but about obedience from the heart, that his children see and learn that blood had to be shed for their sin. He brought his children to Christ. He was known for his hospitality and kindness, as is evident throughout the book of Job. He was recognized for the wise advice and biblical counsel which he was able to provide. He was known for his assisting the helpless and the weak, the widows. He did not squander his possessions, but he gave generously to those who were less blessed than he.
And Job lived his whole life in the constant acknowledgment of God’s blessing. He did not attribute his success or blessings to himself. As he looked over his fields and herds, he bowed in thanksgiving to God. As he looked at his children maturing and growing in the Lord, he bowed in thanksgiving to God, offering up sacrifices of thanksgiving. Job demonstrated the amazing grace of God.
The power by which Job stood was not his own. It was the power of God working in his heart and life preserving him. Only God’s grace can keep a rich man from trusting in his possessions and in himself. And God, by His grace, enabled Job to stand firm through prosperity. God strengthened Job as a testimony and example to all throughout the known world. But especially, also, to the devil. The devil saw Job. He saw that Job was a man who walked before God. And the devil came to God with a desire to tempt Job severely.
Looking, however, at God’s purpose, we see that God was the One who determined to test Job. God would give the devil the authority, the ability, and permission to test Job so as to perform God’s will. The devil was trying always to tempt God’s people-even in heaven in the old dispensation. And the devil, as he wanders through heaven and earth, comes now to God with a request to tempt Job.
After the ascension and exaltation of Jesus Christ, the devil was cast out of heaven. Still today the devil continues to tempt, but he lacks the ability and power which he showed in Job’s day. Though the devil increasingly demonstrates his fury and unleashes his power, God has demonstrated that all power and dominion has been given to Jesus Christ, who has conquered all principalities, all powers, including the devil himself. God uses the devil to accomplish His own good purpose.
The devil argued before God that Job was pious and faithful merely because of all of his wealth. If one would have that much blessedness, why would he not serve God, is the argument of the devil. Thus Satan tries to minimize the importance of God’s grace and, instead, explains faith merely in terms of selfishness. One is a Christian only because of what he gets out of it-something also that we often hear in our day. “If one becomes a Christian, all of his problems will be gone. He will be able to be healed from all infirmities. He will be prosperous.” But all of that is a false faith. The shallow and unbiblical faith of such people is exposed when they experience temptations and struggles and when they so often, then, return to their previous evil ways.
The devil apparently thought this would also work with Job – if Job experienced trials and afflictions he too would reveal that he had not that true faith that loved God. So Satan, with all the power entrusted him by God, destroys everything that Job owns. Repeated blows fall upon Job. First his oxen, his asses, and his herdsmen are taken by the Sabeans. Then his sheep and shepherds are destroyed by fire. Next his camels and servants are taken by the Chaldeans. Finally, his children are killed by a powerful wind. Satan took all these things, through various means, using the powers of creation, using the fire of God, using the powerful men and women who lived around Job, so that in a matter of a few hours everything that Job owned was gone. Imagine that! In a matter of a few moments everything is gone! Job was completely helpless. Nothing he could do could reverse this destruction. One blow after another falls upon him. He is in a situation where the only thing he has left is himself and his wife.
St. Augustine has stated, “When we read what great trials Job endured it makes one shudder, it makes one quake, it makes one shrink.” But in the face of these intense temptations and struggles Job remains faithful. “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither.” Job had brought none of this wealth into this world with him. He was born with nothing physically and spiritually. He confesses that all he had was from God in the first place. Death itself would strip him of all of his physical enjoyments. Nothing could be taken out of this world with him besides his spiritual relationship to God. Job, therefore, acknowledges that he will return to the dust, to the earth, not literally to his mother’s womb, but in the sense of returning to the dust from whence he came. Ecclesiastes 12:7 also speaks of the nakedness with which we return thither. Nothing can we take with us out of this world.
But what is the significance of Job’s suffering? Why is it that God causes the righteous to endure such strenuous struggles?
The suffering of Job is an example of the conflict between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. The book of Job reveals that a fierce battle rages, a battle which continues even to our day. It is a battle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, as is expressed inGenesis 3:15 where God, after the Fall, put enmity between the two. There we read: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
The battle is intense. The devil attempts to defeat the seed of the woman, the saints, even when God declares that it is not possible. The devil is confident that he can bring enough severe temptations and suffering to overcome.
But the seed of the serpent will not be successful. God made that clear from the beginning. The seed of the serpent will be crushed. The seed of the woman is the one who will be victorious.
The book of Job is an evidence of that victory of the seed of the woman. The true wonder of Job is the wonder of the cross. Job had to bear his cross. That cross was an unusually heavy one. Job is peculiar not because he bore more than any other of God’s saints, for many of God’s saints in the past have borne more strenuous burdens than did Job. But Job is peculiar because he is the first of God’s saints recorded who had to suffer so intensely. And he is peculiar because it is through his suffering that we see God’s purpose with respect to our afflictions.
God places heavy crosses upon us to test our faith. The book of Job points us to the only way a man can bear his cross. It is through the cross of Jesus Christ. The book of Job directs us to the wonder of grace. In the battle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, grace will prevail. The power of the cross will prevail. The devil will be overcome. Not first of all by Job, but by the Messiah, the One whom God would send who would not only endure temptation, but overcome and overthrow the powers of the devil.
To that Job pointed as he stood firm and steadfast in the midst of temptation. So much so that he was able to express his godly contentment: “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Upon hearing of the death of his children he is overcome with grief. But he conducts himself as a man of faith, wise and good under his affliction, demonstrating his close walk with God, and his fear of and love to God. We rejoice to see Job in this frame of mind, noting that in this way he demonstrates already the fact that God’s grace has the power over the devil. The devil had said that under his affliction Job would curse God. But, in reality, in the midst of his affliction Job acknowledges the hand of God, both in the mercies he formerly enjoyed and in the afflictions he now experiences. God gave, God took away.
And Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.
Later, in his weakness, Job would question God. But at this point he stands up admirably under this grievous affliction-only by the grace of God. God’s grace kept Job and showed that the devil was a liar, that the devil did not know that of which he spoke. This demonstrates that by the power of God’s grace God preserves His children. For this victory of Job points us to a far greater victory – the victory of Jesus over the devil. For the devil would confront the Messiah. The devil would come against Jesus with the power of temptation, in an attempt to bring down the Messiah Himself. But the Messiah, Jesus Christ, though He lost everything, would overcome the devil, even through His death. And the seed of the serpent, though desperate, though afflicting God’s children sorely, would not succeed. For the power of grace is far stronger. The victory of the cross cannot be laid aside.
And, beloved, that is our confidence for the future. Let us stand beneath the burden of our sorrows, confident that the devil, though he tries so fiercely, will not, cannot succeed. For God’s grace is with His own. And God will preserve His children to the very end, using also the afflictions and temptations for their own good.
Let us pray.
Our Father in heaven, preserve and keep us by Thy grace. Cause us to see Thy hand as Thou dost guide and direct all things in our lives, leading and directing us to the end which thou hast determined. Humble us, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.