Today’s Reading: Job 1-10
This book starts out very much like a fairytale – Once upon a time… There was once a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless – a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil (Job 1:1). We all know the story. Job was a righteous man who had been blessed abundantly by God. He had a large family, lots of servants and lots of animals. He was, in fact, the richest person in that entire area (1:3).
We don’t really think of the timing of Job’s life as falling between Genesis and Exodus, but historians believe this to be the case. There were many years between the death of Joseph (1805 BC) and the birth of Moses (1526 BC). The story of Job falls here.
The higher you go the harder you fall. This saying would have rung true for Job. He lost it all when Satan challenged God regarding the faithfulness of Job. God allowed Satan to test Job by taking away his possessions and then by causing him physical pain through terrible boils from his head to foot. Job’s response shows the strength of his faith as he continued to praise God.
“I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave.
The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away.
Praise the name of the Lord!” – Job 1:21
When his wife nagged him, encouraging him to curse God and die, Job’s response was one that I could learn a lot from: “You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” – Job 2:10
Reading through the book of Job, it is clear that Job is having a difficult time. He feels the pain and suffers from the loss just like anyone else would. He is surrounded by “friends” who are trying to give him advice through this time of suffering but seem to only be saying the wrong things. We’ve probably all been there – either we have been the one going through a hard time and had well-meaning friends say something that makes the pain worse OR we have been the one who has sincerely tried to comfort a friend only to end up saying the last thing they wanted to hear.
Job’s friends assume that Job is being punished for something and needs to repent in order for the hard times to end. Perhaps Job’s friends are slightly enjoying the fact that Job is not perfect – that something is finally going wrong for him. Jealousy is a powerful thing, even among friends, and it is possible that the words of self-righteousness coming from Job’s friends are a result of past envy or attempts to measure up to Job.
Job’s friend, Bildad, makes a mistake commonly made today. He assumes that blessings that can be measured in earthly ways come to the righteous and the wicked can never prosper here on earth. “But if you pray to God and seek the favor of the Almighty, and if you are pure and live with integrity, he will surely rise up and restore your happy home. And though you started with little, you will end with much.” – Job 8:5-6
Oh the prosperity gospel! We’ve all heard it and probably believed it to some degree. But, the fact remains that there are some incredibly righteous, godly Christians who live and die “dirt poor” in earthly terms. And there are some very ungodly, unbelieving, downright wicked people who have everything they could possibly ask for in regard to their position and possessions. This is not easy to understand but our response to what seems unfair in life should be to simply trust God and, as Job did, look forward to our heavenly rewards instead of measuring our earthly possessions.
“But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last.
And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God!
I will see him for myself.
Yes, I will see him with my own eyes.
I am overwhelmed at the thought!” – Job 19:25-27
As with most fairy tales, although this one is nonfiction, Job’s story has a happy ending. God steps in healing Job physically and restoring him with earthly possessions even greater than what he once had. And the great news for us today is that our story has a happy ending also! No matter what our current circumstances are, no matter how much we are suffering today, Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us in heaven where there will be no more sorrow, no more pain, no more loss. In the words of Job, “Praise the name of the Lord!” In the words of David:
I give you all the credit, God—
you got me out of that mess, you didn’t let my foes gloat.
God, my God, I yelled for help and you put me together.
God, you pulled me out of the grave,
gave me another chance at life when I was down-and-out.
All you saints! Sing your hearts out to God! Thank him to his face!
He gets angry once in awhile, but across a lifetime there is only love.
The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter.
When things were going great I crowed, “I’ve got it made.
I’m God’s favorite. He made me king of the mountain.”
Then you looked the other way and I fell to pieces.
I called out to you, God; I laid my case before you:
“Can you sell me for a profit when I’m dead?
Auction me off at a cemetery yard sale?
When I’m ‘dust to dust’ my songs and stories of you won’t sell.
So listen! And be kind! Help me out of this!”
You did it: you changed wild lament into whirling dance;
You ripped off my black mourning band and decked me with wildflowers.
I’m about to burst with song; I can’t keep quiet about you.
God, my God, I can’t thank you enough. – Psalm 30, The Message