Today we began the book of Job. There are 42 chapters in this book, and it will take us 10 days to read it. The events of this book occurred before or around the time of the patriarchs like Abraham, but the publishers of this chronological Bible place it here because of when they believe it was written. Bible scholars disagree on this because the author is not revealed, and we simply do not know when it was written. Regardless, I do agree that it fits here because of its message.
Job’s story is written to encourage the righteous person who is suffering and to help explain why God might allow bad things to happen to people who have remained faithful to Him. As we are reading chronologically through Israel’s history, they are in a time of suffering. While many are suffering because they chose to rebel against God, I’m sure there are many who did not, and they have experienced the same tragedies of exile, captivity, loss of loved ones, famine, siege, persecution and oppression. Where is God when all this is happening, and why would He allow the righteous follower to go through such pain? Job’s story is brought to light at a time when it is most needed by God’s chosen people.
The story is set up in the first three chapters. Job is a man who, by God’s own testimony, is “blameless, upright, fears God, and shuns evil.” God has prospered him, giving him a large family (7 sons and 3 daughters), along with great material possessions of land and livestock, and respect and standing in the community. He is known as a generous, kind, righteous man. One day the angels come to present themselves before God, and in this mix of angels is one most rebellious, the one who has been thrown to earth, and the one who started all the trouble with God’s perfect creation: Satan. How comforting to know that Satan is accountable to God! While he has been given a measure of freedom to roam the earth and a limited time and place of freedom to influence and inflict his wicked ideas on the minds and hearts of humans, he is still on a short leash. He cannot do anything without God’s knowledge and permission.
You know the story. God brings up Job’s faithfulness. Satan challenges it and is given clearance to harm his possessions and his family, but not his physical body. Job responds to the loss of all he has with amazing faith, declaring, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” (1:21) Satan isn’t satisfied and goes back to God, claiming Job will surely turn away from the Lord if his health is taken away. God relents; Satan attacks and Job’s health is touched. He is struck with boils from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a boil, but I did as a teenager. They are extremely painful and are a stinking, disgusting, horrible condition. I cannot imagine Job’s distress and pain to be covered with them.
Yet…he did not sin. His response? “Shall we accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (2:10) We have 39 chapters yet to see how Job wrestled mightily with accepting this adversity, trying to understand its meaning and purpose. But a good start as we go on this journey. May we be like Job, and when suffering comes, accept it from the start as something from the hand of our good God, even though we may not understand the “why” for a very long time.