I. Job’s Trials and Suffering (Job 1:1–3:26)
I. Job’s Trials and Suffering (1:1–3:26)
1:1 It did not take the author long to establish what kind of man Job was. He was a man of complete integrity, who feared God and turned away from evil. Job did not compromise with evil. He was not perfect; Job himself admitted that he was a sinner (7:21; 9:20). Nevertheless, as a person of integrity, Job practiced fairness and justice in all his dealings. Integrity means being whole and undivided, lacking in hypocrisy or duplicity. In a modern context, Job wouldn’t have been someone who acts one way at church and another way in the marketplace.
The man wasn’t moral merely for the sake of being moral, however. That he “feared God” speaks volumes. It means he took God seriously and lived his life to honor him. His integrity, in fact, was rooted in his fear of God. That he “turned away from evil” means he actively fled from temptation when he encountered it and took steps to avoid it. A significant example of this is Job’s confession near the end of the book: “I have made a covenant with my eyes. How then could I look at a young woman?” (31:1; see commentary).
1:2-5 Job was blessed with ten children, a symbol of God’s blessing in the ancient world. And, his material wealth was beyond that of anyone around him—which is even more noteworthy because we already know Job did not acquire his wealth by fraud or deceit. He was the greatest man among all the people of the east (1:3).
Job was also the spiritual leader and priest of his family (1:4-5). He was clearly a godly man—which makes the rest of the story tough to fit together from a human standpoint. But, that’s the problem with the way many people approach human suffering. If you come to Job with preconceived ideas of what’s fair, or with the kind of rigid thinking that says that if A happens, then B must always follow, you’ll lose your mind trying to figure out this book. Job’s friends would bring this kind of thinking to the table, which would leave them room for only one conclusion: “Job, you must be a big-time sinner, because look at all the terrible things that have happened to you.”
1:6-7 The Lord held a heavenly conference for his angels and permitted Satan to attend the meeting. This tells us that, for now, God in his wisdom has decided not to completely ban Satan from his presence. (That will happen on a future day when he is judged and thrown into the lake fire; Rev 20:10). On this occasion, Satan had been roaming through the earth (1:7), no doubt looking for someone to “devour” (see 1 Pet 5:8).
Up to the moment of his personal sin, Satan was the “shining morning star” (Isa 14:12). Ezekiel’s description of him is even more awesome: “You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (Ezek 28:12). Satan, it seems, was God’s angel in charge. But, he got tired of worshiping God and wanted to be his own god and run his own show. Therefore, every time you try to run your own life, be your own boss, and act like your own god, you are saying in essence, “Satan, I agree with you. I, too, want to ascend to heaven and call my own shots.”
1:8-11 It was at this point that things started coming unglued for Job. He would soon suffer in history because of a discussion in eternity. Notice that God took the initiative in the matter: He brought up Job in his conversation with Satan! God praised Job’s devotion to him and, for his own reasons, goaded Satan into finding out what he already knew personally—that Job’s faith was not superficial or based only on his blessings (1:8).
Satan didn’t deny Job’s devotion, but he attacked it by asking, Does Job fear God for nothing? (1:9). In other words, Satan was the original proponent of the health-and-wealth, name-it-and-claim-it theology we hear today. He was convinced that Job was only in the righteous living game for the blessings. That he only loved God because the money was coming in, his property was extensive, and his family was intact. Take everything away, Satan said to God, and he’ll curse you to your face (1:10-11).
1:12 Very well, the Lord replied. Satan wanted to show him that Job was a spiritual fake. So, God gave the devil power over all Job owned. The challenge was on, with one restriction: Satan was not allowed to touch Job himself. This divine block tells us this wouldn’t be a battle between equals. God drew the line where Satan had to stop; he maintained authority over the evil one. In his grace, God limits our trials. Satan never has free reign. God’s goal was to purify and sanctify Job, not to take him out.
1:13-19 As a result of God’s sovereign permission and Satan’s malicious actions, Job entered the worst day of his life. He received news of four back-to-back calamities. Many people have suffered horrific loss. Few of us have undergone the comprehensive disaster Job experienced in the span of a few minutes. A combination of enemies and natural disasters took his livestock, his servants, and—worst of all—his children.
1:20-21 Job stood up, tore his robe, and shaved his head. He was grief-stricken, as anyone would be. But, it’s his next response that should get our attention: He fell to the ground and worshiped (1:20). Job knew where to turn when everything fell apart.
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. This acknowledges that we enter the world naked (with nothing), and the only reason we won’t go to the grave naked is because someone else dresses us. Nevertheless, we won’t take anything with us. Death is the great equalizer. Rich or poor, we ultimately own nothing,
Amid the loss of his children and his property, Job confessed that everything he had was from God, so God had the right to take it away. He said, The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord (1:21). It’s easy to worship God when it’s all flowing, when everything’s smooth. But, what we truly believe, whom we really love, is demonstrated when the bottom falls out.
1:22 In spite of the catastrophes, Job did not sin or blame God for anything. Believing in the sovereignty of God is to believe that whatever comes to you comes as part of his wise purposes for you. It’s being convinced that God intends our good and his glory through all (see Rom 8:28).
2:1-8 Round one went to the Lord; Job retained his integrity (2:3). But still, Satan wasn’t willing to give up. He hinted at his next tactic to undo Job: A man will give up everything he owns in exchange for his life (2:4). In other words, Satan suggested that, if pressed, Job’s priority would be saving his own skin. Afflict his flesh and bones, Satan said, and he’ll curse you, God (2:5). Very well, the Lord said and granted Satan power over Job’s body (2:6). And, Satan went and infected Job with terrible boils from head to toe (2:7).
2:9-10 At this point, Job’s helpmate became a hurt-mate. Are you still holding on to your integrity? his wife asked. Curse God and die! (2:9). Of course, this was the very thing Satan wanted. Yet, even after he lost his health and had to sit on the garbage heap scraping his sores, Job still understood something we need to grasp. He replied to his wife, Should we accept only good from God and not adversity? Job knew that the Lord was no Santa Claus whose sole purpose is to give us what we want and never to cause us discomfort. He is sovereign. And thus, once again, we’re told that Job did not sin in what he said (2:10).
As much as we might wish otherwise, trials are inevitable. It’s not a question of if a believer will suffer but when (see John 16:33; Jas 1:2). And those around us will, too. Death, disease, pain, loss, and grief don’t come with easy explanations. Yet we, like Job, must be convinced of these essential truths: God is sovereign over all things, and God is good. At times, he allows Satan to test us. But, the good news is that the devil is on a short leash; he can only bring against us what has already passed through God’s hands.
2:11-13 Regarding Job’s suffering, Job’s three friends knew only what they had heard. They hadn’t seen him yet and were unaware of the test he was undergoing or the Lord’s evaluation of Job as a man of “perfect integrity” (1:8; 2:3). They intended to sympathize with . . . and comfort him (2:11). However, when they saw him, they could barely recognize him (2:12). So, for seven days and nights, they grieved with him but spoke no word because they saw that his suffering was very intense (2:13). This is a reminder that, sometimes, the best comfort you can provide is your quiet presence and tears. Remember to “weep with those who weep” (Rom 12:15).
3:1-26 When Job finally spoke, he had plenty to say. He cursed the day he was born (3:1). This is a bitter complaint, to be sure, but it’s not the bitterness of a former believer who has jettisoned his faith. Rather, after an unknown period of intense suffering, Job’s physical, emotional, and spiritual stamina started to crack. He felt so low that he wished he had perished at birth (3:11-19). At least then, he reasoned, he would be at rest (3:13). But, as it was, he couldn’t even relax (3:26).
Job railed against his existence, and began to question God, a theme that we will see repeated in his defenses against the accusations to come. This is a reminder that being a believer doesn’t necessarily mean we will never have times of doubt. God, however, is big enough to handle our doubts and will deal with them as long as we keep the lines of communication with him open. Nevertheless, we need to guard against letting our doubts descend into denial of his sovereignty. Notice that Job didn’t say, “Look at what Satan has done to me!” He said, Why is life given to a man . . . whom God has hedged in? (3:23). Job didn’t understand why terrible things had happened to him, but he knew they had come from the hand of his sovereign God.