We’re beginning a new series of sermons today on the book of Job. The book of Job is, as most people know, a book about suffering. In the two opening chapters Job goes from being a man who had everything to becoming a man who had nothing. He loses all his possessions; he loses all his children; and he loses his health. He loses everything. And yet, despite suffering the loss of everything, Job will not curse God. He will not turn away from God. Instead, he continues to serve the Lord. And so, he sets an example to believers in every age for when we suffer. When we suffer in this world, we must not curse God or turn away from him. We must remain faithful.
Job points to Christ
However, Job’s experience is extra-ordinary. It’s extra-ordinary. He was extra-ordinarily rich at the beginning. And his loss was extra-ordinary, because he lost all his possessions and all his family and his health in one extra-ordinary day. So, he started off in the heights and plunged down to the depths. Most of us will never experience what he experienced. None of us will ever be extra-ordinarily rich, as Job was at the beginning. And none of us will suffer as severely as Job suffered.
Ordinarily we receive good from the Lord; and every day the Lord fills our lives with good things to enjoy. We may not be rich, but we normally have enough. And while our life in this fallen world is a life of sorrow and suffering, and troubles and trials, few of us will suffer as Job did. And so, his experience was extra-ordinary. It was remarkable.
And the extra-ordinary nature of Job’s life points us to Christ our Saviour. In fact, we can see a clear parallel between what happened to Job and what happened to our Saviour. In the beginning of Job, Job was highly exalted, because he was extra-ordinarily wealthy. We’re told he was the greatest man among all the people of the East. However, then he descended into the depths because of his suffering, when he lost everything, including his health. So, this righteous man went from the heights to the depths. But at the end of the book, Job is lifted up from the depths and he ends up being highly exalted once again. At the end of the book, we read that the Lord blessed the latter part of his life more than the first. He had double the number of animals. He had more children. And he went on to live a long and full life.
Think now of our Saviour, who, from all eternity, was highly exalted, because he was enthroned in heaven as the Eternal Son of God; and angels worshipped and served him. But then, he left the glory of heaven and came down to earth as one of us. And his life on earth was a life of sorrow and suffering. And he was arrested and tried and crucified and died and was buried. He descended to the grave. And so, like Job, the Lord Jesus, who was a righteous man, went from the heights to the depths. But then, after his sufferings, his Father brought him back to life and raised him from the grave and exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every other name so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth.
Do you see? What happened to righteous Job points forward to what happened to our righteous Saviour. So, the book of Job is not only about the suffering of Job, but it’s also about the suffering of our Saviour and his exaltation afterwards. And the Saviour — who suffered so much for his people — promises us fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore in the new and better world to come. And while we go on living in this world, and while we suffer, he promises to uphold us and to help us and to work all things together for our good.
So, the book of Job is a book about suffering: Job’s suffering, and Christ’s suffering. However, the book of Job is not only about suffering. It’s also about the great spiritual conflict between the Lord God Almighty and Satan.
I’ve spoken about this on a number of occasions. Back in the Garden of Eden, after the serpent tempted Adam and Eve to disobey the Lord, the Lord announced that there would always be enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. So, there are two seeds in the world. And these two seeds represent two lines, or two families which appear in different forms again and again in the Bible. And they always oppose one another and they’re always in conflict with one another. So, think of Cain and Abel and how godly Abel was killed by ungodly Cain. Or think of Moses and the Israelites who were persecuted and oppressed by the Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Or think of David and the Israelites who had to defend themselves against Goliath and the Philistines. Or, think of King Herod who wanted to kill the infant Jesus. Throughout the Bible and throughout history, we see these two seeds, these two lines, these two families, who are opposed to one another and in conflict with one another: all those who belong to the Lord; and all those who have sided with the Devil. It’s the world and the church.
And what the book of Job helps us to see is that behind the unbelieving world’s hatred for the church lies the Devil or Satan. He hates the Lord and he hates the Lord’s people. And so, Satan was prepared to do everything he could to attack Job so that Job would curse God. Satan wanted to destroy Job’s faith. He wanted to attack him with everything he could. But his attack on Job was also an attack on God and on God’s honour. Satan was saying that people like Job only worship God for what they can get out of God in this life. No one would worship God for any other reason than that. In this way, Satan attacked God’s honour.
But it turned out that Satan was wrong, because when Job lost everything in this life, Job did not sin, but he continued to worship and serve the Lord. And when we today are faithful and serve the Lord, even when we’re suffering, we demonstrate to the world and to Satan and to all his demons that God is worthy of our worship.
So, the book of Job is a book about suffering. And it’s a book about the great spiritual conflict between the Lord God Almighty and Satan. And having said that by way of introduction, let’s turn to today’s passage which can be divided into five scenes. The first scene takes place on the earth, where we’re introduced to Job. The second scene takes places in heaven, where the angels presented themselves before the Lord. The third scene happens back on earth, where we see Job’s reaction to losing his possessions and his family. The fourth scene is in heaven again, where the angels again presented themselves before the Lord. And the fifth scene is on earth again where we see Job’s reaction to losing his health.
The first scene is in verses 1 to 5 of chapter 1 where we’re introduced to Job as a man who lived in the land of Uz. Uz was not part of the Promised Land, but was somewhere to the east of it. However, no one is too sure exactly where it was. And no one is sure when Job was alive. We’re not given any dates and the writer doesn’t mention any kings to help us ascertain when Job was alive. However many of the commentators believe he lived in the time of the patriarchs. That is to say, he may have lived in the days of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.
So, we don’t really know where he lived or when he lived. However, the writer does tell us about his piety, or about his devotion to God. We’re told four things about his piety in verse 1: he was blameless and upright and he feared God and he shunned evil. The word ‘blameless’ doesn’t mean he was sinless, but the Hebrew word denotes sincerity and authenticity and being genuine. He was a man of integrity and you couldn’t point your finger at him and accuse him of doing anything scandalous. The word translated ‘upright’ means he treated other people in the right way and he was upright and straightforward in his dealings with them. He didn’t double-cross anyone.
He also feared God, which means he was devout and faithful and wanted to please God. He showed proper reverence to God. And he therefore shunned evil. So, he wanted nothing to do with whatever displeased God. He said ‘no’ to wickedness and endeavoured to walk in the ways of the Lord.
If you jump down to verse 4 for a moment, you’ll see his piety in action. His sons used to take turns holding feasts in the homes. Their sisters were also included. And so, they would get together to feast. There’s no suggestion in the text that they were doing anything wrong. However, Job was concerned for their spiritual well-being. And so, after they feasted, he would gather them all together and offer sacrifices on their behalf just in case any of his children sinned against God and cursed him in their hearts. And the writer tells us that this was Job’s regular custom. So, he himself shunned evil. And in case his children ever did evil, he offered sacrifices for their forgiveness. Job was an upright and godly man.
And he was also an extra-ordinarily wealthy man with a large family. Let’s turn back to verse 2 where we’re told he had seven sons and three daughters. Seven is the perfect number; and so he had the perfect number of sons. And he had ten children in all; and the number ten signifies fullness. So, he has a complete family. And he owned lots of animals: 7000 sheep; 3000 camels; 500 yoke or pairs of oxen; and 500 donkeys. He also had a large number of servants. In fact, he was the greatest man among all the people of the East. He was the greatest: the wealthiest and most powerful. He had it all. And that’s the end of the first scene.
The next scene is in heaven. We’re told the angels came to present themselves before the Lord. The writer depicts them as servants who were required to present themselves before their master. They’re there to report to him and to receive his instructions. And we’re told that Satan is among them. The Hebrew word for Satan means adversary. And that’s what Satan is: he’s God’s adversary and he’s our adversary. He’s God’s enemy and he’s our enemy. He’s against us. And so, it perhaps surprises us to see that Satan, the adversary, is there in heaven. But his presence in heaven reminds us that he too is under God’s authority. He may be God’s enemy, but God is over him; and Satan is subject to God and accountable to him. He may hate God, but Satan is under God’s authority. And so, when all the angels were summoned to present themselves before God, Satan was summoned too.
After Satan told the Lord that he had been roaming through the earth, and going to and fro in it, the Lord drew his attention to Job. The Lord refers to Job as his servant. And he adds that there’s no one quite like him. And he describes Job as being blameless and upright and a man who fears God and who shuns evil. God’s description of Job matches what we already read about him. God is saying: here’s a man who is devoted to me. One of the commentators (Kline) suggests that God points Job out as a creation of his redemptive grace. That is to say: the reason Job is blameless and upright and fears God and shuns evil is because God graciously and freely worked in his life to deliver Job from sin.
And this is when Satan calls into question Job’s devotion. He suggests that Job is only devoted to God because of what he can get from God in this life. He says that God has put a hedge around Job and his household and everything he owns to protect them from trouble. And God has blessed the work of Job’s hands and multiplied what he owns. So, the only reason he’s devoted to you is because you have made him wealthy. He’s worshipping you for selfish reasons only. He’s only worshipping you for what he can get from you in this life. Stretch out your hand and strike everything he has and he will surely curse you to your face.
And so, Satan issued the Lord with a challenge. And the Lord says, ‘Very well.’ Notice, of course, that Satan is still under God’s authority. He cannot do anything to Job without God’s permission. And notice as well that the Lord is not afraid to take up Satan’s challenge, because he knows that Satan is wrong about Job.
And the second scene ends with Satan leaving the presence of the Lord to attack Job.
We don’t know how much time has passed between the second scene which took place in heaven and the third scene which takes place on the earth, but in verse 13 we read about that extra-ordinary day when one servant after another came to tell Job the news that enemies came and stole his oxen and donkeys and killed his servants who were there; and that lightning struck and killed his sheep and his servants who were there; and more enemies came and stole his camels and killed the servants who were there; and when his sons and daughters were feasting together, a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house so that the house collapsed and all of them died. One disaster after another. All of his possessions and all of his family were taken from him on that one extra-ordinary day.
How would he respond? Would he curse God as Satan predicted? Well no. Satan was wrong, because we’re told in verse 20 that Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head, which was a sign of mourning in those days. And he fell to the ground to do what? To worship God. Instead of complaining about his loss, Job worshipped God. He knew that whatever he once had, he had received from the Lord. And so, praise the Lord.
And notice that he refers to God as LORD in capital letters. This is God’s covenant name. It speaks to us of God’s commitment to his people. It speaks to us of God’s steadfast love and loyalty to his people. So, although Job had lost everything, he still believed that God was on his side. Though he had lost everything else, he hadn’t lost his faith. He still trusted in his God.
And the writer concludes the scene by telling us that in all of this Job did not sin. Satan had said that Job was only devoted to God because of what he could get from God in this life. But now that he had nothing, he was still devoted to God.
We come now to the fourth scene which is back in heaven. Once again the angels presented themselves before the Lord. And Satan is also there as before. Once again the Lord asks him where he has been; and once again he replies that he’s been roaming through the earth and going to and fro in it. And once again the Lord calls his attention to his servant Job. There’s no one quite like him and he’s blameless and upright and he’s a man who fears God and who shuns evil. The Lord is repeating what he said earlier, but this time he can add that Job still maintains his integrity, despite what he had suffered.
And so, once again the Lord points to Job as a creation of God’s redemptive grace. The reason Job is blameless and upright and fears God and shuns evil and the reason he maintained his integrity despite what he had suffered is because God graciously and freely worked in his life to deliver Job from sin.
But Satan still complains. He does not believe it. He’s sceptical. ‘Skin for skin’ he says. No one is entirely sure what that expression means, but what Satan goes on to say is perfectly clear. He says that a man will give all he has in order to preserve his own life. That’s what matters most to most men. So, stretch out your hand and strike Job’s flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face. Striking his family is one thing, but striking his own body is another thing entirely.
And once again the Lord gave permission to Satan to attack Job. And once again we see God’s authority over Satan, because Satan can only do what God permits; and God does not permit Satan to take Job’s life. You may hurt him, but you may not kill him. Even though Satan is our adversary, he is still under God’s authority.
And so, Satan left the presence of God and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Some of the commentators discuss what kind of disease or condition this was, but we don’t really know. But whatever it was, it affected his whole body. And the only relief he got from the sores was when he took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it. One of the commentators makes the point that he only had broken pottery because everything he possessed was broken. And while once he sat at home, surrounded by his family, he now sat alone among the ashes.
His wife came along and asked him is he still holding on to his integrity. ‘Curse God and die’, she said. Now, we need to be sympathetic, don’t we? We need to show compassion. She too had lost her family. She too had lost all her possessions. And she now had the added sorrow of having to watch her husband suffer. Many people can put up with lots of things, but they can’t put up with seeing their loved ones in pain. And so, Job’s wife could not bear it any longer.
And Job’s reply to her is patient and kind. How many of us would have lost our temper with her and responded with an insult? ‘Don’t be so stupid’, we might say. But Job is patient and kind. He doesn’t call her stupid or foolish. He merely says that she’s talking like a foolish woman. So, he’s surprised by her. This is not like her. You’re not normally like this. This is not the way you normally speak. And then he says that not only should we accept good from God, but we must also accept trouble from him. In other words, his ways are higher than our ways. He thoughts are higher than ours. He knows better than we do what we need from him. And so, instead of cursing God, Job honoured God. He continued to trust in him and he was willing to submit himself to God’s will.
And so, in all this, Job did not sin. In the original Hebrew text, it says that he did not sin with his lips. Instead of sinning with his lips, he continued to honour God with his lips.
It’s clear from chapters 1 and 2 that Job was a believer. We know he was a believer because he’s described three times as being blameless and upright and a man who fears God and who shuns evil. These qualities are the fruit of faith. We also know he was a believer because the Lord refers to him as his servant. And we know he was a believer because he refers to God by God’s special covenant name which is LORD in capital letters and which speaks to us of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness towards his believing, covenant people.
Job was a believer. And therefore Satan was against him, just as Satan is against all of the Lord’s people. He’s that ancient serpent, who appeared in the Garden of Eden to tempt Adam and Eve. And he’s been stirring up trouble against believers ever since.
And yet, the Bible reassures us that the Lord our God is mightier than Satan. And so, in the Garden of Eden, after announcing that there would be enmity between the two seeds, the Lord went on to announce the coming of Christ who would crush Satan. And the Lord Jesus, when he was on the earth, said that even though Satan is a strong man, he — the Lord Jesus — is the even stronger man who is able to bind up Satan. And the Lord Jesus promised that no one will be able to snatch his people from his hands. And Jude ended his New Testament letter by saying that God is able to keep us from falling; and he’s able to present us before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy.
And so, when Satan went out to attack Job, Job was able to stand firm. He did not sin. He did not curse God. He did not abandon the faith, but he continued to believe and to worship God and he continued to be devoted to God. How was he able to stand firm? The text does not tell us, but everything else we read in the Bible makes clear that God’s people are only able to stand because God keeps his people from falling; and because Christ has promised that no one will snatch us from his hands; and because even though Satan is a strong man, our Saviour is even stronger; and because God is able to say to Satan that he can go thus far and no further.
Behind Job’s suffering there was a spiritual conflict between the Lord God Almighty and Satan. And though Satan was able to hurt Job, he wasn’t able to destroy his faith and his love for God, because Job belonged by faith to God and God was resolved to keep him forever.
And though you may suffer in this life, you can look to the Lord to help you. You can look to him to keep you strong; and to keep you faithful; and to help you persevere; and to rise up over every calamity and crisis and trouble and trial; and to keep you praising God, because despite what Satan may do to us, the Lord our God is still God and he has promised to keep us.
And though the worst thing should happen to you and you die, the Bible is clear that in the end, God will raise your body from the grave and you will live with him in that fullness of joy and those pleasures forevermore which he has promised to his people. And we know this is true, because our Saviour, who gave up his life to pay for our sins, was raised from the dead to live forever. And he gives eternal life and eternal rest to all who believe in him.