Job has lost everything. He is devastated and grief-stricken beyond words. He has gone from being the greatest man of the east to living on the town dunghill, scratching his skin with pieces of pottery to ease his itchy pain. But despite all of this, nothing can separate him from the love of God, certainly not the scheming of Satan. Despite every appearance to the contrary, Job is more than a conqueror. And so are we, if our trust is in Jesus Christ. For nothing can separate from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Not sickness. Not loss. Not death. God has not promised that we will not suffer. But be has promised that he will turn all evil to good. And this is what we learn from the sufferings of Job, who points us to the suffering and dying of our Savior, that one whose suffering redeems us from our sin, that Savior who knows what human suffering is like, and who promises to restore us and vindicate us in the end.
Everyone reading this essay has suffered loss. We have all lost something we prize. Some of us have suffered greatly and must live in constant pain, either physical or emotional, and sometimes both. Yet, no one reading this has lost as much as Job. Like a series of Tsunamis, the bad news of Satan’s handiwork begins to come, wave after wave after wave.
As we continue our look at Job, the suffering prophet, we come to verse 13 of chapter one, where we read “one day [probably that day when Job offered burnt offerings] when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, `The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” The Sabeans are Arab Bedouins, who not only took all of Job’s livestock, they killed all of the servants. But this is only the beginning.
According to verse 16, the earth itself seemed to turn against Job. “While he [the first messenger] was still speaking, another messenger came and said, `The fire of God [probably a reference to a lightening storm] fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” A devastating blow. Yet another wave of bad news was still to hit. “While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, `The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!’”
But Job’s loss is still not over. Another, even more painful blow was soon to fall. “While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, `Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
In but the span of a few moments, Job learns that all his wealth has been destroyed and stolen. The joy of his life–his seven sons and three daughters–had been taken from him. Only the messengers have been spared so as to bring Job the news that the accumulated fruit of a lifetime of work is now gone. Marauding enemies and the forces of nature appeared to conspire to bring Job to his knees.
The way in which this horrible loss occurred not only conceals the hand of God, but also the hand of Satan. Remember, Job does not know of the heavenly scene, nor the divine permission given to Satan to afflict him. If Job were an atheist, he would have had an explanation for what has just happened. The world is a cruel place, red in tooth and claw. If Job were a polytheist, a dualist, a materialist, or a fatalist, he would have had a ready explanation for his loss–human weakness, the forces of nature, or the eternal struggle between good (spirit) and evil (things material).
But Job believes in the living God, who is sovereign over the forces of nature as well as the enemies to the east. Job knows that his God is supremely good. Therefore, Job knows that these things have befallen him only because the good and almighty God has either brought these things to pass, or else has permitted these things to occur. And this brings us to the mystery of the suffering of the righteous.
Job Praises God Despite All that Has Happened
The knowledge that God is both good and sovereign serves as the basis for Job’s reaction to this horrible news, as recounted in verses 20-21. “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head,” a common gesture of grief. Overcome with shock at the realization of his loss, Job “fell to the ground in worship and said: `Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.’” Even as the reader’s heart aches for Job, this grief-stricken man still utters words of faith. As one writer puts it, Job knows “that a man may stand before God stripped of everything, and still lack nothing.” Surely, the sentiment expressed in Psalm 73:25 comes to Job’s mind, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” And yet Job’s faith does not relieve his suffering, it only makes it worse.
The God whom Job loves has brought this to pass. Job has done nothing to deserve what has happened. And still, Job praises God. As we read in verse 22, “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” Job knows there is a reason for this situation, even if he must wait to discover it. From his now-broken heart, Job pours forth a doxology of praise at news of the loss of everything.
Yet, Job’s ordeal is far from over. Things are only going to get worse as yet another heavenly scene is revealed.
The Second Heavenly Scene
Satan is once again summoned before the heavenly court but this time is strangely silent about the results of Job’s first ordeal. It is the Lord who calls Satan’s attention to what has happened to Job. As we read in 2:1-3, “On another day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. And the LORD said to Satan, `Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the LORD, `From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.’ Then the LORD said to Satan, `Have you considered my servant Job?