Job Lesson 1
Objective Statement: Believers can deepen their faith in adversity by learning from three steps of the testing of Job’s faith.
FIRST THOUGHTS: Most of us hold to an idea that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. But how do we explain bad things happening to good people? Adversity can blindside us and leave us reeling in shock and dismay. We struggle to look for answers, yet answers are not always found, just more questions. Job experienced unexpected tragedies in his life and demonstrated the depth of his faith as he faced them.
What is the most difficult challenge you have faced? What did you learn about what you trusted during that challenge?
UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT of Job 1:1–2:10: The first few chapters of Job serve as a prologue, introducing us to some of the main characters and setting up the storyline of the book. We are introduced to Job in 1:1-5. He lived in Uz, which was outside of Israel. He was a man of complete integrity, he feared God, and he turned away from evil (1:1). Much could be said of the first verse alone. In many ways, this first verse puts forth an excellent epitaph for the headstone of a faithful follower of God. The text also notes that Job was a faithful leader of his family (1:2-5). Job’s fear of God led him to advocate for his children’s forgiveness of potential sin, concerned that they may have cursed God in their week-long parties (1:5).
In verses 1:6–2:10, with the introduction of Satan, the accuser, sets the plot of the book in motion. The setting is heaven. While the “sons of God” (angelic associates) gather around their King, the dialogue with the accuser takes center stage. The term accuser refers to one who acts like a prosecuting attorney (Ps. 109:6; Zech. 3:1-2) or a political foe who attempts to overthrow the king (2 Sam. 19:22).
In the Old and New Testaments, the words used in reference to Satan carry the ideas of “slanderer, accuser, adversary, or opponent.” The adversary slanders and accuses believers (Rev. 12:10). Satan lures and tempts people to sinful actions (1 Thess. 3:5; Matt. 4:3). In Scripture, we also see that he inflicts physical suffering (Job 2:1-10; 2 Cor. 12:7) and schemes evil (2 Cor. 2:11; 2 Tim. 2:26). All of these descriptions are congruent with the happenings in the Book of Job.
During this conversation between God and the accuser, we are introduced to the two-stage test of Job’s integrity through suffering. Job’s wife asked a question in 2:9 that frames the tension of the first few chapters. Would Job maintain his integrity throughout this ordeal? Job 1:8 and 2:3 make it undoubtedly clear that Job was an innocent man. Would he accept only good from God and not adversity? (See 1:10.) The accuser believed that if God removed Job’s blessings, then Job would curse God (1:11; 2:5). In the end, we will see that Job did not curse God but in fact blessed God’s name (1:21-22).
Explore THE TEXT: Believers can deepen their faith in adversity by learning from three steps of the testing of Job’s faith. Notice that he first step in Job’s testing was completely unkown to Job:
1. PERMISSION GRANTED Job 1:8-12
Verses 8-11 And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? 9 Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? 10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. 11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
When God learned the accuser had been roaming the earth, He asked if he had come across His servant Job. The description of Job as God’s servant is important for the plot of this narrative. We know from verse 1 that Job was innocent and had integrity. The title “servant” indicates that God Himself acknowledged Job’s humble service. As readers, we are not in a place to question Job’s godliness. In fact, God said in v8 “that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil.” This three-part epitaph of Job’s virtuousness is grounded in the fact that Job feared God, which is paramount in wisdom literature as true wisdom.
The accuser was quick to land an adversarial question, namely: Why did Job fear God? Satan did not question Job’s ethical character; he questioned the motivation behind his ethical character. Did Job obey God as a means to prosperity? In other words, was Job more interested in the gifts or the Giver of those good gifts? As the beginning of chapter 1 made clear, Job was wealthy and enjoyed a large family that surrounded him in love. With all of these blessings, was Job protected from the harsh realities of the world? If these blessings were removed, would Job’s character crumble? The accusation was not without grounds. As the text makes clear, God had blessed the work of Job’s hands. Even more, everything Job touched multiplied with rapid increase.
Scripture does motivate godly behavior with rewards for the faithful. At the same time, isn’t godly behavior instructed regardless of the situation in which people might find themselves? In most cases in Scripture, faithful men and women did not enjoy the benefits of material wealth like Job. Nonetheless, they were faithful.
The test proposed by the accuser in v11 was cunning and would reveal the sort of man Job was. It is important at this point to address the nature of Job’s innocence before God. We are only in the first chapter of this complicated book but already deep into the complexities of Job. The story of Job does not negate the words of Paul in Romans 3:10 (“There is none righteous, no, not one”) or render the saving work of Christ unnecessary. Paul was clear that no one is righteous, not one. Therefore, the innocence of Job does not mean that he lived a life of absolute perfection. In fact, Job admitted his shortcomings in the dialogues to come. A key to sorting out the question of Job’s innocence is found early in the first chapter, namely, in the accuser’s question: Doth Job fear God for nought?
Job passed the test of innocence because of his response in the face of loss of his wealth and health. His response revealed no flawed motive for his love of God. Job was innocent in the sense that he did not deserve the tragedies that had befallen him. Job is not portrayed as sinless but as one who demonstrated his innocent motives in response to the tragedies.
We know there is only one truly innocent and righteous Person to ever walk the earth. In many ways, the temptation of Jesus (Luke 4:4-13) serves as a reverse picture of what happened here in Job. The accuser tested Job by taking away all of Job’s blessings; Jesus was tested by being offered all the earthly blessings. Job was faced with involuntary suffering to test his innocence. Jesus voluntarily faced suffering so that all could be declared righteous through Him. The court case that we first hear about in Job 1–2 ended with Jesus. Satan was defeated in both encounters.
For the accuser, Job was presumed to love God as a means to an end, the end being material prosperity. It’s almost as if the accuser painted God as some sort of cosmic vending machine, if one inserted tokens of obedience, then he or she could expect a reward. Thus, the accuser was willing to bet that when all of Job’s material blessings were taken away, Job would curse God. However, there are no bets with God. God has no equal and does not wager.
Verse 12 And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.
It is rather surprising that Satan was allowed into the presence of God. He came as the adversary of the righteous man of God. In this case, God allowed Satan to follow through with his proposal but with one condition. In verse 12, the accuser was granted permission to attack all of Job’s possessions but upon himself put not forth thine hand. Thus, Satan set out to destroy those close to Job and the possessions Job held close. Again, one must remember that the accuser is powerful but not equal to God. The full reasons for God’s permission to carry out this test are hidden in His mysterious providential will. Isaiah 55:9 reminds us: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
We know from the entirety of Scripture that God is intrinsically good. One might read this passage and question the goodness of God based on how these events played out. Regardless of the changing circumstances, God’s goodness does not change. Even when the evil one seeks opportunities to attack God’s faithful followers, we can hold fast knowing that God is good and faithful to us. The process of sanctification is a journey. At this point in the narrative, we have just set out on our journey with God’s suffering servant. What God will providentially work in Job is yet to be seen.
Thought: Many health, wealth and prosperity teachers equate earthly blessings with heavenly favor. How does this passage counter that claim?
Believers can deepen their faith in adversity by learning from three steps of the testing of Job’s faith. Step 1 – Permission Granted – God permitted Satan to interfere in Job’s life. Step 2 is:
2. ATTACK EXECUTED
Verses 13-19 And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house: 14 And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them: 15 And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. 16 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. 17 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. 18 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house: 19 And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
At this point the accuser has left God’s presence with permission to execute the test on Job. On a day his children were celebrating in their oldest brother’s house, Job began to receive the reports of tragedy. All of these things happened in one day.
Job 1:4-5 indicates that Job’s seven sons took turns having banquets in their homes, and their three sisters would come to join them in the festivities. In ancient Near Eastern culture it would have been understood the oldest son would have begun the seven-banquet cycle. The cycle would have proceeded to the next oldest and so on to the youngest, who would have entertained everyone in the final seventh banquet of the cycle.
V5 indicates that after the seventh banquet and before the next round of banquets commenced at the oldest son’s home, Job sent for his children to purify them and to offer burnt offerings on their behalf.
There is no hint that what his children were doing was sinful, but like any godly parent, Job was concerned for the spiritual well-being of his children. As the priest of his family, Job wanted to make sure all was well for his children in relationship to God. By regularly rising early in the morning to offer burnt sacrifices for his children, Job demonstrated he understood the necessity and power of an atoning sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin. He did not want his children to fall into the sin that Satan hoped Job himself would commit. It was immediately after Job demonstrated his devotion and faith in God by offering sacrifices that this succession of catastrophes occurred.
The first (1:14-15) and third (1:17) tragedies were executed by the hands of men, the second (1:16) and forth (1:18-19) tragedies were caused by natural disasters. We also know that Satan was the one at work behind the scenes. It is important for our understanding of the dialogue to come that in the worldview of Job’s day such events were interpreted not as random tragedies but as signs of divine wrath.
Note the repetition that while each messenger was yet speaking, there came another.Each successive wave of tragic news came swiftly. The rapid sequence of hearing these things must have been overwhelmingly devastating to Job.
The size of Job’s herds was enormous compared to what was common in the ancient Near East. (See 1:3.) Without warning, his oxen, asses, sheep, and camels were all taken away. Job’s household had also fallen, for all of his servants were killed by sword or by fire.
As if all that was not enough, a great wind swept through the desert and collapsed the house on his children who were celebrating with one another. Can you imagine the trauma of this moment? It is one thing to lose earthly possessions. Wealth can always be reacquired. But Job’s sons and daughters? Even the thought of such tragedy is enough to bring someone psychological anguish. The reality of such things is enough to bring someone to absolute despair. Remember that the challenge Satan proposed was that none of God’s people love Him more than they love themselves. Their love for God was self-centered.
This is one of the central issues of Job: the integrity of faith in spite of suffering. Within minutes, Job was hit from all sides with the most devastating news, and each announcement was worse than the one before, until the news reached a devastating climax. These four tragedies appeared to Job that all the forces of heaven and earth had turned hostile toward him. The readers have the sense of a man whose world was demolished.
It is important again to note that Job was not aware of the exchange between God and Satan and had no explanation for his losses. Believers are not immune from experiencing calamity and loss. Suffering is no respecter of persons.
Can you imagine what might have gone through Job’s thoughts in these moments of tragedy? What are several characteristic responses we might have when tragedy strikes?
Believers can deepen their faith in adversity by learning from three steps of the testing of Job’s faith. Step 1 – Permission Granted – God permitted Satan to interfere in Job’s life. Step 2 is the Attack Executed – Satan is turned loose on Job and his family. The final step is:
3. TRUST MAINTAINED (Job 1:20-22)
Verses 20-22 Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, 21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. 22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.
In verses 13-19 Job was brought to his knees in despair as the successive wave of tragic news crashed against him unrelentingly. His children were gone. The earthly wealth he had accumulated had vanished. All he had left at this point was his own health and his wife. As readers, we can imagine the possible reactions one might have to such tragedy. Would he blame God? Would he blame his children, potentially thinking they had done something to warrant such judgment? Would he seek retaliation on the Sabeans and the Chaldeans? Would he spend the rest of his life blaming himself? Against all of these possible responses, we wait to hear from Job. When he opened his mouth, it was somewhat shocking in comparison to what we might naturally think would come forth.
In v20 Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head. Tearing one’s clothes and shaving one’s head was a sign of grief, mourning, and self-humiliation. (See Gen. 37:34; Deut. 21:12; Jer. 36:24; 2 Kings 2:12.) However, when Job spoke he did not lament. Instead, he accepted his circumstances and acknowledged that God had allowed all. In fact, he worshipped the Lord who had taken all these things from him. It was much like the Teacher in Ecclesiastes who proclaimed, “As he came forth of his mother’s womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand” (Eccl. 5:15).
The statement in v21 is a simple and powerful reflection on the transient nature of the blessings of this life. Everything we have is a gift from the hand of God. All of us, including Job, come into this world with nothing and leave with nothing. What God gives and what God takes away is up to His sovereign will. Job understood this, and as harsh as it may seem, had a proper perspective on life.
One of the things this text teaches us is that believers can worship God even in the midst of life’s challenges, knowing He is sovereign. Job did not do as the accuser had predicted (v11). He did not curse God, in fact, he blessed His name!
The most striking reality of this account is that Job demonstrated his devotion to God. He did not love God as a means to an end. He did not elevate the gifts above the Giver. He did not sin or blame God for anything. In circumstances like these, it might be tempting to raise our fists at God and rail against His sovereign work. But Job worshiped and did not ascribe any wrongdoing to God. The text reminds us: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. What we learn from this text is that believers show the depth of their faith in adversity.
Most believers do not experience the level of suffering Job did. In this sense, Job is not like every person. However, we can learn from Job’s response to suffering. If we love God only for what He gives us and not for Himself, then we are serving ourselves, not Him. Regardless of what we as believers might suffer, we are always in the hands of a loving God. The Giver of our earthly gifts is much greater than the gifts. The Book of Job teaches us that even our experiences of suffering are temporary. Sometimes, in His wise providence, God allows us to face suffering to strengthen our trust in Him.
More importantly, this narrative points us forward to Jesus. We can see how Job’s deep piety in suffering prefigures that greater Man, Jesus, who innocently suffered the wrath of God in order to refute the accusations of the accuser. Jesus, the truly innocent and righteous Servant of God suffered so that we would not have to face the greater tragedy of being vanquished from God’s presence for all of eternity. Jesus took on the curse of death for our sin, so that we, like Job, could rise and bless His name.
CONCLUSION: What does Job’s response to tragedy teach us? What are a few biblical truths that serve as the foundations for Job’s response?
Believers can deepen their faith in adversity by learning from three steps of the testing of Job’s faith:
Step 1 Permission was Granted – God permitted Satan to interfere in Job’s life.
Step 2 The Attack was Executed – Satan is turned loose on Job and his family.
Step 3 Job’s Faith Maintained. To reiterate, Job worshiped and did not ascribe any wrongdoing to God. “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” What we learn from this text is that believers show the depth of their faith in adversity.
Consider the faithful men and women of the Bible who suffered unimaginable circumstances. How do these examples help you properly frame your expectations of the Christian life?
How does their faith teach you and shape your response to suffering?