This year, I’ve decided to make it my ambition to read through the Bible, following the Chronological Bible reading plan. I’ve spent much of this month reading through the books of Genesis and Job. The book of Job has always been one of those books in the Bible that has stumped me, as I have sought to make sense of its purpose in the scheme of the other Old Testament literature.
If you don’t know the story of Job, it’s the story of a man who is beset by misfortune and suffering. Yet James 5:11 mentions Job as a man worthy of consideration as an outstanding example of steadfast faith in the midst of suffering, as James writes, “You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”
In setting the scene for the book, it is clear that Job was truly blessed by God. And it’s God’s favor upon Job that becomes the reason for Satan’s interest in testing Job. Satan thought that Job’s obedience to God was only in direct proportion to his blessings from God. But in the end, Job passes the test and acknowledges God’s sovereignty, thereby destroying Satan’s suspicion that he only feared God because of God’s blessing. And along the way, we learn some things about how to respond to trials:
Lesson # 1 - God is in charge!
While Satan is allowed to test Job, I’m comforted with the fact that Satan’s actions are limited by God’s sovereign control. In Job, we see that each time Satan approaches God for permission to test Job, God limits the extent of Satan’s tests, even mentioning that Satan could not put his hand on Job, nor take his life. The good news here is that the devil does not “sneak up” on us, while God’s back is turned. God’s back is never turned. His eyes are always upon us. And nothing happens to us that God has not permitted or allowed. Therefore, when we are struck with personal tragedy or persecuted for obedience, we can be sure that God is large and in charge.
Lesson # 2 - Keep trusting God!
Job was in despair. His whole life had been turned upside down. He not only loses his wealth, but he also loses his loved ones in a series of tragedies. Then suddenly his health is gone too. As a result, Job is deeply frustrated because he cannot make sense out of his trials. Yet in the depths of perplexity and despair, he makes one of the most profound declarations of faith in Job 13:15, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”
One of the things Satan never understood about Job was his motive. Satan thought Job only served God because it was to his advantage here and now. And Satan was convinced that if God removed blessings and protection, Job would curse and revile Him. But that was not true. Job loved God and served Him out of sincere devotion. He trusted God even when he was feeling abandoned. There is a lesson of steadfast trust, which is one of the most important aspects of character we can gain from any trial.
Though Job could not begin to understand why all of these things were happening to him, he kept trusting God. He did not react, as Satan had predicted, by cursing God. Yeah, he certainly went on a rant, but like Job told his wife in Job 2:10, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?”
Lesson # 3 - God has a purpose!
James 1:2 states it this way, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Through this trial,Job came to really know God deeply, not simply to know about Him. And Job became a far more humble and compassionate man, even coming to the point of wanting to pray for his friends instead of cursing them. Whatever the trial or test, there is a purpose that God has in mind to make us more conformed to His image and likeness. Our trials can make us bitter or they can make us better! And for Job, he chose the latter.
While Job isn’t one of those warm and fuzzy books in the Bible, I always walk away with a more profound understanding of God’s sovereignty and my responsibility to trust God even when I don’t quite understand. My hope for all of us is that whatever we are going through, we can declare like Job, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5).
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