Jim Voisey, Cardiff, Wales [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
Job thought that God was deliberately targeting him in his misfortunes. He had been ‘at ease’, and enjoying his prosperity and the respect of his contemporaries, ‘But now’, he says, things are so different. Now he is in great distress and says of God, ‘He hath also taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces, and set me as his mark. His archers compass me round about’, Job 16. 12, 13; 29. 1-30.
Now his life had changed to one of bitterness, grief, affliction, tears, pain and sorrow (these are the words he uses to describe his situation), and he wished he had never been born, 3. 11. His friends, well-intentioned but thoughtless and clumsy, did not understand the reason for his vexation, and why he felt as he did.
Eliphaz, relying on earthly wisdom, urged him to accept his lot and hope for the best. Bildad, appealing to the lessons of history and experience, rebuked him for speaking ‘out of turn’ and even accusing God of injustice. Zophar, with his strong ideas about religion reproached him for his vanity, and counselled him to repent of his wickedness.
Yet, Job persisted in his complaint and continually made his appeal to God. He acknowledged there was some truth in what his friends said, but their human reasonings were false. They were all ‘miserable comforters’, ‘physicians of no value’, and they were wicked and deceitful, 13. 4, 7; 16. 2. The Lord Himself rebuked Job’s three friends for not having spoken rightly concerning him, 42. 7.
There was never any question about Job’s integrity. It is written plainly, ‘he was perfect and upright; one that feared God, and eschewed evil’, 1. 1, 8; 2. 3. He was a pious and moral man of unblemished character; a man of principle, generous and charitable, who did not ‘shut up his bowels of compassion’ when he saw others in need. He was accustomed ‘to do good, was rich in good works, always ready to distribute, and willing to communicate’. He supported the poor and helpless; was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame and they sang his praises, 29. 12-17; 1 Tim. 6. 18; 1 John 3. 17.
Job was a faithful and loving husband who ‘drank waters out of his own cistern’ and always walked circumspectly and in the fear of God. ‘Doth he not see my ways, and count all my steps?’ was his guiding principle, 31. 1-10; Prov. 5. 15-20. He was an exemplary parent, who understood that young people were prone to carelessness, indiscretion and thoughtlessness, and took good care of their spiritual needs, 1. 4, 5. Even when he lost everything, he still ‘worshipped God and sinned not’, 1. 20-22; 2. 9, 10. Job is recorded in Scripture as one of three special men marked out for their righteousness and godly intercession. Notwithstanding what his friends might have thought, Job really was a man who scorned any hidden, unworthy, hypocritical motives, and resolutely claimed the living Redeemer as his Judge, 19. 21-27; Ezek. 14. 14, 20.
SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS
Job wanted to know why God was dealing with him so severely. Unaware of the events recorded in chapters 1 and 2, he was struggling to make sense of his situation. ‘Why me?’, he asked. He did not receive an answer, for God is omnipotent and sovereign, and cannot be called to account by men. ‘He doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?’, Dan. 4. 35. We cannot explain why the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper. This was the dilemma faced by the psalmist as well as Job, Ps. 73. However, God does sometimes try our personal motives, our sincerity and our strengths, and there are things we can only begin to understand in the light of sanctuary experience.
God uses trials and misfortunes, and other strange and unwelcome disciplines for the good of His children. The Psalmist acknowledged it was good for him to have been afflicted, Ps. 119. 67, 71. The wise Preacher tells us that sometimes mourning and sorrow teach us lessons that bring us benefit, Eccl. 7. 2, 3. The Lord Jesus spoke of the blessedness of those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, Matt. 5. 10. Temptations and trials and chastenings bring blessings to those who are exercised thereby, Heb. 12. 11; Jas. 1. 12; 1 Pet. 1. 7. Even our Lord Himself ‘learned obedience by the things which he suffered’, Heb. 5. 8, and is prophesied as ‘a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief’, Isa. 53. 3. It was because of, (or perhaps, despite) Paul’s infirmity that he first preached the gospel of Christ to the Galatians; and those things that happened unto him in Rome fell out to the furtherance of the gospel, and reached even unto Caesar’s household, Gal. 4. 13, 14; Phil 1. 12-14; 4. 22. Job himself says, ‘He knoweth the way that I take’, 29. 10, and that is all we really need to know. Remember always, ‘He careth for you’, 1 Pet. 5. 7.
‘As He looks from heaven down on you and me
Know ye not He chooseth what each day shall be?
Trust His loving wisdom, though the hot tears start,
Give to Him the incense of a grateful heart’.
THE MAKING OF A MAN
Job is an example of patient endurance, that we might see ‘the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy’, Jas. 5. 11.
David is another such example, for he too learned valuable lessons from his persecution by Saul, and his other bitter experiences. His psalms bear witness to the reality of his trust in the Lord, through all the different circumstances of life through which he passed.
Afterwards, God blessed Job and made him an even richer man than he had been before. For God took a careful inventory of his original substance, and restored him ‘twice as much’ as he had lost. Also, he was given seven more sons and three beautiful daughters, and ‘in all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job’, 1. 2, 42. 15. We are never the poorer, but always the richer, for trusting in the Lord. When we are tempted to feel that what is happening to us is more than we can bear, then let us take heart, for with His tender care He ‘will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able’, 1 Cor. 10. 13. Even though our friends may not always understand, nor help us as we would hope, God will always be faithful. Nor will He ever be unrighteous to forget whatever we have borne or done in His name, Heb. 6. 10.
A crown awaits those who have fought a good fight, finished the course, and kept the faith, and ‘we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose’, Rom. 8. 28; cf. 2 Tim. 4. 6-8.
Job found it very hard, and so will we, but He remains true:–
‘Not a burden we bear,
Not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief nor a loss.
Not a frown nor a cross
But is blest if we trust and obey’.
(J. H. Sammis)