The Trials of Job
“Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD’” (vv. 20–21).- Job 1
Among the Old Testament Poetical Books, also known as the Wisdom Literature, the book of Job is unique in its inclusion of narrative bookends that introduce and conclude the wisdom poems found between them (Job 1–2; 42). Because of this narrative framework, it is best to look at Job as a unit instead of studying individual passages as we are doing with Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. Thus, we are devoting our next two weeks to the story of Job, an account of a man who lived during the patriarchal era.
Job 1:1–5 sets the stage for the book with its description of Job as an exceptionally successful and pious man. Apparently, he was the wealthiest man in the ancient Near East during his era, and it was the custom of the family to hold a feast on each of his son’s birthdays (vv. 3–4). More significantly, Job’s integrity set him apart from all others. He was “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (v. 1). This does not mean he was a sinlessly perfect man, as the rest of the book demonstrates. The designation blameless in Scripture is often used for people who, though sinners, are in the main oriented toward loving and serving the Lord (see Gen. 6:9; Luke 1:5–7). Blameless individuals endeavor to live according to God’s commands and repent when they fall short. The blameless person, Matthew Henry comments, is like Job, who “dreaded the thought of doing what was wrong; with the utmost abhorrence and detestation, and with a constant care and watchfulness, he eschewed evil, avoided all appearances of sin and approaches to it.”
The narrator does not spend much time describing Job before turning his attention to the heavenly court, where Satan appears among the angels. In the interchange between Satan and the Lord, it is established that Satan will put Job’s faith to the test. Note, however, that God is not exercising a simple permission, though He does allow Satan to have his way with Job as long as he does not touch Job himself. The Lord, in fact, initiates the whole matter, drawing out Satan’s true thoughts about Job by asking the devil about the man (Job 1:6–12). Our Creator does not merely respond once someone else gets things started. Instead, He makes the first move, directing events to the conclusion He has appointed.
Under the Lord’s sovereign providence, Satan causes Job to lose his children, his servants, and his fortune. But Job’s faith does not waver. He blesses the name of God, acknowledging that the Lord is ultimately in control (vv. 13–22).
In stating that the Lord gave and the Lord took away, Job did not “charge God with wrong” (Job 1:22). Job did not accuse the Lord of issuing a direct assault on his family, nor did he claim that God did an evil thing. Instead, Job recognized God’s sovereignty, understanding that everything we gain and everything we lose falls under the sovereign ordination of our Creator. He is in perfect control of all that happens, and because He is good, we can trust that He is good in His reign.
Passages for Further Study