FFF 10:5 (May 1964)
Job—The God Mastered Life
The book of Job occupies a very unique place in the volume of God. It possesses a character entirely its own, and teaches lessons which are not to be learned in any other section of Scripture. Of Job, Thomas Carlyle has said:
‘I call this Book, apart from all theories about it, one of the grandest things ever written with pen… A noble Book, all men’s Book! It is our first, oldest statement of the never-ending problem — man’s destiny, and God’s way with him here in the earth … There is nothing written, I think, in the Bible or out of it, of equal literary merit.’
The opening pages of this remarkable book present the pattern patriarch. He is believed to have lived about the time of Abraham, and was the best man who could be found on the earth. There was none other with such a beautiful character. He was perfect and upright, one that feared God and eschewed evil, and as to possessions and earthly things, they were so abundant that this man was the greatest of the men in the East. The hand of God had hedged him round about on every side, and his path was strewn with the blessings of the Lord. He had all that heart could wish, children and wealth, honour and prestige from all around. His cup of earthly blessing was full. Yet such a mature saint and successful man on earth was chosen of God for an example of suffering and as a pattern of endurance. He was subjected to divine discipline not on account of personal sin, but rather for the purpose of exemplifying to Satan the truth of God’s estimate of His servant Job. God, in His grace, had challenged Satan as to His servant, that there was none like him in all the earth. Satan retorts, imputing to Job a sordid motive for his allegiance to Jehovah. Satan claimed that Job loved God not for what God was in Himself, but because of what God had bestowed upon Job personally.
The Test of Earthly Loss
To prove the falsity of this assertion the Lord allows Satan to attack Job. The great man of the East is thrust into the furnace of affliction, seven times heated for him. Trial after trial comes upon him. In one day all the property of Job was swept away, and all his children died in one dreadful catastrophe. As Job contemplated the wasted fields, the loss of his oxen, asses, sheep, camels; the cold faces of his children and his servants, he bowed his head and cried: ‘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’ (Job 1:21). Job was no fair weather believer, but faithful and true in his devotion to God. Job acknowledges that God is just as good as He was before, and as much to be praised and loved as ever. In his affliction he is an example of patience and magnified the name of the Lord. By his words and worship he proved his love for God was not founded upon His provisions but His Person.
Test of Bodily Affliction
Again God challenges Satan concerning the fidelity of His servant Job. Satan says, ‘Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth Thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse Thee to Thy face’ (2:4-5). Satan is again allowed to touch Job, this time in his body, and he is smitten with boils from head to feet. How complete is his misery! His suffering is acute. The man of prosperity becomes a man of pain and poverty. Behold! the man of esteem and riches — a priest, a ruler, a patriarch, sitting in dust and ashes.
Test of False Accusation
Job’s wife breaks down completely and falling into the devil’s snare she urges Job to curse God and die. His three friends, Eliphas, Bildad and Zophar, learn of his suffering and come to sympathize. They were miserable comforters and their words were like arrows that sorely wounded. Their logic was based on rationalism and thus attributed the suffering of Job to sin. They misjudged him and accused him of sin and their ministry was that of condemnation. For every chapter they gave Job, he responded with two in return. In these three companions of Job there is represented the various exercises which engage the consciences of Christians when disciplined. Elihu, another comforter of Job, maintained that the suffering of Job was for the purpose of discipline. Though not far from the truth, he acted as a mediator and presented truth from the viewpoint of God. He showed that it was God’s desire to open the understanding of men to truth and right by way of chastening and education.
The outcome is that Job arrived at the end desired of God in all the discipline to which He has been subjecting him. Job, now seeing God, formed a true estimate of himself, and repented in dust and ashes. In the valley of affliction Job learned his vileness. Through suffering, he beheld the sovereignty of God. In chastening, he learned of his corruption. In trial, he learned the truth of God’s kindness and faithfulness to His own. Moreover, Satan learned that Job did not serve God for what he could get. Job’s wife learned that the loss of the material was not the loss of all. The friends of Job learned that suffering is not always the result of sin. Elihu learned that, even though he thought he was right, and all others wrong, the final verdict was in the hands of God. Job now knew that God had allowed him to suffer for His glory, and his own personal good. He came forth from the furnace self-judged, purged, humbled, patience having accomplished her noble work. ‘Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy’ (James 5:11).
Purpose of the Book of Job
The Book of Job furnishes us with further light on the mystery of suffering and pain. It serves to inform us that chastisement is a test and revealer of character, and is used to discipline and to educate. The Ancients asked: ‘How can this man be godly if he suffers?’ We Christians say: ‘How can this man be godlike if he knows nothing of suffering?’ Many of God’s children walk in different paths, with broken hearts and bleeding feet. Their diet is the bread of affliction and the water of adversity. They long for the rainbow in the sullen threatening clouds and wait through sleepless nights for the light that does not come.