Job the Misfortunes
of The Jew
Mr. Leslie S. Rainey, the editor’s uncle, serves the Lord in Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa.
The book of Job occupies a unique place in the Bible. It possesses a character entirely its own, and teaches lessons which are not to be learned in any 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 on 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 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 of 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 as 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.
Job is a type of the nation Israel in his sufferings. 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 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).
Following the test of earthly loss, there is the test of bodily affliction. Satan says, “Skin for skin, yea, all that 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 the man of pain and poverty. Behold, the man of esteem and riches — a priest, a ruler, patriarch, sitting in dust and ashes.
Another test that came upon Job was that 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, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, learn of his sufferings 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 sufferings of Job to sin. They misjudged him and accused him of sin and their ministry was that of condemnation. 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.
As we follow the history of Job in his calamities, his comforters, and the counsel given to him, we come to a most important section of the book, where the creature is hushed and the voice of the Creator is heard. On two occasions Jehovah addressed Job and twice Job replied. In His first address, Job is graciously rebuked for darkening counsel with senseless words. After many questions on natural and scientific things, Job begins to get a true estimate of himself, and his confession is, “Wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes” (42:6). In the valley of affliction, Job learned his vileness. Through suffering, he beheld the sovereignty of God. In chastening he learned 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 was right, and all others wrong, the final verdict was in the hands of God. Job now knew that God had allowed his suffering for the glory of God and the personal welfare of His servant. He comes forth from the furnace self-judged, purged, humbled, patience having accomplished her noble work.
The conclusion of this dramatic poem furnishes us with further light on the mystery of suffering and pain, and serves to inform us that chastisement is a test and revealer of character, and is used to discipline and educate. The ancients asked: “How can this man be godly if he suffers?” We Christians say: “How can this man be God-like if he knows nothing of suffering?” Many of God’s children walk in difficult 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 threatening clouds and wait through sleepless nights for the light that does not come. How helpful it would be if we were able to adopt the testimony of Rutherford, “When I find myself in the cellar of affliction, I always look about for the wine.”
In the history of Job, God has unveiled His gracious ways. In relation to the Christian, God has put the story of Job into His Imperishable Record that it might help other children who walk along difficult roads. Job served God out of love to the Lord and was allowed to suffer to vindicate God and vanquish the devil. In relation to the Jew, He has allowed them to pass through the fire as a people, and even though in this dispensation they honour the Lord with their lips, and their heart is far from Him, nevertheless He still watches over them in infinite compassion and tenderest love (Ps. 121:4). Just as Job received twice as much as he had before all his calamities (42:10, 11), so the nation Israel will receive God’s blessing in the day of national conversion and restoration (Is. 40:1, 2; 41:7; Zech. 9:12). Oh, that it may be our portion to be counted worthy to suffer for His name, and remember His great and glorious purposes for the Job-like people known as the Jew.