If you would take a copy of the Bible in your hands and turn with me to the book of Job, chapter 1; if you’re using a church Bible you’ll find it on page 417 in the church Bibles. Job chapter 1. You may recall last time we considered the opening five verses of Job 1 and we were introduced to Job and his family. We saw them living in contentment and joy together and we noticed there were a number of convictions and habits that were operating in Job’s life that built in some resilience and some strength of character that enabled him, and that will enable him as we’ll see, to weather the storm of affliction that would shortly come crashing down upon him. Not only was he an extraordinarily wealthy man, which we saw is no inoculation against suffering, but he was a wise man. He feared God and turned from evil. And he was a watchful man. He kept short accounts with the Lord; he resorted often and regularly to the family altar that atonement might be provided. He saw clearly the true need of his heart – not prosperity or pleasure, but pardon; to be right with God. And he saw clearly the provision God had made for his need – a sacrificial substitute by which he might be reconciled to God to pay for sin by his blood. At the heart of the wise watchfulness that enabled Job to stand firm in the maelstrom of suffering, at the very heart of it, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ whose sufferings far exceeded Job’s and whose mercy for suffering sinners knows no limits. That was last time.
This time, we’re going to look at the second half of what constitutes really the preamble to the book of Job. And here, the scene will shift from the relative bliss of Job’s family life before suffering comes, in verses 1 to 5, to the mysterious and glorious scene of the heavenly throne room itself as the court of the divine King, Almighty God, assembles before Him. And as we examine Job chapter 1 from verse 6 through the end of chapter 2 together, we’re going to see three themes that will help us think Biblically about suffering. Three themes. First, there is the God suffering sometimes hides. The God suffering sometimes hides. Then secondly, there’s the suffering God sometimes permits. The God suffering sometimes hides. Then, the suffering God sometimes permits. And then thirdly, there’s the song God’s people must learn to sing. The song God’s people must learn to sing.
Before we consider those together, let me ask if you would please to bow your heads with me as we pray. Let’s pray together.
O Lord, when we suffer we don’t need trite and simplistic answers. We don’t need clichés and niceties. We need to be able to look into the full horror of what is happening and to name it honestly and to place it into the context of Your wisdom and sovereignty and care. And though we may not fully ever be able to understand why the trials that You have ordained for us have come our way, when we understand more about who You are and how You work, we might be able to suffer well, for the glory and praise of Your name. So we pray as You work by Your Word among us tonight, that You would use it to teach us to suffer well. For we ask it in Jesus’ name, amen.
Job chapter 1 at the sixth verse. This is the Word of Almighty God:
“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, ‘From where have you come?’ Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.’ And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?’ Then Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.’ And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.’ So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, and there came a messenger to Job and said, ‘The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.’ While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, ‘The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.’ While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, ‘The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.’
While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, ‘Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.’
Then 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.’
In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. And the Lord said to Satan, ‘From where have you come?’ Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.’ And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.’ Then Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.’ And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.’
So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.
Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.’ But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.”
Amen, and we praise God for His holy Word.
When I was in college, a roommate of mine had one of those posters that had a hidden image in it. You know the ones I mean where you have to look through the sort of dot matrix on the surface and sort of glaze over and eventually a hidden image, I think it was a dolphin, in this case, would sort of emerge from the poster. No matter how much I stared at this thing, I simply could never see the image; not for want of trying. I think I got a headache staring at this thing and never saw the dolphin.
Like staring in frustration at one of those posters but never seeing the pattern, learning to discern the purposes of God, learning to see His smiling face through the dizzying apparent chaos of suffering, can be very hard indeed. It may surprise you to learn that the book of Job is less interested in showing us how to do that as it is in reminding us about what God is like, about who He really is in His mercy and grace, whether we can see Him or not. Whether we can trace His purposes in our trials or not, it wants to remind us about the truth, regardless of whether we can see Him or discern what He is doing in the things that are happening to us at the time. And that is actually what our passage is about tonight. We are looking in the wrong place for the big take away as we read through Job together if we are focused primarily, say, on the meaning of suffering or on the endurance of Job. In fact, we never really will understand the meaning of suffering in the book of Job or Job’s resilience for that matter if we don’t first recognize that the big idea in the book of Job is the display that it makes to us of the character and the glory of the Lord our God. The book of Job is mainly not about suffering, not about Job; it is mainly about God.
Suffering God Sometimes Hides
And that really is the first point I want us to consider together. We’re being taught here about the God that suffering sometimes hides. The God suffering sometimes hides. Look at the passage with me for a moment. Did you notice how these two chunks of text, the second half of chapter 1 and chapter 2, are parallel, very closely parallel in their structure. They both begin in the heavenly throne room as the royal court assembles – chapter 1 verse 6; chapter 2 verse 1. “There was a day when the sons of God,” presumably angelic beings, “came to present themselves before the Lord and Satan also came among them.” And then there follows a dialogue in both instances between Satan and the Lord – chapter 1:7-12; chapter 2:2-6 – concluding with a handing over of limited authority to Satan to afflict Job, then there is a report of Job’s sufferings – chapter 1:13-19; chapter 2:7-8 – and a final report of Job’s response to suffering in 1:20-22 and chapter 2 verses 9 and 10. And that’s the pattern of both chapters.
But like one of the posters I was talking about a few moments ago where our eyes tend to focus, or at least mine did, tend to focus too much on the fuzzy dot pattern on the surface so that we miss the image underneath, as we read through these two accounts we can become so absorbed with the horror afflicting Job that we miss the God who sits enthroned at the center of these chapters. That is where our eye needs to linger first and linger longest. The two facts about God in particular that I want you to notice that we are being taught in these chapters are first of all that the God who, in His sovereignty permits the sufferings of Job, is the God of covenant love. And secondly, that the God of covenant love is the God of infinite and omnipotent sovereignty.
God of Covenant Love
Think first of all about how we are told here that the God who allows this dreadful season of suffering is also the God of covenant love. Did you notice the divine name, how often it's mentioned in these two chapters, indicated in our Bibles by "the LORD" in all caps? It's not a title for God; it's really an English way to signal the presence of the name of God. "Yahweh – I AM." In chapters 1 and 2 of the book of Job, when God is spoken about, whether by Satan or by Job himself or by Job's wife, later on, He is always referred to as Elohim, or simply as "God." But when the narrator speaks about God, when He's mentioned for our benefit, he always calls Him, "the LORD," in all caps. He uses the divine name. He calls Him, Yahweh. Seven times in chapter 1; eight times in chapter 2. Why is that do you think? I think it is to make certain that we do not read the history of God's dealings with Job apart from the complete history of God's self-revelation to His people in history. The name of God, remember, was given to God's people to signal the special relationship they sustain to Him within His covenant of grace. So the name God told Moses to share with Israel when He pledged His commitment to redeeming them from Egyptian bondage, it is, we might say, God’s familiar, intimate, family name. It connotes relationship and the bonds of covenant love.
Now that’s a truth about God that suffering can easily obscure in our experience, like clouds that hide the sun. When we’re hurting, it’s sometimes hard to remember that the One who sits on the throne of all things is a God of covenant love. It is a truth we need to cling to, nevertheless, as we see Job doing in these chapters. When suffering begins to batter at our door, this passage is teaching us to remember just who it is that presides over even this sharp trial. When we’re tempted to think hard thoughts of God, remember that He remains even now the God of covenant love. It is Yahweh Himself who governs our sufferings. Or, as the Lord Jesus taught us to call Him by the still more intimate family name, it is always Abba Father whose hand afflicts us. And although we may not understand it, we can learn to trust Him in it.
God of Perfect, Sovereign Power
There’s another fact about God we mustn’t miss here that must be held together with that first great truth that He is a God of covenant love, Job also is teaching us that the God of covenant love is the God of perfect, sovereign power. Satan did not gate-crash the party in the heavenly courtroom that day. He is there to give an account of himself to the God before whom even he must submit. The angels have come, chapter 1 verse 6, “to present themselves.” The same language is used of Job in chapter 2 verse 1. He is not a free agent, do you see. By the way, did you know that “Satan,” the word “Satan,” isn’t the devil’s name? It’s a title for him. He is literally, “the Satan.” It means, “the accuser; the oppose; the adversary.” By calling him “the Satan” here, it’s a way to signal he hates God; he hates those who love God, who fear Him. And yet, for all his hateful rebellion against God, like a whipped dog before his master with his tail between his legs, he must come into God’s presence to give an account whenever he is summoned.
And notice that when God asks Satan where he’s been, Satan replies that he has come from “going to and fro on the earth” and from “walking back and forth” on it. The word he uses for “going to and fro” is used elsewhere of making a military inspection or of conducting a census of the population. The words for “walking back and forth” are used to describe the turbulence of water that has been churned up by an oar or the noise of the crack of a whip in the air. Hal Jones, one of the commentators, says this about Satan’s reply to God. “What Satan is therefore admitting is that he has been engaged in a tour of inspection of the earth with a view to causing a commotion wherever he can.” Satan is evil and he’s up to no good. That’s what he’s signaling here. And yet, he cannot hide his plans, do you see. He confesses them and must submit to God when he is here summoned before Him in the heavenly courtroom.
Or look down at verse 12. God says to Satan, when Satan challenges God about Job’s faithfulness, God says to Satan, “All that he has is in your hand, only do not touch his person.” And again in chapter 2 verse 6, “Behold, he is in your hand, only spare his life.” Now we’ll come back to that in a moment, but for now, understand what we learn here about Satan. In all his malice and hatred and rebellion against God, we are being taught that he can only do what God permits him to do and no more. Aren’t we? There are boundaries beyond which his rage and hatred are not allowed to stray. Satan is a relentless evil, but he is on a leash. God is in control. Was it Martin Luther who said that while we have a terrible enemy in the devil, we must never forget that he remains always “God’s devil.” Satan is not God’s equal and opposite number, but he is constrained and overruled by God in His infinite sovereignty and wisdom and power.
Truths to Cling to
When the dark clouds of suffering hide the smiling face of God, here are some big truths to cling to. The Lord your God is Yahweh. He is Abba Father who loves His people and covenants to be their redeemer in the Lord Jesus Christ. Suffering may, for a time, hide all sense of God’s love. You may not feel it, but it can never obliterate its reality. It may hide all sense of His love, but it can never obliterate its reality. Nothing can separate us, “not height nor depth, nor angels nor rulers, nor powers, nor death nor life, nor things present nor things to come, nor anything else in all creation, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Even in the darkest moments of your suffering, Job wants to remind us and to teach us, though we may not feel it, though we may not see it, though we may not discern God’s purpose in it, He remains still faithfully the God of covenant love. And actually, this God is sovereign in your trial. The Lord who loves you governs and superintends even your sufferings for His purposes.
Now if that’s true, if both of those are true, we can begin, we can begin to sing Cowper’s great hymn, can’t we? “Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take, the clouds ye so much dread are big with mercy and shall break with blessings on your head.” Only omnipotent sovereignty wedded to covenant love can take our darkest sorrows and make them one day somehow in His wise ordering bright with blessing. The God suffering sometimes hides.
The Suffering God Sometimes Sends
Then secondly, we do need to take notice of the suffering God sometimes sends. Now let me say that in these two chapters, the suffering that descends upon Job is not really resolved, not yet. And it may be important actually for some of us, much more important than having answers to our “Why?” questions, to simply see and recognize how holy Scripture does not pawn you off with pious platitudes and simplistic answers but names and lists and faces the worst and the darkest and the hardest and the sorest of the trials into which we may descend. When everyone else, when no one else seems to know what to say, the Word of God speaks to our trials.
Source of Suffering
You notice the kind of suffering that Job endures. Let’s begin first by looking at the source of Job’s suffering. Look at the two interviews between God and Satan. What strikes us immediately is the one who takes the initiative. Doesn’t it? The one who takes the initiative. Who starts it? Look at chapter 1 verse 7. “The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’” Satan answers, “From going to and fro on the earth, from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant, Job?” The Lord directs Satan to Job. It is part of the great mystery of God’s sovereignty to be sure, but we cannot escape the conclusion that Job’s sufferings do not belong outside God’s plan but are integral to it. It is God who orders, ordains, governs, superintends even the sufferings of Job.
We might not like that conclusion, but as we grapple with suffering, we do need to think through the alternatives. So for example, you might argue that the problem of evil, the reality and horror of suffering through which you may have passed, must mean there is no God at all. But if there is no God, well, there is no problem, is there. There is no such thing as evil at all, neither is there any such thing ultimately as good. There’s only matter and energy on an endless loop; chance and meaninglessness. No, the fact is, when we feel the horror of evil, the incongruity of it, the wrongness of it, whether we say we believe in God or not, our hearts are actually bearing testimony and making an argument for His existence. There is no way to understand what we’re even talking about when we talk about evil unless there is a God of infinite goodness who governs all things.
Well then, alternatively, we might argue that the problem of evil means that while there is a God, He isn’t good. That can’t really account, however, for the fact of beauty and truth and goodness that still somehow manages to cut through the gloom and the darkness of our sorrows and our trials. Not even the worst atrocities or the darkest suffering can obliterate the beauty we still see around us.
Well then, there’s a third option. We might suggest the problem of evil means that while there is a good God, He isn’t sovereign. Sure, He hates evil, He hates suffering, He hates pain, but He’s ultimately powerless to do anything about it. But that really leave us without any hope that evil will one day be finally defeated and undone. In fact, it reduces God to a victim Himself, as much at the mercy of cosmic evil as we are. The only option that remains, the only option that offers any comfort, any hope in the middle of the darkness, is the difficult doctrine of the goodness of an absolutely sovereign God who ordains and governs all things, even evil and suffering and pain.
God Boasts in Job
So God directs Satan to Job. Do notice, however, that as He does that, the way that God speaks about Job. Do you see how He speaks about him? It’s almost like a proud father who loves to sing the praises of his child to anyone who will listen. You see that in the text? Verse 8, for example, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth; a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.” Whatever it means that God is sovereign over suffering, whatever we conclude from the fact that God is the one who instigates Satan’s terrible assaults, it is very clear, isn’t it, nevertheless, that God boasts in Job. God boasts in Job. Let that sink in for a moment! God boasts in Job! One commentator puts it like this. “God does not use His people for His own glory and praise in the earth without delighting in them.” Although His people are not to boast in themselves, He boasts in them, especially when they glorify Him. He is not ashamed to be called their God – Hebrews 11:16. Child of God, whatever the afflictions that overcome you may be, Abba Father who sends them boasts in you. He boasts in you. He delights over you as a father over a beloved child. And you can trust Him in your worst moments because He does.
So there are three strands that we need to hold together. It’s hard to do, but that is the message of these chapters. First, we cannot avoid the truth that God is both good and sovereign, ordaining and governing even Satanic attack and terrible suffering. Second, it is wonderfully clear that God loves and delights in His people, and He boasts in their faithfulness. When in the sharpest, sorest trials through which they pass, they nevertheless bless His name. He boasts in them. He delights in them.
And then thirdly, notice who He holds responsible. He holds Satan responsible for the wickedness of his own attacks. Chapter 2 verse 3, He concludes His words to Satan by saying, “Job still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” God holds Satan responsible. So God is sovereign, Job is beloved, and Satan is responsible. We’re not wrong to struggle to understand how these three truths fit together, but the teaching of Job insists we can’t tear them apart. God is sovereign, He delights in His children, especially when under pressure and pain they glorify Him, and Satan is culpable. God will hold him to account. The source of suffering.
The Nature of Suffering
And then do let’s simply and quickly notice the nature of the suffering that comes Job’s way. First, there’s spiritual accusation. We’ve seen some of this already. Satan accuses Job before God. Chapter 1 verse 9, “Does Job fear God for no reason? You’ve put a hedge around him. You’ve prospered him. Everything he does, he seems to prosper. But if You stretch out Your hand and touch everything he has, he will curse You to Your face!” Satan wants God to destroy Job’s wealth to prove that the man’s only in it for the money. “He doesn’t really love You, God.” And then when that doesn’t work, in chapter 2, he comes back to God and he says in effect, “You know, if You will strike his health now, not his wealth, but now his health, I can prove to You, God, that Job is motivated only really by an instinct for self-preservation. He still doesn’t truly love you.” Satan accuses Job before God. That is, after all, what his name means; he is the accuser. But God has confidence in Job even though Satan thinks Job is an easy target because God knows He will not abandon Job in his trials. Satan will accuse you before God, but if you are a child of God, God Himself will be your defender and your sustainer in it all.
Waves of Affliction
Then, there are three waves of direct affliction. Do you see them? First, there’s the pain of loss. Chapter 1:13-19, in rapid succession he receives these four reports, each one of them explaining all his possessions, all his servants, finally and climactically all his children, all ten of them, have been stolen by enemies or destroyed and killed by disaster. Then in chapter 2 verses 7 and 8, first the pain of loss, now the pain of sickness. Job is stricken by painful sores from the sole of his feet so that it would have been painful to stand, to the crown of his head. He is in pain. He’s itching so badly that he uses a piece of broken pottery to scrap at his skin to try and get some relief. He is so disfigured by his illness, when his three friends show up later on in chapter 2, they don’t recognize him. The pain of loss. The pain of sickness.
Then, there’s the pain of ostracism. Look at chapter 2, verses 9 through 12. Job’s wife, she’s lost everything too right along with Job. She finds her husband sitting there in the ashes of her home. The epitome of suffering; a pathetic and wretched sight. And she’s had enough. It’s too much for her. And in her grief and her anger, she says to Job, “Do you still hold onto your integrity? Curse God and die!” Now can you imagine the knife to the heart those words would have been to Job? His own wife now, do you see – Satan has been accusing Job before God – his own wife now gives voice to Satan’s plan right to his face. “Curse God and die!” Augustine, Saint Augustine calls Job’s wife “Diaboli adjutrix – the devil’s advocate.” Calvin said she was “organum Satanae – a tool of Satan.” Chrysostom calls her “the devil’s best scourge.” Notice how she warps God’s delighted boast in Job. God says to Satan, “He still holds to his integrity. He still trusts Me. He still loves Me, even after everything has been stripped from him.” She takes that statement and she twists it. “Do you still hold to your integrity, fool?” It’s Satan’s voice that we hear coming from her lips. That’s exactly what he wants Job to do – curse God and die.
And then verses 13 to 19 of chapter 1, Satan spared only four servants to come and report to Job all that had taken place. Now we learn he spared also Job’s wife as well to make her his instrument in twisting the knife in Job’s heart. And then finally, there’s Job’s three friends. They’re his friends. They show up at the end of chapter 2. And at first, actually, they do I think the best thing that can be done in situations of unspeakable sorrow like this. Don’t you agree? They tear their own clothes, they throw ash into the heavens so that it falls on their heads, they sit down beside Job in solidarity with him in his grief. They don’t say anything. They don’t offer an attempt at explanation; they just sit with him, sharing in his sorrow. Actually, we’re going to see that’s about the only thing they do right in the whole book. But isn’t that exactly what we need sometimes? Not answers, just someone to sit with us for a while.
But then, look at verse 13. “They sat with him on the ground for seven days and seven nights and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw his suffering was very great.” There is a point when the comfort of silent solidarity can turn into the awkward torment of so-called friends who just don’t know what to say. At some point, words do become necessary. At some point, we do need to hear someone speak some hope and some comfort to us. But in this, Job's now proverbial comforters have failed completely. In the speech of his wife, in the silence of his friends, Job is the object of hellish torment that is adding significantly to his sufferings. It's a terrible scenario. Here is an ordinary man deluged beneath a tsunami of pain and suffering and loss. And the Scriptures are absolutely unflinching in listing it all for us. Here’s a man grieving, a man physically in pain, a man wounded by people he thought he could trust and love. Here’s a man who portrays our darkest fears and sometimes mirrors our worst experiences. And so we’re encouraged, aren’t we, as we wrestle with the book of Job, that we may here find some help in our trials too. Which is part of the point. There is help here for us in our trials too. That’s why the Lord in His mercy has given us the book of Job. The God suffering sometimes hides. The suffering God sometimes sends.
The Song God’s People Must Learn to Sing
But then finally, and very quickly, we do need to notice also the song God’s people must learn to sing. Look how Job responds. When word reaches him of the loss of his estate, even the death of his children, chapter 1 verse 21 – “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I shall return. The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Or look how he responds when his bitter wife parrots Satan’s lies in chapter 2 verse 10. He rebukes her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak! Shall we receive good from God and not evil also?” The narrator’s verdict on both pronouncements is the same. Do you see it? “In all this, Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” Job sings a doxology in the ashes over the grave of his ten children. Job preaches submission to the will of the Lord, even in the face of his unbelieving wife’s bitter lies. There is a song God’s people must learn to sing in the darkness. It’s a song of surrender and a song of praise. It’s a song that confesses that the heavenly Potter has every right to do as He wills with earthly clay. That God is sovereign in all the trials of life.
But of course, we have resources that will help us to sing that song that Job did not yet fully possess. Don’t we? It’s interesting, God calls Job throughout this, “my servant.” That is an expression that is normally reserved in the Old Testament scriptures for prophets and kings; for men at the very heart of God’s plan in advancing His purposes in the world to get glory to His name and to save sinners to Himself. It’s used, for example, of Moses and used of David. And God here uses it of Job. Job takes his place in that line of servants of the Lord, all of them ultimately pointing us toward the final, climactic, “eved Yahweh” – the Servant of the Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
But there is something unique about the way Job functions here as “My Servant.” You see, every other servant of the Lord is given a mission to fulfill acting on the macro stage of human history, dealing with the nation of Israel and God’s purposes in redemptive history. But God, when God speaks to Satan and points Job out to Satan, it’s almost as though He were saying, “You know, My servant Job, let’s make not the scene of history, but let’s make his life, his heart, the arena for our conflict.” And in that, I suspect uniquely among those who are called “my servant” in Scripture, Job points us to Christ. The battleground of the climactic conflict between God and Satan was the life of the final great Servant of the Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ himself.
Remember how Satanic temptations seized Him. Hellish accusations were leveled against Him. Terrible suffering poured out upon Him. The rejection of those He loved and the wrath and curse of God, surpassing even the darkness and the woundedness we see in Job here. And in all of this, Jesus did not sin or charge God with wrong. You see, unlike Job, we have someone who’s gone ahead of us down into the darkest pit of human suffering. Unlike Job, we have someone who’s gone ahead of us all the way down into the grave itself. God told Satan, “Spare his life,” but He did not spare His Son so that when, in the inscrutable purposes of our sovereign Father the dark sufferings that He may yet have in store for us finally come, we will be able to sing a doxology in our trials and submit both to the bad as well as to the good that God ordains for us, as Job does, because we know that the grave is empty and that the Lord, the Servant of the Lord, the Lord Jesus, has triumphed over suffering and sorrow and death and hell. The Lord who is the light of the world has brought life and immortality to light, triumphing, rising gloriously on the third day, and He is coming again one day soon to wipe away every tear from our eyes. And so as we cling to Him, as we cling to Him, we have resources in Jesus Job did not have. We get to know how the whole story ends in a way Job barely glimpsed. And so we are able to say, we are enabled to say, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Let’s pray together.
Our Father, these are mysterious things. In some ways, all we can do is to state them and place them beside each other, sometimes struggling to reconcile them. You are sovereign. There’s nothing that happens outside of Your purpose and plan, including our sorrow, our pain, our wounds. And You are good and You love us, boasting in us, delighting over us, rejoicing over us with singing. You are Abba Father to us. And You hold Satan accountable, even though You ordain and govern even his rebellion and wickedness. And You call us to sing a doxology in the ashes. Help us, please, as we wrestle with these things, to fix our gaze on Christ who’s plumbed the depths, the darkest abyss of suffering conceivable, and risen in victory over it that we might be able, through tears, to bless the Lord and to kiss the hand of Abba Father that afflicts us. For we ask it in Jesus’ name, amen.
© 2019 First Presbyterian Church.
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