13 Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 14 and there came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 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.” 16 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.” 17 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.” 18 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, 19 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.”
20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 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.”
22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. – Job 1:13-22 ESV
We’ve all had seasons of pain in our lives. We’ve all experienced a time when we have had to face extreme disappointment, unexplained suffering, or devastating loss. And in those times of trouble, we’re always tempted to question God regarding His love, power, faithfulness, or at times, even His existence.
So, the story of Job is one with which we can relate. Here is a man who had it all: Wealth, material possessions, a lovely family, and a vibrant relationship with his God. Then tragedy strikes. Not once, but four times. In a series of catastrophic events, Job loses everything. All of his livestock are stolen or destroyed. In a matter of hours, his net worth drops like a rock. He is financially ruined. On top of that, he receives news that every one of his children has been killed in a freak accident. All ten of them.
Job’s world had been rocked, and his life would never be the same. Everything he knew about his God was about to be challenged. Understandably, Job sunk into a deep depression. In time, he would even curse the day he was born.
At last Job spoke, and he cursed the day of his birth. He said: “Cursed be the day of my birth, and cursed be the night when I was conceived. Let that day be turned to darkness. Let it be lost even to God on high, and let it be shrouded in darkness. Yes, let the darkness and utter gloom claim it for its own. Let a black cloud overshadow it, and let the darkness terrify it.” – Job 3:1-5 NLT
But what was Job’s immediate response in the aftermath of his tragic losses? How did he react after hearing that his entire fortune had been decimated by foreign marauders and his children had been killed in a freak accident?
The text simply states that Job “arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped” (Job 1:20 ESV). He mourned and he worshiped. He grieved and he gave glory and honor to Jehovah.
The Hebrew word for “worshiped” is וַיִּשְׁתָּֽחוּ (šāḥâ) and it can literally be translated as “bowed down” or “to prostrate oneself.” Despite all that had happened, Job didn’t shake his fist in the face of God, demanding answers and casting blame; he simply worshiped.
In the midst of all his pain and darkness, Job might be tempted to curse the day of his birth, but NOT HIS GOD. No, Job did not turn his back on God; instead, he bowed before Him in humble adoration. At the loss of all his possessions and his children, Job exclaimed, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be stripped of everything when I die. The LORD gave me everything I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!” (Job 1:21 NLT).
He was able to praise God, even though his world had been devastated. And, amazingly, Job didn’t write off his loss to fate, bad luck, misfortune, karma, and some form of kismet. He admitted his belief that his sovereign God was behind it all. He wasn’t blaming God; he was simply declaring his unwavering belief in God’s ultimate control over all things. His wealth and his children had been gifts from God. He had not deserved or earned them. And Job understood that it was the height of hypocrisy to accept the good things that God gives but then curse Him when those things were taken away. In the very next chapter, after suffering an additional unexpected and inexplicable tragedy, he states, “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” (Job 2:10 NLT).
Through it all, Job held on to his integrity and His God. He understood something about the character of Jehovah God. He knew that God was good. He knew that God must have a purpose behind all that had happened. It didn’t make it any less painful or any easier to accept. In fact, Job would spend the next days wrestling with his concept of God. He would be challenged by his well-meaning friends. Job’s suffering was going to reveal a lot about himself and a lot about his God.
This faithful saint would find himself wrestling with his concepts regarding God’s sovereignty and His love. He would have to come to grips with whether God could be trusted. And in time, as his pain and suffering escalated, Job would go from resting in God to blaming Him. The day would come when he would even accuse God of wronging him (Job 19:6-7). But God never blasts him for his doubt or punishes him for his hasty words. Instead, He comforts Job and, as we will see, eventually restores him.
All throughout this story, we see a picture of a faithful, loving God who is active behind the scenes. He is aware of our suffering and has a plan for them. He is not caught off guard or found asleep at His post. He is fully aware and He cares. Suffering is a part of life lived in a fallen world. Will we allow it to change our perception about God, or learn to see Him in the midst of it?
“We take the good days from God – why not also the bad days?” – Job 2:10 MSG
At this point in the story, as Job tries to come to grips with the immensity of his losses, he holds on to his belief in the sovereignty of God. He clings to his confidence in God’s goodness and seeks to view his tragic circumstances through the lens of God’s sovereignty and love. Job didn’t like what had happened. He was not rejoicing in his losses or thanking God for the deaths of his children. He was simply expressing his trust in the goodness of God.
But for those of us reading this story, it is difficult to see the goodness of God when we know that this entire sequence of tragic events is little more than a test of Job’s faithfulness. God had bragged about Job’s integrity and spiritual vitality.
“Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.” – Job 1:8 NLT
But Satan had argued that Job’s display of moral fortitude was nothing more than payment for services rendered. According to Satan, Job’s faithfulness was tied to the degree of God’s goodness. As long as God kept Job healthy, wealthy, and wise, Job would continue to worship. But Satan argued that if God suddenly turned off the top of His goodness, Job would turn his back on God.
“You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!” – Job 1:9-10 NLT
And God agreed to put Satan’s hypothesis to the test.
“All right, you may test him,” the Lord said to Satan. “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.” – Job 1:12 NLT
But why would God allow Satan to touch one of His servants? How could this be the will of a loving, gracious God? It seems out of character and incongruent with our understanding of God. And yet, we know that there is a spiritual battle waging behind the scenes that pits the sovereign God of the universe against Satan, the prince of this world.
Ever since the fall, Satan has been attempting to thwart the redemptive will of God. He has been waging a relentless war against humanity, those made in God’s image, in a vain attempt to steal their allegiance and displace God’s authority over their lives. Even the apostle Peter warned his first-century readers that this battle was still going on in their day.
…humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. – 1 Peter 5:6-9 NLT
Job was experiencing the very real presence of a spiritual battle that had been taking place since the beginning of time. The presence of Satan in the story of Job’s life should not surprise or disappoint us. No human being is immune from the attacks of the enemy. His hatred for humanity is immeasurable and only surpassed by his hatred for God. He views Jehovah as a manipulative and oppressive overlord whose followers worship Him out of fear and only for the hope of reward. Satan can’t imagine worship that isn’t bought and paid for.
When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, one of his ploys was to offer payment for services rendered.
…the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” – Matthew 4:8-9 ESV
Hungry, tired, and seemingly alone in the wilderness, Jesus responded to Satan’s offer of wealth for worship by stating, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve’” (Matthew 4:10 ESV).
That was the last of Satan’s temptations of Jesus. He went for broke and lost. He offered Jesus his kingdom and Jesus turned him down. And what we must realize is that this test of Jesus’ faithfulness was the will of God. That very same chapter in Matthew opens with these words: “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1 ESV).
It was part of God’s plan that His Son be tested, and it was part of God’s plan that Job be tested. But these tests were not intended to reveal anything to God. He was well aware of the outcome in both cases. God did not doubt His Son’s faithfulness and He did not doubt the faithfulness of Job. It was Satan who had doubts. It was the enemy who could not fathom faith even in the face of suffering. Satan had a lot to turn about the goodness of God and the effect it can have on God’s people. True worship is not a form of payment for services rendered. It is a willing response to the goodness of God that shows up in times of tragedy as well as blessing.
God’s people are not fairweather friends, but faithful followers who strive to trust and obey even when God’s presence seems unapparent and His power seems insufficient. When the trials and temptations of life come, may we sing the praises of our great and good God.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.