Job “was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil”. Prophet Ezekiel (a contemporary of Daniel) placed Job with two other remarkable men, Noah and Daniel, to uphold their righteousness (chapter 14:14, 20). James used Job as an example of a blessed man, enjoying the mercy and compassion of the Lord because he had perseverance in enduring afflictions (chapter 5:11).
Job was perhaps the man who suffered the greatest variety of catastrophes in only one day than any other person who has ever lived (Job chapter 1). The LORD declared that Job had given no reason for this, that is, neither Job nor his children had done anything that merited such a punishment. There we have confirmation that, although our actions may bring us good or bad consequences, suffering is not necessarily a punishment for something bad we did. As in the case of Job, it could be a test of character.
The LORD did not bring the catastrophes upon Job, but he gave permission and capacity to Satan for him to release them on Job in order to prove that his godliness was genuine and did not depend on the blessings that he received from God. Job passed in this first test brilliantly, enunciating his celebrated words: “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (v. 21).
Satan was not satisfied but asked for, and received, permission and power to touch the health of Job up to the limit of his physical resistance, without killing him. It is the final test of the man of God, to demonstrate in this way that he does not love his life in this world to the point of giving up his faith in God when his life is threatened.
Let us remember the words of the Lord Jesus: “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:15). Our commitment to the Lord Jesus must be such that we are ready to live in poverty or disease, or even to die, if this enables us to glorify Him. To live for Him instead of ourselves guarantees our eternal life.
The LORD knew the depth of his servant Job’s allegiance better than Satan, therefore allowed him to go through the final test. Satan made his judgment of Job based on his experience of the resistance of people in general. All have their weak points, and when coming to extremities most tend to weaken. But God promised us: “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). God will never allow us to be temped beyond what we can bear and He can sustain us, even if our experience is of the most tragic. God knows that our armour will hold.
Many Christians have had to prove their faith in the past, in a similar way the Job. Under the hands of their persecutors, of which the inquisition for centuries by the Roman-Catholics was a prominent example, saints have had their possessions and families stolen from them, and they have been subjected to devilish tortures to try to force them to deny their faith. When finally murdered, it was frequently in cruel ways like being burnt alive at the stake; however they remained firm in their loyalty to the Lord Jesus.
Sometimes we are inclined to think that some brother (or sister) is being disciplined by the Lord (Hebrews 12:6 - 8) because of evil things he may have done (as the friends of Job thought), however that may not be true. Perhaps the Lord is allowing him to be tested even in a way which would not suit us, because we could not bear it.
With a free hand to do what he pleased with the blameless and upright Job’s health, Satan submitted him to the supreme test: he struck Job with malignant ulcers, from the sole of his feet to the top of his head. Tempted by his wife to blaspheme against God, he said she spoke like foolish women, and argued: “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?”
It would be difficult to find an explanation for the terrible horrors that came upon Job, from a human point of view. If it was not for punishment for his sins, then we cannot imagine of what use they were. It seems to have been a cruel and unjust suffering. His friends had understood that they could only be punishment for some serious sin that Job did not want to disclose to them. Job was certain that he had not committed any such sin and did not have any idea of the reason. But his faith in the justice of God remained unshaken.
God had a motive, which is disclosed at the beginning of the book, but did not reveal it to Job (it would have upset the test). God can save us from suffering, but He can equally allow suffering to come upon us for reasons of which we are unaware at present. It is the strategy of Satan to make us doubt God at that moment. If we always knew the reason for suffering, there would be no growth in our faith.
Faith in God does not guarantee personal prosperity, and lack of faith does not guarantee problems in this life. There are today preachers of “prosperity gospel” who ask people to believe in God simply to be rich. How wrong they are!
Many believers think that to believe in God protects them from evil, therefore when they suffer some calamity they question the goodness and the justice of God. But the message of Job is that we do not have to lose our faith in God when He allows us to have bad experiences.
What was happening with Job had a high and worthy purpose. There was a good and sufficient reason in the eternal purposes of God. Now that all the facts are known and we can consider all its facets, we discover that God had a noble purpose. It was good for Job, though terrible while it lasted, and an extraordinary lesson for the readers of the Bible during the millennia that followed, right until our days.
The day came when Job perceived that something good resulted from his experience, even though at the beginning he did not understand anything, as we see from his speeches. He discovered that it was not only for his own good, for he received as a reward seven times more than he had before, but it was also for the glory of God.
Still more important: we are informed right at the beginning of the unique book of Job, that, in the heavenly region, Satan had prepared a serious calumny on the character of God, when suggesting that he was not worthy of being loved, and that He had to pay Job with good health, family and wealth so as to be loved and served. All the children of God must have trembled when hearing such a thing. But Job proved that God was worthy of honour and glory even after everything, including his health, had been taken away.
May the steadfastness of Job serve us as an example when going through trials, for they give us the chance to prove that our faith does not depend on our health or prosperity, and that our God and Lord are worthy of our loyalty, honours and praise simply for being Who He is.
R David Jones