Read more from the series on the Book of Job here.
In the space of one day, in the space of perhaps less than one terrible hour, Job’s entire life has fallen apart. This good man, “the greatest of all the people of the east” (Job 1:3), has been brought low by God. To be sure, it is Satan (whose name actually means accuser or adversary) who has done this, but only because God gave him permission (Job 1:12).
This conundrum raises all sorts of disturbing questions for the thinking Christian, and every serious Christian must deal with this text. Life is hard, and bad things do happen to Christians. Why? That is the question this wonderful book addresses. This is the reason God gave us this book.
In the second chapter, the author brings us back to God’s throne room, in the heavens above. Satan has returned, and Yahweh cannot help but reminded him about Job’s steadfastness, “He still holds fast his integrity, although you moved me against him, to destroy him without cause,” (Job 2:3).
- Is God being flippant about a truly tragic situation?
- Does God consider us to be disposable pawns, fit to be used for silly demonstrations, then tossed aside like soiled Kleenex?
- Does God’s way of speaking to Satan reflect badly upon Him in any way?
- When Christians are suffering through some terrible ordeal, and bearing the strain without cursing God (just as Job has done thus far; cf. Job 1:20-22), is God speaking this way about us?
- Is it inappropriate to even ask these questions about God? Is it somehow more pious to pretend we have no questions about the justice and rightness of His actions, here?
Satan responds with a pretty shrewd insight,
All that a man has he will give for his life. But put forth thy hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face (Job 1:4-5).
Satan has failed to get Job to curse God so far. But, he’s convinced that a deliberate attack on Job’s physical health will achieve the desired result. God had previously denied this to Satan (Job 1:12), but now He’s lifted that restriction. “And the LORD said to Satan, ‘Behold, he is in your power; only spare his life,’” (Job 2:6).
- Do you agree with Satan, here? Do you think most professing believers would give anything in exchange for their lives?
- What does the Bible teach us about suffering for the Lord’s sake? What are some good passages to consider, here?
- Again, Satan can only harm Job with God’s permission. What does this tell us about the ultimate cause of physical ailments in human beings? Can we extrapolate out from this account, and directly attribute all physical sufferings to the deliberate intention of God? Why, or why not?
The text tells us,
So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD, and afflicted Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God, and die,” (Job 1:7-10).
Here are some things to consider:
- Why does the text say Job was “among the ashes?” Does this mean he’s just sitting among the ashes he’s heaped upon his own head in mourning? Or, because of his skin disease, has Job been cast outside the city to the “dump” to be quarantined. This is the place where, among other things, dung is taken by the population to be burnt. If this is indeed the place Job has been cast out to, then perhaps we can understand his wife’s despair even more keenly.
- Do you think Job’s wife deserves a bad reputation? Why, or why not? We understand, from a cold and intellectual perspective, that her reaction is “wrong.” But, can you understand why she would respond the way she did? Can you put yourself in her context, suffering the sudden death of 10 children and loss of all earthly possessions, watching her husband crippled from a debilitating sickness, and sympathize with her?
- Have you ever swore at your spouse in a moment of extreme anger, frustration or sorrow, and regretted it? As you later apologized, did you say something like, “I didn’t mean it! I was just so angry . . . I’m sorry!”
- Is the wife’s reaction something Satan would have liked? Why or why not? What does this tell us about how Satan feels about our own inappropriate reactions to trials and hardships?
Job’s response is interesting:
But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips (Job 2:10).
He refuses to curse God, or blame Him. As we’ll see, Job never curses God, but he accuses God of injustice in a roundabout way. But, his response is intriguing:
- Is Job right? Does God have the right, as the creator of earth, the heavens, and every single man, woman, boy and girl on earth (whether they acknowledge it or not), to dispense good and evil to His people?
- Why would God dispense evil to His covenant people? What insight does this give us about our own problems?
The core of the book begins next. Job’s three friends arrive, and the real conversation begins (Job 2:11-13). They have many things to say, and not all of it is bad. Some of it is bad because it’s just, well . . . bad. Other times, they say things that are right sometimes, but wrong for Job’s situation. God in His providence, chose to preserve the book in this format so we can see real people, asking real questions, and struggling to find real answers to real problems in the real world.
Why do the righteous suffer? Why does God permit this? What does He want from His people as He allows them to suffer, through no fault of their own?
The book of Job is one place to go for some answers.