The Book of Job
The setting is the land of Uz, thought to have been Haman, a region east of the sea of Galilee, extending from Edom northerly and easterly toward the Euphrates river. Haman was noted for its fertility of soil and abundant grain. Once thickly populated, it now is dotted with the ruins of 300 cities.
Ancient tradition identifies Job with Jobab, the second king of Edom (Genesis 36:33). Names and places mentioned seem to give it a setting among the descendants of Esau, and the time about the same as Israel's sojourn in Egypt.
Ancient Jewish tradition gives Moses credit for the book. It can be conjectured that during Moses' stay in Midian, which bordered on the Edomite country, he could have easily received the story from Job himself or from his immediate descendants.
The book opens with an account of Job, a patriarchal Chieftain, or what in those times was called a King, of immense wealth and influence, famous for his integrity, his piety, and benevolence. A good man that suddenly suffered the overwhelming destruction and loss of all he had. It stunned all those in that part of the world. Chapter 2 reveals satan's hand in it. Chapter 3 is Job's complaint. Read the scriptures Job chapters 1-3.
Job chapter 1:
1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.
2 And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters.
3 His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.
4 And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.
5 And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.
6 ¶ Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.
7 And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
8 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?
9 Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?
10 Hast not thou made a hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.
11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
12 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.
13 ¶ And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house:
14 and there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them:
15 and the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
16 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
17 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
18 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house:
19 and, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
20 ¶ Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,
21 and said, 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.
22 ¶ In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.
Job chapter 2:
1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD.
2 And the LORD said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
3 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.
4 And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life.
5 But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.
6 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life.
7 ¶ So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.
8 And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes.
9 Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.
10 ¶ But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.
11 ¶ Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; El'iphaz the Te'manite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Na'amathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him, and to comfort him.
12 And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven.
13 So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.
Job chapter 3:
1 After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day.
2 And Job spake, and said.
3 Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived.
4 Let that day be darkness; let not God regard it from above,
neither let the light shine upon it.
5 Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it; let a cloud dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it.
6 As for that night, let darkness seize upon it; let it not be joined unto the days of the year;
let it not come into the number of the months.
7 Lo, let that night be solitary; let no joyful voice come therein.
8 Let them curse it that curse the day, who are ready to raise up their mourning.
9 Let the stars of the twilight thereof be dark; let it look for light, but have none; neither let it see the dawning of the day:
10 because it shut not up the doors of my mother's womb, nor hid sorrow from mine eyes.
11 Why died I not from the womb? Why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?
12 Why did the knees prevent me? Or why the breasts that I should suck?
13 For now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept: then had I been at rest,
14 with kings and counselors of the earth, which built desolate places for themselves;
15 or with princes that had gold, who filled their houses with silver:
16 or as a hidden untimely birth I had not been; as infants which never saw light.
17 There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest.
18 There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor.
19 The small and great are there; and the servant is free from his master.
20 Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul;
21 which long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures;
22 which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave?
23 Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, and whom God hath hedged in?
24 For my sighing cometh before I eat, and my roarings are poured out like the waters.
25 For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.
26 I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came.
The main question raised and answered is, Why Serve God? At the same time, this question is answered, the question of human suffering, and more specifically, why the righteous suffer, is also answered.
Though Job was not aware of it, until the very end, God had a great purpose for his sufferings. Certainly if Job had known the counsels of heaven just before his affliction, as we are permitted to see them, and if he had known the outcome of his ordeal as God did, how differently he would have behaved.
One of the basic meanings of the book is that Job did not know. Between the revelation of the prologue where the counsels of heaven are shown and the epilogue where his final enrichment and blessing are told, there are a group of patriarchal "wisemen" theorizing and admonishing based upon the common beliefs of their day - under God, the wicked receive punishment and the righteous receive good in this life (still held widely today). They were ignorant of God's plans; they were philosophizing in the dark.
We are meant to see that there was an explanation, even though Job and his friends did not know it, so that when unexplainable affliction comes to us, we may believe that there is a purpose for it in the counsels of heaven, and a foreknown outcome of blessing. Romans 8:28 - "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."
Job was not meant to know. If he had known, there would have been no place for faith; he could never come out as gold purified by fire. Behind all the suffering of the godly is the purpose of ministry: remedial, corrective, disciplinary, not judicial, not a penalty or punishment.
Hebrews 12:11 - "Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."
An important question that must be met is about the counsel of heaven which obviously must have come by supernatural revelation. Throughout the Scriptures the government of God is presented in these terms. God as seated on a throne, surrounded by cherubim and seraphim, ministered to by the angelic host, conducting His government through them. Satan (the accuser) is represented as having access to God, as the "accuser of the brethren" in Revelation 12:10. He stands in the Lord's presence to accuse Joshua in Zechariah 3:1,2. Other passages show satan as having a permitted and limited power of testing the Lord's people: Luke 22:31,32; I Corinthians 5:5, I Timothy 1:20; II Timothy 2:26.
Luke 22:31,32 - Jesus tells Peter: "And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren."
The implications are that the angels must periodically gather to give an account before the great white throne; satan must also give account; he is compelled to come by the rule of the Most High.
God knows even the dark mind of satan, and He questions satan, not for information, but to compel confession. God's question, more literally is: "Hast thou set thine heart on (or against) my servant Job because there is none like him...?" Satan replies that he had, but because God had hedged Job in too protectively, he had been unsuccessful.
Satan's activities are described as "going to and fro" and "walking up and down", indicating restless and continuing activity. This is indeed a mark of the evil one banished by God. See Isaiah 57:20,21; Matthew 12:43. Behind all his movements are the evils of an energizing and organizing mind.
Satan is shown to be neither omnipresent nor omniscient. He is at only one place at a time. While many invisible spirit beings work with or for satan, he is limited. God can see into all our minds, but satan cannot. He thought he could read Job's mind, but he was mistaken and finally defeated. He can take possession of a human mind (as Judas') but this is only by permission from the human side. We dare not underrate him, but it is foolish and impractical to overrate him.
Much comfort can be drawn from the fact that satan can do nothing without Divine permission. Though free and restless as the continually changing seas, at the same time just as bound. (See Job 33:2.) Though satan would destroy and ruin, God overrules for ultimate good.
In every permission granted to satan, there is a definite limitation. First, "Only upon himself put not forth thine hand" (1:12). When Job survives this test, further permission with a further limitation is given, "Behold he is in thine hand; but touch not his life" (2:6). Just as Pilate had no more power over Christ than God allowed (John 19:11).
I Corinthians 10:13 states this clearly for the Christian: "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
Why does Job serve God?
Job traced the removal of his property and the loss of his children at once to God, and found consolation in the belief that an intelligent, all-knowing, and holy Sovereign presided over his affairs, and that He had removed only what He gave. He didn't blame fate, luck, the Sabeans or Chaldeans. Though satan wished to drive Job to curse God, the temptation lead him to bless God - showing that he did not serve God because of the blessings received. Satan is not satisfied, though it is now obvious that Job does serve God for naught, and satan's accusation without foundation.
Satan implies in 2:4 that Job had only feigned love for God that his life be spared, and if he is allowed to touch Job's person, since there will be no profit left in his religion Job will give back curse for curse. Satan first puts a suspicious question over all Job's past piety, then predicts his fall. Once again, God permit's the mystery of affliction to touch his servant. Job is stricken with a hideous and apparently hopeless disease, inflamed eruptions that itched (2:7), maggots in ulcers (7:5), erosion of bones (30:17), blackening and falling off of skin (30:30), and accompanied by terrifying nightmares (7:14).
Job's wife advised him to curse God and die - a woman again used to try to undo her husband. Her urging was exactly what satan wanted Job to do. Job's reply was even-tempered, under the circumstances. He did not curse God. Yet, his torment was not over, for his wise friends were on their way. When God visited this earth in the Person of Jesus Christ, the question remained the same - Why serve God?
Jesus came seeking to minister, to bring to all people a knowledge of what God was really like, His patience, His loving kindness, His mercy toward those who turn to Him in faith, trusting His Almighty Holiness, Love and Power.
After the feeding of the five thousand, and the many miracles of healing, many followed Jesus. He spoke these words, evealing their hearts' true desires: "26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled."
A brief sermon followed in which Jesus reveals Himself as the Bread from Heaven, the Bread of Life - they must partake of Him - and this is eternal life. Can we even a little imagine the feelings of Jesus as "many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him"? He had poured out His heart and love toward them, wishing to show them the way of life eternal, which was Himself, even as He was soon to pour out His life for their redemption. They had actually rejected Him and said by their going - "You're not worth serving by Yourself."
Imagine His heart as He turned to those few disciples left and said unto the 12: "Will you also go away?" Saying in this, "Do you also serve me also only for what you can get out of it, or do you follow Me for Myself?"
And may God continually bless that often bold Peter in responding from a deep love shed abroad in his heart:
John 6:68,69 - "Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God."
Is God worth serving for what we can get out of it, or is He worth serving for Himself? He has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, He has loved us enough to come to this sinful earth and live for us, and die for us. He lives today for us, continually wishing to give us Himself; He is our life, our wisdom, our Righteousness, our Sanctification, our Redemption, our Saviour, our Shepherd, our Friend.
Can we say with Job in any circumstance "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth" (Job 19:25). When the going gets tough, can we say with Peter, "to whom shall we go?"
Is not God worth serving for Himself?
This article was written by my father T.O.D. Johnston, who was licensed to preach the Gospel by Paran Baptist Church on May 26, 1979. He has been a student of Scripture since 1972. View more lessons at his Bible Study Lessons page.