The Lord gives and the Lord takes away

Job was an exceptional man. God described him in these terms: “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a pure and upright man, one who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 1:8 NET).

In worldly terms he was rich and successful. In the list of what he owned were 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, plus many servants. These were what made a man wealthy in the East and in his day. Although we aren’t given an exact time that he lived, it would appear to be in the time of Patriarchs, as we shall later see.

Job also had a large family: he and his wife had seven sons and three daughters. We can see his devotion to God in what he did for his family. When they had a period of celebration and feasting, towards the end he would send for them to purify them – he thought, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts” (Job 1:5). Job was an exceptional man in every way and especially in his serving God.

It would be easy to suspect Job’s faithfulness and devotion. “Of course Job is faithful to God; just look how much God has blessed him.” “If I had what Job had, I’d be devoted to God, too.” This is the precise accusation that Satan made to God against Job. He accused God of surrounding Job with an impenetrable hedge. Just remove the hedge and see how quickly Job would forsake God.

It might seem strange to us that God allowed Satan to remove what Job had. I would suggest that this tells us at least two things. First, God was confident in Job (and remember that God knows men’s hearts). Secondly, God was still in control. Notice that Satan had to ask if he could affect Job. God did permit Satan to do bad things to Job – but keep in mind that this was what Satan was doing. As we learn from the New Testament, God does not allow us to be tried beyond what we can bear, but he is always there providing a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13).

I don’t think any of us would wish on anyone what happened to Job next. In the space of just a few minutes servant after servant after servant arrived with bad news: the Sabeans swooped down and stole all of his oxen and donkeys and killed the servants; fire fell from heaven and burned the sheep and servants; the Chaldeans raided and took all the camels and killed the servants that were there; and finally, what had to be the worst news any parent dreads: the house where your children were collapsed – there are no survivors. Job literally lost everything but his wife and his life (and a few servants) in the matter of a few minutes.

How would we react to losing everything? How have we seen people react to similar catastrophes? Or perhaps something that wasn’t a fraction as bad? I’m sure we all know people who receive the news that they (or a loved one) has cancer – some turn away from God and, in essence, blame him. Others turn towards God and end up with a strong faith.

Notice Job’s reaction: “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshipped.  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” (Job 1:20-22 ESV). What a wonderful statement of trust in God!

Readings for next week:
21 September – Job 7
22 September – Job 8
23 September – Job 9
24 September – Job 10
25 September – Job 11

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