Before we begin, let us pray:
Almighty, gracious Father, our salvation depends upon our true understanding of your holy Word. Grant to all of us that our hearts, being freed from worldly affairs, may hear and grasp your holy Word with all diligence and faith, that we may rightly understand your gracious will, cherish it, and live by it with all earnestness, to your praise and honor. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen. (Worship Sourcebook)
We come now to the actual trial Job had to endure for the entire story of the book, After reading how Job was a godly and wise who was materially and spiritually blessed by God (verses 1-6), we are going to read now his whole devastating ordeal. So in a way, we can say that the structure of the narrative was intentionally setup this way by the author in order for us to witness the contrast between Job’s wealth and poverty. In short, the author wants to uncover for us the breath of Job’s life.
Now, the author not only want us to see the breath of Job’s life, but also its depth. He wants to reveal and for his readers to understand not only Job’s tangible earthly experience of this ordeal but also the heavenly invisible realities surrounding him. There in the heavenly invisible space God himself, the angels and even Satan, the devil are in action. This means Job’s trial must be seen in both perspective. That while a large space of the content of the book wrestles with this question of the righteous suffering, the answer is found in God and God alone.
So, our preaching this morning will come us into two segments. The first segment is the trial of Job viewed from the heavens then the story of his first ordeal which the losing of his family and fortune. Then the second segment is the trial of Job again viewed from the heavens then again the story of his second ordeal which the losing of his health and dignity. Then finally, we will learn about Job’s response to both. This Lord’s Day we will hear God’s Word preached on the first segment then next Lord’s Day, the second segment. Our sermon points today are: Job’s Trial1) Viewed from the Heavenly Perspective; 2) The Losing of His Family and Fortune.
Let us begin.
Viewed from the Heavenly Perspective
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. (Verses 6-12)
Verse 1 reveals for us a time and space or a day (“Yom” in Hebrew) where all celestial beings (sons of God), including Satan present themselves before God. Obviously, this also presents (no pun intended) a problem for us in trying to understand the place where the story occurred. Is it a literal place or not? Is it in heaven or some place else?
Well, it is most probably in heaven. Now, the theological problem there is how come Satan is allowed to present himself before God knowing God is holy and Satan is evil. Some scholars do acknowledge this issue and concede to the idea this must not be possibly heaven but I do think this detail in the story wants us to understand that even Satan submits to God’s sovereign authority. When he is summoned he appears before his Creator. Again, Satan still a creature and no equal to God. Yes, he is a celestial being and we are as human beings are no match against him but he is no match before God.
So I think if this is indeed heaven then the story literary occurred and not simply a fictional story imagine by the author as some liberal Christians assume. Literal events happened in history and even though it did not happen here on earth but in an invisible realm it is still part of the reality we are all in. Following this understand, we can say that his event in the narrative objectively wants to establish for us concretely the source of Job’s trial. It is not Job’s sin as his friends assumed. No, the trial comes from God himself. I will pick up this thorny theological concept later. How can God test and Satan tempt and what is the difference? But let us go back to narrative first.
Verse 2 reveals God (Yahweh) addressing Satan and establishing his whereabouts. Now Satan’s name means literary “Accuser” or “Adversary”. As we know from book of Revelation and the rest of the New Testament , he continues to devour God’s people and lead his followers to persecute the godly. Revelation 20 reveals to us that Satan has been thrown into the bottomless pit and bounded by the preaching of the gospel. In short, in the period between the first and second coming of Christ, Satan is limited. However, prior to this he appears to be as he confessed, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” At this point of redemptive history, God puts an enmity between Satan (as the serpent) and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. In short, the spiritual war between God’s enemies (followers of Satan) and God’s people has begun. And even at this point when Job lives, Satan continues to attack God’s people. Satan, while summoned to appear before God, remains an enemy of God and his people.
Then verse 3 lays down for us the challenge God issued before Satan. It was God who puts Job in trial before Satan. Now again modern Christians wrestle with this issue about God’s absolute sovereignty and we can address this later on but the narrative clearly portrays God as the one who present Job before Satan. Again, we have no further context as to why God choose to do this. It is simply a plain statement of fact. And it powerfully asserts for us God’s absolute control over everything that comes to pass. God wants Satan to acknowledge the righteousness God grants to his people by grace. We will explore more this idea later on but God, in his goodness, wisdom, power, and sovereignty, wants to demonstrate saving faith in the lives of his people.
However, Satan malicious insinuate that Job is fake. He accuses Job of hypocrisy. His evil intentions is to tempt Job into sinning by cursing God. He replied to God, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” Satan believes that the righteousness God grants cannot and will not persevere in the end. The evil Satan desires to demonstrate is that God people are only thankful in prosperity but never patient in adversity. Satan challenges God back by putting stain over the motives and intention of God’s people. They are all hypocrites unworthy of God’s grace and mercy. In way, he is saying that God’s people are only loyal to you because they benefit from you. Take them all away and they will leave you and eventually curse you. So at the end of verse 12, God gave Satan permission to take way everything from Job.
There are two key take ways from the dialogue between God and Satan I would like to emphasize.
First, God remains in control over creation as well in redemption. We know God commonly provides over all his creation but from this narrative we can take comfort from the fact that God specially takes care of his people. God personally and intimately knows Job. He know him by name and character. He continues to uphold Job in all as aspects of his being. In God, Job lives, moves, and have being (cf Acts 17:28). God is united with his people. They are his. No one can snatch them away from his hand.
Second, God in his sovereignty and wisdom, ordain for us to experience trials as testing. This is the mystery of God’s providence in concurring every event in lives of his people. God allows and permits evil for a part of our existence here on earth to suffer and experience pain. The narrative and dialogue clearly reveals this for us and picking up what we left previous regarding this thorny theological issue about God’s sovereignty. However it appears that the testing God allows for Satan to tempt us may seems God is the author of evil, Scripture simply prohibits such conclusion. James wrote, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” (James 1:13). Clearly, the source of our sin is our sinful nature. Yet in parallel, God is concurrent in every event of temptation Satan brings to anyone. Yet for God’s people, it is not tempt to sin against God as what the devil wants us to do. Rather, the testing is for the production and demonstration of true and saving faith. The purpose of the testing is to separate possessors of true saving faith with those who are hypocrites and false professors. James explains, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
So Christians, let us persevere in the end knowing it is God who preserves us.
The Loss of Family and Fortunes
Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and there came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 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.” 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.” 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.” 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, 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.” Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 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. (Verses 13-22)
After we read about Job’s trial viewed from a heavenly perspective, we are now going to need to understand them from this earthly perspective. It clear from the narrative that this two perspective differs by the repetition of the opening phrase, “Now there was a day …” This signals an important pairing. It appears that while the challenge has been made in heaven, no one on earth know about it even as it happens.
Now the readers perspective like the author knows about how the challenge in heaven is related to the events happening here on earth. However for those in the like Job and his family do not have this privilege of restrospection. Instead, they have to bear with it as it develops. It seems the author intended for his readers to know unlike the characters of the story in order for them to develop a emphaty for Job as he goes throught his whole ordeal. We will return to the topic of emphaty when Job meet his so-called friends.
Going back particularly to the first segment of Job’s trial. They are about the losing of family and fortunes. Satan was able to inflict Job two kinds of disasters. The first one is a result of evil inflicted by the actions of evil and wicked follows of the devil. And the second one is a direct consequence of a natural disaster.
At this point, we need to recognize that while all these events that brought disasters to Job comes from the devil as a secondary cause, ultimately it is God himself who is in control. By God’s permission, he is ultimately concurrent over these actions and free and sovereign to over rule these secondary causes, agents, and instruments.
As to the case of the Sabeans and Chaldeans robbing Job’s of his fortune, these evil men are responsible for their evil actions and ultimately God allows them to bring about their evil desires. It is still the fault of these men and God will definitely hold them accountable but he permitted it to happen so Job’s family suffered the consequences of these men’s evil actions leading to the loss of lives and property.
As to the case of fire and great wind, we know that God himself and he alone was responsible for creating these natural disasters. However, the consequences that results to the loss of lives and property may have been influenced by the devil. At this point, it becomes harder for us to discern as how it can be. Yet our minds are limited in our understand and as to not underestimate the powers of celestial beings, we know Satan is a very capable fallen angelic being. However, it maybe we can still know for certain that while Satan is poweful, he is not all-poweful like God and everything he does is limited by God.
Now going back to the earthly perspective of Job’s trial, it appears that the string of events happens so quickly and ever increasing magnitude. At the end of this first segment, all of Job’s children and servants died either by murder and natural disaster. Then implied in the narrative, Job losts also his fortunes. And just like what Satan asks, God allows Job to lose everything he possess. This means if Satan was right then Job’s response is cursing God for all of it. We will go back to this later.
I would like to go back to the point of empathy for us readers here. For those who experienced getting sick, being in the hospital for medical trearment, either emergency or because of a suprising medical condition, we all know how everything happens so fast that it immediately becomes overwhelming.
Eli, my eldest son, gave us these kinds of medical emergencies. The first was emergency heart operation when he was only 2 weeks old and the other was when he broke his arm and he needed surgery to fix it. And because disasters and misfortunes happen when you least expect it, emotionally it becomes overwhelming and some people loses their control over their emotional state.
So when these kinds of events happens to us and endured the situation, we have been given the wisdom to empathize properly to our brothers and sister who will suffer similar situations. It provides us the proper sense and sensibilities to offer help when others are in need of encouragement and comfort.
As Christians, Christ calls us to carry each others burden and understanding how people react under duress by experiencing the same kind of situation is definitely helpful when dealing with others who goes thru with the same trials in their lives. From the earthly perspective of trials, these events tend to overhelm us so let us prepare our minds and hearts for it.
And lastly, when we were expecting Job to curse God proving Satan right, Job worshipped God and uttered this praise instead, “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.” The force of the narrative leans towards Job cursing God but as a plot twist, Job declared praise for God. The narrative concludes, “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” God is right and Satan is wrong. Job is no hypocrite. He is truly a godly and wise man. Job demostrated the genuiness of his faith. He endured this first trial from God. Satan failed to tempt him to sin.
At this point, it is clear that Job’s ordeal was not caused by his sin. Yes, Job is no sinless and perfect man but the trial he experienced did not come from it as a consequence. Rather, it is simply an exercise of God’s divine pleasure and sovereignty. God wants to prove that a saving faith is an enduring faith.
We will continue in our study of this matter again in the second segment of Job’s trial next Lord’s Day. The trial gets deeper and more devasting, and as a result more challenging for Job. Will Job curse God if God gives Satan permission to inflict excruciating pain? Will he finally leave God and rebel against him?
ZCRC(Imus), God grants his people the ability to endure pain and suffering. He preserves us and upholds us even as he tests our faith. So may we persevere in end, and receive these encouragements from his Word by the power of his Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.