Before we begin, let us pray:
Father, our Father in heaven, compel us all simply to take you at your Word. Touch us with the Holy Spirit, we pray, and do not let us get away from your Word without being caught by its promises and powerful joy. We pray this for our sake, Father, and for those whom we love, in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Let us continue our study of Job’s trial. We learned last week about his trial viewed from the heavenly perspective and the first segment of his loss, the loss of family and fortunes(wealth). And now, we come to the second segment of his loss, the loss of his health and dignity.
Job did not only suffer the emotional pain of losing his loved ones, his entire possession but more so he experienced enormous physical pain. In the next segments of his trial we will also find our that these losses lead to Job’s spiritual distress which we can read from his poetical responses but for now let us first focus on his physical suffering.
As a pattern set by the first segment, God and Satan again will dialog about Job’s steadfastness. Then next will be the heightening of Job’s trial. Finally, the response of Job will be anticipated. Will he curse or praise God?
We continue the last sermon point of part 2 – The Loss of Health and Dignity. Let us begin….
The Loss of Health and Dignity
“Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. And 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? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Verse 1-10)
Verse 1 mentions again a day or in Hebrew “Yom” where we can see from the invisible heavenly perspective what happens to Job next. Verses 1 to 3 is a repetition of the previous segment, Chapter 1, verses 6 to 8, but with one additional clause at the end to differentiate itself and move forward the narrative. God says, “He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” This cements for us the judgment of God regarding the first trial. Job did not sin and curse God. However, what comes next will further bring Job into the pit of his trial. Satan is still stubborn and unwilling to give up persists. He again maliciously insinuated that the loss of family and material possession are external to man so in a sense impersonal to him. Satan wants to go further than this and make it personal to Job. Satan says, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” He wants to make it painful for Job not just emotionally as what we experience when experience external loss, but more so, he wants Job to suffer physical pain. So again as signifying God’s ultimate authority and sovereignty over the matter, he gave Satan permission to inflict Job pain but limits it scope excluding Job’s life. God says, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”
As expected, Satan went out from heaven and into earth to Job and fleshed this agreement out. Again, while Satan is a secondary cause and agent of Job’s trial and in this case bringing sickness to Job, ultimately God is concurring and ultimately providential. God is not the author of sin, Satan is responsible for devouring God’s people and bring them into temptation to sin or curse God, but God permits this trial in order to test Job’s faith. It is for the demonstration of true and saving faith.
A commonly asked question about this particular part of Job’s trial. What is this sickness Job was suffering from? Dr. Derek Thomas summarizes it this way:
Job’s disease has been diagnosed variously as boils, leprosy, and more likely, elephantiasis. A diagnosis is not really possible. The symptoms given in the book include the following: aching, rotting bones (30:17) – though this may well be just a description of acute deep-seated pain; dark (and peeling) skin (30:28,30), wart-like eruptions (7:5); anorexia (19:20); fever (30:30); depression (7:16; 30:15); weeping (16:16); sleeplessness (7:4): nightmares (7:14); putrid breath (19:17; cf- 17:0; failing vision (16:16); rotting teeth (19:20). He evidently looked awful! ‘They could hardly recognize him’ (2:12).~ Derek Thomas
Now, I do not think we will all suffer the same way or even with the same degree. I think the example of Job intends to cover the most extreme and even highest form of suffering due to sickness. Anyone who suffers a great deal will immediately relate to his ordeal. Perhaps the intention is for anyone who is suffering can identify with his pain. In short, physical pain is part of the trail.
While not everyone are appointed to die through the gateway of sickness and pain, for some may die immediately and even painless, but generally dying comes with the whole experience of sickness and pain. They are some who are more tolerant with pain, and some complain already with a even a slight dose of pain. However, common to everyone is the experience of suffering pain before death, and we fear dying more than death itself.
I remember R.C. Sproul saying while it seems he is already experiencing some degree of pain. Sproul died December 14, 2017, following complications from emphysema. He was 78 years old.
“I recently heard a young Christian remark, “I have no fear of dying.” When I heard this comment I thought to myself, “I wish I could say that.” I am not afraid of death. I believe that death for the Christian is a glorious transition to heaven. I am not afraid of going to heaven. It’s the process that frightens me. I don’t know by what means I will die. It may be via a process of suffering, and that frightens me. I know that even this shouldn’t frighten me. There are lots of things that frighten me that I shouldn’t let frighten me. The Scripture declares that perfect love casts out fear. But love is still imperfect, and fear hangs around.”
The loss of health comes with the loss of dignity. It is a humiliating and often shameful lot. I think this triggered Job’s wife to eventually lose it and tempted his husband to sin and curse God. It is indeed a heavy burden to bear. Having to rely on others to take care of your decaying health is feels degrading. It is both hard for the one suffering and the one taking care of the one who suffers. And because you are the one personally experiencing it, empathy becomes hard. The one suffering is overwhelmed by the pain while the caretaker is overwhelmed by the needs of others. In marriage, the promise made is through sickness and in health right? Imagine suffering with your wife or husband? Either we are the one suffering or the one taking care of the one who suffers, none of it is easy. Later on, Job will suffer alone so we can touch that topic soon but for now I want us to focus on the loss of health and dignity in the context of family.
Several times during Nikki’s pregnancy when we had to go to the hospital for some painful condition she was experiencing. I am not the one suffering but because we are husband and wife, we are one flesh, in some way, I am also experience some losses, it may not be physical to me because I am not the one experiencing the pain, and yet I still suffer some form of suffering. I also had to endure some sense of loss in dignity, we are both in a state of humiliation, we need help from others and we worry about the state of our children who were at home. We also need to face the financial downside of getting sick. Hindi mura magkasakit. Para din yang nanakawan ka. Ubos lahat ng savings mo pati yung lifestyle mo apektado. Hindi madali magdaan sa pagkakasakit. Lahat apektado.
Job’s wife eventually snapped and gave up. I think the personal losses becomes overwhelming to her and to finally reveal the state of her heart. She is only grateful during prosperity but impatient during adversity. There is a lot of things you can know about yourself whenever you are suffering. And Job’s wife’s character was finally revealed. Yes, Satan used her to make the temptation even more personal to Job, and imagine the pain Job felt when his own wife abandoned the faith, but by this we know how trials make or break professing believers. False faith falters while true faith endures. True believers submits to their lot while hypocrites complains about it.
All the more we can emphasize with Job and the how costly it was for him to hold on to his faith to God. It all came to personal cost to him. Despite of this so personal temptation to abandon God through his personal connection with his wife, he held his ground and confess, “…Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In the midst of loss of health and dignity, Job confesses that as Christians, we are called to give thanks to God during prosperity, and to be patient during adversity. God gives us both prosperity and adversity so we are called to humble submit to his will when we experience either of it. Of course, the evil we receive comes from secondary causes but ultimately God concurs and permits them to test our faith and not to tempt us to sin. Again, we need to always hear this as to not charge God of being the author of sin.
If there is one upside I think that comes with the whole ordeal we are experiencing today because of this pandemic is that lie of the false gospel of wealth and health has been exposed. I know as soon as everything goes back to normal these false gospel peddlers will again gain more followers but as least because of the situation today, I lie that the Christian life is all about the promotion of wealth and health is harder to sell. And I know as reformed Christians, we do not believe this particularly but often we find ourselves buy into it as well. We think because we all good Christians we are exempted from sickness and pain. We have become proud in our thinking that we do not deserve to suffer because we are God’s special people and his presence must immune us from pain and suffering.
As a result of such thing, we often find ourselves also unable to empathize with the pain of our own brothers and sisters in Christ. Thinking we are all elect and secure of our own election and eternal destiny, we brush away or set aside the experience of suffering by those who are outside us, our own families, our own churches. Sympathy and empathy is hard if we do not lower ourselves to the level of the one who is suffering. The loss of health and dignity requires comforting and consoling and not dispassionate counselling. It is personal. So dealing with anyone who suffers and experiencing pain is a personal cost to us as well. We will learn about Job’s friends next week and how they become useless counsellors and praying we can gain wisdom from it and become better counsellors to others.
Same as with the first segment. Job again did not sin despite of the personal trial from his own wife. Scripture confirms, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” Job again is proven to be godly and wise. And I pray as we study further this book, we will all grow in the knowledge and wisdom of God.
ZCRC(Imus), May the Lord grants us the patience when we suffer adversity and may he enable us to console others who suffers and experience sickness and pain. We pray in all this in the name of Jesus Christ by 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.