By Rich Lambert
“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.” – Job 2:3-10
No one cheers for Job when he turns up in the lectionary again. We all squirm and shift in our pews or La-Z-Boys. Especially preacher types. Job the man. Job the pawn. Job the dispute. Job the wager. Job the stumbling block and scandal.
The book of Job is full of worry for us—what if God chooses something like this for me? What if Job doesn’t prevail? What if he folds? What if I were to fold?
Our mistake in reading the Book of Job is that we are preoccupied with the view from above the clouds. We are distracted by the heavenly council and the contest and the suffering of a man played out to satisfy the posturing of divine beings. We want answers for all this that we will likely never get.
We should focus on what’s happening beneath the clouds. Job is blameless and upright. He fears God and turns away from evil; he holds fast to his integrity (v. 3) with his lips. He guards his heart with his words (2:10). Job is like the infant in Psalm 8 praising God with his cries to the shame and embarrassment of the enemy (Ps. 8:2). Instead of crying out against God, Job cries out to him.
In this way, Job is an early glimpse of what Jesus will be for us at his first coming—tempted but untricked, touched in his flesh but unturned, afflicted but unaltered. The sores and the soul-pain of Job prefigure the cross-shaped torment of Jesus years later. In both cases, Job and Jesus proclaimed their belief that God must be up to some cosmic-sized good in all of this pain, as inscrutable as it may be. God is never anything but good, they both confess and proclaim, and mystery of mysteries, he must be good in this, too. If I am smitten by suffering, grace will kiss me. If I am stricken down, I will be raised up. If I am afflicted, I will be exalted with God in Christ.
The book of Job continues to be a shudder for the church, but the whisper of good news remains, as well—even our afflictions are grace.
Faith and Practice:
What has been your worst suffering? If it is not too recent and raw, can you see the fingerprints of grace in it and on it? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Could you use some hope right now? Join Peter’s first audience—“elect exiles” undergoing persecution—and experience the apostle’s powerful call to follow Jesus in the midst of life’s challenges, knowing your Living Hope is not a distant one, but a daily, glorious, life-giving reality! This unique six-week small group Bible study, A Living Hope: A Study of 1 Peter, helps you uncover the priceless promises written specifically to the struggling and the hurting, with pastoral gentleness and bold confidence for the future. This study of 1 Peter will help you become utterly convinced that Jesus is the only sure, true, incorruptible, and permanent hope for you.
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