Scripture: Job, chapters 1-2; Acts, chapters 6-7
Job 1:13-22 (NASB) – Now on the day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the female donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans attacked and took them. They also killed the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was still speaking, another came 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 still speaking, another came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three units and made a raid on the camels and took them, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was still speaking another also came and said, “Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people and they died, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”
Then Job got up, tore his robe, and shaved his head; then he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Despite all this, Job did not sin, nor did he blame God.
When I was growing up, there was a show on TV called “Hee-Haw.” (I’m sure that’s where my dislike of country music started.) One of the regular parts of the show were two men singing songs of despair. One that sticks in my mind had these lyrics: “Gloom, despair, and agony on me / deep dark depression, excessive misery / If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all / gloom, despair, and agony on me.”
That came to my mind as I read this passage today. First, a servant comes and says that the Sabeans captured the oxen and donkeys and killed the servants who were with them. Then, another comes and says that “the fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants.” As the third servant arrives, Job is probably thinking, “What now?” “The Chaldeans made a raid on the camels and took them, and killed the servants.” Finally, another servant comes and tells Job that all of this sons and daughters and their families were killed when a great wind struck the house and collapsed it on them. Gloom, despair, and agony on Job!
Job did not blame God:
One of the lessons of the book of Job is that these sorts of things don’t always happen because God causes them. The first part of chapter 1 narrates an encounter between God and Satan. God brags on Job because he is so righteous and faithful. Satan – “the accuser” or “the adversary” – claims that Job is only faithful because God has blessed him so much: “reach out Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will certainly curse You to Your face” (1:11). God then allows Satan to take Job’s wealth: “All that he has is in your power; only do not reach out and put your hand on him.” (1:12) And that’s what Satan does.
But notice how pervasive is the belief that God causes all of these things to happen; the second servant says that the fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants. I don’t think that Satan has the ability to case the fire of God to fall from heaven. He may be able to cause fire to show up (after all, his destiny is rather intertwined with fire), but it’s not the fire of God. And throughout the book of Job, his friends will tell Job over and over that God has caused these things to happen because of some sin that Job “must have” committed.
Despite all this, Job did not sin, nor did he blame God. We often focus on the fact that Job knew that he had not sinned. In all his discussion with his friends, he steadfastly maintains his innocence. But I don’t think that his faith was based on his own righteousness. He knew that he had not sinned, but more importantly, he knew God. He did not blame God, not because Job was certain of his own innocence, but because he was certain of God’s righteousness. There’s no better place to stand than that!
We tend to judge God’s righteousness on human terms. Many people read Job and think that the message is that God will “give it all back” in the end. It’s true that God did restore to Job wealth and family at the end of the story, but Job’s assurance of God’s faithfulness wasn’t based on any belief in a future reward – neither in this world nor in the world to come. Rather, Job was convinced of God’s faithfulness because he experienced God’s presence and His grace every day. That’s a powerful reminder for us. We shouldn’t allow our expectations, or the world’s standards, to influence our understanding of God’s faithfulness. God’s grace and mercy are everlasting. Each day He reveals Himself to us in new and deeper ways. Why would we settle for the things of this world when God’s mercies are new every morning?
But Job says, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.” Doesn’t that mean that he believed that God had done this? Not if we read verse 22: Despite all this, Job did not sin, nor did he blame God. I believe the more important phrase comes before Job’s comment that the Lord has taken away: Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. Job didn’t have anything when he arrived, and he knew that he couldn’t take it with him – so what difference did it make how long he had those things?
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Everything that happens in life is filtered through God’s will for us. Scripture makes it clear that even those who walk closest to God go through times of testing and trial. What’s important is not what we have, or how long we have it; what’s important is God’s presence through it all. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.
Prayer: Father, we bless Your name today. Each day is a gift from you. Whatever we have in this world has come from You, because the earth is Yours, and everything in it (Psalm 24:1). Thank You for Your mercy, your grace, and the strength that You provide us each day as we follow Jesus on this journey of life. Help us not to be distracted by the things of this world – neither its possessions nor its values and beliefs of what is important. Help us instead to fix our eyes on Jesus. Amen.