Have you ever wondered where God is in the midst of pain and suffering? Do you ever struggle with believing that God is loving, good, generous and kind in the face of hardship, both in the world at large and in your own life? The Old Testament character, Job certainly did. That’s why we can relate to him, and learn from him.
Today we’re going to look at a character named Job. And we’ll answer the question — where is God when it hurts?
We’ll start by reading Job 1, verse 1:
In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.
He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.
So this story begins in the land of Uz.
We could put the setting like this — “In a long ago time and a faraway place…”
And I think the reason for this is —
The story of Job is the story of the human race.
The problems in this story are the problems of all of us.
We are all the story of Job.
In the beginning of this story, everything is as we think it should be.
Job is a God-fearing man.
And God gave him a wonderful life — he was the greatest man in the east.
But trouble is coming to the land of Job.
Uz will be a place where very bad things happen to a very good man.
Uz will be a place not just where suffering comes, but where it comes with no warning and with no explanation, and creates confusion and despair.
I say that because everyone in this room will spend some time in the land of Uz.
Some of you are there right now, today. This is your story.
Maybe you’re having financial problems.
Maybe you’re not in the job or school of your dreams.
Maybe you’ve lost a loved one to death or divorce.
Maybe you always dreamed of being married, and it hasn’t happened.
Maybe it has but you’re deeply disappointed by it for whatever reason.
Maybe you’ve lost a good friend.
Maybe you’ve been deeply disappointed in a relationship with a parent or a friend or someone else.
Maybe it involves a physical condition or a health problem.
Maybe you made a bad decision somewhere along the line, and everything is crashing down around you and you just find yourself alone.
For whatever reason, you’re in the land of Uz.
Some of you are not there today, but you will be one day.
No one plans on living there, but sooner or later everyone spends some time there.
What’s hardest, I think, about being in the land of Uz is you start to wonder:
Has God lost track of me?
Has God forgotten his promises?
Does God remember where I am?
Does he even hear?
Will I ever be anywhere but this place?
Will I die in this place?
Well, verse 6 begins this radical shift in the scenery.
And I want to set this up.
It will help a lot, as we study Job, to think of it like a play in which there are two stages.
There’s an upper stage — where we see the activity up in heaven.
And there’s a lower stage — and that features the activity going on down on earth.
Now we, the readers, are able to see what’s happening on both stages — upper and lower.
This is crucial to the story — we know what’s going on in both places, but the characters on earth don’t. All they see is the lower stage. They know nothing about what’s happening on the upper stage that we’ll read about now.
One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”
Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.
But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
And Satan goes from the upper stage, and Job loses everything — his livestock, his wealth, his servants, his children.
And we wait to see his response, if Satan was right.
At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
He didn’t sin. We’re told Job grieves, he worships — falls to the ground in worship. He speaks words of blessing and praise.
And in all this, he did not sin.
In chapter 2, we switch back to the upper stage. Look at verse 4:
Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”
And now, from here on out, the action is going to be on the lower stage in this book.
So we need to talk for a moment about what’s going on in heaven, because at first glance, for most readers, this action in heaven looks very strange, very confusing.
It looks like a cosmic wager between God and Satan in which God is just kind of using Job and his family as pawns to win a bet.
But I don’t think that’s what’s going on at all.
The key question on the upper stage — the key question in the whole book is in Job 1:9:
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied.
Here’s what Satan is saying:
“Job is devoted to you and worships you because it’s in his self interest to do it. You scratch his back. He scratches yours.”
Satan is charging God with being naïve.
“You think Job loves you. The truth is, he loves you the way children love the ice cream man, the way Steph Curry loves basketball. You turn off the faucet of blessing, watch how fast he turns off the faucet of devotion. And he’s the best man on earth. The rest of them are worse than him.”
Now, the writer of Job makes masterful use of irony throughout this book.
The ultimate irony is this:
We think of this as a book where God is on trial. With all the suffering in the world, can there be a good God?
And on the lower stage, that is the primary question in this book.
But we’ve seen the upper stage. We’ve seen that there is a God in heaven.
And really, this is a book where the human race is on trial.
And Satan — that’s a title which really means “the accuser” — is the prosecuting attorney.
Satan is saying, “Human beings are nothing more than slaves to their own self interest. So really, pleasure or pain. It doesn’t make too much difference, because the whole thing’s a farce.”
And if Satan is right, the whole thing is a farce.
God says this view, stated by Satan, is cynical, warped, misguided and wrong.
God says, “At the core of this universe is self-giving, self-sacrificing love. And human beings were made to know and give that kind of love. And that is the destiny that matters more than anything.
“It matters more, even, than pleasure or pain.”
Now, Job of course, has no idea how high the stakes are. And my own view is, I don’t think God’s main purpose in this is to convince Satan of something at all. I don’t think God is worried at all about that.
I think this story is really aimed at us. I think it’s really aimed at you and me.
Let’s go on. Job 2:7
So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.
Job gets hit with a second wave of suffering, and this time there are some differences in his response. This time, he does not fall to the ground and worship. This time, he doesn’t say, “May the name of the Lord be praised.”
He goes to sit on an ash heap.
Maybe he’s grieving.
Maybe he’s isolated because people are afraid he has leprosy.
This is his wife’s comment in verse 9.
His wife said to him, “Curse God and die!”
Imagine having your wife say that to you — not encouraging words from his wife.
I want to say a word about Mrs. Job at this point, because Mrs. Job gets dumped on a lot by teachers.
Think about this for a moment.
She too lost all she had.
She lost all her children.
She will now have to give care to a horribly diseased husband until he dies.
And then she, who used to be in the wealthiest family in the East, will be left utterly alone and destitute.
And she gives voice to thoughts that have surely occurred to Job.
Now, he doesn’t do it… but notice what he does say in verse 10:
He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
Job is struggling to understand God now.
Is God the kind of person who sends evil?
Is God really good?
That’s the question down on the lower stage now.
Notice the phrase at the end of verse 10.
In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
I think that’s a little hint of what is going on inside him. After the first wave in 1:22, it simply says:
In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
Now, there’s a little qualification. Job did not sin in what he said… but in his heart, I think, Job has begun to struggle.
He’s over the initial numbness.
When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.
We’re told that Job’s friends hear all about the troubles that have come on him. And so they want to see him. And they do.
Eliphaz, the Temanite.
Bildad the Shuhite.
Zophar the Naamathite.
Dadgum the Termite. They all come.
I just made that last one up. That’s not in the text.
“They set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.”
More irony — Job used to be famous because he was the greatest in wealth. Now, he’s famous because he’s the greatest in suffering.
“They went to sympathize with him and comfort him,” the text says.
He uses a Hebrew verb — “nud,” which meant to rock back and forth. It talked about body movement; rocking back and forth.
You see this sometimes when a person goes through a tremendous trauma and they’re in shock. They rock themselves back and forth like a mother with a baby.
They’re going to do this with Job.
Their love is so strong and their grief is so great for Job, they plan to sit next to him and take on his anguish.
When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads.
They could hardly recognize him. They’d heard it was bad. Nothing prepared them for this.
You know, usually when you go to visit someone in a bad condition who is sick, in a hospital maybe, normally, you try to cheer them up, tell them it’s not so bad.
Have you ever been so sick that someone came to visit you, took one look at you and burst into tears?
That’s what happens to Job. It’s so awful, there’s no use pretending.
Now, look at verse 13. This is a remarkable verse.
Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.
Imagine sitting with someone in silence for seven days.
Let’s just sit here in silence for a moment.
Just a few seconds of silence for us, and we start to get antsy. Imagine seven days and seven nights.
This was such a powerful act; it became a part of Jewish life.
To this day, in the Jewish tradition, they will speak of sitting Shiva — literally sitting ‘sevens’.
Friends will come to sit with one who mourns over a period of a week.
I think Job 2:13 is, maybe, the greatest example of what Paul commands to the church — to us, when he writes to the church at Rome.
“Mourn with those who mourn.”
You know what he doesn’t say?
He doesn’t say, “Fix them.”
He doesn’t say, “Give them lots of wise advice.”
He doesn’t say, “Get them on the right track.”
He says, “Mourn with them.”
Interesting thing — after the seven days are done, they will speak a lot and get in a lot of trouble for what they say… for good reason.
Their words are not so great. But their silence was brilliant. Their silence was a gift.
And maybe the reason Job is able to struggle, in this book, with God with such honesty and courage and persistence — maybe it’s because he had friends who would take on his sorrow for seven days and seven nights of silence — maybe.
And I want to pause to ask:
Do you have friends who would do that for you?
Do you have people who sit with you like that when trouble comes?
If you don’t, I hope you’ll be part of a small group. I hope you’ll start building those kinds of relationships.
I hope you don’t wait for the day when you end up in the land of Uz. I hope you don’t wait until it’s too late.
Well finally, after seven days of silence, Job speaks. This is a remarkable thing.
Imagine the tension that has built up now. Seven days — and his friends wait to hear what he’ll say. We wait to hear what he’ll say.
And you understand, if he could just repeat what he says in chapter 1: “The Lord gives. The Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
If he could just repeat that, the whole test is over. It would be a short book.
Now, look at chapter 3, verse 1:
After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.
This is the kind of thing that prevents Job from being a TED talk speaker. Motivational speakers never encourage people to do this kind of thing. It just gets dark.
May the day of my birth perish, and the night that said, ‘A boy is conceived!’ That day—may it turn to darkness; may God above not care about it; may no light shine on it.
May those who curse days curse that day.
So, he won’t curse God, but he cursed the day that God made. He’ll curse the day God made him, which is kind of a sneaky way of getting at the same thing.
Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?
And for the next 28 chapters, Job pours out a level of bitterness, confusion, sorrow and anger toward God that is staggering. It’s amazing that it’s in the Bible actually.
So much so, that his three friends can’t stand it; can’t listen to it.
And they respond.
Most of the book is a series of Job’s speeches and their responses. Mostly, it’s arguments back and forth.
Eliphaz begins in 4:1
Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied: “If someone ventures a word with you, will you be impatient? But who can keep from speaking? Think how you have instructed many, how you have strengthened feeble hands.
So Eliphaz is going to do that. Here’s the essence of his argument. Verse 7:
Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it.
This is the wisdom he brings.
Look at verse 12 real quickly.
A word was secretly brought to me.
He’s saying this is not just his information; this is a word from God. He’s saying, “Innocent people don’t suffer, Job. Something else must be going on.”
Job pushes back. He doesn’t buy it.
So then Bildad speaks, and he gets a little more direct.
In Job 8:1, Job has disagreed with Eliphaz and says that he didn’t bring this on himself.
Then Bildad the Shuhite replied: “How long will you say such things? Your words are a blustering wind. Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right? When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.”
Okay, Job has lost his ten children, and his friend, Bildad says to him, “It’s because they sinned. They had it coming.”
And Job goes ballistic about this.
So then, Zophar, the third friend gets in his face.
Look at 11:13. This is the third friend.
Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then, free of fault, you will lift up your face; you will stand firm and without fear.
“Put away the sin that’s in your hand.” In other words, Job, you brought this suffering on because of your sin.
And again, Job disagrees.
Then Job replied: “Doubtless you are the only people who matter, and wisdom will die with you! But I have a mind as well as you; I am not inferior to you. Who does not know all these things?”
He’s getting a little sarcastic here — a little testy.
Now, here’s what we need to understand. This is very crucial to the book.
All three friends are giving voice to one central idea.
And it was the primary theology of suffering of that day, both in Israel and around it.
It’s written about in what scholars now call “Mesopotamian Wisdom Literature.” It was just common currency in the Ancient Near East.
And it is sometimes called — The doctrine of retribution.
And the idea of this theology is very simple.
Goodness results in prosperity and blessing, and wickedness results in suffering.
“So Job, if you’re suffering badly, you must have brought it on yourself. If you’ll just repent and get right with God, everything will work out and you won’t suffer, because God doesn’t want good people to suffer.”
I want to tell you, this is one of the reasons it’s so important that we study this character Job —
The arguments voiced by Job’s friends are being repeated in Christian churches today.
Philip Yancey writes that suffering people tell him that those who make their suffering worse are Christians who say things like…
“Well, the reason you’re in the hospital is spiritual warfare. If you were just engaging in spiritual warfare, Satan would be defeated. You’d be delivered.”
Or, “God promises to heal if we have enough faith. If you just prayed with enough faith, you’d be healed.”
Implication — if you’re not healed, you’re not praying with enough faith.
Or, “God has handpicked you to suffer to bring him greater glory. You just need to thank him for the pain you’re suffering, because it’s glorifying him.”
Or, “Your suffering is a wake-up call. It’s a punishment for sin. You need to figure out what you’ve done wrong and repent. Put away the sin that’s in your hand, and your life will go smoothly.”
And I’m telling you, this goes on in our day in spades.
This is the doctrine of retribution right out of the Book of Job. It’s that old.
And Eliphaz even claims in 4:12 that he has divine insight —
“A word was secretly brought to me, Job. I have a word of knowledge for you on this. God has told me, ‘Repent and you will be healed.’”
I’ll tell you… be real careful about telling people that God has given you a word of knowledge for them.
Eliphaz is sincere, but he’s wrong. He did not speak a word from God for Job.
It’s the doctrine of retribution, and it goes on in our day.
And the danger is it sounds so close to the truth… because God does love to bless obedience… and God does bring discipline sometimes.
And we do, often, bring suffering on ourselves.
Someone smokes cigarettes for 40 or 50 years, it’s no surprise when there are health problems.
But God repudiates this doctrine of retribution, because it inevitably turns God into a means for pursuing good circumstances — the blessed life.
And pretty soon, I’m not trying to pursue God; I’m just trying to use God.
When Christians live by the doctrine of retribution; when things are going well, they become smug and self-righteous and judgmental, and they damage people like Job got damaged.
And when things are going badly, they fall into despair.
And not incidentally, Jesus rejects this idea.
I won’t turn to it now, but make a note of it. Look at this later. In Luke 13, Jesus talks about a current event. This doesn’t happen often, but it does there.
A tower in Jerusalem — it’s called the Tower of Siloam — falls, and 18 people died. And the people in Israel were saying they must have been guilty of something and God is punishing them. That’s why the tower falls on them.
This is what Jesus says. Luke 13:4:
Do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no!
That idea is wrong.
Job doesn’t say he’s never sinned. What he says is that before, his life was blessed, and now, it’s a nightmare, and there has been no corresponding, catastrophic sin in his spiritual life that accounts for this. Whatever accounts for this, it’s not a simple, linear deal like “I did something bad, so I’m being punished for it.”
And his friends say, “So why did this happen, Job? Why did this occur? Why did God do this to you?”
And Job says, “I don’t know.”
And if his friends had been wise, if they were going to say anything at all, they should have said, “I don’t know either.”
Job pours his heart out before God. He does something that people in anguish often do.
I want you to notice something in Job 19:5. Job does this, and a lot of people in your life are going to do this, as well, and sometimes you will too.
People in anguish, very often, contradict themselves. They kind of swing all over the map.
You can see how this happens in one, single chapter.
If indeed you would exalt yourselves above me [which is what his friends are doing] and use my humiliation against me, then know that God has wronged me and drawn his net around me.
“Though I cry, ‘Violence!’ I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice.
He has blocked my way so I cannot pass; he has shrouded my paths in darkness. He has stripped me of my honor and removed the crown from my head.
He tears me down on every side till I am gone; he uproots my hope like a tree. His anger burns against me; he counts me among his enemies.
Job is sitting on an ash heap. These are amazing words.
I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
He questions God and he clings to God, and he yells at God and he yells for God. He’s just all over the map.
Mostly, he challenges God. He really wants to accuse God in this part of the book.
Look at 23:3. Job is responding to another one of the long speeches, again, which are all deliberately expressing one single, central idea.
Then Job replied: Even today my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy in spite of my groaning. If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling! [to God’s house] I would state my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments.
What he’s saying is, “I wish I could take God to court. I wish I could sue him. I wish there was a court someplace where you could sue God. If only God would show up and we could just fight man to man.”
And in chapter 38, Job gets his wish. Job 38:1
Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm.
Now, what do you think that moment was like? Do you think there was a little drama then? Do you think the atmosphere changed when the storm came by and God shows up? He says, “Okay, Job.”
He said: “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.
And Job and his friends get real quiet. God has now come from the upper stage to the lower stage. He begins to ask questions:
Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?
Isn’t that a great picture of creation? “While the morning stars sang together.” Imagine that moment. “And all the angels shout for joy.”
Now, you’ll notice as you read through Job that when God appears, he never seems to get around to answering Job’s question of why. He could have done that.
There is an explanation. There is a scene that happened on the upper stage. And again, we know about it, but Job doesn’t. God could have told him, but he doesn’t.
He just asks him a bunch of questions that Job can’t answer.
Now, why does God do this? Is he just trying to show that he’s smarter than Job; he’s getting tired of Job’s whining?
No… A lot of people misunderstand this.
I do think part of what’s happening is that God is pointing out — Job has a finite mind and a limited point of view. That’s part of what’s going on.
But there’s something more. And an Old Testament scholar by the name of Ellen Davis points this out.
If you look carefully at what God says, God’s questions are indicating something very important about the kind of person he is — the kind of person who creates in such a way that the morning stars sing together and the angels shout for joy.
God says in Job 38:25:
Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm, to water a land where no one lives, an uninhabited desert, to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass?
Now, we tend to read over that, but the phrase that would leap out at any reader in Job’s day is in verse 26.
In Israel, life depends on rainfall. No one would ever waste water. So why in the world would God water a land where no one lives — where no one could see it?
And the answer is, because God is a God who is generous for no reason at all, who is good for no reason at all, who gives for no reason at all… except it’s just the nature of God to give and give and give.
And all through this whole section, when God speaks, what you see over and over is God delighting in his creation, God delighting in his creatures, God delighting in creatures that are of no apparent use at all — not strategic at all. God doesn’t get anything from them.
In Job 39 and 41 there’s just a wonderful, fun passage. You should read it sometime.
God talks about all of the creatures he made.
And it just goes on, one verse after another, about this amazing person that God is. He delights in the wild ox that will never plow and a wild donkey that will never be tamed, in mountain goats that give birth in secret places man will never see, in the leviathan — probably a crocodile — that will never furnish food for anyone.
This whole section is God creating and caring for and giving to and delighting in animals that will never do him or anyone any good at all.
Why should God make and love a world like that?
Because the God of the upper stage is a God who is endlessly good and uncontrollably generous and irrationally loving, and he gives for no reason at all, just because it’s his nature.
To the end of his life, Job never does find out, as far as we know, about the conversation in heaven.
I think because his story is our story and on this earth we too live on the lower stage.
But Job finds out something better.
Job finds out who God is — the kind of person God is… and that’s enough.
The hinge — the resolution of this whole book — is in 42:5.
My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.
This is Job speaking to God: “My ears had heard of you.”
“People talked about you a lot. I read ideas about you. I entertained thoughts about you. I went to classes and services to learn about you.”
“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”
And that’s enough for Job.
He says, “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes,” which doesn’t mean he’s saying, “I want to live in low esteem now.”
It’s a Hebrew way of talking about repentance — of entering into a new strategy for living.
“My ears had heard about you but now my eyes have seen you.” “That’s enough, God. Now, I know I can trust you.
“I can trust you with my children. I know that they are better off in your hands now, than they ever were. I can trust you with my pain. I know that you will redeem every bit of it — that you’re the kind of God who treasures and cares for everything.”
“My ears had heard about you but now my eyes have seen you.” That’s enough.
The end of chapter 42 is a little epilogue.
God says to Job’s comforters in verse 7 — again, there’s a little comedy in this one, I think. God says to his comforters:
“I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.”
Now, imagine their amazement. Job is whining and complaining about God through this whole book, and they stick up for God. They know they’re right.
And then, God shows up and he says, “No, Job was right. You were wrong. I’m mad at you.”
And, of course, after what happened to Job, that would not be good news to them.
But God says, “If Job will pray for you, I’ll forgive you.”
And I imagine Job and his friends had a very interesting conversation at that point.
And he prays and God forgives.
Job 42:12 is the last passage for us to look at.
The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys.
And he also had seven sons and three daughters. The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch.
Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.
Now, there is stuff here that we would tend to miss, but it would just jump out at ancient readers, because it’s very unusual.
In the first place, the writer gives us the names of Job’s daughters, but not of Job’s sons. This is unheard of.
In ancient Hebrew genealogies, it would never happen. It’s unprecedented, because the sons were the ones, in the ancient world, whose names got mentioned.
Not only that, these are very strange names. Usually, Hebrew names are quite serious, especially the ones that make it in the Bible. They express character or virtue or theological truth.
These three names are all about the beauty of creation.
Jemimah is the name for a dove — a bird that was prized for its beauty.
Keziah means cinnamon. It was a prized spice.
And the oddest one is Keren-happuch. You’ll think I’m making this up, but I’m not. Translated, it means, “horn of eye shadow.”
He named his daughter after make-up. This would be like naming your daughter Estee Lauder or Maybelline — something like that.
Not only does he give them these strange, snappy names, he gives them an inheritance.
And in an ancient, male-dominated world, a father with seven sons would never dream of leaving something to a daughter. There might not be enough left over… because the ancient world thought of sons as being strategic. Daughters were not.
Sons would take care of you in your old age. But Job cuts his daughters in on the deal.
Why does the writer include this stuff?
Well, I think it’s because now, Job is delighting in and giving to, what are thought of as the least strategic of creatures.
Job is becoming gratuitously good and uncontrollably generous and irrationally loving, and he gives for no reason at all.
Does that remind you of anyone?
You see, old Satan was dead wrong about Job.
He was dead wrong about the human race.
Dead wrong about life.
Dead wrong about the universe.
Dead wrong about God.
And this book is written, not in response to some odd, cosmic wager.
It was written so you and I could know what the truth is about us… and our destinies… and our God.
You see, the central question in Job — to those of us who read about both stages — the central question is: could a human being hold onto God and faith and love and give when it doesn’t seem to pay off at all?
And one could. And one did.
Job never could see the upper stage.
Job does not know that his faithfulness had meaning beyond his wildest dreams. He did not know that something cosmic and eternal was at stake in his little life — he didn’t know.
Sitting on an ash heap, scraping boils off his skin with shards of broken, discarded pots.
Broke, sick, mocked, confused, hopeless — Job’s faithfulness in suffering was being used by God to vindicate God’s whole wild adventure in covenant love — the whole thing.
And his honesty and courage and tenacity and perseverance have, as a matter of historical record, been used now for thousands of years to move and inspire billions of people who live in the land of Uz, and who are ready to despair and let go and give up — to say to them, “Hang on. Keep going. Don’t let go. Don’t give up. Don’t quit now.”
The writer wants us to say those words, not just to Job, but to say them to each other — to say them to ourselves, because we know something that Job did not know.
We know that one day, this same, magnificent God came from the upper stage to the lower stage to become one of us.
Jesus suffered like us… and he suffered for us.
He had everything stripped away from him.
He lost his position as a teacher.
He lost his safety.
His friends ran away from him.
He lost the adoration of a cheering crowd.
He had his life threatened by his enemies.
He went to a cross and died.
He took on all the suffering of this sorry, broken world — all of Job’s and all of yours and all of mine so that one day, we would all live on the upper stage, and all suffering would be done.
Some of you are suffering today in the land of Uz.
Why? I don’t know.
How long will it last? I don’t know.
Does your response matter?
Does what you do, how you live make any difference at all? More than you could possibly know. More than you could ever dream.
The eyes of heaven are on your little life and your little land, and what you do is of eternal and cosmic significance to this great God. And what you do, how you live, matters more than you know.
Blue Oaks Church