Decide today whom you will serve . . . Joshua 24:15 GNT
Perhaps not many of us would like our life story aired on Television or portrayed on Broadway before a live audience, but essentially that is what living on Planet Earth is all about. We live in a war zone and like it or not, we are all players. And like it or not, many of us may feel like we live in glass houses after loss where our pain is visible to prying eyes even as we try to keep it hidden. Someone else was a player long ago, and today we will observe a bit of his story played out on stage. His name is Job.
“There was a man named Job, living in the land of Uz, who worshiped God and was faithful to him. He was a good man, careful not to do anything evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, one thousand head of cattle, and five hundred donkeys. He also had a large number of servants and was the richest man in the East.” Job 1:1-4 GNT
Lights go out. The audience hushes in anticipation. The curtain rises to reveal a celestial summit in heaven. Satan strolls out on stage uninvited. He chooses this public forum to challenge God ~ you might say ~ to another duel. Perhaps like the one back in the Garden of Eden. The one he won ~ he’s quick to remind God ~ just in case He’s had a lapse in memory. But this time, the subject is Job. Why Job?
“Well,” Satan claims, strutting about with his hands on his hips, “Would Job worship You if You didn’t protect him? You’re like a heavenly Santa Clause, providing wealth and goodies to fill his every whim.” “But now suppose you take away everything he has—he will curse you to your face!” Job 1:11 GNT
How would you expect God to respond? Would you expect Him to fill His lungs with air and blow Satan to the edge of the cosmos? The audience leans forward in their seats, eager to hear God’s response.
“All right,” the Lord said to Satan, “everything he has is in your power, but you must not hurt Job himself.” Job 1:12 GNT
Gleefully, Satan exits. He can’t wait to inflict pain and suffering. It’s his specialty and he gets right to it.
In rapid-fire succession, one by one messengers run on the scene, reporting to Job so fast it’s enough to keep your head spinning: the first messenger rushes in to report that Job’s donkeys are stolen and his servants are all killed; the second messenger rushes in to report that lightning strikes Job’s sheep and shepherds, killing them all; the third messenger rushes in to report that Job’s camels and servants are all killed; the fourth messenger rushes in to report that a storm blows down the home where all of his children are gathered having a celebration and killed every one of them (Job 1:13-19). Job drops to his knees and wails in agony as the curtain drops upon his grief.
“In spite of everything that had happened, Job did not sin by blaming God” (Job 1: 22 GNT).
The curtain rises as the lights go out. Job is sitting in a heap in the dust. He gets to his feet and tears his clothes and shaves his head, as is the custom to display one’s grief. Then he throws himself face down on the ground again and cries aloud,
“I was born with nothing, and I will die with nothing. The Lord gave, and now he has taken away. May his name be praised!” (Job 1:21 GNT). Great wailing pours forth as he grieves his horrific losses and the curtain drops, hiding his misery. Some in the audience sniffle, sharing his sorrow.
The curtain rises as the lights go out to reveal another celestial summit in heaven. Again Satan strolls out on stage uninvited. He’s scowling, obviously in a rage as he paces back and forth in front of God, like some caged lion. “What’s on your mind, Satan?” God asks coolly. Before Satan could open his mouth to speak, God calmly asks,
“Did you notice my servant Job? There is no one on earth as faithful and good as he is. He worships me and is careful not to do anything evil. You persuaded me to let you attack him for no reason at all, but Job is still as faithful as ever.” Job 2:3 GNT
Every muscle on Satan’s body appears to be rippling into one giant knot as he roars so loudly the audio guys hustle to adjust the sound,
“A person will give up everything in order to stay alive. But now suppose you hurt his body—he will curse you to your face!” Job 2:4, 5 GNT
The audience is deathly quiet as if collectively holding their breath. God had refused Satan’s request to touch Job’s body in Act One. Will He allow it now?
God responds to Satan. “All right, he is in your power, but you are not to kill him.” Job 2:6 GNT
Satan hastens from the scene. He lives for the adrenalin rush every time he inflicts pain and suffering on unsuspecting, naive, weak-willed, worthless, humans.
The curtain drops and the lights come on. The audience is buzzing. Those who thought this was going to be a comedy are muttering to themselves what a waste of money. Some in the audience groaned aloud. They obviously didn’t trust Satan to not “accidentally” kill Job or maim him within an inch of his life. Others are wondering aloud how God could allow such a thing to take place. Poor Job! He lost his entire livelihood, and all his children all in one day! And where was his wife in all this? Certainly he will blame God now!
The curtain rises as the lights go out. What horror met the audience’s gaze. Sitting before them is Job, squatting in the middle of a garbage dump. The vaporous stench rolls out over them, and the tidy guests in the first few rows are either fanning themselves with their programs or covering their noses with their laced handkerchiefs.
Job is covered from the top of his head to the bottoms of his feet in nasty, seeping boils. He takes a piece of broken pottery and carefully scraps the puss from his sores. What a miserable condition. His wife is watching him with her hands on her hips, shaking her head from side to side. It’s hard to know whether she is trying to be encouraging to her husband or not. And when she finally opens her mouth, her voice is high pitched and shrill,
“You are still as faithful as ever, aren’t you? Why don’t you curse God and die?” Job 2:9 GNT
Lest we desire to criticize Job’s wife too harshly, she has lost her children and her livelihood too. No doubt she could have said just about anything but that last sentence. It had to inflict even more pain on her suffering husband.
Even though Job was miserable, he did respond to his wife, and right to the point. “[Woman] you are talking nonsense! When God sends us something good, we welcome it. How can we complain when he sends us trouble?” Job 2:10 GNT
God knew His man pretty well, didn’t He? He was being sorely tested by the enemy, but remaining faithful in spite of all the trouble and loss and suffering and sorrow and in addition, nagging from his wife. The curtain drops and the lights come on.
The curtain rises and the lights go out. We see that Job is still sitting in the garbage dump. The smell is still overpowering. He’s still scraping his sores and looking most miserable. From a distance we see three men approaching. Our program says they are his three closest friends: Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. As they draw closer, they appear to have shocked looks on their faces. Apparently they hardly recognize their old friend.
“They began to weep and wail, tearing their clothes in grief and throwing dust into the air and on their heads. Then they sat there on the ground with him for seven days and nights without saying a word, because they saw how much he was suffering.” Job 2:12, 13 GNT
Sidebar: Sweet silence from dear friends in a time of sorrow. Perhaps some of us can relate. I may have experienced maybe a few minutes, but never a few days like these friends. I applaud their endurance and faithfulness. It would have been best if they could have stayed silent, but they did not. Perhaps Satan worked thru them to bring even greater pain on their mutual friend. I’ve experienced such behavior. Likely you have too, from those who profess to love you?
Job’s friends dialogue through most of the remaining chapters where they: challenge, accuse, and blame Job, assuming that he must have offended God and he should scour his conscience until he has made proper amends . . . until God speaks, and when He does, He challenges them with knowledge too great for them to comprehend and they all bow their heads in silence.
“When God speaks, the power of His word puts our life and our questions instantly into perspective.” Blackaby Study Bible, Encounter (background) Note on Job 38:1
The curtain drops and the lights come on for the last time. The play is over. The patrons are rather subdued as they file out quietly, as if in deep thought. Perhaps some expected this to be a divine comedy of sorts, while others can relate, perhaps having experienced similar reactions from friends during their seasons of grief.
This is just a portion of Job’s life, but throughout his story, he remained faithful to God during both good times and bad and Satan lost this huge challenge. Perhaps during his lifetime, Job never got all his questions answered and he, like some of us, must wait. Job trusted God so much, had such a good friendship ~ a special one-on-one relationship with Him ~ that he could speak the words below. He wasn’t particularly special. God longs for this same kind of relationship with each one of His children. I choose a close relationship like this with God. I’d like to trust God enough to say these words to Him too. How about you?
“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” Job 13:15 NIV
“The Lord blessed the last part of Job’s life even more than he had blessed the first. Job owned fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, two thousand head of cattle, and one thousand donkeys. He was the father of seven sons and three daughters. Job lived a hundred and forty years after this, long enough to see his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And then he died at a very great age.” Job 42:12-17 GNT