The Lord has put Job in the hand of Satan. The only restriction placed upon Satan is that he cannot take Job’s life. Job has lost his possessions. He has lost his wealth. His ten children are dead. He has boils and sores from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet. His wife tells him that there is no reason to continue living a righteous, blameless life. He should curse God and die. Job 2:10 reads, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” We would think this is the end of the account. Job has passed the test twice with flying colors. Job has not cursed God even when everything was taken from him, including his life. While many are tempted to end the story here and teach that we need to be faithful and endure like Job, the story of Job is not all over. There are still 40 more chapters given to us by God for us to learn about trials, suffering, and how God runs the world. Job 2:11-13 sets up for the rest of the account and then we will make some observations about what we have learned so far from the book of Job.
The Arrival of Job’s Friends (2:11-13)
When Job’s three friends hear about the adversity and troubles that struck Job, they determine to meet together to go to Job. The friends’ names are Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. You will notice that where they come from is also noted. We do not know as much about the locations from which Bildad and Zophar come. But we do know about Teman, which is where Eliphaz comes from. Teman is a city in Edom that was known as a city that possessed wisdom (cf. Jeremiah 49:7; Obadiah 8-9). Wisdom is pictured as coming to Job in these three friends.
Now we should be happy to see these three friends. Wisdom is in them and they are coming to Job. Notice the reason for their coming is stated in verse 11. “They made an appointment together to come and show him sympathy and comfort him.” They are not coming to destroy Job. They are not coming to hurt Job. They are coming to help Job. These three have made an appointment to meet together at the same time so that they can show sympathy and comfort.
This is exactly what they do. When they see Job, they are shocked. They do not even recognize him because he has been so physically destroyed by this trial. The boils and sores on his body have rendered him unrecognizable. So the three friends do show him sympathy. They wail and cry, tear their robes, sprinkle dust on their heads, and sat on the ground. These are conventional gestures of grief in the ancient Near East (cf. Lamentations 2:10). To us, we might think what they are doing sounds strange. But they are being very sympathetic and are recognizing the immense suffering Job is in. In fact, this is what the text says in verse 13. “They saw that his suffering was very great.” Thus, they sit with Job in silence for 7 days. Again, we might think this is strange but this represents a complete time of mourning with Job. Ezekiel does the same thing when he meets the exiles, sitting among them for seven days (Ezekiel 3:15). The friends are showing themselves to be true friends and true companions of Job. The point of this paragraph is to show these men as true friends who possess wisdom. There is nothing in this description that is to give us a negative idea about these friends. If you are in the depths of suffering, imagine what your closest friends would do for you. This is how you are to read these three friends. They have come to show Job sympathy and comfort, and this is what they are doing.
Before we move forward into the discussions that Job and the three friends have with each other about why this has happened, I want us to take a step back and consider some of the important messages that come from these first two chapters.
The Boundaries To Trials (1:12; 2:6)
One of the facets of this account that I think strikes us when we read it is that God puts limitations on what Satan can do. In the first encounter, the Lord tells Satan:
“Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” (Job 1:12 ESV)
God tells Satan what he can and cannot do. Satan can do anything with what Job has but nothing can be done against his body. In the second encounter we see similar limitations.
“Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” (Job 2:6 ESV)
God establishes boundaries to what can happen during the trials of Job. This sets up for us an important truth as we read the book of Job: God is in control. God is in control through the whole trial. Satan is not God and Satan does not operate independent of God’s power. God limits what Satan can do. Not only this, it appears that Satan needs permission to act in the adversity against Job. The reason this is important is because there has been the temptation by Christians to picture the problem of suffering as if Satan is another god who acts outside of the sovereignty of God. The battle of God and Satan is not that there are two heavenly powers by which Satan does evil and God tries to fix it by doing good and that God is doing good and Satan is trying to mess it up by doing evil. This is not the picture we see of God in the scriptures, nor the answer given to us in the book of Job. God is in full control of Satan. Whatever Satan is doing, Satan is doing within the constraints of God’s will and rule. We should understand this because if Satan is not operating under the rule, will, and power of God, then God is not God. Thus we never see Satan acting outside the knowledge or power of God.
We observed this in the text in last week’s lesson. Satan afflicted Job (2:7). But the text also says that God did also (2:3; 42:11). The scriptures often tell us that it is God who is testing us. We are told that the Lord tested Abraham when he told him to offer up his only son (Hebrews 11:17; Genesis 22:12). The Lord tested Israel on many occasions (Exodus 15:25; 16:4; Deuteronomy 8:2; 13:3; Judges 2:22; 3:1; Psalm 11:5; Proverbs 17:3; Jeremiah 9:7; 11:20; 20:12). I want to see the frequency by which God says that he tested his people.
And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. (Deuteronomy 8:2 ESV)
This knowledge gives us hope. This may not be your first reaction to this information but this is to give us hope. God is in control of the circumstance, he is ruling over the trial, and nothing is happening outside of his knowledge. God rules over your trial and that gives us hope through difficulty. Our hope is that we know that God is love. We know God loves us. All we need to do is look at the cross to see the amazing, sacrificial love God has for the world. So he did not send his Son to save us only to destroy us through trials and suffering. God puts limitations on what can happen to us. But there is always the need for the testing of our faith.
6 Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents. 10 And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. 13 No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:6–13 NRSV)
After speaking about these tests that Israel experienced in the wilderness and failed, the apostle Paul tells us that these things serve as an example for us so that we do not fall like they did (10:11-12). Then we have a promise sentence to give us hope.
No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.
Many translations read this as “no temptation has overtaken you” but there are others like the NRSV and NET that read “no testing” or “no trial.” The word that is translated “temptation” or “trial” here simply means, “to put to the test or prove.” The context of 1 Corinthians 10 is the testing that Israel experienced. So we should read this text as a promise regarding our trials and temptations. God is sovereign over these events in your life. There are limits on what you have received so that it is not beyond your strength. Read these words: God is faithful. He will not let you be tested beyond your strength. Satan is limited. Satan needs permission. Satan cannot act beyond the power and knowledge of God.
Job overcame this trial. You can overcome your trial. God is faithful. God is with you. You are able to endure what has been given to you.
As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (James 5:10–11 ESV)