The first chapter of the book of Job ends with success. Job has shown that he does serve God for nothing. He does not serve God because of the hedge God had put around him, blessing the work of his hands and increasing his possessions. Job has lost his children, lost his possessions, and lost his wealth. Yet Job did not sin or charge God with wrong (1:22). Further, and more importantly, God has been vindicated. God was charged with doing too much good for the righteous so that they cannot serve God for who God is but only serve God for selfish reasons. Satan (the accuser) has pointed out that God’s policy of rewarding the righteous actually undermines, if not subverts, the very righteousness that God seeks to foster. People will act righteously to gain benefits, not out of love for God. But God has shown that his wisdom is right and true. God is able to bless his people and they will still serve him even if those physical blessings are removed. We would hope that this would be the end of the book. But the discussions of God and Satan are not done.
God and the Satan (2:1-3)
The first three verses of chapter 2 start again just as we read in Job 1:6-8. It is a day when the sons of God were presenting themselves before the Lord. Satan is still doing all what he does: going to and fro through the earth. He is the roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). As we saw in chapter 1, God’s question is not for his benefit but for the reader’s benefit. God is showing us the motive and purpose of Satan. Then God draws Satan’s attention to Job again. He is blameless, upright, fears God, and turns away from evil. There is only one new statement made in this discussion which is found in verse 3. “He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.”
God declares that Job maintained his integrity. He has remained blameless and has not cursed God to his face as Satan declared he would do. Job does not have false motives. Job is not hypocritical. He is faithful to God despite losing his children and possessions.
We should also notice that God takes ownership of what has happened. God does not say that Satan did this and God is really upset that Satan did this and now God has to go fix this. We have learned in our studies throughout the scriptures that there is nothing that happens in this world that in not under God’s rule. We cannot try to justify or defend God by saying that Satan did this action against Job outside of the power of God. Satan is not more powerful than God. Further, Satan needed permission to do what he did. Not only this, God constrained what Satan could do to Satan (1:12). What God says here is important for our consideration about how God runs the world particularly in regards to suffering. This action against Job did not happen without God’s knowledge or agreement. God takes responsibility for what happened in Job 2:3. God does not say that Satan did it (though he did). Rather, God says that he did it himself: “You incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” But this is not the only time where the book tells us that God did this. Look at Job 42:11.
Then all his brothers and all his sisters and all who had known him before came to him, and they ate bread with him in his house; and they consoled him and comforted him for all the adversities that the Lord had brought on him. (Job 42:11 NASB)
Now we are not given a solution to these words at this point in the book. But I think it is important to observe that God does indicate that the answer to the problem is suffering is that it is not his fault. God’s answer is not that he is not responsible. God’s answer is not that things in the world operate outside of his control. God is pictured as fully in charge. God even takes responsibility for what has happened. Though Satan is the one afflicting Job (1:12), we must also see that God declares that he himself afflicted Job also when Satan did this (2:3; 42:11). As we mentioned at the beginning of our study, there is a reason why this book is 42 chapters long. The answers to suffering and how God runs the world are not easy, cliche answers. The problems that come from this issue cannot be solved in two or three chapters. We must be patient and let God explain as move through the length of this text. At the moment we are left with the knowledge that Satan afflicted Job but also that God says also afflicted Job.
Before we leave this statement, we should also acknowledge that God again asserts Job’s righteousness. God says that he destroyed Job “without reason.” This is a critical component of this book. Job is righteous. Therefore, nothing that has happened to him is because he sinned. Job is not being punished for his sins. Job is not receiving what he deserves as a sinner. This suffering is undeserved.
Satan’s Accusation (2:4-6)
Satan denies that Job has passed the test and that the trial of God is complete. Satan declares that people will give all they have for their life. People only really deep down care about themselves. So, yes, you took his possessions and children away. But you did not touch Job himself. Since humans only care about themselves this is the reason why he did not curse you. Harming Job will lead him to fail and he will curse you to your face. Satan considers health problems our breaking point. Do you think Satan is right? I think Satan is correct. I have seen many people curse God and give up on God when their own health fails. Many people quit God at this point. It is a sad statement but the point is that Satan is not off the mark in his challenge. People do care about themselves. Do they care about themselves so much that they will only serve God when their health is good? Or will people still serve God when their good health is taken away from them?
So Satan says that God must stretch out his hand and touch Job’s bone and his flesh and then he will curse you to your face. God tells Satan that Job is in his hands. However, he must spare Job’s life. If he kills Job then we cannot see if Job will curse God or not.
The Suffering (2:7-9)
With this, Satan goes out from the presence of the Lord strikes Job with loathsome sores (some translations read boils) from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. The intensity of his suffering is so great that he takes a piece of broken pottery and scrapes himself with it while sitting in ashes. This is probably the ash heap that was outside of the city where the trash was collected and burned. This is how the Septuagint (LXX) understands this text, saying that Job sat on the dung-hill outside the city. This is a picture of alienation, rejection, and pain. He is complete misery.
Job’s wife comes along with a solution for her husband. “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” Job’s wife becomes a temptation to him. If Job listens to her advice, then Satan is right. Job would have been living for God for the benefits. Job would only serve God when God gives him good health. Job would not serve God for nothing. I do not believe that she hates her husband but thinks this is the logical response to this suffering. Job is righteous and God has clearly abandoned him. So you might as well curse God to his face, incur the wrath of God against you, and be done because their is no reason to serve God. We see in her exactly what Satan challenges. If you take away the benefits people will not serve God any longer. She does not doubt his integrity. She does not deny Job’s innocence. Rather, she chastises him for persisting in it. She seems exasperated that God has not kept her righteous husband in the favored condition he deserves. Therefore, to her way of thinking, death is an appropriate response. She does not hate her husband but sees that he needs relief and death is the way to achieve it. It is clear to her that death will be the outcome for her husband so why not hasten the process.
We are going to see this thinking even in the words of Job later in the book. Death appears to be the only relief in the midst of suffering. Those who draw near to committing suicide and those who follow through are usually looking for relief from the pain in their lives. We even now have doctor assisted suicide in some places in our country and consider that it is also for the same purpose: to end the pain particularly from health suffering. We will look at this idea more when Job speaks about it. But for now I want us to see that her response is not irrational from an earthly way of thinking. This is the way people think today. If things are going to be this bad, why live? Job’s wife amplifies the point: if things are going to be this bad for living a righteous life, why be righteous and why live? She is not against Job but her words are certainly a temptation that Satan challenged God would be the response of Job.
I think we should keep something in mind before we are too critical of her. She has lost everything just like Job. Those were her children that died also. Those were her possessions that were stolen. That was her wealth that was lost. Until chapter 2 she has lost just as much as Job has. This is an important concept to keep in mind. Satan is afflicting Job, but there are other people that are suffering. Just because you are suffering does not mean that you are the one on trial. You may not be the object of trial but you still experience pain and suffering anyway. She is not the scope of Satan’s challenge. But she suffers anyway. So often we forget that our lives are interconnected. The choices you make and the things you experience in life affect more than you. Your sins affect other people and their sins affect you. Your trials in life affect other people and other people’s trials affect you. Just because you are suffering does not mean that what is happening to you is about you. This is an interesting side point that is made in the book but appropriate at this point for our consideration. In this way, one trial becomes many people’s trials. Job is experiencing suffering and Job’s wife is experiencing suffering. Her solution is to curse God and die. What will be Job’s response?
Job’s Response (2:10)
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 2:10 ESV)
Job’s response is faithful and amazing. We must be ready to receive good from God and we must also be ready to receive adversity. I do not think the ESV and NET translations are helpful here because the point is not that God is doing evil in a moral sense to Job. We know from the scriptures that God does not do evil things (cf. James 1:13). It is not an incorrect translation but the Hebrew word can also mean trouble, adversity, bad, or disagreeable. This seems to be the idea of what Job is saying. He is not speaking about receiving from God what is morally good and morally evil. Rather, he speaking about receiving the good things in the life and the bad things in life. Are we going to happily receiving God’s blessings and good things that come in life but then curse God and die when those blessings are removed? Are we going to reject God when life does not go according to our plans? What amazing, faithful words while Job sits on an ash heap, scraping his painful sores on his body, contemplating the death of his children and loss of his wealth and possessions!
This is an important truth that we must consider. How lopsided our faith is when we so readily will receive good from the Lord but balk at him when we receive adversity from him! So what should we learn from this chapter? There is much we can say and I will need a second lesson which we will have next week to finish all that we can say from this text. But I want us to make two observations for today.
Messages For Today
Suffering is part of what we must expect in the Christian life. There is no kind of Christian who is exempt from suffering. We learned this in chapter 1. Even the most righteous individual will experience suffering. Also, there is no kind of suffering that we are exempt from experiencing. There is not a limitation on how bad life can get simply because we are Christians. Christians are not blocked from receiving the worst kinds of difficulties and pains in life. Many times it is the godly and the righteous who receive worse treatment than the world. We are living in a delusion if we approach our service to God as a life that will be pain free if we remain righteous. We need to banish that kind of thinking from our minds because it will damage our faith. The righteous are not exempt from suffering. In fact, the righteous should accept that suffering will come. Further, the righteous do not receive a less intense suffering because of their faith in God. Job experiences the most traumatic of trials. His righteousness did not insulate him from this reality.
We learn something about endurance and how to have it. Endurance will be built into our faith when we recognize that everything we possess belongs to God, not us. We are not owed anything. God can give and God can take away. God does not have to give at all. We may just have a miserable life from start to finish. We are not in control of this. God is in control. Our righteous life and faith in God does not compel God to meet our life expectations. Further, endurance is built into faith when we have a determination to worship God no matter what happens, like we see in Job. We must have a mental fortitude to be willing to live for God and continue to worship him, even if that means we have lost everything in life, including our health. We will be ready to praise God no matter what we lose. Therefore, endurance is submission to our sovereign God. Whatever God gives us, we will worship and serve the Lord. Even if we lose family support, we will worship and serve the Lord. Endurance is what we are called to have in Christ. Listen to what was said to the persecuted Christians in the book of Revelation.
If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints. (Revelation 13:10 ESV)
Or to say this as Job did: “Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive adversity” (2:10). “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:21).
Therefore, in all this Job did not sin with his lips.