In one terrible day, Job was stripped of every outward manifestation of God’s goodness. As we meet Job in the Bible, God calls him “the greatest of all the men of the east” (Job 1:3). He was a man of upright character. He feared the Lord. He avoided evil. He regularly prayed and offered sacrifices.
In spite of this consistent, God-honoring character, God had a purpose in the testing of Job. He allowed Satan to tempt Job and to take from the man all that he held dear. In one heartrending parade of messengers bringing bad news, Job was informed that his donkeys and oxen had been stolen by the Sabeans, his sheep had been burned with fire, his camels had been stolen by a band of Chaldeans, and his servants had been slain. Worst of all, his sons and his daughters had been killed when the house in which they were feasting collapsed upon them, leaving Job with no living posterity.
Job’s response is a remarkable testimony to his character. As he grieved over the loss of his precious children, we are told that he “rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped” (Job 1:20).
Job’s words stand today as a testimony of faith and hope. “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). Job realized an important truth that we all should come to realize. Since we deserve nothing, and God has given us everything we have, we should never become bitter when, in His wisdom, He sees fit to take something away.
In the previous article of this series, we examined the importance of “blessing the name of the Lord.” That exhortation was in the context of Psalm 103, where the psalmist remembered and recounted all of God’s benefits. To “bless the name of the LORD” is easy when God is showering His blessings down upon us. To “bless the name of the LORD” was easy for Job in the midst of his flocks, herds, camels, and prosperous children. To “bless the name of the LORD” is easy for us when we are happy and healthy. But when He allows our possessions to be taken away? When He permits the lives of our children to be taken in death? When our wives turn against us? When our friends forsake us? What if we are covered with boils from head to foot? Would we worship the Lord even then and declare that we bless the name of the Lord?
Job did. The Bible records, “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly” (Job 1:22). Perhaps the most difficult trial was when Job’s wife came to him with these words of despair and bitterness: “Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die” (Job 2:9). She was calling upon her husband to violate the third commandment, to speak disparagingly of the name of the Lord, to suggest that God was not good, and to bring His name into reproach. This temptation is one that we all face when circumstances do not go as we had hoped, and when our outward blessings are taken away.
In chapter after chapter, a running debate occurs between Job and his friends about the meaning of life, good and evil, light and darkness, the emptiness of time, and the fleeting nature of happiness. Despite being miscounseled by his wife and accused of sin by his friends, Job in his deep sorrow and physical misery continued to express his hope and confidence in God’s goodness. He testified: “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:25–26).
In the end, the Book of Job is not about the name and character of Job or his friends. The book is about the name and character of God Himself. In chapter after chapter, Job speaks, Bildad speaks, Zophar speaks, and Eliphaz speaks. Then in Chapter 32, Elihu comes along and says that, in his opinion, they were all wrong!
Finally, God speaks. “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding” (Job 38:1–4). Over the course of four chapters, Jehovah dismisses the vain folly of men and demonstrates His own perfect wisdom. He calls the debates of men “words without knowledge” (Job 38:2).
In question after question, the Lord probed the mind and heart of Job. He exhorted Job to look away from his circumstances, his friends, his physical pain, and his dust of shame and despair and to look upward—to God the Holy One and His name and character. God spoke of the wonders of creation, the treasures of the snow, the springs of the sea, the wings of the peacock, the strength of the horse, the mysteries of the leviathan and the behemoth, and the ways of God Himself.
Job reaches the place of victory in the final chapter when he testifies, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5–6).
We are told that “the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning” (Job 42:12). But even if this were not so, Job had passed the test. He lived to “bless the name of the LORD” in his troubles and he recorded the lessons that he learned for the benefit of posterity.
The Book of James sums up the life and testimony of Job with these words, “Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (James 5:11). The Book of Job reveals that it is not only through our blessings that we bless the name of the Lord; it is also in the midst of our troubles that we learn to fully appreciate His attributes. May God give each of us the grace to say in every circumstance, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”