"The Mystery Of Misery"- Job 1 :1-3
By James Merritt
1. I want to introduce you to a man named Job. He was the Ben Cartwright of the Old Testament. He was a great, gracious, godly man who was universally loved and respected both on earth and in heaven.
2. He was a man marked by great faithfulness. "There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil." (v.1) The word for shun in the Hebrew literally means "to turn off." Job was so holy, so consecrated, that sin was a complete turn-off to him. He was as pure as the driven snow. There were no skeletons in his closet. The IRS could not find one thing wrong with his tax returns. The FBI could find no blemish on his character. He was twelve inches to the foot, three feet to the yard, sixteen ounces to the pound. This is not what Job said about Job, this is what God said about Job. "Then the Lord said to Satan, 'Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?'" (v. 8)
3. He was a man marked by a great family. "And seven sons and three daughters were born to him." (v.2) Not only was his family a large family, it was a godly family. "So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, 'It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.' Thus Job did regularly." (v.5) At the end of every day all of his sons and daughters would gather together with their father and have family devotions and worship the Lord together.
4. He was a man marked by great fortune. "Also, his possessions were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a very large household, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the East." (v.3) Money was no problem for Job. He lived on a ranch that made the Ponderosa look like a dump. In fact, he probably was the richest man on the face of the earth. It is important to remember that his wealth came from God. For he said in v.21, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away."
5. He was a man marked by great fame. We are told he was the "greatest of all the people of the East." The word greatest carries with it the connotation of loudness or heaviness. In other words, Job carried a lot of weight. When he spoke everybody listened. He was the E. F. Hutton of the East. Everybody knew him. His name was a household word, and a magic key that could unlock any door.
6. He was also a man of great favor. He was kind and generous. Not only was he wealthy, but he was a great philanthropist. He tells us himself that he was a friend of the fatherless, a help to the widow. He fed the hungry, clothed the poor. He gave shelter to the orphan. (31:16-22) In other words, Job had it all, but he deserved it all.
7. Then in one day he went from being a prince to a pauper. He went from a billionaire to a bum. He went from hero to zero. He lost everything. Now he did not lose it because he had done something wrong. He lost it in spite of the fact that he was doing everything right. Job learned firsthand what it is like when life isn't fair.
8. No man in the Bible, outside of the Lord Jesus Christ, suffered more than Job. Outside of Jesus no man suffered more unjustly and unfairly than Job. But from Job we can learn some lessons that will show us up, and stand us in good stead when we get that pink slip, that bad doctor's report, that tragic phone call, and we realize that life isn't always fair.
I. The Troubles Job Endured
1. During the Great Depression they called the day the stock market crashed, Black Monday. Well Job had the blackest of all Mondays. In one day he lost his fortune. "Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house; and a messenger came to Job and said, 'The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, when the Sabeans raided them and took them away--indeed they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!' While he was still speaking another also came and said, 'The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you!' While he was still speaking, another also came and said, 'The Chaldeans formed three bands, raided the camels and took them away, yes, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!'" (vv.13-17)
2. Then he lost his family. "While he was still speaking, another also came and said, 'Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young men, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!'" (vv.18-19) In one day Job lost those that he loved, and he lost the things that he loved.
3. Then he lost his fitness. "Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took for himself a potsherd with which to scrape himself while he sat in the midst of the ashes." (2:7-8)
4. Then to add insult to injury, he even lost his friends, as he tells us in chapter 19:14, "My relatives have failed, and my close friends have forgotten me."
5. In one day he went from sunshine to rain, from joy to pain. He went from blessedness to brokenness, from insulation to isolation, from happiness to heartache. But before we try to investigate the why of it, we need to understand the how of it.
A. These Troubles Were Activated By A Satanic Force
1. Now the trouble starts back in chapter one. "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. And the Lord said to Satan, 'From where do you come?' So Satan answered the Lord and said, 'From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.'" (vv.6-7) That is a very revealing picture of the Devil. He is a restless creature. He is always looking for a place to cause trouble. He is always trying to see what he can get into. I Peter 5:8 reminds us, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour."
2. But we also learn some other things about the Devil. First of all, we learn that Satan does not have the presence of God. He is not omni-present. He can only be in one place at a time.
3. But in v.8 we learn that the Devil does not have the perception of God. "Then the Lord said to Satan, 'Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?'" You see, God knew Job's heart, but Satan didn't. Satan cannot read your mind. He cannot know your thoughts. He can try to tempt you to think things you should not think, but he doesn't know what you think. He does not know your heart. Only God knows the heart.
4. But we also learn the Devil does not have the power of God. "So Satan answered the Lord and said, 'Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.'" (vv.9-10) Now how did he know that God had put a hedge around Job? Well he knew it because he had tried to get to Job, but he could not because he was protected by the Lord. I want to tell you that the Devil and all of his demons in hell can attack you, but they cannot touch you apart from the permission of God. The Bible says in Psalm 34:7, "The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them."
5. But in the midst of all of this the Devil asked a very good question: "So Satan answered the Lord and said, 'Does Job fear God for nothing?'" (v.9) You see, the Devil thinks that anybody who worships God is a fool. He thinks the most foolish thing in the world is to love God, serve God, worship God, and trust God just because He is God.
6. The Devil said in effect, "Oh, I know why Job serves you. Job serves you because you've blessed him. Job serves you because you've been so good to him. But you take away his health, and his wealth, and then you see whether or not Job serves you."
7. You know, so many think that the theme of the Book of Job is: "Why do bad things happen to Godly people?" but I think that is wrong. I think the real question of the Book of Job is: "Why are Godly people Godly?" If God never gave you one blessing, would you still serve the Lord Jesus? I have to ask myself, if God didn't give me converts, if God didn't give us growth, if God didn't give us an increase, would I still be as excited about worshipping Jesus, loving Jesus, and preaching the Gospel?
8. You see, this is a legitimate question. Do I serve God because I expect Him to bless me? Or do I serve God simply because I want to be a blessing to Him? Would I serve God, and love God, and worship God if there was nothing in it for me?
9. I heard about a mother who was exasperated with her little five year old boy who had been giving her trouble all afternoon, and she said, "Would you please straighten up and be good?"
He said, "I will if you will give me $5.00."
She looked at him and said, "Why can't you be good for nothing like your Daddy?"
10. Well the reason why Satan attacked Job was to prove that he wasn't good for nothing. That he did not serve God because of what he could give to God, but because of what he was getting from God. In effect, what he was saying to God was, you've bought Job off; you've paid him off; he has to worship you; he owes it to you. He doesn't worship you because he loves you. He worships you because of what you've done for him.
B. These Troubles Were Allowed By A Sovereign Father
1. Now even though Satan was behind all of this, behind Satan was God. First, God allowed Satan to attack Job's possessions. "But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has and he will surely curse You to Your face!" "So the Lord said to Satan, 'Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.' Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord." (vv.11-12) But then he allowed Satan to attack Job's person. "But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" "So the Lord said to Satan, 'Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.'" (2:5-6)
2. Now keep in mind that Job didn't know anything about this. He did not have either the hindsight or foresight that we do. He did not know that the Devil was behind this, and he did not know that God had allowed the Devil to do this. But it is right here that a real problem arises. Then nothing can happen unless God produces it or God permits it. But then there are those who say that a loving God would neither produce evil nor permit evil. Since there is evil I will not believe in God.
3. The Greek philosopher, Epicurus, wrestled with this question and he stated it this way: "God either wishes to take away evil, and is unable; or He is able and unwilling; or He is neither willing nor able; or He is both willing and able.
If He is willing but unable, He is feeble, which is not in accordance with the character of God. If He is able and unwilling, He is envious, which is equally at variance with God.
If He is neither willing nor able, He is both envious and feeble, and therefore not God. If He is both willing and able, which alone is suitable for God, from what source then are evils? Why does He not remove them?1
4. So today there are many who wrestle with this problem with evil in the world. They see how bad things happen to good people, how innocent people are killed, godly people get sick, little children are murdered, and they come to the conclusion that either there is no God, or if there is, He's not much of one.
5. Well I beg to differ. In my mind, evil does not prove that there is no God, or that if there is, He's a weak God. Evil tells me that there is a God and He is so great that He can even allow evil to exist in this world and still use it for our good and His glory.
6. I want you to see what I believe is one of the most profound verses in the Bible. "But he said to her, 'You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?' In all this Job did not sin with his lips." (2:10) You see, Job's God was not some heavenly Santa Claus who sits on the edge of heaven, dropping good little gifts, wrapped in silver, out of the sky, saying, "I hope this will make you happy. I hope this will please you." That is not the God of heaven. The Sovereign God of heaven disposes and dispenses what brings glory to Himself.
7. You see, like it or not, God not only comforts the afflicted, He afflicts the comfortable. He not only brings us good, but He brings us adversity. I will tell you why. Because God is not interested in your happiness, He's interested in your holiness.
8. There are times when we just have to rest in the faithfulness of God, knowing that God is too wise to make mistakes, too loving to be unkind, and too powerful to be denied in His purpose. You need to remember that behind all suffering is the purpose of God, and beyond all suffering is the praise of God.
II. The Testing Job Experienced
1. Now every trial and every trouble is a test. Job knew that. "But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold." (23:10) Every time a trial, a trouble, a tragedy, a tribulation comes into your life, God is saying to you, "Will you continue to trust me, and love me, and serve me, or not?"
2. Listen to I Peter 1:6-7, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
3. You see, the faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted. Until faith is put to the test you can never be sure of what you are calling faith is really faith. All that glitters is not gold, and all that believes is not faith. It is only by testing that we can determine the real character of our faith. Job's faith was severely tested.
A. By Fickled Friends
1. "Now when Job's three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place--Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him. And when they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept; and each one tore his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven." (2:11-12) Now these friends apparently came to sympathize, but they really came to scrutinize and then to sermonize. They took one look at Job and they said, "Job, we know what your problem is. There is sin in your life."
2. Now time nor space will not permit it, but if you take the time to read the speeches of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, you will find that Eliphaz proposed that there was sin in Job's life. Bildad presumed that there was sin in Job's life, and Zophar proclaimed that there was sin in Job's life. You see, they believed in a "health and wealth" gospel.
3. They believed that if a man loved God enough and believed God enough, he would be healthy, wealthy, and wise. Their theology taught that suffering is always a result of sin. In effect, they believed that if you're not rich, you're not right. If you're not healthy, you're not holy.
4. Now I want to emphasize that I believe that if you are a child of God you are going to suffer if you sin. If you are bound to sin you are bound to suffer. Suffering follows sin just as surely as night follows day.
5. But listen very carefully. Even though sin always causes suffering, suffering is not always caused by sin.
6. Jesus never sinned, but He suffered more than any man in history. You see, suffering is not always a sign that you are not right with God. In Job's case it was a sign that he was right with God. Satan did not pick on a sinning man. He picked on a sanctified man.
7. Now what Job's so-called "friends" were really saying was this, "If you would be like us, and be as good as we are, you wouldn't be suffering. Because you are suffering there must be some real sin in your life." I want to tell you that even though God does sometimes punish his children by affliction and discipline and suffering, it is never your business to tell the person that. That is God's business.
8. I heard about a preacher who lived out in the west and he came home from vacation. One of his church members met him at the train station.
The preacher said, "Well, how are things at home?"
The man said, "Real bad, Pastor. A tornado came through here and wiped out my house."
Well, the preacher said, "I'm not surprised. I've been warning you about the way you've been living. I told you God would punish you for your sin."
He said, "Well, Preacher, it also destroyed your house."
\"It did?" the Preacher said, "Well, sometimes the ways of the Lord are just past human understanding."
B. A Frustrated Faith
1. Job asked a very familiar question that you either have asked God, or one day you will ask God. "Have I sinned? What have I done to You, O watcher of men? Why have You set me as Your target, So that I am a burden to myself?" (7:20) Eleven times Job asked why? Do you know what? God never answered his question. Job was frustrated, not only by his suffering, but by God's silence. At one point Job said, "O, how I long to speak directly to the Almighty. I want to talk this over with God Himself." (13:3,LB) Job wanted to talk to God, but God wasn't talking.
2. You see, God does not owe anybody an explanation for anything He does. As a matter of fact, we are not to live by explanation. We are to live by revelation.
3. Suppose God had told Job what was going on. Suppose God had come to Job from the very beginning and said, "Listen, the Devil has come to me and he is going to be attacking you and doing some terrible things to you, but I want you to know that I'm going to take care of everything, and you'll get back double of everything you lost." Well then there would have been no test for Job's faith. There would have been no test for Job's character.
4. You see, Job was written to help us understand that we don't always have to understand. I can tell you now, there are going to be things that are going to happen in your life that you will not understand this side of heaven. But I also say you never have to understand what God is doing if you can trust God to always do what is right.
5. To God the most important thing about Job was his faith. God did not need his family, his fortune, his flocks, his fame. He already had those. He told Job in chapter 41:11, "everything under heaven is mine." What God wanted was his faith, because without faith it is impossible to please God. You will never know what kind of faith you really have until you don't have anything but God. Let me tell you that real faith is believing God and praising God no matter what.
6. We've got these TV evangelists today who stare into a camera, speaking to sick people and say, "If you just had enough faith you would be healed." My friend, real faith is not believing God will heal you. Real faith is believing God may not heal you, but praising Him anyway.
7. If you only praise God and love God and serve God and worship God when things are good, your praise isn't worth a half a hallelujah to Him.
8. Those three men were facing the fiery furnace in the Book of Daniel, and they said to that pagan king, "God can deliver us from that fiery furnace. But if He does not, we are going to serve Him and love Him just the same." (Compare CF.Daniel 3:17-18)
III. The Triumph Job Enjoyed
1. Through this trouble God did some things for Job that he otherwise would not have done, and he taught some things to Job that otherwise Job would not have learned.
A. He Revealed His Fault
1. For thirty-seven chapters God is silent. He doesn't say a word. He just watches and waits and listens. But then beginning in chapter 38 God gives Job a test and he missed every question, totally flunked the examination. First of all, he reminds Job of his preeminence. "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding." (38:4) He said, "Job, I created this world. I can do anything in it and through it that I choose to do. You wouldn't even be here if it weren't for me, and I don't owe you any explanation." In effect he says, "Who are you to question me anyway?"
2. He reminds Job of his power. "I know that You can do everything." (42:2a) Now Job understands that not only does God have the right to do everything, but He has the resource to do everything, and He can do anything.
3. But then God reminds Job of his purpose. "And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You." (42:2b) Now Job understands that not only does God have a right to do anything, and the resource to do anything, but He has a reason for what He does. God has a purpose and a plan for your life, and for this universe. That purpose may be discussed and debated, but it cannot be denied.
4. If you go back to chapters 29 through 31 you will find how Job takes the witness stand, in his own defense, and tries to convince God and everybody else just what a great man he really is. But when God finishes talking to him notice what he says in chapter 42:5-6, "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." The bottom line is that imperfect man has no right to question the motives nor the methods of a perfect God.
B. He Renewed His Fellowship
1. We are told in vv.8-9 that God accepts Job. That literally means he brings him back face to face. In other words, he restores to Job the joy of his salvation.
C. He Rebuked His Friends
1. "And so it was, after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Termanite, 'My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has. Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.'" (42:7-8) This just goes to show that Job should have let God handle his friends to begin with. Charles Stanley said that when he was being unfairly criticized at a point in his ministry, he learned that people cannot fight three things: they cannot fight silence, they cannot fight prayer, and they cannot fight love. Did you know that the greatest way to handle criticism is not to handle it at all, but to let God handle it?
D. He Restored His Fortune
1. "And the Lord restored Job's losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before." (42:10) In chapter 3 we were told that Job had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys. Then in v.12 we are told, "Now the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys."
2. But in v.13 we are told that he was given "seven sons and three daughters." Now immediately that looks like a contradiction because Job had seven sons and three daughters. But God said he would double everything that Job had lost. Well, He did!
3. When Job's flocks and goats and cattle were killed, he lost them. But when his sons and daughters were killed he hadn't lost them, they just changed location.
4. When Dr. Vance Havner's wife died, he was sitting at the funeral home, and one of his friends came by and said, "Dr. Havner, I am so sorry that you lost your wife." Dr. Havner looked at him and said, "I haven't lost my wife. You haven't lost anything when you know where it is."
5. On the tombstone of one godly wife who died, her husband put these words:
Death can hide, but not divide;
She is on Christ's other side;
She with Christ and Christ with me,
United still in Christ are we.
6. Someone has well said that "God often digs the wells of joy with the spades of sorrow." That is true. All's well that ends well, and the Book of Job tells us that eventually, whether here on earth, or up in heaven, all will end well for the child of God.
7. Years later I can just imagine Job sitting on the front porch of his house, talking to his grandchildren, and he recounts to them all the things God taught him in that time in his life. All of a sudden he bursts out into a song:
I've had many tears and sorrows,
I've had questions for tomorrow
There've been times I didn't know right from wrong;
But in every situation God gave blessed consolation
That my trials came to only make me strong.
I've been to lots of places,
And I've seen lots of faces,
There've been times I felt so all alone;
But in my lonely hours,
Yes, those precious lonely hours,
Jesus let me know that I was His own.
I thank God for the mountains,
And I thank Him for the valleys,
I thank Him, for the storms He brought me through;
For if I'd never had a problem
I wouldn't know that He could solve them
I'd never know what faith in God could do.
Through it all, through it all
I've learned to trust in Jesus
I've learned to trust in God;
Through it all, through it all,
I've learned to depend upon His word.2
That's the message of the Book of Job. Charles Spurgeon was right, "When you cannot trace God's hand, you can trust God's heart." Only that kind of faith and that kind of God can solve the mystery of misery."