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  • Writer's pictureTim Hemingway

Health and the Heart of Job


 

"His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity?Curse God and die!”

He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” Job 2:9-10


To Satan it makes no difference how a person is brought to curse God, he just wants to demolish faith – small or large. He can try to kill our faith with pleasure. But the story of Job is a demonstration of how Satan tries to use pain to destroy faith.

It’s not surprising Satan goes the pain route with Job, and not the pleasure route. Think of all that Job had in chapter 1 – how abundanthis possessions were, and how fruitful is family was. Yet, Job was jealous for God’s honour. And he’s careful about his family’s conduct.

He’s not a passive father. He’s concerned that his children may have reveled in this world so deeply that they cursed God in their hearts. So, he takes care to intercede on their behalf with God, making arrangements for them to be purified.


Would, that all fathers and husbands were that zealous for the Lord’s honour in their own households. Keeping watch over the people in their care and loving them enough to intercede with the Lord for them in earnest prayer.


Satan must have seen Job keeping himself free of hedonism – being careful about his conduct and watchful over his own heart. And so, he must have known that hedonism wasn’t the way he would get at Job’s faith.


So, now he switches tack. He suspects Job of being good at doing ‘God’ in the comfortable times. But what about when the going gets tough? And he hopes that Job’s faith will crumble if the comforts are taken away.


So, we saw Satan last time, inciting God – that’s the language God uses in verse 3 here, of chapter 2, ‘though you incited me against Job to ruin him without reason’ – we saw Satan inciting God to take those comforts away.


For many people, hedonism erodes faith with diabolical effect. But for others, the best weapon Satan has in his arsenal is pain not pleasure.


But for all Satan’s scheming we saw last time that Job’s habitual focus on God served him in his hour of great testing. When Satan struck all he had, including his 10 children, Job tore his robe, shaved his head, fell on the ground and worshipped God, ‘The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord’. In all the calamity that befell Job, Job did not sin against God by charging him with wrongdoing.


Satan had failed in his great aim – he’d misjudged Job. Job was not a casual Christian. He wasn’t in love with the gifts more than the giver. It was God he loved supremely – it was God who was firmly seated on the throne of his heart. And God was vindicated against Satan; he’d been right to lift up his trophy-Job as the greatest example of a faithful, God fearing, righteous man on the face of the earth.

But, as I said last time, Satan is not finished with Job. He spots now another opportunity to gobble up the faith of God’s friend.

Verses 1 and 2 are virtually identical to the scene we saw in chapter 1 – the scene we saw, but Job didn’t see.

The angels come to present themselves before the Lord again and Satan appears with them, again.

Not surprisingly Satan has been in the earth again.

That’s where he wants to be because that’s where people are and where little-faith is being kindled and where established-faith is growing – in people. So, that’s where he roams – eyeing up his prey.


And just like last time, God introduces Job into the conversation. ‘Have you considered my servant Job – yes that’s right he’s still my servant - there has been no change in him. For all your scheming against him, he still maintains his integrity’, verse 3.

And, for the third time in 2 chapters we’re told that Job is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. This is his integrity. He’s wholeheartedly committed to God – unswervingly devoted to righteousness.


But Satan has come to God with a new angle this time and he presents it with a slick phrase – as you’d expect.

Verse 4, ‘Skin for skin – a man will give all he has for his own life’. In other words, ‘when push comes to shove, a person can bounce back even from heart-wrenching tragedy, as long as their own flesh isn’t affected’.

It’s a lie of course. Job’s commitment to God does not mean he is indifferent to the tragedy that’s befallen him. At the end of chapter 1, we saw Job fallen in the dust, and here in the middle of chapter 2 he’s still sat in the dust and ashes. The pain and agony of losing his family is still raw and it is still real to Job, even as Satan speaks with God here in chapter 2.

Job’s commitment to God, doesn’t show indifference to his family, it rather demonstrates his faith in God in the midst of the suffering.

That’s what we need to learn – how in the middle of suffering to have rock-solid unshakable faith.


So, Satan comes out with his plan. Verse 5, ‘Strike his flesh and bones and he will surely curse you to your face’.


What we must grasp here is this: if Job passes this test, then we will not only see that Job is faithful, we will see that God is truly valuable and that’s what this is about.

Satan will win a twofold battle if he wins this game of high stakes brinkmanship. He will win the battle for Job’s life and take him to hell with him forever - Satan is going to be thrown into the lake of eternal fire and he knows his time is short, so he’s bent on taking as many with him as possible.

And, he will win the battle for God’s glory.

The reason God keeps presenting Job to Satan is because Job reflectsthe awesome glory of God in his integrity.


For Job there is nothing and nobody more precious than God – and that’s true. God is supremely valuable. And when our hearts receive him as supremely valuable – by faith – it is a testimony to the fact of his unparalleled value, and that glorifies him. So, Satan can steal God’s glory here, if he can prove that Job is in love with his health and not in love with God.


We have amazing access to health care - thanks be to God for that. One of the challenges that access presents is that we expect to be healthy. We’re accustomed to solutions for the vast majority of our ailments. And that’s a problem when the incurable comes knocking at our door.


At the point of the incurable we find out who or what we have been trusting in – pharmaceuticals and physicians or God.

Trusting in God doesn’t mean trusting in him for healing. It means that, whatever the outcome, he is our treasure, not our health.

Access to health care is a gift of God, but we can fall in love with that gift and forget God. Let’s see how Job fares.


In verse 5, Satan incites God to ‘stretch out his hand and strike Job’. And in verse 6, we see that happen, ‘The Lord said to Satan, “very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life”’. The outstretching of God’s hand to strike Job’s body looks like this: Godgiving permission to Satan to take Job into his own hands.

Satan doesn’t do the remotest thing without the permission of Almighty God. And he doesn’t go one step further than he is allowed to by Almighty God – ‘his life’, God says, ‘you must spare’.


The presence of suffering in the world is one of the main arguments people find against the existence of God. They reason that if God exists, how could he possibly allow suffering.

But there is an equally disturbing rationale that solves the problem another way. It solves it by allowing for God, and simultaneouslydivesting him of his supreme authority.

That way he’s not responsible for the suffering – Satan is. But it comes at the expense of reducing God to a player in a cosmic battle where the odds are even.


And it puts me in mind of Isaiah 53. We’re told in Isaiah 53 – ahead of Jesus’ birth, but written in the past tense about Jesus – that he was a man of sorrows. That he was familiar with pain. He was like one from whom people hide their faces.

It tells us that that he took up our pain, and that he bore our suffering– that he was pierced and crushed, and that he was wounded. That he was oppressed and afflicted.


And it does not pin any of it on Satan. Though he certainly was the agent of it all – Jesus, after all, was betrayed by one of whom it was said, ‘Satan entered into him’ (John 13:27).

But, Isaiah 53 repeatedly tells us who afflicted Jesus. ‘We considered him punished by God. Stricken by God. Afflicted by God. It was the Lord’s will to crush him and the Lord’s will that he should suffer.

Even though, he had done no violence and no deceit was found in his mouth, Isaiah says!

Getting God of the hook of suffering, by divesting him of his sovereignty and supreme authority, is not biblical and it is not how God teaches us to think about suffering.

Job is not Jesus, but his suffering, like Jesus’ suffering, is God’s will. It is not a cosmic tussle in which Satan has won the rights to afflict.


Satan said, ‘strike his flesh and bones’. God said ‘very well’. And Satan, according to verse 7 ‘went out and afflicted Job’. That’s how the dynamic worked. And so, the testing of Job begins for the second time.

Well, this time, Satan strikes Job’s body. Painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. These were nasty, weeping, festering sores that broke out all over Job’s skin.

Chapter 7 even implies that after he scraped his body with a broken shard of pottery as he sat in the dust, that worms feasted on his festering wounds. That his body was scabby and his skin broken.

And chapter 30 talks if his skin turning black, but not from the sun. And of his skin peeling off. It speaks of his body burning with fever.


In his speeches, Job repeatedly references the pain he is in. He describes it as ‘unrelenting pain’. He says that he still dreads all his suffering in chapter 9. In chapter 16, that whether or not he speaks, his pain is not relieved. And in chapter 30 – the last defense he makes in the book – he speaks of the suffering that grips him and the night that pierces his bones and the gnawing pain that never rests. Of churning inside that never stops and days of suffering that confront him.


So, the portion of Job’s physical suffering is not small. Satan meant it when he said, ‘strike his flesh and bones’. He certainly made sure of that.


Now, don’t miss the fact that in verses 8 and 9 there is a compounding of the pain that Job has to contend with. All the physical pain that we have just seen, but that is on top of what has already happened in chapter 1.

We find Job sat in the ashes of his mourning at the end of verse 8. All Job’s heartache for the loss of his children is still going on as we find him scraping himself down in the dust and ashes.

But there’s more – a third source of Satan’s temptation to compound the pain – namely Job’s wife in verse 9.

This is the first record we have of anybody speaking to Job following his calamity, and the words that come his way do not encourage him to hope in God. They do the opposite. ‘Are you still maintaining your integrity – interesting because that’s the very word God used to describe Job’s response to the first test according to verse 3.

This means that the integrity that is present in Job’s soul is evident is Job’s life also. People around him can see it. Job’s wife could see it – she could see it even as he sat in the ashes scraping himself.


Evidently Job still hasn’t opened his mouth, but now his wife urges him to open it, and when he does, to curse God, and then die.

Her words imply that she thinks that in light of everything that has happened, what could be more fitting, than to curse God. And when that kind of human persuasion joins forces with our human experience, it is very powerful.


But Job’s wife speaks the way the world speaks - the way the world spoke in Job’s day; the way it speaks now.

And I come back to this note of preparation that we struck last time. What we do in our comfortable time, prepares us - or else leaves us unprepared - for the times of tribulation that are coming. If we have spent our time listening to the world – in our day that comes especially via social media. The throb of the soul of society is heard most rude and most raw in our social media - if we have spent our time at the fountainhead of social media in our healthy days, then when tragedy and suffering come, what will shape our response?


Job’s wife had been at the social media fountainhead of her own day. Job highlights it. He responds to her words with this: ‘you’re talking like a foolish woman’ or literally ‘like one of the morally deficient women’.


Evidently, there were women in their community who were renownedfor being morally deficient, and Job says, ‘your advice sounds like it’s coming from that source’.

And I’m saying, that if we give ourselves to the voice of the world, we will absorb that philosophy and then when trouble comes we will employthat philosophy in the moment of crisis. The way that philosophy speaks is ‘curse God’ – be done with him and get what you can out of the life you’ve got left. That’s Job’s wife’s message and it’s the world’s message.


But if, instead, we do what Job did in his comfortable time – if we focus our gaze on God, then we will have an altogether different philosophy when the moment of crisis arrives.


And, I’m saying, we need to consider that now. Because right now, when things are all good, drinking at the fountainhead of social media seems innocent enough perhaps, but it has long term implications and when the moment of crisis comes and you need a rock-solid faith in God, it’s too late to build one on the spot. We have to be building that confidence in him now. And that means making an intentional choiceto build a foundation of confidence in God and to reject the morally deficient voice of the world.


That, I think is pivotal in this whole story of human suffering and the glory of God. Job got it right when he made it his regular custom to sacrifice burnt offerings rather than attend to the latest morally deficient mantra of his day.

What tips us off to the fact that he got it right is the philosophy with which he rebukes his wife. ‘Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?’.


I don’t think he was harsh with her. He must have understood what she was going through too. After all, she’d lost all her children also. And she was now having to watch her husband in horrific pain and suffering – she probably thought he was going to die too.

None of that would have been lost on Job. And I think that Job would have been as concerned about the cursing he heard coming from his wife’s mouth as he had been about the cursing he feared might have come from his children’s hearts in chapter 1.


No, I think that Job’s rebuke of his wife would have been tender not harsh. ‘Don’t talk like that – God is always good. Have you forgotten our first love? Don’t listen to those corrupting voices, they’re fools! What kind of love for God do we have after all? If we only cherish him in the good times. If he is the greatest treasure of our lives, then surely he is that in both the good and the bad times – isn’t he?’


There’s a way that we need to be with one another in our relationships - Husband to wife, wife to husband. Believing father to believing son. Believing daughter to believing mother. Sister in Christ to brother in Christ, and all the other Christian relationships we can think of – where we can be tender and loving in our rebuke of one another when we see God’s honour being impugned, or we see a pattern of behaviour that might result in God’s honour being impugned.


The psalmist knew about this, he says, ‘let a righteous man strike me – that is a kindness; let him rebuke me – that is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it’.

We need to know how to give and receive rebuke for the sake of Christ – for his honour and glory – and for the sake of our brother or sister – for their eternal salvation.


Verse 10 ends with the verdict of God. We receive it through the inspired narrator’s voice.

His voice is true and it’s God’s voice, ultimately. He simply says, ‘in all this Job did not sin in what he said’.

In other words, when Job attributes this trouble to God by saying, ‘shall we receive good from God and not trouble from God also’, he was not sinning. He was not attributing God with wrong doing like his wife had.


So, again, God is vindicated. Job has maintained his integrity and behaved consistent with what God has twice told Satan he is like – blameless, upright, fearing God and shunning evil.


In all this, God’s glory is upheld and God was right to hold Job up as a trophy of his eternal grace.

And I do mean trophy of grace.

All that Job is, he is because of God. He is not ultimately blameless and upright because of himself, he’s blameless and upright because of God.

That’s not true of Jesus. Jesus was blameless and upright because that was his nature. But Job was not that by nature. Job was the oppositeof that by nature.


So, just like God is the first cause of Job’s suffering so also, he is the first cause of Job’s righteousness. Which means that the glory that is accruing to God here, by Job’s righteous responses to untold suffering, are accruing to God because of God’s grace at work in Job. ‘Out of his grace we have all received grace in place of grace already given’ (John 1:16). If Job is God’s trophy for the display of God’s splendour it is because, by his grace, he has made him to be that.


The final part of the chapter introduces three new people – 3 friends of Job: Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar.

When they heard about Job’s troubles they arranged to go and visit him with the express intention of sympathising with him and comfortinghim.


By now Job’s appearance was so defiled and so distorted that they could hardly recognise him, it says in verse 12. And when they arrived they wept aloud, tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads.


For the next 7 days and nights no one said a word, they just sat in the dust and ashes with him, silent. They saw how great his suffering was.


I think these three friends have it about right here. I think their motiveis good – they want to comfort him and sympathise with him. I think their posture is good – they take up a place of discomfort on the ground with Job.

I think their speech is good – they don’t have any. It’s so easy to be glib, or dismissive, or worse with people in the face of suffering.


When you’re faced with someone suffering, don’t try to comfort them by relating their suffering back to some experience of your own. I don’t think that serves to meet someone in their suffering, I think it serves to trivialise their suffering. What they are going through, no one else can know.


So, I think that when Ecclesiastes says there’s a time to be silent and time to speak, we’re being told that it takes some wisdom and sensitivity to know when is the right time to speak.

These men seem to sense that Job’s horrendous suffering is a time for silence. And that seems wise.


Their choice of 7 days reflects their concern for Job’s life and the loss of life in his family. Like Joseph who mourned for his father Jacob 7 days, these men mourn for Job. They mourn with Job on the ground in silence – for the period associated with mourning.

And like them we need to learn to weep with those who weep, as Paul instructs us.


We’ll see how they proceed after the seven days are up, but for now, they seem to have started well.


The final thing I want to say is that, what all this teaches us is that God may have designs to hand us over to Satan and bring suffering into our lives that way.


It’s not the only way he uses – not all suffering comes to us by the agency of Satan. But if he has suffering planned for us, and we want to be that mirror of God’s glory that he has called us to be – not instead of the suffering but in the suffering – then our faith needs establishing now.


The Apostle Paul says to the Thessalonian believers, we sent Timothy to you, ‘to strengthen and encourage you in your faith’ – why? ‘So that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them.


We are destined for trials, so now is the time to strengthen our faith in God. That’s the take away this morning.

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