Growing up in church, I always heard about the patience of Job. Every time this Bible character or book that bears his name was mentioned, it was tied to enduring and steadfast patience through trials and tribulations. Sometimes, the behind the scenes conniving work of Satan and/or the bad friends of Job were included in the conversations. There was certainly a lot to learn from this magnificent book. But was that all?
Through the years, I have come to a new appreciation of this exhaustive book. The subject came up in a conversation I had with a pastor friend of mine not too long ago. I had shared about the seminary course I was taking on the book of Job. In the course of our conversation, he stopped and asked me, “Albert, if you had to say one thing the book of Job was about, what would it be?” It did not take me too long to answer, “God’s sovereignty.” He was surprised by the answer, since it would have been his answer also but he thought it eluded so many Christians today. And I agree.
Job certainly had trials – lost his wealth, his children and his health. He had an incredibly unbelieving and unhelpful wife. And with friends like that…well, you know the rest. Job’s patience was unequaled. His perseverance is phenomenal. But it was a phrase he stated early in the book that gives us a glimpse to the underlying and major theme:
Job 1:21 (NKJV)
21 And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.”
Right before that statement, in verse 20, it says that Job worshipped. An understanding of the fact that the Lord is free to give and to take away was an insight into God’s sovereign acts. And then, there is the exchange with his wife after his health is also taken away, which goes like this:
Job 2:9-10 (NKJV)
9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!”
10 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.
Receiving good from the hand of God…receiving evil from the hand of God. And God chooses which one He will allow to come to our lives!
As Job reacts so spiritually sound to his numerous afflictions, his friends begin to accuse him of being in sin, therefore deserving that which has come upon him. He defends himself time and time again, stating that he is not receiving punishment for sinning. That to us was obvious, from knowing what was occurring behind the scenes – the afflictions were asked for by Satan, given by God and Job had nothing to do with them at all!
After both older and younger friends speak, God takes over. He has been patiently waiting. He has listened to unsubstantiated claims by the three friends and half-truths from another. He has paid attention to Job’s pain and suffering over something He himself sent his way. He has heard this righteous man defending himself as he is wrongly accused but not yet with a complete understanding of what is going on. God speaks…and has the last word.
At the beginning of Chapter 38, God lets everyone know He is about to speak the truth of the matter. And he starts by asking questions like “Where were you…”, “Who determined…”, “Who stretched…”, “Who shut…”, “Have you commanded…” The implication of these questions, which continue to be asked and answered by God in subsequent chapters of the book, leave absolutely no doubt in anyone’s mind about God’s sovereignty. He is in charge, does as He pleases, answers to no one and that is the way it is!
After listening intently to His Lord’s lengthy claim to total sovereignty, this is Job’s remarkable response:
Job 42:1-6 (NKJV)
1 Then Job answered the LORD and said:
2 “I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.
3 You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
4 Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’
5 “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You.
6 Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes.”
Job gets it. He finally understands. Without having to know the behind the scenes workings of Satan described at the beginning of the book, God’s unmistakable rule and dominion over all is now clear to this man. And what is his response to this knowledge? He firmly declares a wider and deeper knowledge of God, swiftly confirms an acknowledgement of his unworthiness and resolutely states a total repentance before Him. Then God puts Job’s friends in their place and blesses him with a new family and new wealth…on both counts, twofold what Job enjoyed before.
Do I get it? Do we get it? God has been so patient. He has waited as I go through trials, albeit not anywhere near what Job endured. He has been so faithful through my lack of faith. He has understood me in the midst of me not understanding Him. He has been so good during my not so good behavior. And He has loved me unconditionally.
Awed by His magnificent Lordship, would that all of us seek to know God better, to recognize our own fallen human condition and to repent! Then, and only then, will we be content and complete. His patience will be prized and His sovereignty will be sweet. And we would so appreciate and love our GPS.