Psalters: 204, 160, 106, 386
The first chapter of Job records how Job, awaking one morning the richest of the men of the east, was by sundown reduced to poverty. In the morning, he had 1000 cattle and 500 she asses; by evening he had none. In the morning he had 7000 sheep and 3000 camels; by evening, they were all killed or stolen. In the morning he had seven sons and three daughters; by evening he was childless. In the morning he had many servants; by evening he had four – all of them bearing bad news about the destruction of his great estate.
Put yourself in Job’s shoes, beloved. How would you respond? What if a flood, a fire, a tornado, or some other destructive force sent by God reduced you to poverty and childlessness by time you returned home from church today?
The chapter speaks of Job’s immediate response to this heavy trial. First, he responded with grief. We read in verse 20: “Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head.” These actions were a visible expression of grief. Note that it is not wrong to grieve when God sends trials in our lives. To everything there is a time – also a time to weep! When affliction comes, we need not think that we may not cry, that we have to be strong for the sake of others around us. Job grieved, and so may we. In our grief, we may weep. But we may not charge God foolishly!
Second, Job responded to his trial by worshiping God. We read in verse 20 that, having rent his mantle and shaved his head, “he fell down upon the ground and worshiped.” These terms refer to his posture and attitude in his worship. He fell to the ground, face down. Such is the posture of a humble man, who knows that he is helpless and depends on God alone.
Third, Job made a confession, as we read in verse 21: “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.” By these words Job indicates that he bore his suffering patiently. Especially from this confession of Job, we must take a lesson. Let us examine it further, in order to make it ours in our afflictions.
I. CONFESSING JEHOVAH’S SOVEREIGN POWER
The central part of Job’s confession is this: “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah hath taken away.” Job confesses that what has befallen him was the work of the Lord, manifesting the sovereign power of Jehovah God.
To this confession, we might respond by saying, “No, Job, you are wrong; this was not so much the work of Jehovah, as it was the work of Satan.”
Indeed, the chapter speaks of Satan’s role in Job’s affliction. We read that one day the sons of God, that is, the angels, came before God in heaven. They did so to worship God, and to receive commandments from Him, which they then had to perform. But with the good angels, we read, Satan also appeared in heaven. Before the death of Christ, Satan was permitted to come into the presence of the glory of God.
God noticed Satan, and addressed him. Knowing that Satan’s goal was to destroy God’s kingdom, overthrow all the works of God, and set himself up as the real power of the universe, God asked Satan, “Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” (Verse 8). It was as though God was asking Satan, “If you really think you can overthrow my kingdom, Satan, have you noticed that Job is a faithful child and citizen?”
In response, Satan acknowledged his inability to cause Job to become unfaithful as a child of God. Because God gave Job such great riches, Satan argued, Job would remain faithful to Jehovah. Satan was really questioning the motive of Job’s love and obedience. Job would serve whoever made him rich and happy.
God understood this as a challenge. If Job served God, not in the power which God gave Job as a regenerated child of God, but only because God made Job rich and happy, then Job was not truly a faithful child and citizen after all. So God will demonstrate to Satan, that Satan’s argument is wrong. Because Satan had argued that Job served God because God gave Job riches, God permitted Satan to take all those possessions away.
In a sense, then, Job’s trial was the work of Satan. It was Satan’s idea that Job be afflicted as he was. It was also Satan’s work, because Satan was given the power to accomplish it – though subject to the power and will of God. So we might say to Job, you are wrong! You are wrong to say that Jehovah hath given, and Jehovah hath taken away! And we might say, when trials befall us: God did not send them!
But we would be mistaken. Job is right. Job confesses Jehovah to be the ultimate cause of all that has happened. Job does not need to know the hows and the whys of his affliction , in order to make this confession. He did not need to know of the conversation between God in heaven. He simply needed to know that Jehovah is the only sovereign God, who performs all that He has determined in His counsel to do! Because nothing befalls us but what God directs and sends, Job and we can confess the sovereign power of Jehovah: “Jehovah hath given, and Jehovah hath taken away.”
Perhaps the first part of Job’s confession comes easily for us: “Jehovah hath given.” Sometimes we ignore even this fact, that all things come from Jehovah, and we ascribe to ourselves the power in amassing our riches and wealth and building our homes and estates and bringing forth and raising our children. But often enough God reminds us that all our work, physical and spiritual, is done in the power of God. Our children are gifts from Jehovah. Our substance is a gift from Jehovah. Perhaps we obtained possessions through hard work, but the strength to do the work and blessing upon the work came from Jehovah. Jehovah gives all things.
The text now teaches that what is true of the giving is also, and always, true of the taking. “Jehovah hath taken away.” Jehovah God gives to His people, in accordance with His purpose and counsel, in demonstration of His sovereign power, in His love. And when He takes away our loved ones or possessions, that also is in accordance with His purpose and counsel; that also is in demonstration of His sovereign power; and that also manifests His love to His people in Christ.
Do not ever say, beloved: Jehovah gave, but Satan took! Jehovah wanted me to keep my possessions, or my loved ones, but a force greater than Jehovah took them away from me! Rather, confess the sovereign power of Jehovah! He alone is God! He is able to do what He pleases! And He will do all things, to the glory of His name!
But why does He take? Why does He take what is so precious to us? He does so in His love!
II. TRUSTING JEHOVAH’S FAITHFUL LOVE
Job trusted Jehovah’s faithful love. He knew that the afflictions God sent were sent in love.
Satan tried in this affliction to make Job think that God hated him. He did so first, by sending these afflictions on the first day of the week. That it was the first day of the week we surmise, from being told that Job’s children were feasting in the house of the eldest brother, and that each brother took one turn a week to host this feast. The feasts followed a weekly cycle, and this cycle was beginning again. Now at the end of the cycle, we are told, Job sacrificed for all his children. Either the night before, or the morning of this day in which Job suffered his calamities, he had offered burnt offerings and sin offerings, and partaken of the means of grace, and left with the renewed assurance of God’s love and favor for him and his children. Satan used this timing of events in an effort to make Job question God’s love. Just as if you or I, having heard the most comforting sermon and eaten at the Lord’s table, and sensing anew the forgiveness of our sins, went home to find that great calamity had befallen us – with Satan wanting us to ask, what kind of love is this?
Second, notice that while the camels, the oxen, and the asses were stolen, the sheep were destroyed in a different way – by the fire of God coming down out of heaven and consuming them. Now the sheep were the animals which Job would primarily have used to sacrifice to God. And these animals, God destroyed by an act of judgment! Remember that we read of fire coming down from heaven in Scripture, it indicated the judgment of God. Remember the fire of God that rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah. Remember that God will send fire from heaven in the day of judgement to destroy this world and all the wickedness. Now Satan wants Job to ask, “Why has God judged me by burning up my sheep? Does He hate my sacrifices?”
In the third place, all Job’s children are destroyed. Job knew, too, of the covenant. Job knew, even if not as clearly as we, that God’s covenant is continued in the line of generations. And Job might at this point have thought: “God has no covenant with me. He just destroyed it.”
In similar ways, Satan directs our attention to the calamities God sends in our life, and tries to make us think God hates us.
But Job clung to the faithful love of God! Notice that in the text, Job does not use the name “God,” or even “the Lord,” but the name “Jehovah.” In our King James Version, the word “LORD” is in all capitals, to indicate that the word is really Jehovah. “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah hath taken away.” The name “Jehovah” refers to God as the unchanging, faithful, covenant-keeping God. And this faithfulness of Jehovah to His covenant is rooted in His love. His faithfulness to His covenant and word is grounded in the love He has for us in Christ, and His desire to save us in Christ.
To some degree, Job understood this faithful love of God. By using the name Jehovah, Job indicated that his afflictions came from his personal God, who was the only God. These afflictions did not come from the gods of the Chaldeans, or the idol of the Sabeans. They came from Jehovah, the God who loved Job! Furthermore, by using the name Jehovah, Job expressed that he knew Jehovah’s love to be a faithful love. In this respect, the work of God in sending an affliction, and the work of Satan in it, are greatly contrasted. Remember that temptations and trials are really basically the same thing, arising out of the same circumstance. But Satan uses that circumstance as a temptation, to destroy the work of God’s grace in us, and in hatred for us, while God uses the circumstance as a trial, to strengthen our faith and godliness, in His love for us.
The afflictions which God sends His people always come in His love. He never has any other motive for sending trials upon us. Through these trials, He prepares us for our place in glory! Trials and afflictions, therefore, come only upon God’s children – they are a gracious gift to sinners such as we, which required the death of Christ on the cross, to earn them for us.
Such is Job’s perspective as well. There is not even a hint in the text, that Job has considered the possibility that Jehovah might now hate him, or that Jehovah turned from him, or that Jehovah’s love shown in the past was only pretended. In fact, if Job had so much as thought that God now hated him, he would have been charging God foolishly! But this he did not do. In saying “Jehovah hath given, and Jehovah hath taken away,” Job meant to say, “Jehovah did this in His love. He loves me!”
Such must be our confession in our trials too. Jehovah is a God who cannot change. He has already demonstrated His love for His church in sending Christ to the death of the cross. God will never hate the church! And He has already demonstrated His love for each of His children personally by working the benefits of salvation in our hearts by the Spirit of Christ. God will never hate us, then! What He sends, comes in love! In love, does send grievous afflictions. In love, He corrects, chastises, refines, and purifies, as gold is tried by fire. But always in love.
Would you believe it? Could you confess it, if you arrive home from church tonight to find your possessions stolen, and loved ones dead? By the power of Christ, and with the true knowledge of God, we can! And to do so, we must also believe Jehovah’s great wisdom.
III. BELIEVING JEHOVAH’S GREAT WISDOM
Jehovah’s wisdom is His ability to do direct all that happens so that His goal is reached. His goal, we know, is the glory of His name in the saving of His church. Now when God sends afflictions in our life, either one of two things is true: either God has entirely forgotten about His goal, and has foolishly put it in jeopardy, OR everything that befalls us in life, including our afflictions, serves that goal. Which do you think it is, beloved? Would God ever put His own goal in jeopardy? Not our God; He is a wise God.
In two ways our text indicates that Job believed in Jehovah as a wise God. First, we read, “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” Literally: “nor charged God with folly.” The text means that Job did not say of God, “He is a fool.” He did not attribute folly to God. Inasmuch as the Spirit draws our attention in the text to what Job did NOT do, we immediately think of what he DID do – he understood the wisdom of God.
Secondly, indicating that Job believed in Jehovah as wise, we read: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither.” Thither means “back there again.” Of course Job does not mean he will go back to his mother’s womb, but he means he will go back to the dust of the ground. Job had in mind the words God spoke to Adam: “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.”
By these words – “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither” – Job expressed that he was unworthy of having had the possessions that had been his. He was born with nothing. He could earn nothing with God. All Job’s children and riches were God’s. Now God took them from him in His sovereign control.
But by these words, Job also confessed God’s wisdom. “I came naked,” he says. He came naked, in order to serve God, not himself! Because he came to serve God, he did not have to be born with any possessions. The Lord supplied Job from day to day with such possessions as he needed to serve God. And in his death, he would not need possessions. So Job sees the fact that Jehovah took his possessions from him, as a preparation for the day of his death. We must not necessarily conclude that Job thought the day of his death was imminent. He still had that day in mind, and viewed Jehovah’s taking of his possessions in light of that day.
Do we confess Jehovah’s wisdom in our afflictions? How quickly we are prone to charge God with folly! We say, “How could God do this to me? All my plans have come to naught. I don’t know how He thinks I’m going to serve Him now.” Or our attitude implies that God has not treated us well. But Job teaches us to confess the wisdom of God. All that happens to us, happens with a view to our death, our final glorification, and God’s glory!
Can you confess God’s wisdom? Do you know the revelation of His wisdom to save His people in Christ? Then you know, too, that everything that happens to us, in love, manifests the wisdom of God.
When in our afflictions, we confess the power, love, and wisdom of God, we are ready to say what Job said next: “Blessed be the name of the LORD.”
IV. DESIRING JEHOVAH’S NAME BE BLESSED
Jehovah always blesses His own name, by causing human beings to adore Him, magnify Him, and serve Him. Job’s desire, as expressed in the text, was that Jehovah would enable Job and the four servants who were standing before Job, who had witnessed and experienced such great calamities, to say nothing else than this: “Blessed be the name of Jehovah!” Jehovah is good in all His works and ways!
Beloved, let every man, woman, and child, who hears of these calamities, say today, “Blessed be the name of Jehovah!” Adore this God! Fall down on your knees upon the ground and worship Him! And when similar calamities befall you, sing of His greatness! Tell others who come to comfort you, “I will not question His motives or His ways; I will simply ascribe to Him all glory.”
In making his whole confession, but especially in desiring that Jehovah’s name be blessed, Job manifested the preserving grace which God always gives His people. Here we see that God resoundingly defeated Satan’s purpose. Satan said, “he will curse thee to thy face” (verse 11). And Satan masterminded the details of Job’s afflictions, to try to get Job to question God’s power, love, and wisdom, and thus to curse God. But far from cursing God, Job said, “Blessed be the name of Jehovah!”
This indicates God’s preserving grace. Satan noticed it. God intended him to, for God was showing Satan that Satan could never destroy God’s church and covenant, and could never thwart God’s purposes. Job was a case in point. When afflicted, he blessed Jehovah’s name! And Satan heard it.
Here is the comfort for us, in our trials. Do you wonder, ahead of time, how you will ever bless Jehovah’s name in some future trial? Depend on Jehovah – His grace will enable us to do so! Or have you in trials past blessed Jehovah’s name? His grace was magnified. But to experience that grace, we must confess His sovereign power, faithful love, and great wisdom. For in His power, love, and wisdom, He preserves us, and enables us to bless His name!
In times of trial, God’s children sometimes do charge God with folly. Then He shows His power, wisdom, and love by bringing His children to repentance and sincere sorrow of heart for those sins, and showing us that what He did was for our good.
For God will prevail! In the war between God and Satan, God will always have the victory! Oh, that we might experience and manifest that victory, in our afflictions, by blessing Jehovah’s name! When we know the love of God for us in Christ, and pray for grace to glorify God in our afflictions, He will enable us to say with Job, “Blessed be the name of Jehovah.”
Rev. Douglas J. Kuiper (Wife:Teresa)
Ordained: November 1995
Pastorates: Byron Center, MI - 1995; Randolph, WI - 2001; Edgerton, MN - 2012; Professor, PRC Seminary - Sept. 2017
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