Job 2 - Shall we Accept Good from God, and not Trouble?
Skin for skin! Satan replied. A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.Job 2:4
His wife said to him, “Are you still holding on to 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
Job, that rich man of the East, lived with integrity before the Lord. When God took all that he had, he yet acknowledged his God’s lordship over all his possessions and turned to his God for consolation. He confessed his faith, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; May the name of the LORD be praised” (Job 1:21). This is one of the greatest confessions of faith in the history of the world. “The LORD Yahweh gave – He is the one who gives all things. Now He has taken away – it is His right. We may not doubt that. May His name be praised!”
When Job makes this confession we must not think that he is making light of his loss. No, not at all. He is in deep grief and shock and sorrow. Yet he remains in that right relationship with God. Satan had said, “Strike Job down and he will turn from the LORD. Job will curse the LORD.” Satan is wrong, however. God’s people do not turn from the LORD in bad times. They turn to Him! At the beginning of a new year we should meditate on these things. Job was afraid that his children, in their affluence, would curse God (Job 1:5). Job will not, and does not, in his poverty. He does not charge God with wrong doing.
When Satan returned to appear before the LORD after Job’s ruination, the Lord God had said to Satan, “What of Job, Satan? You are wrong, Satan! Look at him! He maintains his integrity! Even though you have incited me to ruin him, to ruin him without cause.” Satan answered, “Job does not serve you without good cause. You bless him; that is why he honours you.”
Notice that though it was Satan who did the dastardly deed, God says that Satan had incited him, the LORD, to ruin Job. Satan does not work outside of God’s authority. God takes full responsibility for Job’s situation. This is very important. This is a lesson we need to learn over and over. It is something on which we should reflect as we begin a new year. We must turn to God for deliverance from difficulty. Job did. He turned to God for God was in control.
“Job’s relationship with me has not changed, Satan,” God says at the accuser’s return. “He is still righteous, blameless and upright. He still fears me and shuns evil. You’re wrong, Satan.” But Satan says, “Skin for skin.” In other words, “Honour for blessing! Job knows that his life is in your hands and now he is just afraid of you. If he cursed you, he knows that you will take his health, maybe even his life.” Satan in effect says, “Job is a mercenary. Skin for skin.” This is a proverb that means that Job gives in return for what he gets from God’s hand. It is just an even trade. What Job is doing, according to the accuser, is nothing but a bargain. A man will give anything for his life. Everything is expendable but that. “But take his health and he will curse you to your face. He will spit in your face. Job is a fake! His righteousness is hypocrisy!”
Satan conceded nothing. “There were too many restrictions. Do this and this, and you will see that his praying is but a lie.” And so God says, “Go ahead then. He is in your hands; but you may not kill him.” Satan wastes no time. He moves immediately. He strikes Job with illness. Job is afflicted with a terrible skin disease. He has terrible sores over his whole body. From later chapters we can learn more about his disease, for he mentions it many times. He had sores that scabbed over and turned black and oozed. He had fevers and chills, nightmares and delirium. Maggots would invest his sores. Stinking breath and excruciating pain plagued him. He was a living horror to those who saw him.
And what does Job do? He sits in the ash heap and waits for the LORD. He will not curse God. Job is stricken with this deadly skin disease but God is confident that Job’s faithfulness is more than skin deep. Job’s commitment is to God; it is not to riches, health or fame. Job, we must remember, is ignorant of what is happening in heaven. He is not there when Satan accuses him of wickedness. Now the shadow of death falls over him. Job is confronted with his own frailty. He is afflicted with a terminal illness with no hope of recovery. His faith tested to the innermost core. Will he turn from God? What will Job say now?
His wife comes to him as he sits outside the city where the people cast the ashes from their ovens. There he is, in the garbage dump. Here people throw out ashes and broken pottery. He scratches and scrapes his sores and his wounds. The momentary relief from the itch is welcome even though it will cause great pain. He scrapes himself and mourns in silence, waiting for God. His wife finds him. “Are you still holding on to your integrity?” Job’s wife does not see his integrity as his greatest asset. No she sees it as fanaticism. “Realize your situation, man! Give it up. God is against you. Can’t you see that? There is no point in going on. Curse God and die.” Job should strike out at God, the cause of his troubles. Perhaps He will strike back and finish it off. Job who feared that his family members would curse God in their hearts is now told by his wife to do so himself. The one who bore his children, she has no patience for this anymore. “I reared them all in vain. They are all dead. And now you too are in the midst of terrible suffering. Get it over with. God is your enemy! Curse him and die. It makes no difference at all!” She speaks on earth the temptation Satan had engineered in heaven. This is the essence of the temptation. “It is folly to hold to your integrity in the face of such tragedy.” This is Satan’s charge: “All that a man has he will give for his life. Take all away and he will lose his integrity.”
But Job in strongest terms says, “No! No! My wife, you speak like the foolish women. You speak as one who denies that God exists. The fool says in his heart there is no God. No, your counsel is utter foolishness. Cursing God is not the way of escape from suffering. That is not the answer.” That he knows. He maintains his unwavering allegiance to God. “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” Here is the question of the book of Job. “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In his question he says, “Yes, we must accept the trouble.” But not passively. Life does not just happen to us. We must accept what comes in an active working way. Job is in total submission to God, and his wife is a fool for suggesting her recommended course of action. He does not answer back to God, in the way his wife suggested. He does not shake his fist at God as Satan had predicted. No. He silences both. “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” Job confesses, “For this I know, that God is at my side. I trust in him; he will not leave me.” In Q&A 44 of the Heidelberg Catechism we confess:
In my greatest sorrows and temptations I may be assured and comforted that my Lord Jesus Christ, by His unspeakable anguish, pain, terror, and agony, which He endured throughout all His sufferings but especially on the cross, has delivered me from the anguish and torment of hell.
Job knew that God had delivered him though he did not yet experience it completely. The Lord Jesus also offered up cries and tears to the one who could save Him from death (Hebrews 5:7). He, like Job, did not curse God and die. No, He accepted the trouble, and on the cross, at His hour of death, committed His spirit into the hands of His Father.
Ezekiel 14:14 – Job, Noah and Daniel
Ezekiel says that Job and Noah and Daniel could not save the land with their righteousness. The most righteous people of all time could not stand in for others. I know, however, that the Lord Jesus stood in for me! Job’s suffering was great; he did not know why. The Lord Jesus’ suffering was greater; and we do know why – that his righteousness might become ours: and Job’s. When we, in our daily life, now are burdened we do not always understand. Difficulties come our way. Age and its infirmities strike us. Old age is a blessing from the Lord but it is not without troubles. We have troubles in our families, troubles in our churches, troubles in our workplace, troubles with our health. We carry burdens of a broken world before the Lord. Time itself lays burdens upon us. We cannot often answer the “Why?” and the “Wherefore?” But then, will we accept good from God and not trouble? We know that we do not stand alone – also not this year, for our Lord Jesus accepted the “trouble,” that we might receive the “good.”