“the LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD” (1.21).
“Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (2.10)
“I am not at ease, nor am I quiet, and I am not at rest, but turmoil comes” (3.26).
How quick we are to play the Job card. Anxiety peeks and we clamor for that obscure medication that we skip on our way to the Psalms. Surely, we reason, our affliction is more Job-like than anything else. Sabeans from the left, Chaldeans from the right, fire from above and wind from below. “The sky is falling! We must tell the king!”
We exalt Job as the paradigm for enduring distress. We latch on to the shining report of Job in 1.22 and 2.10 assuming what was true of him there was true of him throughout. We rejoice that we can be sinlessly bothered by and doubtful of God’s dealings. However, we need not assume such praise in 1.22 and 2.10 governs the next 40 chapters. In fact, in 42.6 Job “repents in dust and ashes.” Somewhere between 2.10 and 42.6 Job was convinced he sinned and needed mercy. And that is the real commendation.
As much tribute we offer Job, it is God who is paradigmatic. God is the one who acts according to plan—with grace, mercy, patience, kindness and blessing. God had as clear an agenda with Job as Satan. Both sought to break him down, but for opposing reasons. Satan sought to strip Job from his faith. God stripped Job down to his faith. Even the “greatest of all the men of the east” (1.1) needed to taste again the dust from which he came.
The blameless, God-fearing Job of 1.1 was an uneasy, restless Job by 3.26. This was by God’s design to unearth a new wealth of blamelessness, righteousness and fear in Job. Impressive is not the extent of Job’s affliction, but the extent to which God goes to wrench faith and confession from His people. Call it what (or who) you want, but God will simply and masterfully break us down. It took 39 chapters to do so with Job. It may take 39 years for me.
We like Job insofar as he brings us sympathy from our friends. But, it is not sympathy we need, but mercy-born doxology. The fires of faith are kindled in the ashes of adversity. May we repent in them and finally rest as an old man, full of days (42.17).