The LORD gave and the LORD hath taken away

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Job is a very old book.  Many scholars think Job would have been a rough contemporary of Abraham.  That’s almost 2000 years before Jesus took flesh.  It might well have been the first biblical book to be written down.  Yet it appears fairly much in the middle of our bibles.  This is because of the genre.  It’s “wisdom literature” – like Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs – so it gets lumped in with them.  Wisdom literature is not fast food.  It’s Scripture you have to chew on slowly.  It’s often full of riddles and rhymes and elaborate picture language.  Job is no exception.

Essentially the story of Job is the story of Man. (Read chapter 1 here).

We begin in Uz, which is Hebrew for “a wooded place.”  And this wooded place is “in the east.”  Like Eden.

There’s a man, Job, who is in charge of many animals and life seems to be going perfectly.  Like in Eden.

Then Satan pokes his nose in and everything’s ruined.  Like in Eden.

Here’s how it comes about.  It seems like there are occasional meetings in heaven at which all angels – fallen and unfallen – attend.  And here the LORD mentions how proud He is of Job.  Satan replies:

Doth Job fear God for nought?  Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.  But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.  (Job 1:9-11)

This is a fascinating insight into Satan.  He cannot comprehend a person worshipping God unless they are paid to do so.  He is certain that if the LORD removes divine protection and provision, Job will have no reason to pay any respects.  Satan assumes we only love God for the stuff we get out of Him.  To put it plainly, he reckons we’re gold-diggers.  And when the money dries up, we’ll want a divorce.

The trouble is, in the vast majority of cases he’s right!  Mostly we are mercenaries.  Mostly we do want His things, but not Him.  And the proof is this: What happens when the things are taken away?

Well, we shall see.  Because Satan is permitted to ruin Job’s life in a quite devastating way.

In verses 13-19 we read how Job loses his sons, his daughters, his servants and his livestock in four consecutive waves of tragedy.

It’s like the phone ringing again and again with disaster after disaster.  He has lost all his wealth and all his children in one fell swoop.  What’s his response?

Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,  And said, 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. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.  (Job 1:20-22)

Satan was wrong.  Job is different. He’s incredibly different to the natural human response.  He grieves, yes.  He expresses the deepest sorrow.  But he blesses God in the midst of unfathomable tragedy.  And by ‘turning the other cheek’ to this evil (so to speak), Job resists the devil and gains victory.

Who is Job?  How can he be so different?  Well over the course of the next week we’ll study some more of his phrases.  We will see how he represents true Man.  He is showing us here the victory of Jesus Christ who defeats Satan not apart from suffering but in it.

For now, note the complete lack of entitlement to Job.  He doesn’t feel like he is “owed” by God.  Instead he is profoundly aware that everything is a gift.  His secret to handling suffering is a deep appreciation for the grace of God.  In this, he avoids the bitterness of thinking “I don’t deserve this” and he avoids the despair of thinking “perhaps I do deserve this.”  The language of “deserving” is the language of his “miserable comforters” as we’ll see.  Job does not use this language.  He has a healthy understanding of the grace of God who doesn’t “pay and exact”, He “gives and takes away.”

Job doesn’t wave his accomplishments in God’s face with a defiant “Why me!?”  Nor does he search his soul for failures to explain “Why me!?”  He realizes that God deals in the realm of gift not wage.  Which frees him to get on with grieving without hardening or disintegrating.

None of us can avoid suffering.  It is the way of men (I’m using “men” in its all-inclusive King James sense!)  But before the storm hits, we can put the roof on.  And the roof, in this instance, is a deep conviction of the grace of God.  We will be greatly helped when suffering hits, if we remember now:

Everything in my life is God’s gift.  The good is His grace to bestow.  All lack is His right to withhold.  But I trust Him in all circumstances because I am not  a gold-digger.  I am not in this relationship for the sake of the “stuff.”  I trust Jesus for the sake of having Jesus.  And, come what may, He is enough.

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