Bible Studies and Highlights in the Book of Job

Job Chapters 2- 3: Oh unhappy day!

By I Gordon

 

1Pet. 4:12-14 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

 

Introduction

 

We saw in the first study that Job is a remarkable man. No doubt about it. He has already gone through more than most ever will in their life but has maintained his faith and integrity. The tests are not over however. So far he has lost his children, his servants and all his livestock. A new test is on its way.

 

This study will look at chapters 2 and 3 where we find the final test and Job’s response under extreme conditions. We shall also be introduced to Job’s three ‘friends’. And yes, ‘friends’ is in speech marks for a reason, for as the old saying goes, ‘with friends like this, who needs enemies?’ Let’s have a look.

 

Another heavenly meeting

 

Job 2:1-2 on another day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD and Satan also came with them to present himself before him.  (2)  And the LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it."

 

We see that on another occasion Satan and the angelic realm came before the Lord to give an account of their comings and goings. This shows that this is an ongoing event and not just a one-off happening.  If you think about it, all of the Lord’s creation will one day have to give an account of their life and actions. It is not just restricted to the angelic realm. Born again believers will have to give an account at the Judgement Seat of Christ. Unbelievers will have to stand before the Lord at the Great White throne of Judgement.[1] In all things God will be seen to be righteous and just in all His actions and judgements.

 

And again we see that Satan has come from his favourite hang-out: Planet Earth. He has again been roaming around the earth obviously watching and waiting for an opportunity to exploit a chink in the armour of God’s people.     

 

Another test confirmed

 

Job 2:3-7 Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason."  (4)  Skin for skin! Satan replied. "A man will give all he has for his own life.  (5) but stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face."  (6)  The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life."  (7)  So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.

 

At this next meeting of God and Satan, it is the Lord who again raises the subject of His servant Job. As I mentioned in the first study, if the Lord is initiating this focus on Job, then He has an eternal plan and purpose in mind. No doubt about it. Imagine if this series of events had not happened to Job. We wouldn’t have the book of Job obviously. We wouldn’t have this insight into what happens in the heavenly realm. We wouldn’t understand that God allows this type of suffering when required for our own good. There are so many lessons and insights that come out of this book which have given comfort and hope to God’s people perplexed by life’s hardship and mysteries throughout the ages. These would have been lost had God not allowed these events to happen to Job.    

 

Getting back to the story, God again confirms the uprightness and integrity of Job[2] even in the midst of this great trial! Satan’s reply? Skin for skin! 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." We said earlier that Satan roams about the earth, watching and looking for weaknesses that he can exploit to cause more damage and heartache. It is fair to say he is no dummy. He obviously knows mankind very well. From his first interaction with mankind in the Garden to today, Satan has seen it all on this planet. He knows what makes man tick. He understands the fickle nature of the human heart. And he believes that Job’s heart and integrity will turn if Job’s physical body is struck.[3] So God again allows Satan to test His servant and boils appear on Job from head to foot.[4] Again, it should be remembered that God allowed this[5].     

 

From Hero to Zero...

 

Job 2:8-10 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.  (9)  His wife said to him, "Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!"  (10)  He replied, "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

 

What a picture we have here of Job sitting amongst the ashes scrapping his many sores! Has anyone been brought so low so quickly?[6] If you were Job what would you be thinking? He has experienced one difficult trial after another and has been reduced to absolute nothingness. And, unfortunately, his wife wasn’t of too much help here either... Her suggestion is that he curses God and dies! And, unfortunately for her, this is her only sentence recorded in the entire Bible! Do you think she is kicking herself a little now? She probably had lots of encouraging things to say which aren’t recorded so this is probably not how any of us would want to be remembered now is it? But in her defence, it should be pointed out that she has experienced all of these trials as well. She has just lost her 10 children. She has just lost her wealth and possessions. And now her husband is completely sick and in intense pain with sores covering his body. We shouldn’t be hard on her... her world has just collapsed as well.   

 

Job’s response to all of this is again incredible for we read that he responded to his wife saying ‘Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.’ We know less and less of the meaning of this statement in our current age. We have whole congregations being fed skin-deep sermons from plastic or phoney pastors. In many cases, the depth of understanding concerning God’s ways and processes for developing and establishing his children is a thing of the past. But the ‘saints’ of past generations knew these things well. For example, consider the following quotes from Spurgeon:

 

·         “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” 

·         “Nothing teaches us about the preciousness of the Creator as much as when we learn the emptiness of everything else.”

·         “If you want to ruin your son, never let him know a hardship. When he is a child carry him in your arms, when he becomes a youth still dandle him, and when he becomes a man still dry-nurse him, and you will succeed in producing an arrant fool... Pity him when he ought to be punished; supply all his wishes, avert all disappointments, prevent all troubles, and you will surely tutor him to be a reprobate and to break your heart. But put him where he must work, expose him to difficulties, purposely throw him into peril, and in this way you shall make him a man, and when he comes to do man’s work and to bear man’s trial, he shall be fit for either.” 

·         “Do not fret over heavy troubles, for they are the heralds of weighty mercies.” 

·         “The Lord gets His best soldiers out of the highlands of affliction.” 

·         “Hope itself is like a star- not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, and only to be discovered in the night of adversity.” 

 

Job himself would learn this hope and trust – but as Spurgeon says above, it would be discovered through the night of adversity. God’s paths are ancient and travel through those roads. Our flesh may squirm, moan, scream or cry out... but it doesn’t change the fact that it is the love of God that desires to see us changed into HIS likeness and there is a narrow and often rocky path that He uses to accomplish this end.

 

Introducing three of the best friends a man could ever ask for! Well, um, errr....

 

Job 2:11-13  Now when Job's three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, they came each one from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite; and they made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him.  (12)  When they lifted up their eyes at a distance and did not recognize him, they raised their voices and wept. And each of them tore his robe and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky.  (13)  Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.

 

So here they are - Jobs three ‘friends’. As we go through the book of Job and read some of the ‘godly’ advice that Job gets from his ‘friends’, I’ll probably have a few not so nice things to say about them. So let’s start with some positives shall we? Firstly, we read that they came. There...that is a good start. We need to remember that Job was a well known and well respected man in the area and the Bible introduces him in chapter one by saying he ‘was the greatest man in the East.’ You’d think he would have lots of friends and helpers who come in his time of need would you not? Yet we only read of these three men (and then later Elihu) coming to see him in the midst of his trials. A good friend will always come in time of need. Do you have any friends struggling at the moment? Have you helped them? These three came so that should be noted.[7] Having seen the condition that he was in (it even says they didn’t recognise him at first), they wept and tore their robes. At this stage, at least, they were empathetic and understood something of his pain. In fact, we read the amazing words above that they sat down with him for seven days with no one saying a word![8] But after seven long days, Job finally broke the silence. Job’s friends knew that he was struggling physically. They suspected that he was really struggling emotionally. But I doubt even they were ready for the words that finally came after seven days of silence.

 

Altogether now: Unhappy Birthday to me...  

 

Job 3:1-26 after this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.  (2)  He said:  (3) ‘May the day of my birth perish,and the night it was said, 'A boy is born!'  (4)  That day--may it turn to darkness; may God above not care about it; may no light shine upon it.  (5)  May darkness and deep shadow claim it once more; may a cloud settle over it; may blackness overwhelm its light.  (6)  That night--may thick darkness seize it; may it not be included among the days of the year nor be entered in any of the months.  (7)  May that night be barren; may no shout of joy be heard in it.  (8)  May those who curse days curse that day, those who are ready to rouse Leviathan.  (9)  May its morning stars become dark; may it wait for daylight in vain and not see the first rays of dawn,  (10)  for it did not shut the doors of the womb on me to hide trouble from my eyes.  (11)  Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?  (12)  Why were there knees to receive me and breasts that I might be nursed?  (13)  For now I would be lying down in peace; I would be asleep and at rest (14) with kings and counsellors of the earth, who built for themselves places now lying in ruins, (15) with rulers who had gold, who filled their houses with silver.  (16)  Or why was I not hidden in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw the light of day?  (17)  There the wicked cease from turmoil, and there the weary are at rest.  (18)  Captives also enjoy their ease; they no longer hear the slave driver's shout.  (19)  The small and the great are there, and the slave is freed from his master.  (20)  Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul,  (21)  to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure,  (22)  who are filled with gladness and rejoice when they reach the grave?  (23)  Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in?  (24)  For sighing comes to me instead of food; my groans pour out like water.  (25)  What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.  (26):  I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil."

 

Ok then. I think we get the picture. Its right about now, Job’s friends got a pretty good understanding of where he was at and how he was doing. And it is fair to say that that’s not so good! Commentators have called this passage ‘Unhappy birthday’ for he laments the fact that he was even born (vs. 1-10). But, having been born, he then laments the fact that he didn’t die in early childhood (vs. 11-16). Finally, in verses 17-24 he says that death is preferable to life and that had he died early he would now be resting in ease with the small and the great. Instead, and to his displeasure, Job finds himself still alive and living under the burden of misery and turmoil where sighing is his food and groans are poured out like water.

 

All in all, it makes for difficult reading. But let’s not forget that this represented accurately how Job was feeling at that time. He saw no way out of his misery but through death, so death itself seemed like a blessed release.[9] Had he even glimpsed or imagined how things would actually turn out (as we see from the end of the book) hope and faith would have risen in His heart and there would have been words of praise for His wonderful Saviour. But he was not given that insight. We seldom are. We walk by faith.

 

2Co 4:18 so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

 

Please note however that despite cursing the day in which he was born, there is no word against God in this lament. He may despair of his life but he doesn’t blame God... yet. He was, as the Lord pointed out to Satan, still holding his integrity in the midst of the most trying circumstances.  

 

The last couple of verses are also of interest: ‘What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil."  This indicates that even in his days of abundance and peace, Job was still worried. Even then he feared that something bad would happen. Maybe you do the same? Lots of people fear the future but God’s strength is for today – the here and now, and not for unseen, unknown future difficulties. It was again Charles Spurgeon who rightly said ‘Our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strengths.’ 

 

So Job has poured out his heart before his friends. He is struggling. Big time! Will he find sympathy from his friends? Comfort? Hope? Encouragement? We shall soon see!



[1] Here are a couple of scriptures for both believers and unbelievers:
For believers:
Rom 14:11-12  For it is written, "AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD."  (12)  So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.

1Co 4:5 therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.

 

For unbelievers:
1Pe 4:4-5 they think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.  (5)  But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
Mat 12:35-36 the good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.  (36)  But I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken.

[2] God mentions Job’s ‘uprightness and integrity’. If you were to name the top ten righteous saints of the Old Testament would you put Job on the list? I think you would. What about the top 5? Would Job make it? Let’s throw a few names out there that could be mentioned for such a list (not complete). We’ve got, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Caleb, Samuel, Isaiah, Daniel, Jeremiah. And that’s just the men… Ruth was amazing as was Sarah, Hannah, Deborah and we can’t forget Esther! But just focusing again on the men, would Job make your top three? Who would be in your top three righteous and upright men of the Old Testament? The reason I am asking is because God gives His top three in Ezekiel 14:14. Have a look!

 

[3] Have you ever had a long ongoing sickness or illness? We are talking months or years here. I have. Maybe you have too. If so you will know that when a person is physically struck down and unwell, and it goes on for months or years, it becomes very hard to think correctly concerning God. In fact it becomes very hard to think clearly about anything! But especially in spiritual matters all can look gloomy. Hope starts to recede, faith starts to waiver and doubts start to rise. Trials that are outside of the body can be difficult but at least you have a body and mind in which you can think straight. Trials that involve personal physical affliction affect the entire health of the body leading to an inability to think clearly. That was what Satan was counting on. “If I strike him physically it will break him. It will break his hope and trust and he WILL curse God!” Will it work? We shall see…

 

[4] I haven’t ever had a boil but they tell me they are very painful. And that’s just having one. An online medical website states:

Boils are usually quite painful, especially when touched, and may be accompanied by systemic symptoms such as fatigue, malaise, fever and chills. Depending on whether the boil is a furuncle or carbuncle, it may take between two weeks and a month to head. Rarely, boils can cause widespread infection--sepsis--that can be life-threatening. This happens when the bacteria that caused the boil enter the bloodstream and spread throughout the body.
Now remember that Job was covered with these!

[5] The fact is that God allows things that we do not like. I remember speaking in church and using a quote from ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ where Lucy and Susan are having a conversation with Mr and Mrs Beaver about whether Aslan is ‘safe’. The conversation goes as follows:

"Is -- is he a man?" asked Lucy. "Aslan a man!" said Mr. Beaver sternly. "Certainly not.” “I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don't you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion -- THE Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh!" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he -- quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion." "That you will, dearie, and no mistake," said Mrs. Beaver, "if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly." "Then he isn't safe?" said Lucy."Safe?" said Mr. Beaver. "Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."

 

I went on to point out in the sermon that God isn’t ‘safe’ as we consider ‘safe’ to be. That is, he allows things to happen to us that we don’t necessarily like. Well, it wasn’t long after this sermon that I was tested on this very thing when I had a freak surfing accident where I split my left eye down the middle and lost all sight in it. And believe me, it is still a strange feeling (even now 6 years on) opening your eye in the morning and having it as dark as when the eyelid is closed. Really odd! God allowed that to happen – I have no doubt. He will have good come out of it – I have no doubt. But I know not what that is at this stage. And I may not know until I stand before Him. So He isn’t ‘safe’ in that sense. But I do agree with Mr Beaver – “But he’s good. He’s the king I tell you.”

 

[6] In the Bible many great men and women have been brought pretty low before God used them or blessed them in some way. Here is a very short incomplete list off the top of my head!
Moses had to be brought down from the heights of Egyptian royalty to be a simple shepherd in the desert for 40 years. Only then did God use him.
Jacob was a man who could manipulate a situation for his own good... Yet God put him in situations such as with his Uncle Laban, and later in his life when he had to release Benjamin to go to Egypt where he no longer had any control over the events and had to trust God.

Samson was brought right down into slavery and loss of strength before the Philistines. Yet at his lowest point, God restored his strength for one last time!

King Manasseh had to be led away into captivity with a hook through his nose before he would finally cry out to the Lord and be restored. And now he, through grace, has his name in the genealogy of none other than Jesus Christ!  

Peter was a man who always had a big mouth and a good sized foot to put in it! He was confident that even if all others deserted Jesus, he never would! So God allowed him to fail and it is a very different Peter that we see used later by God!

 

[7] People struggle with some pretty heavy things these days. Cancer rates are sky-rocketing; depression is gripping people like never before. There are things that are very difficult to have an answer for- outside of God acting. But don’t ever think that you can’t really do anything so you’ll stay away. People who are struggling simply want friends who care. It’s like the old saying ‘People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.’ And sometimes that just means sitting and being with a person, even in silence as Job’s friends did here!

 

[8] I realise that some say that men don’t talk very much but this seems like a new record even for us! Do you think three female friends would/could have come and sat with Job’s wife for seven days without saying a single thing? : )  

 

[9] Job is far from alone in going through a time of despairing of life and desiring to die. Look at some other ‘big names’ who experienced the same thing:
Moses – Num 11:15, Elijah – 1 Kings 19:4, Jonah – Jonah 4:3, Jeremiah – Jeremiah 20:14-18, Solomon – Ecclesiasties 2:14-18. All of these were struggling with life. In contrast to these, think about the Apostle Paul in Phil 1:21-25. He also wanted to die (depart). But what was his motivation? It wasn’t just to escape the difficulties of this life. It was because he had seen Jesus, he had seen Heaven, and he knew that to depart and be with Christ WAS BETTER BY FAR!  He wanted to go because of how awesome being with Christ would be!