Watch the Sunday School video for August 8, 2021
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Scripture: Job 1:21-2:10
Review: In chapter one we read that Job is a man of integrity who makes deliberate decisions to avoid evil and worship God. In a heavenly conversation with the Adversary, God points out the faithfulness of Job. The Adversary doubts Job’s sincerity and tells God that Job only worships Him because of the blessings he receives. God disagrees but permits the Adversary to bring suffering to Job as a test of Job’s loyalty to God. In the face of great loss Job continues to worship God.
This week we focus on Job’s decision to submit himself to God.
These verses record Job’s resignation to the tragic events in his life. The suffering man recognizes that he came into the world without possessions or accomplishment and he will leave in the same way. Any family that he has, any significance that he attains, or any wealth that he accumulates is all from the hand of God. The narrator reiterates that Job’s heart is pure. In spite of overwhelming personal loss, Job does not sin against God, and Job will continue to praise God.
In general, what happens when we feel entitled to happiness or prosperity? In contrast, what happens to us when we understand that every good gift in our life is undeserved and comes directly from the hand of God? What part does gratitude play in our journey through pain and suffering?
The Adversary returns for another heavenly encounter. This time, God is celebrating the faithfulness of his servant, Job. Notice that God accepts responsibility for what the Adversary has done to Job (verse 3). The Adversary is convinced that Job will curse God if God allows him to inflict Job with disease and physical pain. “Skin for skin” (vs 4) is likely a proverb that indicated nothing was more valuable to a person than his life. Once more, the Lord gives the Adversary permission to bring suffering into the life of Job, but God insists that the Adversary may not take Job’s life in the process.
The Adversary strikes Job with painful sores, from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head. Scholars have long debated Job’s affliction. Although we do not know the particular condition, we do know that in both Old and New Testament times, people with skin diseases were isolated from society. It was a commonly held belief that the presence of a skin disease was an indication of the displeasure of God. The general assumption was that these individuals had committed a terrible sin to merit such intense and obvious suffering.
Do we respond differently to people in pain when we think they have caused their own problems?
Job is in so much misery that he uses pieces of broken pottery to scratch his body in the attempt to find relief. Notice that Job has moved to sit in the ashes. Scholars say that this could refer to the garbage heap or actual physical ashes. Perhaps Job is concerned that his disease is contagious, or perhaps the ashes reflect the condition of his soul.
Job’s wife has been criticized for her apparent disregard for her husband. It is worth noting that “Mrs. Job” has suffered along with her husband. She has also lost her children and now lives in poverty.
Job powerfully refutes his wife’s suggestion. He tells her she speaks as a “foolish one” (verse 10). The Hebrew word that is translated foolish doesn’t mean an absence of wisdom but rather indicates the denial of God. Job gives us a window into his thinking when he points out that if he is willing to receive the blessings of God he must also be willing to receive the negative things that God sends.
In this moment, we recognize that Job has surrendered his life to God. He is not throwing around clichés or offering a pat response to his suffering. Although the reader understands that the Adversary has afflicted Job with this suffering, Job has no knowledge of the heavenly conversation. Job’s believes that God has caused his suffering and he does not understand why. Yet, he chooses to walk through the greatest pain of life, continuing to trust in God and blessing God’s name.
In the moment of great loss, it may be difficult to default to trust and praise. How do we prepare for times of suffering? How will your current spiritual practices sustain you in difficult times?
It is good to remember that we believe Scripture reveals that God permits, but does not send, suffering into the world. God is good and loving and wants only good for every person. God is always at work, bringing his good purposes out of loss and tragedy (Genesis 50:20).
Like Job, we often will not be able to explain the reason for our suffering. The death of someone we love, the chronic pain we endure, or for the financial setback that jeopardizes our future may not make sense to us. We struggle to come to terms with issues like the suffering of children at the hands of evil people and the devastation of war. When we don’t understand we can take comfort in the witness of Scripture and the testimony of those who have gone before us in the faith. Even when we don’t have the answers, we hold onto hope. Jesus has been through everything we will face. He understands our pain and assures us that we are not alone. In every situation, God takes the circumstances of our lives and weaves all things together for the good of those who love Him and who align their lives with His purposes (Romans 8:28). We look to the future and know that because of Jesus, one day all creation will be redeemed. There will be no more suffering or loss or pain (Revelation 21:1-4).
Job does not passively accept his circumstances. Job worships. Job laments. Job surrenders.
We can learn from the experience of Job. Worship and lament will focus our attention on God and remind us that we can trust him. This confidence in God will lead us to the place of surrender. We will find that when we stand in the darkness God invites us to ask hard questions. Our faith will sustain us. Like Job, we may not understand the reason for our suffering but we can determine to trust God with our future because we know that God is good, God is with us, and He is at work in our lives.
So often, surrender is actually a process that requires time, tears, and trust in God. When you face challenging circumstances, how do you come to the place where you are willing to praise God even in the midst of the storm?