The book of Job is the subject of reflections from August to October. Relying on the Revised Common Lectionary’s readings for Tuesdays, I draw on nominated passages from Job to offer us encouragement and to guide our living week by week.
Job 2: 6-11 (NIV)
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. 8 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.
11 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathise with him and comfort him.
This passage sets the scene for reflections on the book of Job. The LORD had previously recognised how blameless and upright was “my servant Job” and, as we read in verse 10, “Job did not sin in what he said”. Yet Job had already been severely afflicted materially and through his family (chapter 1) and, as verse 7 described, personally through illness. Job’s refusal to deny God and God’s goodness, even though he challenged God in later chapters, is an enduring characteristic.
This passage introduced Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. Although later they used hurtful words against Job, falsely accusing him of disobedience towards God, initially they demonstrated true friendship: “Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No-one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was” (verse 13).
The Hebrew Scriptures regard the book of Job as Wisdom literature for the beautiful poem on wisdom (chapter 28) and for the truths this book demonstrates, including through allegory. Whether it is story or history is beyond my understanding; I suggest we read with a view to learning a little more of the nature of human suffering.
Perhaps the author imagined the scenes in the heavenly court; perhaps these were revealed to the author by God. Regardless, in these reflections I pay no further attention to the presence of the Accuser (Satan) in the heavenly court; Satan is not mentioned again in the book. Job’s wife does not appear again either but her role was important as she re-emphasised Job’s integrity. Perhaps she saw no prospect of Job’s recovery from his illness and, angry at God because of this, she wanted her husband’s misery to be brought swiftly to an end. In doing so, she prompted Job’s response, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” This reflects Job’s chapter 1 acceptance of disaster from God: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (verse 21).
None of us knows what the future holds for us. We might receive good from God. We might encounter hard times. May we all have the courage and strength to remain thankful for what good gifts we have received and proclaim, with Job, “may the name of the LORD be praised”!