The book of Job describes events that took place thousands of years ago in an age so different to our own. Yet the issues that the participants were considering and the struggles they endured are in essence no different to living in the present day. This book is full of many questions but fewer answers. It reflects the balance of life in each generation that although we do have some answers as to ‘why’ things happen when they do, we will never have satisfactory answers to all our questions about the meaning and purpose of life.
If fact what is more salutary is that it is more than likely that we don’t even know all the questions we might wish to propose as we explore the purpose or meaning of our lives today!
What do we see in this chapter?
1. The picture presented (Job 1:1-8)
(a)On earth (Job 1:1-5) The focus is on one man and his family. He is portrayed in glowing terms. In Job 1:1 the author says this of Job: This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. It speaks of the character of the man. This was the sort of person ‘everyone’ would like to have for a neighbour! He was undoubtedly a ‘good person’ by anyone’s definition of good. It also speaks of him as a family man who was so fortunate to have ten adult children. In the Patriarchal era wealth was measured in terms of the number of animals you possessed. The numbers given here are huge. This man was incredibly wealthy but with lawfully acquired wealth. There is no suggestion of any inappropriate behaviour contributing to his acquisition of this privileged position.
Job was also very committed in his faith and was constantly seeking God’s assistance to ensure that his children followed in his footsteps in the faith. It appears that all is going wonderfully well. There is absolutely no sign of anything going wrong. However, none of us can safely assume that nothing will change in our lives. We must never take the good times for granted. How many of us on 1 January 2020 were expecting a pandemic and lock down to be our experience this year? We never know in life what might happen next. Only God knows the answer.
(b)In heaven (Job 1:6-8) There is a momentary glimpse of heavenly beings conversing with God the Father in heaven. The details of what happened next need not concern us and appear to be a description of ordinary life for the heavenly beings. However, events take a new turn with God’s interjection concerning a man on earth that lived a God-honouring life. 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.’ What a commendation from the highest authority in the universe! If it was you or me whose life was under discussion –what words would be appropriate to describe us in a sentence or two?
What could go wrong when God was happy with the way someone was living? A few months ago in 2020 before the Covid-19 virus pandemic spread across the globe, who could have predicted the changes necessary in order to fight this deadly invisible enemy in our midst.
2. The problem posed (Job 1:9)
Job 1:9-10 states: 9 ‘Does Job fear God for nothing?’ Satan replied. 10 ‘Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. In essence, the accuser is declaring that Job is incredibly fortunate to experience his comfortable life style. The vast majority of people in the world had far less wealth and property than he had. Therefore, it was claimed, that if Job lost his home comforts and his income streams and if family members were to contract a serious disease or even die then it would be another matter. It is a big issue of trust.
We believe in a good God and in a heavenly Father who cares for His children. The big question here, though, is how do we cope when our circumstances are less secure? For example, how do we handle the uncertainty in the labour market or the future prospects for our business? Or how do we come to terms with failing health or relationship breakdowns within our family circle? Do we trust God to work for our good when we cannot see any visible evidence of it? It is easy to have theoretical answers, but when we are going through extremely difficult times the questions are very real.
3. The challenge thrown down (Job 1:11-22)
But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.’ The question could easily be asked in our age in a materialistic culture where people are so often valued by the things they possess more than by the person they are. The challenge concerning Job was an attempt to strike at his integrity. In essence, it is being alleged that Job is only a ‘fair-weather believer in God’! If his life circumstances are difficult then he will surely turn his back on God. Without going any further into this story it is good to stop and reflect on our own lives and to ask the question to ourselves: How willing am I to trust God with my future, regardless of the blessings or challenges that come my way?
Our song for reflection today is: ‘Blessed be Your name’