These words, from the lips of Job, are one of the Bible’s great demonstrations of faith. In the midst of dreadful trials, using this simple statement, Job shows the beauty and power of true Biblical faith in action. His words teach us not only what real faith looks like, but the sound thinking that underpins it.
First ‘“Yahweh gave”’. We learn from the book of Job that he was a successful man. He’d built up a wealthy agricultural enterprise that supported a large household. A faithless man would have seen only his own skill and effort in achieving all that, but Job, the man of faith, knew different. He understood that ultimately all his success came only by divine permission; he realised that even who he was – abilities and qualities included – came from God. In chapter 10 he says, ‘“Your hands have framed me and fashioned me altogether… you have fashioned me as clay… You have granted me life and loving kindness. Your visitation has preserved my spirit.”’(Job 10:8-12). So logically we read of Job teaching, ‘“‘fear of the Lord, that is wisdom. To depart from evil is understanding.’”’(Job 28:28). And the prologue says of him ‘That man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God, and turned away from evil.’(Job 1:1)
That was the easy part, as Satan complained to God, ‘“Does Job fear God for nothing? Haven’t you made a hedge around him, and around his house, and around all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands”’(Job 1:9-10). So unbeknown to Job a test was set. Despite Job’s general ‘blameless and upright’ nature, God allowed Satan to destroy everything he had by means of marauding raiders and natural disaster. It was at that point that Job made his great statement of faith:-
‘“Yahweh gave, and Yahweh has taken away. Blessed be the name of Yahweh.”’
The first thing to notice from this is that Job recognised, despite everything, that Yahweh (the Lord God) was still sovereign, and so focused his reaction on Him. He didn’t burn with anger at the raiders, or the military for not keeping them out. He didn’t curse the weather, or his builder for not making his house studier. He didn’t think the powers of evil had overcome God. He didn’t even accuse God, as verse 22 points out, ‘In all this, Job did not sin, nor charge God with wrongdoing.’(Job 1:22). He simply recognised that God has the right to give, and that God has the right to take away, and that Yahweh is still God. He expressed the pain of his loss, but in a humble, beautiful and powerful display of faith he ‘fell down on the ground, and worshiped.’(Job 1:20)
Job of course wasn’t aware of the conversation between God and Satan. Most of the painful debate between Job and his friends that follows revolves around how it could be that Job, a basically godly man, could be allowed to suffer – why do the innocent suffer?
They lived in a time when there wasn’t a clear concept of life after death and the prospect of justice beyond the grave, so this was particularly perplexing to them. They understood suffering as punishment for sin, which of course it can be. But the Lord God often allows us to suffer for no reason apparent to ourselves, as was the case with Job, and we can learn from Job’s steadfast faith in the sovereignty of God even when blessings are withdrawn. In fact it appears Job suffered principally to teach us this lesson, as James writes, ‘for an example of suffering and of patience… You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the Lord in the outcome, and how the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.’(James 5:10-11). And the Lord God did in the end show mercy to Job in a way appropriate for his time, ‘Yahweh gave Job twice as much as he had before’(Job 42:10). But for us James is talking about patiently waiting for the Lord’s return, and we may not find relief from perplexing sufferings until then, but what relief it will be: ‘“Things which an eye didn’t see, and an ear didn’t hear, which didn’t enter into the heart of man, these God has prepared for those who love him.” But to us, God revealed them through the Spirit.’(1 Corinthians 2:9-10): ‘“He will wipe away from them every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; neither will there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more.”’(Revelation 21:4)
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