God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II (Excerpt 42)
(Job 1:20–21) Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down on the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah.
That Job Takes It Upon Himself to Return All That He Possesses Stems From His Fear of God
After God said to Satan, “all that he has is in your power; only on himself put not forth your hand,” Satan departed, soon after which Job came under sudden and fierce attacks: First, his oxen and donkeys were plundered and his servants killed; next, his sheep and servants were burned to destruction; after that, his camels were taken and his servants were murdered; finally, his sons and daughters had their lives taken. This string of attacks was the torment suffered by Job during the first temptation. As commanded by God, during these attacks Satan only targeted Job’s property and his children, and did not harm Job himself. Nevertheless, Job was instantly transformed from a rich man possessed of great wealth to someone who had nothing. No one could have withstood this astonishing surprise blow or properly reacted to it, yet Job demonstrated his extraordinary side. The Scriptures provide the following account: “Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down on the ground, and worshipped.” This was Job’s first reaction after hearing that he had lost his children and all of his property. Above all, he did not appear surprised, or panic-stricken, much less did he express anger or hate. You see, then, that in his heart he had already recognized that these disasters were not an accident, or born from the hand of man, much less were they the arrival of retribution or punishment. Instead, the trials of Jehovah had come upon him; it was Jehovah who wished to take his property and children. Job was very calm and clear-headed then. His perfect and upright humanity enabled him to rationally and naturally make accurate judgments and decisions about the disasters that had befallen him, and in consequence, he behaved with unusual calm: “Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down on the ground, and worshipped.” “Rent his mantle” means that he was unclothed, and possessed of nothing; “shaved his head” means he had returned before God as a newborn infant; “fell down on the ground, and worshipped” means he had come into the world naked, and still without anything today, he was returned to God as a newborn baby. Job’s attitude toward all that befell him could not have been achieved by any creature of God. His faith in Jehovah went beyond the realm of belief; this was his fear of God, and obedience to God, and he was not only able to give thanks to God for giving to him, but also for taking from him. What’s more, he was able to take it upon himself to return all that he owned, including his life.
Job’s fear and obedience toward God is an example to mankind, and his perfection and uprightness were the peak of the humanity that ought to be possessed by man. Though he did not see God, he realized that God truly existed, and because of this realization he feared God—and due to his fear of God, he was able to obey God. He gave God free rein to take whatever he had, yet he was without complaint, and fell down before God and told Him that, at this very moment, even if God took his flesh, he would gladly allow Him to do so, without complaint. His entire conduct was due to his perfect and upright humanity. Which is to say, as a result of his innocence, honesty, and kindness, Job was unwavering in his realization and experience of God’s existence, and upon this foundation he made demands of himself and standardized his thinking, behavior, conduct and principles of actions before God in accordance with God’s guidance of him and the deeds of God that he had seen among all things. Over time, his experiences caused in him a real and actual fear of God and made him shun evil. This was the source of the integrity to which Job held firm. Job was possessed of an honest, innocent, and kind humanity, and he had actual experience of fearing God, obeying God, and shunning evil, as well as the knowledge that “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away.” Only because of these things was he able to stand fast and bear witness amid such vicious attacks of Satan, and only because of them was he able to not disappoint God and to provide a satisfactory answer to God when God’s trials came upon him. Though Job’s conduct during the first temptation was very straightforward, later generations were not assured of achieving such straightforwardness even after a lifetime of efforts, nor would they necessarily possess the conduct of Job described above. Today, faced with Job’s straightforward conduct, and in comparing it to the cries and determination of “absolute obedience and loyalty unto death” shown to God by those who claim toand follow God, do you, or do you not, feel deeply ashamed?
When you read in the scriptures of all that was suffered by Job and his family, what is your reaction? Do you become lost in your thoughts? Are you astonished? Could the trials that befell Job be described as “horrifying”? In other words, it is appalling enough reading of Job’s trials as described in the scriptures, to say nothing of how they would have been in reality. You see, then, that what befell Job was not a “practice drill,” but a real “battle,” featuring real “guns” and “bullets.” But by whose hand was he subjected to these trials? They were, of course, carried out by Satan, they were personally carried out by Satan—but they were authorized by God. Did God tell Satan by what means to tempt Job? He did not. God merely gave it one condition, after which the temptation came upon Job. When the temptation came upon Job, it gave people a sense of the evil and ugliness of Satan, of its maliciousness and loathing for man, and of its enmity to God. In this we see that words cannot describe just how cruel this temptation was. It can be said that the malicious nature with which Satan abused man and its ugly face were fully revealed at this moment. Satan used this opportunity, the opportunity provided by God’s permission, to subject Job to feverish and remorseless abuse, the method and level of cruelty of which are both unimaginable and completely intolerable to people today. Rather than saying that Job was tempted by Satan, and that he stood firm in his testimony during this temptation, it is better to say that in the trials set for him by God Job embarked upon a contest with Satan to protect his perfection and uprightness, and to defend his way of fearing God and shunning evil. In this contest, Job lost a mountain of sheep and cattle, he lost all of his property, and he lost his sons and daughters—but he did not abandon his perfection, uprightness, or fear of God. In other words, in this contest with Satan he preferred to be deprived of his property and children than lose his perfection, uprightness, and fear of God. He preferred to hold on to the root of what it means to be a man. The Scriptures provide a concise account of the entire process by which Job lost his assets, and also document Job’s conduct and attitude. These terse, succinct accounts give the sense that Job was almost relaxed in facing this temptation, but if what actually happened were to be re-created, added to which there is the malicious nature of Satan—then things would not be as simple or easy as described in these sentences. The reality was far crueler. Such is the level of devastation and hate with which Satan treats mankind and all those who are approved of by God. If God had not asked that Satan not harm Job, Satan would have undoubtedly slain him without any compunction. Satan does not want anyone to worship God, nor does it wish for those who are righteous in God’s eyes and those who are perfect and upright to be able to continue fearing God and shunning evil. For people to fear God and shun evil means that they shun and forsake Satan, and so Satan took advantage of God’s permission to pile all of its rage and hate upon Job without mercy. You see, then, how great was the torment suffered by Job, from mind to flesh, from without to within. Today, we don’t see how it was at that time, and can only gain, from the accounts of the Bible, a brief glimpse of Job’s emotions when he was subjected to the torment at that time.
Job’s Unshakable Integrity Brings Shame Upon Satan and Causes It to Flee in Panic
And what did God do when Job was subjected to this torment? God observed, and watched, and awaited the outcome. As God observed and watched, how did He feel? He felt grief-stricken, of course. But, as a result of His grief, could He have regretted His permission to Satan to tempt Job? The answer is, No, He could not have. For He firmly believed that Job was perfect and upright, that he feared God and shunned evil. God had simply given Satan the opportunity to verify Job’s righteousness before God, and to reveal its own wickedness and contemptibility. It was, furthermore, an opportunity for Job to testify to his righteousness and to his fear of God and shunning of evil before the people of the world, Satan, and even those who follow God. Did the final outcome prove that God’s assessment of Job was correct and without error? Did Job actually overcome Satan? Here we read of the archetypal words spoken by Job, words which are proof that he had overcome Satan. He said: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither.” This is Job’s attitude of obedience toward God. Next, he then said: “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah.” These words spoken by Job prove that God observes the depths of man’s heart, that He is able to look into the mind of man, and they prove that His approval of Job is without error, that this man who was approved by God was righteous. “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah.” These words are Job’s testimony to God. It was these ordinary words that cowed Satan, that brought shame upon it and caused it to flee in panic, and, moreover, that shackled Satan and left it without resources. So, too, did these words make Satan feel the wondrousness and might of the deeds of Jehovah God, and allow it to perceive the extraordinary charisma of one whose heart was ruled by the way of God. Moreover, they demonstrated to Satan the powerful vitality shown by a small and insignificant man in adhering to the way of fearing God and shunning evil. Satan was thus defeated in the first contest. Despite its “hard-earned insight,” Satan had no intention of letting Job go, nor had there been any change in its malicious nature. Satan tried to carry on attacking Job, and so once more came before God …
Excerpted from “God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II”