“Behold we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy.”
The mere mention of his name recalls flashes of memory before our consciousness. How he suffered.
The Sabeans fell upon his thousand oxen and fivehundred asses and took them away.
The fire from heaven consumed his seven thousand sheep and their shepherds.
The Chaldeans divided themselves into three bands and went off with his three thousand camels.
The wind from the wilderness smote the house of his eldest son, killing his seven sons and three daughters.
Worst of all a terrible plague of boils afflicted Job from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet. Writhing in pain he sought refuge among the ashes, potsherd in hand. His three friends saw his grief was very great, they sat speechless for 7 days.
O, how he suffered.
It’s all right to ask that question. In fact, God wants us to ask it, because the entire significance of Job’s experience lies in the answer to exactly this question. To be sure we must ask it from a proper motive. It will not do for us to ask, why did Job suffer such poor luck. That’s blasphemy. Rather, we must formulate the question, why did God afflict Job this way.
The evidence submitted to us in the Book of Job indicates clearly that none other than God, the Lord Almighty, brought so great afflictions upon His servant Job. Satan appeared among the sons of God before the throne of His Holiness. During the Old Testament times, Satan still had access to heaven. Jehovah addressed a question to Satan, hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth? Satan retorted that it was little wonder that Job was upright and feared God, God had lavished so much material prosperity upon him that Job would be foolish not to serve God. Satan challenged the Almighty, “put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.” The answer from God came forth, “Behold all that he hath is in thy power, only upon himself put not forth thine hand.” Notice carefully, Satan could not touch Job without a divine mandate. God very really sent the Sabeans, the fire, the Chaldeans, and the wind. Still Job persisted in faith. The second time Satan appeared before God he had another challenge; “Skin for skin, all that a man hath will he give for his life . . . put forth thine hand now and touch his bone and his flesh; and he will curse thee to thy face.” The divine answer? “Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life.” The conclusion is the same, God did indeed put forth His hand and touched his flesh through the instrumentality of Satan and the plague itself.
These trying circumstances didn’t just happen to Job, they were sent to him from God Almighty. Thus it always is for God’s people.
But why? Does Jehovah have a purpose in doing such a thing? Is there a reason, a good reason?
The answer is in the affirmative. What a glorious gospel for the suffering people of God. God has a purpose in afflicting His children. Listen to the words of this text, “Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy.” The Holy Spirit writes His own commentary on events recorded in the Scriptures. When James, in the Spirit, tells us, “the end of the Lord” was revealed in Job, he means the purpose of the Lord, the goal of the Lord was to demonstrate in Job that He, the Lord, is very pitiful and of tender mercy. Don’t you see then, no child of God ever suffers needlessly. God’s purpose with afflicting Job and God’s purpose in afflicting His children today is the same: He shows how pitiful and merciful He is.
Paradoxical? Indeed, it seems contradictory: God directed Satan to sorely afflict Job in order that through that affliction He would reveal to Job that He loved him and was merciful to him.
This is the good news for God’s suffering people.
It shines so brightly in God’s dealings with Job.
To appreciate this we must say a few words about God’s pity and mercy. Both of these virtues of God are rooted in His love to His people. They are unique expressions of His love to His people who are in distress. Basic then, is God’s love to His people. This love is that of a father to his children. As a Father He has begotten us unto Himself. The wonder is that He has adopted us to be His children. By nature we are strangers, conceived and born in sin, and therefore of our father the devil. Our Father loved us with so great love that He signed the adoption papers with the blood of His only begotten Son. His love reached out for His elect children and according to His own divine justice, He laid their iniquity upon His own Son who was qualified to bear it away. When Jesus cried out from the cross, “It is finished” He explained for us the significance of His death, viz. that He had removed the reproach of the sins, of His own. In this way Father has the right to take strangers into His house to dwell with them forever. Having sealed this work by the resurrection, Father raised His own Son to His right hand and gave to Him the power of grace to be dispensed by the Holy Spirit so that these sons might be gathered into the family. By the preaching of the gospel each one is brought into a living relationship of faith whereby we cry out, “Abba, that is, Father!”
The love of father is manifest in different ways. One important way is that a true father desires to teach his son patience. We use this word as it is used in our text, literally, endurance! A father wants his son to be strong, to be a good son, to be a hard worker, to be a reliable person, to make a good husband and father, and so to be durable and well established.
If we apply this to our relationship with God this is even more true. The love that our heavenly Father has for us teaches us to be durable. The figure of speech applied here is that of tempered steel. If the blacksmith takes molten metal and submits it to the blows of a hammer or places it under pressure, the result is that this steel becomes harder and more durable. This is what God does in love to His children. He deals with us in a way that we learn patience, endurance! He sends the hammer blows of distress, not to punish, not to destroy, but to cause us to become Strong in our faith, to become fixed in our doctrine and pure in our walk of life.
While He is doing this to us, He is not coldly indifferent to what effect this has upon our life. The Psalmist tells us, “As a father pitieth his children so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.” Surely a father has compassion upon his child when he hands him to the surgeon. He does not say, well, this is for his good and so remains coldly indifferent to his cries; he suffers along with that child. The pity of Jehovah for His children is that in love He sends them affliction to make them strong in faith, and that while this is taking place, He is touched with their infirmities, He suffers along with them. It is this pity that activates the other attitude of God namely, mercy. Mercy is the result of pity. It is that work of God whereby He is not only compassionate to His children in distress, but He is moved to deliver them from their suffering. In mercy God sustains His children by giving them the necessary grace to bear their afflictions. He gives them the spiritual understanding to press on in the midst of the trials. In the end He delivers them as soon as His purpose is accomplished. Because God is merciful, He never afflicts His children with a greater measure of affliction than is necessary, nor for a longer period of time than is necessary to make them durable. In mercy God delivers His children as soon as possible.
According to our text, the measure of pity and mercy is comparable to the intensity of the affliction. God afflicted Job terribly hard; it was humanly speaking impossible to bear; consequently God was very or abundantly pitiful and tender of mercy to Job.
The history recorded in the Book of Job proves this point. Job was spiritually distressed. His burden was more than being stripped of earthly possessions and suffering pain in body. His distress was directed to God. Why did God do this to him? This problem was further aggravated by his wife who said, curse God and die. His three friends claimed that he was so sorely tried because he was a greater sinner and when Job denied this they accused him of being a hypocrite. Elihu opined that Job was an evil man and the plague was to correct him of so much evil.
Did Job cast up his hands hopelessly and curse God? Did Job rebel against the Almighty? Did God forsake him and let him sink into the terrible depth of despair?
No, as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitied Job. His pity was very great and mercy was tender. He gave Job the light of hope in the midst of darkness. Even while he groaned in suffering, he saw the light of God. As lightning flashes amidst the dark storm clouds, so Job saw and expressed faith in God. Stripped of all his possessions, he cried out; “Naked came I from my mother’s womb, naked shall I return thither, the Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” Swooning in agony amidst the ashes he cried out in faith, “Though He shall slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” His ears ringing with the accusations of his friends and his soul pleading, “Have pity upon me, O have pity upon me my friends for the hand of God hath touched me” he still cried out, “For I know that my redeemer liveth . . . and though after my flesh worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.”
What a demonstration of God’s pity and mercy upon His afflicted people. In the darkest hour, Job saw the light of God.
In the end this becomes even more evident. Surely Job’s defense was not the strongest on every point; we even read that he cursed the day of his birth. Yet God vindicated Job over against his friends. After the Almighty spoke to him from the whirlwind and revealed to him that he was righteous and that His hand was not against him because of his sins, Job makes the most beautiful confession, “Behold I am vile, what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.” God restored to Job his possessions and blessed him with sons and daughters.
The whole experience had been spiritually beneficial for Job. The Lord had surely instructed him in endurance and in the midst of this instruction the Lord did not forsake him, but sustained him. This speaks of pity and mercy in abundance.
We count them happy that endure.
No, we don’t do that as natural creatures. We count them happy that have no troubles. But, as spiritual sons of God we count them happy who receive from God troubles and who endure in the midst of them. We count them happy because they know the real meaning of sonship. God draws them very close to Himself through these experiences. They stand upon a high spiritual plane that bears evidence of the durability of faith, a faith tempered by affliction.
Are you one of God’s afflicted? Are you in the class of Job?
We count them happy!
This is a profound joy in God our Father who is very pitiful and of tender mercy.