Most of you are familiar with the story of Job. In Job 1, Satan approaches God and receives permission from God to attack Job – but God limits him:
12 And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.”
After this, loss upon loss comes upon Job, as billow upon billow in a catastrophic storm:
13 Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, 14 and there came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”16 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”17 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”18 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, 19 and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”
After all that, we read Job's godly response of worship:
20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” 22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
In Job 2, we see Satan's frustration to Job's response. The devil's plan has been thwarted, and he goes back to God again and ups the ante. End result: God permits Satan to attack Job's body:
7 So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8 And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.
This time we read not only Job's response, but also that of Job's wife:
Job 2:9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
What a contrast! What kind of helpmeet is Job's wife here? Job says she's speaking as a foolish
woman would! That's a serious charge – but isn't that kind of foolish talk just about the last thing Job, or any of us, needs in order to stand true and faithful to God in the midst of grueling trials and hellish temptations?
Did Job's wife have a view that all the evil in the world is under the sovereign reign of the LORD, and nothing at all catches God by surprise? Didn't she understand each and every one of the devil's plots is under the sovereign sway of the God who sits enthroned above the earth, and in God's mysterious providence He ordains all
things, even evil, for His glory?
Psalm 115:3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
Isaiah 46:8 “Remember this and stand firm,recall it to mind, you transgressors,9 remember the former things of old;for I am God, and there is no other;I am God, and there is none like me,10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done,saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
After being persecuted and mocked and betrayed and sold by his brothers into slavery, we read Joseph's testimony of God's sovereign goodness in Genesis 50:20:
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. But God!
As soon as we get stuck looking at our circumstances apart from God, much like Peter, we will
sink. And like those who aren't planting themselves in the Word of God will wither
-- more below on withering -- we will
end up speaking and acting foolishly.
John Calvin wrote these words about Genesis 50:20:
"...whatever poison Satan produces, God turns it into medicine for His elect."
it! The devil wants us to succumb to his wiles, so we end up reacting like Job's wife and curse God. The devil is all about undermining our faith in God. He delights to hear such curses coming from our lips! Satan's desire is that we accept the bad circumstances at face value, and not look beyond them or above them, and so we end up throwing up our hands in despair, and we lose faith and curse God! The devil wants us to forget, as William Cowper wrote, that behind every frowning providence, there hides a smiling face!Let us remember that the devil's poison, that sifting which the devil means for evil, God always means all of it for the good of the His children.
Any and all trials and temptations which God allows to come our way are always
under the sovereign rule of God Almighty. Trials and sifting come to us only if necessary, and they are always for our refining to God's glory (e.g. see James 1 and Peter 1).
Think back to the story of Peter's sifting, which led to his denying Jesus three times, and then remember: Jesus already
knew all about it
in advance – and
Jesus was already
praying for Peter, and Jesus would continue to pray for Peter all throughout it
! Let us look beyond our trials and look to heaven and see Jesus seated at the right hand of God. What is He doing there? Jesus Christ is our great high priest, who ever lives to make intercession for all the saints, so we might be saved to the uttermost (see the last part of Hebrews 7). And saving to the uttermost includes our being strengthened in all our trials and temptations, so we will not succumb to the temptation to curse God like Job's wife – but we would continue to bless God like Job.
The apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 8:28:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Do you know that? Do you really
And be clear here: all things means all
things! No exceptions. Even the bitterest and deadliest poison of the devil, God is working it for good
for the children of God – each and every time.
And, by the way, just to be clear here: that promise from Romans 8:28 is not for all
people. See how Paul qualifies it: those who love God and those who are called according to His purpose. But, the wonderful thing is that Romans 8:28 is a soul-fortifying promise for all the saints when we find ourselves tried like Job – and we will
find ourselves tried, but only
as necessary and always for God's glory – see I Peter 1. Remember how in Job 1 and 2, Satan had to come to God to ask permission as to what he could do with Job. What a wonderful reminder that God always puts those bounds on the devil and his workings, much as God Himself put bounds on the oceans at the creation:
Job 38:8 “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb,9 when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band,10 and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors,11 and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?
In other words, the devil is never
allowed to prowl unchecked, but know this: he is
our adversary, he does
prowl, and he is
seeking someone to devour! He is our enemy and we must be sober, vigilant and on guard (I Peter 5:8)!
How do we go about that?We must continue to gird up our minds with the truth about God from the Bible. As we read the Bible, we must keep asking God's Spirit to lead us into all truth, for He is the Spirit of truth. The devil is a liar and the father of lies. Look back to Genesis 3 and see the beginnings of the fall. He twisted the Word of God just a little – but just enough! And then look at Jesus' temptation in the wilderness (Matt. 4 & Luke 4), and see how our Lord Himself combatted the temptations of the devil: through the Word of God!
There are attributes about the character and workings of God that never change, no matter what, no matter how we feel, no matter our circumstances. Malachi 3:6a "For I am the LORD, I change not..." However, the devil wants us to doubt and question and become confused about God and God's truth, and that gives the devil a foothold. For it is at that point he can slyly slither his way in and get us to begin to consider and entertain his lies in the hope we might slip and slide down, down, down into doubting God, and eventually into that wretched and foolish state where we end cursing God like Job's wife.
In Ephesians 6, we're commanded to take up the whole armor of God, but it distresses me to see how many Christians talk
about the armor -- many of them can name each and every piece! -- but how few actually take it up
when push comes to shove! My brothers and sisters, we are in a spiritual battle. You must
take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God! You can't expect to be victorious if you trifle with these things! The welfare of your eternal soul is at stake!I've listed below some Biblical truths about God and God's dealings with His people -- with me -- that I keep going back to.
This is not an all-inclusive list by any means, but they are principles God has used to keep me sane and kept me many a time from lapsing into foolishness! (But by the grace of God alone, I would go the way of Job's wife!) And I confess lately I have found myself dangerously close to that vile position of Job's wife! O! I don't want to be a foolish
woman! I don't want to speak
like one of the foolish women! I don't even want to think
like one of the foolish women! Matthew 12:34b For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
I've started off the list with the truth I wrote about above, that God is working all things for my (our) good. If you are a child of God by grace through faith in Christ, these are ways that you and I can be assured that God is continuing to work, in spite of what we may be seeing
, and in spite of how we may be feeling
about our circumstances.
- God is working all things for my (our) good (Romans 8:28)
- God is working all things to conform me (us) to Christ's image (Romans 8:29)\
- God is working all things for His glory (Romans 11:36)
- God is working all things for the furtherance of His Gospel (Philippians 1:23)
- God is working all things to make Christ preeminent (Colossians 1:18)
- God is leading His people to make for Himself a glorious and everlasting name (Isaiah 63:10-15)
We need to walk by faith and not by sight, and we are strengthened to do so as we hold onto God and hold onto these precious and very great promises
, and as we do so, we should be praying the Spirit of God will cause these doctrines we know in the head to begin to burn in our hearts, so these grand truths of the Word of God and the Christian life become experimental (or experiential) to us, as the Puritans put it.
We also need to trust God's workings with each one of us are perfect.
I'm not going to get into this here in length, but if you look at the end of Isaiah 28 (v. 22-29), you'll read the different ways individual seeds are sown and then the various ways the crops are processed after the harvest. That's a picture of God's dealings with each one of His children as individuals. I may be dill, you cumin and another one barley, and so on – in other words, we will each get our own individualized treatment, i.e. - loving discipline perfectly suited for each one of us, according to the infallible, inscrutable, pure and holy ways of our loving Father in heaven:
29 This also comes from the LORD of hosts;he is wonderful in counseland excellent in wisdom.
Who are we
to question and doubt and despair and even curse God's workings with our individual souls? Are we
God's counselors? And yet, don't we find ourselves sliding into that position – and sounding less like Job and more like Job's wife, speaking foolishly and just about ready to curse God? All
God's workings are wonderful and excellent! As we are remain ever-mindful of that, and as the Spirit writes that truth more and more deeply on our hearts and in our minds, we will be kept from speaking foolishly like Job's wife and kept from sinning with our lips.Foolishness: Clamorous and Withering
To me, Job's wife very much resembles the foolish woman described In Proverbs 9:13:
The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing. (ESV)
A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple, and knoweth nothing. (KJV)
The Hebrew word for loud
there is hamah
-- to make a loud sound like Engl. "hum"; by implication, to be in great commotion or tumult, to rage, war, moan, clamor:
-- clamorous, concourse, cry aloud, be disquieted, loud, mourn, be moved, make a noise, rage, roar, sound, be troubled, make in tumult, tumultuous, be in an uproar. And hamah
is derived from the primitive root word, huwm
(hoom) – to make an uproar, or agitate greatly:
-- destroy, move, make a noise, put, ring again.
Unless we see and embrace and trust that God is superintending over all
events, that He is sovereign over all
things: both good and
evil, times of plenty and
times of want – how can we do anything but
react like Job's wife when trouble and affliction and pain and loss and heartache come our way? Feeling disquieted, we will
end up raging, moaning and clamorous, and we will
be in great commotion and tumult. And, like Job's wife, we will
end up speaking as one of the foolish women would speak! What kind of testimony is that
to a lost world, and how does such behavior give glory to God?
I don't know about you
, but I know I don't
want to be described like this:
You speak as one of the foolish women would speak.
That said, I know
I can lapse right into that all too often and all too quickly, as life's circumstances seem contrary to what I think God should be doing or how I think He ought to be operating. And it grieves me almost as soon as I find myself in that situation! And it's a wretched position to be in! I despise myself when I'm there! God is God, and I am not! His thoughts and His ways are higher than ours! That's a lesson we all have to learn time and time again -- and again!
Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,or who has been his counselor?”35 “Or who has given a gift to himthat he might be repaid?”36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Our reactions to loss and suffering prove whether we are foolish or wise. Does your usual reaction to loss and suffering resemble that of Job's wife or Job?In times of loss, during those "Job" times in your life, do you find yourself more often than not cursing God or blessing God?
The word Job used for foolish is nabal
-- stupid; wicked (especially impious):
-- fool(-ish, -ish man, -ish woman), vile person.
That's a serious charge. And the primitive root word from which nabal
is derived is nabel
. I think the following definitions of nabel
describe Job's wife perfectly – and
they describe us
when we begin to doubt God and God's goodness and God's purposes and when we are tempted to lash out against God, shake our fists at Him and curse Him: to wilt; generally, to fall away, fail, faint.In time of trial, if we've not been immersing ourselves in God's Word, and if we don't continue to immerse ourselves in God's Word in the midst of the trial, we will end up wilting and fainting.
In other words, we will
end up like Job's wife. Is that what we really want? Has God rescued and redeemed us with the precious blood of the Lamb to live like that? (If we can call that living
!) The word wither
in Psalm 1:3 is nabel.
Psalm 11 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
In spite of his mounting losses and his painful, physical affliction, and in great contrast to his wife, Job produced a leafy, vibrant testimony similar to that of David:
Psalm 717 I have been as a portent to many,but you are my strong refuge.8 My mouth is filled with your praise,and with your glory all the day.9 Do not cast me off in the time of old age;forsake me not when my strength is spent.10 For my enemies speak concerning me;those who watch for my life consult together11 and say, “God has forsaken him;pursue and seize him,for there is none to deliver him.”12 O God, be not far from me;O my God, make haste to help me!13 May my accusers be put to shame and consumed;with scorn and disgrace may they be covered who seek my hurt.14 But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.15 My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,of your deeds of salvation all the day,for their number is past my knowledge.16 With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come;I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.
O! for grace to have such a testimony of worship all the day, every day! Is there any day at all that praise is not due to our God?
Is praise waiting for the Lord on your lips today and every day, no matter the circumstances? Or, when you are in times of trial and difficulty, are you foolish: are your heart and your mouth filling up with rants and complaints, and withholding the praise which is due to God?
Psalm 65:1 Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion,and to you shall vows be performed.
I like this Psalm in the KJV:
Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion: and unto thee shall the vow be performed.
Psalm 34:1-10, plus other texts, adapted and expanded as a prayer
O! may I bless You, LORD, at all times like Job;
You alone are worthy of never-ceasing praise.
Let me not be foolish like Job's wife;
but let me be wise and leafy and fruitful:
Let Your praise be continually be in my mouth,
as I hide and treasure You and Your Word in my heart.
May my soul make its boast in You, O LORD;
let the humble hear it and be glad.
O! magnify the LORD with me,
and let us be wise and exalt His name together!
Help me to seek You, LORD, above my circumstances.
Help me keep my eyes fixed on You, invisible God,
so I might prosper and endure – and not wither and perish.
O! See me here: seeking Your face!
Answer me and deliver me from all my fears:
Be pleased to call to me, so I might sup with You once again!
As I look to You, I will be lightened and radiant,
and my face shall never be ashamed.
O! Turn my eyes, and my eyes will look to You!
Make Your face to shine, and I will be sustained.
I am poor and needy, hear me, O LORD,
I am dust and ashes, hear me, O LORD,
and save me out of all my troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear You, and delivers them.
Open my eyes that I may see Your abiding presence.
O! May I taste and see that You, O LORD, are good always,
whether You give or You take away,
whether I receive good or evil from You,
whether I am in plenty or in want,
blessed am I when I take refuge in You!
O! May we fear the LORD, all you His saints,
though all else may be taken from us –
those who fear Him have no lack!
Christ is our all-satisfying portion forever!
Even young lions suffer want and hunger;
but we who seek the LORD will lack no good thing!
To whom can we liken God,
who can compare?
He alone is altogether lovely!
He alone is fairer than ten thousand!
O! He is our Beloved – and we are His!
All you saints, come and worship
By God, let us render to God the sacrifice of praise.
and enjoy God
forever with me!
May the meditation of our hearts and the fruit of our lips
be acceptable and pleasant to You,
O, LORD, our Rock and our Redeemer!
When God has taken you through difficult circumstances, have you responded with faith and trust, or have you, like the "foolish women" referenced in Job, lost faith and complained? What can we learn from Job's example of courage and strength in times of trouble?