187 - A Monument of Praise in the Valley of Despair (Job 2:1–10)
Job is sorrowing and for good reason. He has lost everything, including his children. But his suffering is about to increase with the onset of physical torture. He is also about to demonstrate that even in the midst of such suffering, a child of God can glorify the Lord.
The citizens and farmers of Enterprise, Alabama, had a deep problem. Their entire economy rested on cotton, and that’s about all the farmers planted. But then a small beetle made its way north from Mexico and on into Alabama by 1915. A few years later, all the cotton fields were eaten bare by this little bug known as the boll weevil. The farmers were facing bankruptcy and the rest of the town with them.
Instead of packing his bags and leaving, one farmer decided to plant different crop—a crop that would not be destroyed by the boll weevil, a crop that had been promoted by a former slave turned schoolteacher named George Washington Carver.
At the end of that year, the farmer’s peanut crop was so prosperous that he paid off all his debts and had money left over. The next year the other farmers began planting peanuts, and they all prospered.
Now for the last 100 plus years, visitors to Enterprise, Alabama, have been able to admire a monument placed in the middle of the town—in appreciation for the boll weevil. Imagine people raising a monument as an act of gratitude for a crisis that led ultimately to a blessing.
Unknown to the successful farmer and businessman Job, a deadly pest is moving into his territory. It isn’t a beetle; it’s Beelzebub—the devil himself.
In a matter of only thirty-nine seconds, Job has learned from four messengers that he is now bankrupt and bereaved of his ten grown children. He doesn’t know it yet, but God has allowed the devil to take everything Job has in order to reveal the power of God in the life of His faithful follower.
Satan had predicted that Job would curse God if he lost everything, but he was wrong. At the end of chapter 1, we read these amazing words: “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”
The trouble is, the devil isn’t finished with Job, and God is going to allow even more suffering.
Now, chapter 2 of Job begins this way:
Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. And the Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” (verses 1-2)
Of course, God knows where Satan has been. Satan is still scrutinizing the life of Job, and no doubt he is infuriated that Job hasn’t blasphemed God because of all he has lost.
So, the Lord comes right to the point here in verse 3, saying to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?” The answer is obvious. One author said this would be like asking freshmen guys in college, “Have you considered girls?” What else are they doing their freshman year?
Well, Satan is furious, and he responds in verse 4, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life.” He wickedly implies here that Job was more than willing to sacrifice the skin of his children as long as he kept his own skin.
Satan then adds in verse 5, “But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” In other words, “Make Job suffer physically, and he will surrender his faith.”
And once again, God delegates authority to Satan while at the same time limiting his activity. “And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life’” (verse 6).
As soon as Satan gets this permission from God—and don’t overlook that fact, beloved—only after he gets permission can he do anything to Job, verse 7 tells us:
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.
The Hebrew word for “sores” can be translated “boils” and is the same word used for one of the ten plagues in Egypt (Exodus 9:9). These boils are only the beginning. Job will suffer some twenty-five ailments during this time.
He will experience itching (chapter 2), loss of appetite and feelings of dread and fear (chapter 3), and dizziness, insomnia, and hardened skin that oozes with pus (chapter 7).
I’m not trying to be gross—we just need to realize how he suffered. We will find that he struggles in chapter 9 with not being able to breath and in chapter 19 with weight loss, and with constant pain and high fever, to the point that even his bones ache and burn (chapter 30). Satan just turns the corkscrew of suffering, hoping Job will curse God.
Verse 8 tells us that Job “took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.” Notice here, Job is not lying at home on clean sheets with private medical staff. He’s sitting in the ashes.
This is a reference to the landfill in the ancient towns of the Middle East. Each town had a place outside the gates where garbage was taken. Periodically, the rotting garbage would be burned for sanitation. This was where dogs fought for something to eat and where lepers and beggars lived. And this is where Job is—sitting in the softness of ashes from a recent burning of trash.
Beloved, get a better look at him here: his entire body is oozing with open sores; his eyes are swollen from crying; his clothes are caked with dirt and blood; his breath is short and strained; his face is gaunt and his cheeks sunken. Here sits the man introduced to us earlier as the greatest among all the people in the east.
Now he sits at the town dump, rocking back and forth in pain and despair, oblivious to the dogs and the beggars, and scratching himself with the blunt edge of a piece of pottery for relief. His mind is still grieving over ten fresh graves and the loss of everything. He remembers every child and every special moment when he had the blessing of God. But now, where is God? Maybe God is not worth following after all. Satan leans in. Surely Job will curse God now.
Then in verse 9, Job’s wife arrives and begs him to curse God—to abandon God and die. I think she is saying what everybody else is thinking. I also think she is one of the most misunderstood women in the Bible, which is why I am not even going to talk about her right now. I want to take our next study to examine Mrs. Job.
But for now, Job says to her, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (verse 10). I can’t believe he said that! Let me repeat it: “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” And then we’re told, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”
Let me tell you something, beloved: Job has just raised a monument of praise in the valley of despair. You would think Job would throw in the towel and quit, yet he raises his voice and effectively says what you and I need to say today: God is worth our worship on the mountaintop and down here in the valley as well.
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