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SIMPLIFIED JOURNEY (14): Patient Endurance – Job

Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. – James 5:10-11

The patience of Job is proverbial. Yet, we often have a distorted view of his patience – and therefore, of what patience in suffering is really about.

Be honest. Is your view of patience, one who suffers without complaint or question, but one who quietly says, “It is the Lord’s will”? That was not Job.

Job stands outside the nation of Israel. The book is not dated, but many believe him to have been a contemporary of Abraham. It is certainly set in a “patriarchal” context, as we see Job making sacrifices on behalf of his children thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts” (Job 1:5).

The first five verses of Job paint a picture of him as a wealthy, God-fearing man with seven sons and three daughters, all of whom seem to be adults. It was a happy, close-knit family. Job himself was highly respected, not only in his own community, but “among all the people of the East.”

Then God permitted Satan to test Job.

The First Test (Job 1:6-22)

Satan, after roaming the earth, came before God. Satan is the accuser. God asked,

Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. – Job 1:8

Satan responded that God had put a hedge around him and his household, blessing all that they did. “But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” (See 1:9-11.)

So God permitted Satan to test Job, but he was told not to touch the man himself. Then, in one day, Job lost all of his wealth and all ten of his children died. Job grieved his losses – but he worshiped God in his adversity. “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”

The Second Test (Job 2:1-10)

Again, Satan came before God. Again, God asked if he had considered Job. God used the same words as before the first test, but added:

And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason. – Job 2:3

Satan raised the ante:

Skin for skin! A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face. – Job 2:4-5

God agreed that Satan could afflict Job himself in his own person, but must spare his life.

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. – Job 2:7-8

At this time, his wife counseled him to curse God and die. Job replied:

“You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. – Job 2:10

The Third Test (Job 2:11 – 37:24)

The third test was the most severe so far. Nothing is said to introduce this test about Satan coming before God. Instead, though it is not said, we can see him entering the hearts of Job’s friends and accusing him, not to God, but to himself through his friends.

His friends came to sit with him and comfort him. When they arrived, the tore their robes, sprinkled dust on their heads, and sat with him on the ground. For seven days they sat without saying a word. This was probably the most comfort they gave him. (See Job 2:11-13)

Then Job spoke to curse the day of his birth (Job 3). In this, he still did not curse God nor did he blame God for his miseries.

Beginning with chapter 4, each of the three friends spoke to Job, with Job responding to each of them. There were three rounds of these speeches. As they progressed, the tone of the exchanges grew sharper, until there was a vast rift between Job and his friends.

The friends contended that Job’s problems were retribution to him for sin in his life. Eliphaz began with a fairly gentle admonition to repent (Job 4 – 5). Job admitted his words had been impetuous, and that God’s arrows were in him. But the main part of his response was a request for them to teach him the error of his ways. In this speech, he began to complain against God  (Job 6-7).

Bildad took up the conversation with a speech accusing Job of  having words like a blustering wind, and again urged him to repent (Job 8). Job’s response continued his protestation of innocence, and said of God:

How can I dispute with Him? How can I find words to argue with Him? Though I were innocent, I could not answer him; I could only plead with my Judge for mercy. – Job 9:14-15

Job continued by asking God why He had even permitted Job to be born if suffering was to be his lot (Job 9-10).

Zophar, the third friend, jumped in with a lot of bluster wishing God would speak to Job to silence his nonsense (Job 11). Job responded with his longest speech yet, and accused his friends of thinking they had all the wisdom. He maintained he knew as much as they, and that they had not told him anything he did not already know. He expressed his desire to speak to the Almighty to plead his case before God Himself. He said, that is he could do this, he knew he would be vindicated. (See Job 12-14.)

As the exchanges continued, the friends argued that the wicked suffer but the righteous do not, a belief Job had shared before his troubles. Job’s troubles, though, convinced him otherwise. He could not understand why God was afflicting him, but he knew it was not because of great wickedness. His theological world had been turned upside down, and that may have caused his greatest suffering. (See Job 15-31.)

After the three friends ran out of anything to say, a young man, Elihu who had been sitting quietly by while his elders spoke, entered the conversation. He accused the three friends of not being able to prove Job wrong (Job 32), and then turned his attention to Job himself. He basically said much the same as the friends had said, but did introduce the idea of suffering as discipline to draw us closer to God. In this, he was nearer correct than the friends or Job.

The Fourth Test (Job 38-42)

Elihu closed by speaking of how great God is.

He fills His hands wwith lightning and commands it to strike its mark. His thunder announces the coming storm; even the cattle make known its approach. – Job 37:32-33

Then, God spoke to Job out of the storm, which Elihu may have seen approaching (see above).

Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. – Job 38:2-3

The LORD then asked Job questions that even with our advances in science we will still have difficulty answering. (Matt Dabbs has a good article on God’s questions to Job here.) The questions had to do with God’s governance of the physical universe – the stars and planets, as well as the life forms on earth. After two chapters of this,

The LORD said to Job:

Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? Let him who accuses God answer Him!”

Then Job answered the LORD:

I am unworthy – how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer – twice, but I will say no more.

Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm:

Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?    – Job 40:1-8

Then God continued to question Job about his ability to do what God does routinely. This continued two more chapters, through Job 41.

Then Job replied to the LORD:

I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, “Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?” Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.

You said, “Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes. –    Job 42:1-6

Job met his final, and greatest, test by confessing and repenting. God did not hold it against Job that he had questions. He did hold it against the friends that they thought they had the answers when they didn’t even know the questions!

In an epilogue, the LORD rebuked the three friends, “because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7). He instructed them to bring sacrifices to Job who would offer them on their behalf. Job did this and prayed for them.

God blessed the later part of Job’s life even more than the first.


  1. Job is the first of what we sometimes call the “Wisdom Literature.” This book is a theological-philosophical discussion about the problem of suffering. This discussion continues today, so Job is still very relevant to our world. Job never did learn why he suffered. He did learn that God is in control of his life, and that he could trust God to do what is right.
  2. While Job began with a certain amount of fortitude, he had to learn patience, or perseverance, through his suffering. James, who closed his epistle by speaking of the perseverance (patience) of Job, had begun it by saying, “Count it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:2-3).
  3. Not everything in Job should be taken as being true. Job himself confessed he had spoken of things he did not understand. God said the friends had not even done as well as Job. While there is truth in what each of them said, we must not accept what Job or his friends said without testing. This book is discussion between parties who disagree. Not all said in it is true.
  4. We should not be afraid to question God. We should not be surprised, though, if He answers us in a way that will cause us to repent in dust and ashes! Job was a better man for having questioned God; it is likely that we will be as well – if we do it in the spirit of Job.

NEXT – SIMPLIFIED JOURNEY (15): Israel’s Hymn Book

PREVIOUS – SIMPLIFIED JOURNEY (13): Judah Alone & Without God


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