Eld Goh Kee Tai
Patient endurance of Job in his afflictions
‘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’ (Js 5:11)
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, in his epistle to the Jewish Christians scattered abroad throughout the Roman Empire because of severe persecutions by the religious leaders in Jerusalem, exhorted them to exercise patient endurance under such trials. He made it clear that their sufferings and afflictions were not because of sin, but permitted by God according to His sovereign will to strengthen their faith. It was meant for their own spiritual good and well-being (Js 1:1-4). He encouraged them to look at the examples of the prophets of old who demonstrated steadfastness and endurance when under fiery trials (Js 5:10). He highly commended Job, an upright man with holy, filial reverential fear of God, for his steadfast patient endurance in his extraordinary sufferings and afflictions (Js 5:11).
'The patience of Job'
Job’s suffering started when he was in full fellowship and communion with God. All his possessions were suddenly and unexpectedly taken away in quick succession one after another, including his ten children (Job 1:14-19). Job submitted with great humility to the sovereign will of God and held fast his unwavering faith and integrity and did not sin against Him and charged Him foolishly (Job 1:20,21). When he was further afflicted with a most agonising skin disease (Job 2:7,8;30:18,30), his wife was totally devastated and urged him to curse God and die (Job 2:9). For this, Job sharply rebuked her (Job 2:10).
When his hour of need was greatest during this troublous time, he was totally alienated and forsaken by his loved ones, friends and servants (Job 19:13-19). However, Job still had three eminent friends from afar. They came together to comfort him, and were shocked to see him in such a miserable state, being reduced from the richest man in the east (Job 1:3) to nothing, completely devastated and intensely grieved (Job 2:14).
Job, like other prophets of old, was a man subject to like passions as we are (Js 5:17). In the midst of his state of severe physical torment and mental depression and agitations within his heart, he succumbed to the infirmity of the flesh. He lost his focus on the all-sufficient providence and manifold grace of God and sinned by being careless in not bridling his tongue and uttering foolish and absurd words in moments of thoughtlessness (Job 13:24;16:9;19:11,22;30:21). He murmured and complained bitterly, cursed the day of his birth and wished he had died as soon as he was born (Job 3:1,3,5,11,16). He repeatedly longed for death, as his health was deteriorating rapidly and his body wasting away (Job 7:5; 17:1; 19:20), but it did not come (Job 3:20; 6:8,9;10:18,19). However, he did not sin by renouncing or rejecting the God of his salvation throughout his trials.
Job, an earnest and sincere servant of the Lord, was certain that it was not because of his sin that he was afflicted. He led a God-honouring and righteous life in obedience to His divine instructions ( Job 23:11,12; 29:12-17;31:1-40). He could not reconcile why despite his complete allegiance to God, he was so sorely afflicted. He was deeply perplexed, confused and helpless.
Job had no cognizance that he was the subject of contention in the universal conflict between the Almighty God and Satan in heaven. God had pronounced him ‘a perfect and upright man, one who feareth God and escheweth evil’ (Job 1:1,8). But Satan rebutted that Job’s fear of God was because of the divine blessings bestowed upon him. If God were to take away all his possessions (Job 1:11) and health (Job 2:5), he would curse God. To prove that He has the power and grace to sustain His faithful servant through the fiery trials, He permitted Satan to afflict Job with the most extraordinary calamities which caused unimagineable pain, sorrows and griefs (1:13-19; 2:7).
The devil made use of his wife to instigate him to curse God and die (Job 2:9). His three friends were also used by the devil to falsely accuse him with hidden enormous crimes which he was unaware of (Job 4:8;8:20;11:6,14;20:19;22:6,7,9). He also felt that there was no advantage in leading a righteous life, as it did not secure him from afflictions and calamities (Job 34:9;35:3).
Job demonstrated profound faith, a perfect spirit of enduring submission amidst such extraordinary afflictions. He remained steadfast in his moral integrity (Job 1:21; 2:10; 13:15; 19:25). He was confident that God knew that he was a man of integrity ( 10:7;16:17,19;23:11,12;23:10-12;27:2-6), and he had an unwavering confidence in the Lord in his ultimate deliverance (Job 13:15;19:25,26). He acknowledged that his afflictions were appointed by God's will as a test and refinement of his faith and would end well (Job 23:10,14). He prayed fervently, expressing his yearning for God and desire to speak to Him, and to vindicate him from the false accusations of his friends (Job 13:3,22;23:3-7).
Job endured because he had a reverential fear of the Lord of his salvation (Job 13:16). He resolutely cleaved to God and put his complete trust and confidence on Him alone, even though when it seemed that the Lord had cast him off. His hope was in his living Redeemer (Job 19:25).He showed perseverance and endurance in fighting a spiritual warfare, which he was unaware of, while awaiting deliverance. .
'The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy'
Even though Job, in his confusion, felt that God seemed to be so far away and was forsaken by Him, the Lord was in full control. He heard all his complaints and the false accusations of his friends. Job remained the object of God’s love and protection. He affectionately bore him up in his mental and physical anguish. The hand of God was with him throughout his sore trials and enabled him to hold fast his integrity. The Lord sympathised with him and earnestly remembered him and worked for his deliverance in His own time and ways.
Despite Job's accusation against the Lord for being cruel and targeting and punishing him beyond measures as His enemy ( Job 13:24;16:9;19:11;30:21), the holy and Almighty God was very compassionate, pitiful, gracious and of tender mercy to the poor suffering Job, and directed a young bystander, Elihu to counsel him. He was a witness of the long debates between Job and his three friends as to why a godly man could be so severely afflicted. Elihu counselled him by addressing his perplexities regarding his afflictions and corrected his wrong perception on the character of God and His providential dealings with him. He pointed out his lack of humility, and sin of pride and self-righteousness in contending with God and in questioning the justice and righteousness of God (Job 27:2;32:2;33:12;34:5;35:2). He assured Job that God had not forgotten him, and to wait patiently for His gracious intervention and deliverance (Job 35:14). Elihu was preparing the way for Job to humble and repent of his sin of pride and self-righteousness (Job 27:2-6;34:31,32;35:12) before the Lord appeared to pronounce the verdict of the controversy.
God condescendingly spoke to Job out of the whirlwind in power and majesty (Job 38:1). By questioning Job on His mighty works of creation and demonstrating His wisdom, dominion and providential care of all His creatures (Job 38:4-39:30;40:9-41:34), Job repented of his pride and self-confidence. The Almighty lovingly rebuked Job for his rash utterances as he went through the long terrible ordeals (Job 7:3;29:2), and for condemning Him for injustice in defence of his own righteousness (Job 38:2; 40:8). Job submitted to the will of God and repented with deep contrition of heart (Job 40:4,5; 42:2,3,6).
The Lord demonstrated His manifold grace to help him in his perseverance. He knew the infirmity of his flesh and did not test him beyond his ability to endure (1 Cor 10:13). God graciously overlooked his failings upon confession and repentance of his sins. Indeed, God was very pitiful and of tender mercy by giving Job a happy ending.
'The end of the Lord'
The purpose of Job’s trials, in the divine dealings, was a test of his faithfulness and integrity, as to whether he served God with an ulterior motive. It was in accordance with the secret counsel of His perfect will and for His own glory. It was not because of the sins of Job that he was afflicted as his three friends had insisted. But in the midst of his sufferings, he sinned against God through his pride, self-righteousness and lack of humility. Nevertheless, God was pleased with the manner in which Job bore the trial, by holding fast his moral integrity. His heart was upright with God. Though Job's patience was not perfect in his trials, his repentance from his folly was complete and sincere. He was pardoned and restored into fellowship with God once again.
God appeared to be against Job at the beginning of his trial. Having proven him faithful, the Lord delivered him from the furnace of affliction (Job 42:10). His divine purpose was accomplished and there was no need to test him further. Satan’s ability to persecute the people of God is limited.
Job's faithfulness and patient endurance brought victory in the universal conflict between God and Satan in heaven, proving that Satan is a defeated foe. The devil was silenced for his accusations against Job as a hypocrite. By patiently enduring to the end of his afflictions, he glorified God (1 Pet 4:16).
The end of the Lord refers to the final outcome of God's dealings with Job in his afflictions.
Job was richly blessed and vindicated from the false accusations of his three friends (42:7-9).
His fair-weather friends, neighbours and relatives who had formerly considered him a hypocrite, an object of divine displeasure, were very kind to him, and rejoiced with his restoration to health and comforted him by making a goodwill collection among themselves to assist him in starting his business again from scratch. His former possessions were doubled and his prosperity reinstated (Job 42:7; 10-12).
His family was built up again and he had great comfort in his children. God rewarded Job with a full life with which to serve Him. He not only had blessings on earth, but would receive rewards in heaven that the human mind cannot comprehend (Job 42:13-17).
Job was an eminent example of a servant of God who demonstrated patient endurance while under nightmarish trials. He was eminent both for his sufferings in his extraordinary calamities and patient endurance. His moral integrity was most remarkable. He experienced the manifold grace of God in enabling him to persevere and endure to the end. He was the epitome of godly patient endurance and submission to divine sovereign will. God's dealings with him was that He was very pitiful and of tender mercy, however rigidly and severely He might have permitted Satan to afflict him. At the end of Job’s trial, God honoured him with a glorious ending. His faith was further strengthened. He was brought into a closer and more intimate fellowship with God, a greater spiritual growth and maturity and a much better understanding than before of His sovereign, loving, gracious, merciful and immutable Almighty God. He realised that God makes no mistakes and does all things well. He is righteous in all His ways and holy in all His works (Job 34:12,17;36:23).
Job had wished that his testimony be graven on a rock (Job 19:23). In this divine Book of Job, it will live for ever. His testimony is a blessing to countless believers who suffer persecutions and afflictions. His perplexities, patient endurance, unshaken hope and trust in his living Redeemer to meet his every need are recorded for our instruction. When faced with trials and tribulations and vicissitudes of life in our earthly sojourn, may we be 'Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; and continuing instant in prayer' (Rm 12:12). Indeed, happy is the godly man that patiently endures the trials in this world, as it is working for the glory and blessedness of heaven, a crown of life (Js 1:12). Amen.