The Patience of Job

"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" (James 5:11).

Yes, we have heard of the patience of Job, and how he held on to his God through a series of unparalleled calamities. Satan, the adversary, had observed him for a long time and had been most evidently annoyed at his God-fearing and upright life. If he could have destroyed him he would have done it, but he had to confess that God had put a hedge about him which he could not break down or surmount.

It did not please the devil, the great accuser, that in the world that he desired to dominate there should be a man who wholly served God; and being only evil he could not understand a pure and disinterested motive, consequently he put down Job's fidelity to God to the good thing he was making out of it. "Doth Job fear God for nought?" he asks. "Hast not Thou made a hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth Thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse Thee to Thy face."

It was a two-handed attack. It was a blow aimed at God, for it meant, "You have created man for your pleasure and you can only gain his service by paying him well": and it was a blow aimed at Job, for as "the accuser of the brethren," Satan moved God against him. But was the accusation false or true? That had to be proved for the sakes of all concerned and for ours also. The question was, should God or Satan triumph in the experience of Job.

The hedge that surrounded this man of God was removed and Satan was allowed to do with him as he pleased within the limits of God's will. How thoroughly he did his malignant work! There was no pity, no mercy in his heart; catastrophe followed catastrophe: the Sabeans, the fire from heaven, the Chaldeans and the great wind from the wilderness conspired together against the object of his malice, until not a vestige of his great possessions remained; every one of his servants was slain, and last and worst of all, he was robbed of his ten children. Job was beggared and bereaved of all that he valued, in one day. He was surely a man to be wondered at as with garments rent and head shaved he fell down upon the ground. How eagerly Satan must have watched him and listened to hear the words that would come out of his mouth, and how baffled and beaten he must have been when Job exclaimed, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord." In the first round of that great contest the honours were certainly with God.

It was clear that God was more to Job than the blessings He had given him. He was not like the man of the world who thinks that whatever he possesses he has gained by his own skill or industry. His was true piety; he received all from God and gave thanks even when all he possessed was taken from him. He gave to God His rightful place in regard to all He had given him, and when he lost all he looked at no second cause. God was above all, behind all and in everything to Job.

But Satan though astonished was unabashed; he would try again. Job had still a healthy body and his life, and incidentally, his wife. "Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth Thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse Thee to Thy face." So said the great adversary to God, repeating his accusation against Job and casting his taunt at God. "You have made this man, and though You are more to him than his possessions. You are not more to him than himself; he loves himself better than he loves You." And the Lord said to Satan, "Behold he is in thine hand, but save his life." So Satan smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. No part of him was spared and "he took a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down amongst the ashes."

What must have been his perplexity, his bewilderment as he sat in his misery? His was a living death! And he knew not the cause of it, and was silent, until his wife came to him, and through her Satan made his last and most subtle attack upon him. Said she, "Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God and die." It was a foul blow, and just like the devil, but it opened Job's mouth and made him give a triumphant answer, even if he did not understand its full meaning. "What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" Curse God! That would have meant giving up his God. Could he do that? Never. He could lose everything, but not his God. Many things may have seemed indispensable to him in former days, but he had come to this point in his experience now; he could do without everything but God. God alone was indispensable to Job, so that he cried out later in his agony yet earnestness of soul, "Though He slay me yet will I trust in Him."

Thus did Job endure, in this was his patience seen and Satan is heard of no more in the story, he had nothing more to say, he was silenced by Job's faith in God, and he left him to God in whom he trusted, and "He is very pitiful and of tender mercy." He will surely give a full compensation for all suffering that has been suffered according to His will and in the learning of His ways for our final good. Job was compensated here for "the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than the beginning," and his former wealth was doubled, and his children were restored to him, and his daughters were fairer than any women in the land and their names meant peace and fragrance and beauty. And moreover he prayed for his friends, and his brethren and sisters who had forsaken him in his calamity returned to him, and he went down at last to an honoured grave, being old and full of years.

"The end of the Lord" is not reached for us in this life. The New Testament has revealed to us a life beyond this, and as we realize this we shall be patient and endure. "For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weigh of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal: but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:16-18).