“Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God.”
(Matthew 5:8 ESV)
When I read the opening words of Job’s story, I hear a faint echo of “Once Upon a Time . . .”
“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright one who feared God and turned away from evil.” (Job 1:1 ESV)
The narrative continues with exposition, revealing the details of Job’s family, possessions, stature in the community and daily routines, including his religious practices.
And then the scene shifts with cinematic flair, we are ushered into a heavenly scene. The curtain is pulled back and the audience is given information that informs the reader, but as far as we know is withheld from the characters in the unfolding drama. It’s as if the author (ultimately God) knew that the impending misery would be too hard for the reader to bear. We needed a glimpse backstage to see how this tragedy unfolds under the sovereign care of the Creator.
That scene fades. In the next scene, we observe Job going about his usual business. Then wave after wave of tragic news arrives through servant messengers. Job tears his robes, shaves his head and he worships. He mourns, yet he does not sin.
Satan, the behind the scenes agent of misery and death, approaches Job’s Creator again. Satan’s intent is to see Job curse God. God says, my Job, he’s up to the test. Send the physical pain, but spare his life.
Satan takes his cue and gladly strikes Job with “loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.” (Job 2:7 ESV) Job sits down in his misery and starts scraping at the sores with a piece of broken pottery. His wife comes to console him, “Curse God and die.” Job answers with integrity, “Foolish woman! Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:9-10 ESV) Again Job maintains his cool. He does not sin with his words.
Three friends from surrounding villages hear of Job’s calamity, and come to comfort him. They sit in silence with him for seven days and seven nights. Job laments. He curses the day of his birth: “Behold, let that night be barren; let no joyful cry enter it.” (Job 3:7 ESV).
What a contrast to the birth we recall in Bethlehem, but that’s for later. Joy will come in the morning, even as a child is born unto us in Bethlehem.
Although the word, joy, is recorded in the book of Job several times in the NIV, most of the time Job mentions it sarcastically or his friends misapply the concept. It’s not until Job meets his Maker, that a deeper joy, marked by humility and wonder enters the scene.
(Come back tomorrow, and we’ll see how the story ends. Will they live happily ever after? How will joy be restored?)